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Micro modular reactor could support transition to renewable energy

Professional Engineering

An artist's impression of USNC's micro modular reactor (MMR) (Credit: Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation)
An artist's impression of USNC's micro modular reactor (MMR) (Credit: Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation)

A new, compact nuclear reactor could support the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy.

The micro modular reactor (MMR) from Seattle company Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) is aimed at replacing gas plants that are currently used to balance grids when renewable sources do not generate enough electricity.

Using encapsulated Triso particle fuel and cooled by helium, the MMR is designed to meet the highest safety standards and emit no carbon during operation. The reactor could provide power to urban areas, large industrial users, or off-grid locations.

This week the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero awarded USNC a grant of up to £22.5m to develop the MMR. The government hopes the advanced modular reactor (AMR) could be well-suited to production of hydrogen or sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The government grant, match funded by the recipient, will enable the second phase of work to build a UK demonstrator of the high-temperature gas-cooled reactor by the early 2030s. The demonstrator will also focus on the production of high-temperature process heat for industrial applications.

Engineering multinational Jacobs joined the project today (20 July) to support design and development.

“This high-temperature reactor has the potential to assist the world’s energy transition and take nuclear power into a new era,” said Jacobs senior vice-president Karen Wiemelt. “With 60 years of experience in research, design and operational support for high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, Jacobs is ideally placed to support USNC through a range of scientific, engineering and programme management capabilities.” 

Jacobs will support the ‘front-end’ engineering design programme as a leading subcontractor to USNC. This will include reactor analysis, a refuelling system, primary and secondary systems, safety systems, associated testing facilities, human factors, the safety case and security, licensing and regulation, overall system integration, and preparation for delivery of the demonstrator model.  

USNC plans to deploy its MMR in North America and Europe, and also has demonstration projects underway at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and the University of Illinois.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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