Jacobs to support design and development of micro modular reactor

Jacobs has been selected by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation UK (USNC) to support the design and development of a new micro modular power reactor (MMR).

An impression of USNC's Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) energy system
An impression of USNC's Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) energy system - Image Courtesy Of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has awarded USNC a grant of up to $29m toward the development cost of the MMR Energy System.

The grant, match funded by USNC, will enable the second phase of work toward building a demonstrator of the high-temperature gas-cooled reactor by the early 2030s.

“This high-temperature reactor has the potential to assist the world’s energy transition and take nuclear power into a new era,” said Jacobs Energy, Security & Technology senior vice president, Karen Wiemelt.

Jacobs will support the front-end engineering design program as a leading subcontractor to USNC. This will include reactor analysis, refuelling system, primary and secondary systems, safety systems, associated testing facilities, human factors, safety case and security, licensing and regulation, overall system integration and preparation for delivery of the demonstrator model. 

Seattle-based USNC plans to deploy its MMR energy system in North America and Europe and has demonstration projects underway at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and at the University of Illinois.

Using encapsulated TRISO Particle Fuel and cooled by helium, the MMR energy system is designed to replace gas plants which are currently used to balance power grids when renewable sources fail to generate electricity due to wind and solar intermittency. The reactor can provide power for urban areas, large industrial users, or off-grid locations, and the UK demonstrator will also focus on the production of high-temperature process heat for industrial applications.

Described by USNC as a ‘fission battery’, MMRs are being designed to provide 5-10Mwe of electrical power, 15-30MWth of thermal power and 300MWyr energy content.

The reactors will be situated underground. USNC added that in case of a reactor vessel breach, the primary helium coolant ‘would escape with very little thermal energy and next to zero fission products’.

“This is an important next step for deploying MMR nuclear batteries in the UK and across Europe,” said Francesco Venneri, CEO of Ultra Safe Nuclear. “The UK has long and unique experience with gas reactor technology the MMR builds on and this.”