- A Toronto engineer and entrepreneur is designing a 20-MW microreactor, another step in advanced nuclear energy technology, by modeling his work off a four-year-old project at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Lab.
- Matt Loszak, CEO and founder of Aalo Atomics and one-time acoustical engineer with an “entrepreneurial itch,” hopes to leverage test data from the Microreactor Applications Research Validation and Evaluation, or MARVEL, project, at the Idaho lab.
- Loszak’s plan is for the microreactor to be used for desalination, industrial heat, university research and charging trucks along interstate highways. He said he’s aiming to hit the same “timing milestones” as MARVEL: Three years from inception to the start of construction and another year to finish building the microreactor and “turn the reactor on,” for a total of four years.
The MARVEL project, which Loszak calls a road map for micro nuclear reactor designs, is a 100-kW liquid-metal cooled microreactor design based primarily on technology in use and will be built with off-the-shelf components for faster construction, the Idaho lab said. MARVEL will be built and demonstrated at the lab and connected to the first nuclear microgrid by next year and is expected to be available for external researchers soon after, the lab said.
It will be used to help researchers test other microreactor-related technologies.
The test bed provided by the project will provide feedback on features, operations and behaviors of microreactor technologies and help companies demonstrate their designs, Idaho National Lab said.
Yasir Arafat, MARVEL’s chief designer, said researchers at Idaho National Lab are seeing interest among early start-ups in broader reactor technologies. Several companies have reached out, seeking advice on launching startups or about specific reactor systems and fuels, modeling tools and simulations, he said.
Making an open-sourced microreactor design available is “much more resilient than a centralized approach,” he said in a recent interview.
The Idaho lab touts MARVEL for supporting future microreactor demonstrations by addressing the development of a small-scale reactor for research and development; integrating microreactors with applications such as electricity demand, process heat, hydrogen production and water purification and issues related to the fabrication, assembly, installation, deployment and operation of microreactors.
Microreactors have benefited from several key developments in the U.S. over the past year.
Last June, the U.S. Department of Defense selected Virginia-based BWX Technologies to build the nation’s first advanced nuclear microreactor. The reactor will be capable of producing 1 MW to 5 MW and will be transportable in commercially available shipping containers. Once fueled, it will undergo up to three years of testing.
Westinghouse Electric announced in February it will submit licensing reports for its planned microreactor to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for joint review. The eVinci microreactor is designed to provide about 5 MWe for eight years or longer without refueling and will be factory-built and assembled before shipping.
Loszak said he has raised about $6.3 million from investors including the San Francisco venture capital firm Fifty Years.
“We’re hoping to scale things up and do our part in helping bring nuclear to the world and bring on clean reliable energy as fast as possible because we think the world needs it,” he said.