RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — A Maryland-based nuclear energy company has signed a partnership agreement this week with a public utility company in Washington state to develop, build and operate a commercial advanced nuclear power reactor.
X-energy of Rockville, Maryland, will work with Energy Northwest of Richland and Grant County Public Utility District to build an 80-megawatt reactor on land already leased by Energy Northwest at the Hanford nuclear reservation in eastern Washington, the Tri-City Herald reported Thursday.
Advanced reactors, which are designed with enhanced safety features, help transition the nation away from fossil fuels. The TRi Energy Partnership said such reactors complement intermittent renewable resources, such as wind and solar, that rely on weather conditions to generate power.
The TRi Energy Partnership said it could be operating its first advanced reactor within seven years, and the project could be scaled up to a four-reactor, 320-megawatt power plant.
“As Washington state implements the Clean Energy Transformation Act — requiring 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045 — new sources of reliable, affordable and emissions-free electricity will be needed across the nation,” Energy Northwest CEO Brad Sawatzke said.
Energy Northwest currently operates the Columbia Generating Station, the only commercial nuclear power reactor in the Pacific Northwest just north of Richland. The reactor, which has operated since 1984, can produce more than 1,200 megawatts, or enough electricity to power a city the size of Seattle and its metro area.
X-energy CEO Clay Sell said Energy Northwest will bring the ideal site to the partnership and proven experience and nuclear expertise. The advanced reactor is expected to be built at a site with access to the transmission grid and utilities and has been characterized for nuclear development, which Sell said would speed up the environmental review and licensing requirements.
Grant County Public Utility District is expected to distribute the produced power to its customers.
“This partnership signifies our strong interest in advanced nuclear energy as one of the best, lowest-cost options to reliably serve Grant County’s growing communities and support their continued economic growth,” utility district CEO Kevin Nordt said.
The utility currently owns two hydropower dams on the Columbia River, and with other projects has the capacity to power a city the size of Seattle.
The planned high temperature, gas-cooled reactor will be built to eliminate the possibility of a meltdown and will require a smaller safety perimeter compared to tradition plants, the partnership said. It will use a low enriched uranium fuel encased in ceramic to make it impossible to melt.
X-energy chose Washington state after seeing how Swatzke had dramatically improved operations of the Columbia Generating Station over the past decade, Sell said. It also recognizes the historic success the region has had in the nuclear field.