Dow Inc and private company X-energy said on Wednesday they have agreed to develop and demonstrate the first grid-scale next-generation nuclear reactor for an industrial site in North America.
The X-energy Xe-100 plant featuring four high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors is set to be built at one of Dow’s sites on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The companies plan to finalize the location this year.
Nuclear reactor developers want to build a new generation of atomic plants that are smaller than today’s, but if successful, could be used in a wide variety of settings from industrial plants to rural towns to help transition off fossil fuels that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.
Backers of next-generation nuclear reactors, including the Biden administration, say the technology is crucial to fight climate change. Critics say they are more expensive than renewable energy and energy storage technologies and take too long to develop.
The X-energy plant will provide a Dow facility with process heat and power to make products. Dow, a chemicals company, makes a wide variety of products including polyethylene used in packaging, paints, and foams.
“X-energy’s collaboration with Dow brings added significance because of the immense opportunity to further reduce emissions in the energy-intensive industrial sector,” said X-energy Chief Executive Clay Sell.
The reactors would likely be fueled by high assay low enriched uranium, or HALEU, of which Russia is the only producer. U.S. company Centrus Energy Corp is trying to produce a domestic source of HALEU.
The agreement includes up to $50 million for engineering work, up to half of which is eligible to be funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, and the other half by Dow. The companies will submit a construction application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
During the administration of Republican President Donald Trump in 2020, the Department of Energy selected X-energy to receive up to $1.2 billion in federal cost-shared funding to develop, license, build and demonstrate an operational advanced reactor and fuel fabrication facility by the end of the decade.
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