Open-source nuclear reactor blueprint aims to streamline plant design

Open-source nuclear reactor blueprint aims to streamline plant design
Market news |
Energy nonprofit organization The Energy Impact Center (EIC) says it is releasing open-source designs for a small-scale reactor that could be built in two years for just $300 million.
By Rich Pell

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In pursuit of that goal, the organization has launched the OPEN100 project, which will provide open-source blueprints for the design, construction, and financing of a 100-megawatt nuclear reactor. The organization sees nuclear energy – especially nuclear plants that are more affordable and competitive than current designs – as the solution to the challenges of climate change.

The standardized pressurized water reactor power plant design, says the organization, is detailed enough for any utility to begin early site studies with +/-20% cost predictability. It is abstract enough to allow for site-specific engineering details to be added, with a 50 million dollar budget allocated per plant for such efforts.

“Nuclear power isn’t just part of the solution to addressing climate change; it is the solution,” says Kugelmass, Managing Director of the Energy Impact Center. “OPEN100 will radically change the way we deploy nuclear power plants going forward, offering a substantially less expensive and less complicated solution.”

For the past 50 years, says the organization, the deployment of nuclear power plants around the world has suffered from rising costs and delays associated with overly complicated and proprietary designs. EIC created OPEN100 to serve as a foundation for new power plant construction, offering developers everything from a web interface to visualize plant and component design, costs studies, and construction plans.

“Instead of building bigger or more complex projects,” says Kugelmass, “cost reductions will be achieved by going back to a simpler, more streamlined process and adopting today’s best practices in construction — focusing on standardization and speed of delivery. Simply put, we can course-correct the nuclear industry’s downfall by taking what worked in the beginning and right-sizing it to fit today’s capital, infrastructure, and supply-chain constraints.”

The open-source format, says the organization, will allow startups, engineering firms, global utilities, and capital markets to align around a common framework, and the OPEN100 model caters towards a number of key stakeholders:

  • Utilities can conduct feasibility studies and issue request-for-proposals.
  • Equipment vendors can upload pre-integrated components accessing a new sales channel.
  • Reactor designers can leverage balance-of-plant engineering work.
  • Investors can evaluate project economics.
  • And governments can pre-certify a license to streamline development.

“The goal of the project is to accelerate the development of nuclear power, offering the world an affordable alternative to fossil fuels,” says Kugelmass.

The organization has also announced $3 million in venture capital funding to spin out Last Energy, a for-profit entity to connect private capital with international energy development opportunities. The funding round was led by Silicon Valley’s First Round Capital.

The Energy Impact Center

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