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The centre includes a full-scale plant control room simulator, Reactor Protection System prototype, and virtual reality experience as well as offices and classrooms, and will be used to train future operators of X-energy's Xe-100 advanced small modular reactors.

Cutting the ribbon for the new training facility (Image: X/X-energy)

The Plant Support Center (PSC) will train up to 52 operators at one time with a training programme that will use virtual and simulated environments to provide trainees with hands-on experience before entering the field. It will support training for the initial deployment of the Xe-100 at Dow’s Seadrift manufacturing facility in Texas.

The control room simulator is the PSC's centrepiece and replicates a real-world plant control room, X-energy said. The Xe-100's control room boasts automated digital systems and is designed to enhance operator experience and increase cost efficiencies. The technology builds upon years of collaboration with US Department of Energy programmes, including Advanced Reactor Concepts 2015, ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy), and the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

A control room simulator is the centrepiece of the state-of-the-art facility (Image: X-energy)

The Xe-100 - a high-temperature gas reactor capable of a thermal output of 200 MW or (80 MW electrical) which uses fuel made from robust TRISO fuel particles - is one of two designs selected by the DOE in 2020 to receive USD80 million each of initial cost-shared funding to build an advanced reactor demonstration plant that can be operational within seven years. X-energy announced in March 2023 that the first deployment of the design will be at one of materials science company Dow's sites on the US Gulf Coast. Seadrift - where Dow manufactures more than 4,000,000 pounds (1816 tonnes) of materials per year for use in applications such as food packaging, footwear, wire and cable insulation, solar cell membranes and packaging for pharmaceutical products - was selected to host the first Xe-100 in May.

X-energy CEO Clay Sell said the PSC "will set the stage for the first and subsequent deployments of our innovative advanced small modular reactor technology".

X-energy will use the PSC for the final development of its training programme and reactor operating procedures before it accepts its first trainees. The centre will also be instrumental in validating and enhancing Human Factors Engineering and integrated system testing prior to deployment, the company said. As plants become operational, the facility will use real performance and operating data to enhance training and professional development. X-energy plans to set up further regional centres to support an expanding reactor fleet, becoming hubs for the company's operations, maintenance, and training services business.

"We hope this is the catalyst for advancing the way nuclear operators are going to be trained in the future. From analogue to digital displays, and from historical to real-time data, this is a highly engaging system of tools to propel US nuclear forward," Sell said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Saturday, 16 March 2024
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