Maryland-based nuclear solutions developer X-Energy Reactor Company recently announced that it and its partner, Paragon Energy Solutions, have completed their reactor protection system (RPS) – a development that may very well change the face of the small modular reactor (SMR) sector.
According to Clay Sell, X-Energy’s chief executive officer, the new system is more effective and secure than most of the safety and security measures implemented in old-school nuclear power plants. Keeping safety at the forefront of the system’s development, Sell explained that the RPS was designed to ensure the safe and secure operation of his firm’s reactors at all times.
The new system also has the virtue of being easier to operate and is also more cost-effective than any of its predecessor technologies.
A Viable Testing Ground
The prototype RPS was installed at X-Energy’s Xe-100 control room simulator at its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. Here, the system was tested using the Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled SMR, one of two advanced SMR designs previously selected by the US Department of Energy to receive federal support under its Advanced Reactor Development Program (ARDP.)
The ARDP was created to provide the necessary financial and technical support for the construction of demonstration plants in which to test relevant technologies.
Following the completion of the RPS prototype, X-Enery expressed hopes that it would be able to demonstrate the Xe-100 to the relevant authorities by 2028.
It is expected that, if the demonstration is successful, Paragon will build and deliver the four-division RPS to all plants around the world wherein Xe-100 SMRs are installed once they are approved for deployment per its agreement with X-Energy.
What is the RPS?
The RPS is described as a set of independent and redundant components for both instrumentation and control. It was specifically created to ensure the safe and automatic shutdown of a nuclear reactor, preventing further danger to the plant, anyone within it at the time, as well as the surrounding environment.
The system prototype uses Paragon’s Highly Integrated Protection System (HIPS) which is, in turn, based on Field Programmable Gate Array technologies that do not involve run-time software. HIPS makes the RPS more secure and streamlined compared to legacy safety systems as it is well protected from coding errors as well as cybersecurity threats.
The HIPS platform was originally designed by Rock Creek Innovations, a firm acquired by Paragon back in 2021.