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Nuclear Notes — Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022

Matthew Wald

X-energy Goes Public and Raises About $1.2 Billion

X-energy, the advanced reactor developer based in Bethesda, Md., has merged with Ares Acquisition Corporation, a publicly traded Wall Street firm established to make investments in new nuclear companies. X-energy is also the recipient of one of two flagship grants from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which promises to match X-energy’s investments, 1:1.

That’s a lot of money to spend on developing an advanced, zero-carbon emitting reactor, but designing and licensing a new kind of nuclear plant is an expensive proposition.

The technology that X-energy is developing is a small modular reactor, a gas-graphite machine that will operate at very high temperatures, so its output can be used in many industries requiring high heat. Initial models are intended to produce electricity only.

The merger with Ares will raise about $1 billion, the companies said, and other investors have invested or committed another $120 million in financing.

Another small modular reactor developer, NuScale, conducted a similar merger in May. Both companies have also lined up investments from business partners, including potential suppliers of components and services, or potential customers.

Bloomberg estimated that investors had put $3.4 billion into nuclear energy in 2021. The total for this year is likely to be higher.

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Rx for Hurricane Damage: Transportable, Reliable Micro-Reactors

Florida is still cleaning up from Hurricane Ian, the powerful storm that hit parts of the state at the end of September, but some officials are already looking toward preparing for the next disaster. One Florida official, U.S. Representative Byron Donalds, whose district is in the hard-hit southwest part of the state, says the key to recovery in future is microreactors.

"Microreactors could have been easily staged in areas of Southwest Florida prior to Hurricane Ian’s arrival, and could have been deployed post-hurricane to impacted area(s) via air, land, rail, or ship,’’ he wrote in The Floridian, an on-line politics newsletter.

Microreactors could also provide fresh drinking water, power emergency communications centers, and power the pumps that move salt water out of inland areas, he said.

Illustrating the diversity of support for new reactors, Donalds is a conservative Republican who has voted against most climate-related bills in the House.

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Breaking Ground on a Small Modular Reactor

Ontario Power Generation is moving forward with a small modular reactor at its Darlington site. A contractor has begun moving dirt, to set up infrastructure, including water, electricity, and roads.

A year ago, OPG chose GE Hitachi to build the reactor, a BWRX-300. (The reactor, like its older, larger cousins in operation around the world, is a Boiling Water Reactor. The “X” designates it as the tenth generation of this technology.) The reactor relies heavily on parts that have been certified for use in previous versions, but this design is a substantial departure. It will not require electricity, additional water, or operator actions to stay safe in case of malfunction.

The target date for completion is 2028. GE is also hoping to build multiple BWRXs in the United States.

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Where We See Dead Presidents, the UAE Highlights Technological Progress

The United Arab Emirates has issued new paper money, and the 1,000 Dirham note features the image of the Barakah nuclear reactors.

The reactors are pressurized water models, derived from a Westinghouse design, and built by the Korean Electric Power Company. Three reactors are operating, and the fourth is in start-up testing.

A variety of countries have featured nuclear energy on postage stamps, and the United States put Enrico Fermi on a 34-cent first-class stamp in 2001. But putting a reactor on currency is unusual.

The new note is worth about $273.

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