Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) is proposing to deploy its Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) at sites in Idaho and Illinois by 2026 through partnerships with Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
The proposals are part of the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which aims to accelerate the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with US industry. The programme, which was launched in May, will provide USD160 million for initial funding to build two demonstration advanced reactors that can be operational within the next five to seven years.
The University of Illinois plans to demonstrate a single MMR, which will be operated as a training, research and test reactor, and will also partially re-power an existing coal-fired power plant, providing carbon-free district heating and power to the UIUC campus. A proposed microreactor power plant – the MMR Energy System – at INL Laboratory would be used to demonstrate integrated energy systems with renewables and other clean energy technologies at INL.
The MMR is a small high-temperature gas-cooled reactor generating 15 or 30 MW (thermal), using USNC’s proprietary FCM TRISO (fully ceramic microencapsulated, tristructural isotropic) fuel. Nuclear heat is transferred to a molten salt energy storage unit that decouples the nuclear system from the power conversion system. The MMR Energy System can be used as a standalone power plant or as part of microgrids that include intermittent renewables such as solar or wind, or to provide process heat for co-located industrial applications or hydrogen production.
Francesco Venneri, CEO of Seattle-based USNC, said the company’s technology and its commercial strategy, based on private investments in multiple projects, will make the MMR affordable and widely available. “Our rapid prototyping will allow the development of the next-generation MMR in the US with its manufacturing eco-system already in place in 2026,” he said.
UIUC will be directly involved in MMR design and integration. Its chancellor, Robert Jones, said: “This technology is set to help our campus meet its carbon-neutrality goals and drive great, world-changing discoveries. It would be an incredible win for our research enterprise and our campus sustainability efforts.”
INL’s associate laboratory director for Nuclear Science and Technology John Wagner said the laboratory is particularly interested in proposals to demonstrate clean integrated energy systems by pairing nuclear power with renewable technologies to decarbonise the electricity sector.
Earlier this year USNC and Ontario Power Generation formed a joint venture to build, own and operate a proposed MMR at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Canada. The Canadian first-generation demonstration unit will support deployment of the MMR in the USA, USNC said. The regulatory review of the ARDP project will benefit from the Canadian project, as design verification and licensing work with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will be shared with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission under a Memorandum of Cooperation signed between the two regulators in 2019.