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Hyperion to Build Demo Reactor at Savannah River

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Hyperion Power Generation has entered into an agreement with Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) that could lead to deployment of its 25MWe modular reactor at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Savannah River Site (SRS). A Memorandum of Understanding, announced in September, envisions collaboration with DOE on an array of technical and policy issues, and also envisions funding provided largely by private sources.

Garry Flowers, president and chief executive officer of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, which operates SRNL under contract from the DOE, said: "This is one of the first in a series of steps that can put this region in an active role toward transforming America’s energy future. Small and modular reactors can become the primary base of new, clean power for the world. SRS is an ideal place to develop and demonstrate this exciting technology." Dr. Terry Michalske, newly named director of SRNL, will coordinate the Lab’s participation in the Hyperion Power Module (HPM) project.

Hyperion is developing a 70MWt (25MWe) nuclear reactor, known as the HPM, that will use uranium nitride fuel and a lead bismuth eutectic coolant. At just 1.5m wide and 2m tall, once licensed the reactor could be transported to the site by ship, rail or road.

The technology originated at Los Alamos National Laboratory and has been further refined for commercialization by Hyperion and its partners. The proposed HPM reactor is a test and demonstration of a new and advanced reactor design with inherent safety features. According to Hyperion, "The reactor will be required to meet DOE safety requirements…and be comparable with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards." However, if the reactor is declared to be a military or research facility, it could potentially be built without fully completing the NRC’s usual licensing procedures. But even if this is the case, the regulator will still be strongly involved.

Scott Burnell, public affairs officer at the NRC, previously told the Nuclear Energy Institute that the agency has authority regarding licensing of civilian reactors. "Unless DOE declares something to be a research facility, or unless the executive branch declares something to be a military use, the NRC has overall authority regarding nuclear reactors. A vendor cannot unilaterally claim either of those exemptions, and neither exemption would confer any benefit in an NRC licensing review."