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X-Energy UK Holdings and Cavendish Nuclear are developing proposals for small modular reactors (SMRs) in the UK and have "identified Hartlepool as a preferred location" - welcoming EDF's announcement that the existing nuclear power plant will operate for an extra two years, to 2026. 

Hartlepool is now due to operate until 2026 (Image: EDF)

X-Energy UK Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of the USA's X-Energy Reactor Company, and UK firm Cavendish are proposing new SMRs could be located on a site adjacent to the existing nuclear power station.

X-Energy and Cavendish have applied to the UK's Future Nuclear Enabling Fund to support a Generic Design Assessment of the Xe-100 SMR and also supply chain development for the first proposed project, they said site owner and operator EDF "has been assessing the applicability of modern nuclear technologies, including the Xe-100, as part of a government-backed programme to encourage advanced nuclear proposals".

The Xe-100 is a Generation IV advanced reactor design which X-energy says is based on decades of HTGR operation, research, and development. Designed to operate as a standard 320 MWe four-pack power plant or scaled in units of 80 MWe, it is engineered to deliver reliable and load-following grid-scale power to electricity systems and to pair seamlessly with renewables. At 200 MWt of 565°C steam, the Xe-100 is also suitable for other power applications including mining and heavy industry.

Carol Tansley, vice president of UK Nuclear New Build at X-Energy, said it was "fantastic news that the team at Hartlepool power station will go on producing secure, clean electricity until 2026" saying that "if we begin regulatory assessment this year, we would be well-positioned to have our first unit operating by around 2030" so the two-year extension of the current plant's operation "presents a bridge" between current operations and future plans.

Mick Gornall, Cavendish Nuclear managing director, said: "Cavendish Nuclear is proud to have been part of the team involved in the construction and operational support of Hartlepool Power Station. We’re delighted to hear about the life extension. The Xe-100 can build on gas reactor technologies that have been pioneered in the UK, leveraging the experience in the Hartlepool area and across the UK."

The Xe-100 uses tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) particle fuel, which has additional safety benefits because it can withstand very high temperatures without melting, The Xe-100 evolved from both the UK’s Dragon reactor at Winfrith in Dorset and the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor project in South Africa, which was supported by the UK government.

X Energy was selected by the US Department of Energy for funding under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program and has "completed the engineering and basic design of the nuclear reactor, proceeded with development of a fuel fabrication facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and is working with Dow to prepare and submit an application for its first construction permit to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission".

Hartlepool nuclear power plant, on Teeside in the northeast of England, is among four of the UK's seven AGR fleet which continue to generate electricity. It has been operating for 40 years and was due to end operations in March next year until the two-year extension was announced on Thursday.

EDF announced the extension in a statement noting the impact of the sharp rise in energy prices and the desire for energy security in the wake of Russia's war with Ukraine. It said the extension decision was "made after a rigorous review by EDF of the technical and commercial cases for life extension. In particular, positive inspections of the graphite reactor cores during 2022 have increased confidence that the stations can generate for longer and continue to meet stringent regulatory standards".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Saturday, 11 March 2023
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