U-Battery progress

23 February 2021

U-Battery’s parallel development in the UK and Canada is hitting milestones toward first-of-a-kind operation in 2028. Jacquie Hoornweg reports

U-BATTERY CONTINUES TO PROGRESS its 4MWe high temperature gas microreactor for commercial use in the UK and Canada by the end of the decade. It plans to build its first two commercially operating units - one in each country - within two years of each other to take advantage of cross-pollination in engineering, manufacturing and licensing.

The U-Battery reactor is under development by a consortium that includes Urenco, Kinectrics (which is leading the design review and licensing) and Jacobs, a global project management company. The conceptual design was developed by the Universities of Manchester (UK) and Delft (Netherlands). Most recently, the company has expanded its relationships with other universities including Ontario Tech University in Canada. The reactor will operate on TRISO fuel.

U-Battery is developing a single design that will be localised to meet off-grid power and heat energy needs in the two different but complementary markets, general manager Steve Threlfall said, during the Canadian Nuclear Society’s G4SR Conference, in November. It will adjust the design to meet the specific conditions in each country.

“As well all know, Canada is one of the most promising markets for small modular reactors. It’s got a large part of its population that is off-grid; lots of remote communities, lots of mines and lots of deposits that are not yet mines but can become viable mines with some economic energy supply,” he said. Both countries share the goal of a net zero carbon target by 2050 and their regulators are part of a broader group of working on regulatory harmonisation for advanced and small modular reactors.

“Nuclear is as important to Canada as it is to the UK and as it is the United States,” Threlfall added, noting, “Nuclear needs to become more nimble if it is going to play the role it needs to play to help the world decarbonise.” It will be important for the three countries to work together if the decarbonisation goals are to be achieved, he said.

U-Battery has received development support through national programmes in the UK and Canada.

In Canada, U-Battery was selected to participate in a demonstration programme at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). U-Battery is one of four technologies working toward siting demonstration unit at one of the Canadian government owned/CNL-managed campuses.

In the summer, CNL announced U-Battery Canada Ltd. had completed the pre-qualification stage of CNL’s invitation and is now in Stage 2, the due diligence stage. In Stage 2, CNL will rigorously evaluate the technical and business merits of the proposed design, assess the financial viability, and review national security and integrity requirements.

The first U-Battery site in the UK could be the Urenco enrichment site in Capenhurst, said Threlfall. The unit could be used to meet the enrichment plant’s energy needs.

U-Battery has been awarded almost £10 million for design development work under phase 2 of the UK government’s Advanced Modular Reactor competition. It has also received £1.1 million for the design and build of mockups of the plant’s two main vessels (RPV and IHX) and the connecting duct, under the UK government’s ‘Call for Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Phase 2B’.

Threlfall said the company intends to develop supply chains in both Canada and the UK and successful suppliers will gain access to markets in both countries. The company held a supplier day through the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries in the autumn of 2020 to further development of its Canada-based supply chain and in December hosted a UK supplier day in conjunction with the UK’s Nuclear AMRC, which is supporting U-Battery via modularisation and manufacturing R&D.

“As we finish the year we are very optimistic here at U-Battery”, said Chris White, director of external affairs, in his closing remarks at the UK event.

Author details: Jacquie Hoornweg is Managing partner at Querencia Partners

In cogeneration mode, U-Battery will use nitrogen to drive the turbine

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