Westinghouse Electric Company announced the launch of a new design and manufacturing facility near downtown Pittsburgh to accelerate the commercialization of its eVinci microreactor.
Located in the borough of Etna, the eVinci “accelerator” is an 87,000 square-foot facility that will be home to engineering and licensing operations, testing, prototype trials, business development and sales. It also includes manufacturing space for producing the heat pipes that are central to the eVinci technology, as well as other components. Westinghouse construction on the space began earlier this year and will be completed in Q1 2024.
In June, Westinghouse established eVinci Technologies LLC as a separate business unit within the company to streamline all aspects of bringing the microreactor to the market.
Pennsylvania contributed economic development grants to the project as part of a state initiative to build innovation and grow jobs. The DOE continues to support the eVinci technology through its Nuclear Energy and Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-e). With the federal awards and strategic government partnerships with Idaho National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, Westinghouse is advancing the eVinci microreactor design, licensing and manufacturing capabilities.
The eVinci Microreactor is intended to bring carbon-free, safe and scalable energy where it is needed for a variety of applications, including electricity and heating for remote communities, universities, mining operations, industrial centers, data centers and defense facilities, and soon the lunar surface and beyond, Westinghouse said.
The eVinci microreactor has few moving parts, working essentially as a battery, which Westinghouse says provides the versatility for power systems ranging from several kilowatts to 5 MW of electricity, delivered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for eight-plus years without refueling.
It can also produce high-temperature heat suitable for industrial applications including alternative fuel production such as hydrogen, and has the flexibility to balance renewable output. The technology is 100 percent factory-built and assembled before it is shipped in a container to any location.
Last year, Power Engineering visited the Westinghouse Waltz Mill site, which provides maintenance services, testing and calibration for nuclear reactor servicing equipment, as well as the research and development (R&D) facility for its eVinci nuclear microreactor.
The microreactor can generate 5 MW of electricity or 13 MW of heat from a 15 MW thermal core. Exhaust heat from the power conversion system can be used for district heating applications or low-temperature steam. eVinci could also be used in hydrogen production, maritime or industrial heat applications.
The core design of eVinci is built around a graphite core, with channels both for heat pipes and TRISO fuel pellets. Hundreds of passive in-core heat pipes are intended to increase system reliability and safety.
Westinghouse engineers laud the microreactor’s passive cooling design. There are no pumps to circulate water or gas. The reactor’s heat pipes replace the reactor coolant pump, reactor coolant system, primary coolant chemistry control and all associated auxiliary systems.
Pipes embedded in the core transfer heat from one end to the other, where it is captured in a heat exchanger. For cooling, each heat pipe contains a small amount of sodium liquid as the working fluid to move heat from the core and is fully encapsulated in a sealed pipe.
Because of the passive nature of eVinci, Westinghouse believes it would require only a small number of onsite personnel.
“If we’re sitting at a consistent power level, even [the control drums] are not moving, they’re stationary,” said Mike Valore, Westinghouse senior Advance Reactor Commercialization director. “The goal for eVinci,” he said, is to be “completely autonomous.”
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