The Department of Defense has awarded a contract option to X-energy “to develop an enhanced engineering design for a transportable micro nuclear reactor,” DOD said Wednesday.
The option continues funding for X-energy to develop a reactor design that “is ready for licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for both commercial ventures and military resiliency,” DOD noted.
The option is for one year of work by X-energy and will not result in a completed engineering design, DOD said. But it “will allow a thorough analysis of design options, leading to a Preliminary Engineering Design and initiation of a regulatory preapplication process.”
Last year, DOD selected BWX Technologies to build a prototype micro reactor. “This work is underway and long lead hardware fabrication has begun,” DOD said. With the X-Energy contract option, DOD said it is looking to develop a complementary micro reactor design.
The DOD effort to develop a mobile nuclear reactor is known as Project Pele.
"Due to their extraordinary energy density, nuclear reactors have the potential to serve multiple critical functions for meeting resiliency needs in contested logistical environments," Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager, said in a statement. "By developing two unique designs, we will provide the Services with a broad range of options as they consider potential uses of nuclear power for both Installation and Operational energy applications in the near future."
The DOD said it uses about 30 TWh of electricity a year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel a day — “levels that are only expected to increase due to anticipated electrification of the vehicle fleet and maturation of future energy-intensive capabilities.”
The same day as DOD’s announcement, X-energy and special purpose acquisition company Ares Acquisition Corporation revealed several updates to their previously announced business combination.
Among other updates, Ares management increased its total commitment to $80 million, X-energy founder and executive chairman Kam Ghaffarian is committing about $30 million and X-energy’s pre-money equity value has been lowered to $1.05 billion, X-energy said in a news release.
Combined with other developments, the additional capital is expected to provide about $534 million to the combined company.
“The additional investments from Ares and myself provide added capital to help accelerate X-energy’s ability to deliver advanced small modular nuclear reactor technology,” Ghaffarian said in a statement. “We are committed to aligning ourselves with shareholders and the updated valuation underscores that alignment.”