Image of nuclear power station and its reflection in water

Dow bets on small nuclear tech

Sept. 23, 2022
Dow and X-energy signed a letter of intent that will help Dow advance its carbon emissions reduction goals

Fukishima’s timing couldn’t have been worse for the global nuclear power industry. When the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami triggered meltdowns, explosions and radioactive emissions at the Japanese power plant in March 2011, nuclear power had finally begun to recover from the black eye Chernobyl delivered in 1986. But then it was back in the doghouse, despite nuclear power’s increasing relevance in the face of climate change. But at least one leading manufacturer believes in the promise of nuclear power to help cut greenhouse gas emissions and is investing in that future.

Leading material science company Dow and X-energy, a nuclear energy innovation company, announced Aug. 8 that they've signed a letter of intent that will help Dow advance its carbon emissions reduction goals by developing and deploying X-energy's advanced, small, modular nuclear technology in the U.S.

Dow and X-energy will collaborate on deploying X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor at one of Dow’s U.S. Gulf Coast sites, which is expected to be operational by approximately 2030. The Xe-100 reactor plant would provide cost-competitive, carbon-free process heat and power to the Dow facility. Dow also intends to take a minority equity stake in X-energy, working with the company to deploy small, modular, nuclear technology.

"Advanced small modular nuclear technology will be a critical tool for Dow’s path to zero-carbon emissions and our ability to drive growth by delivering low-carbon products to our customers,” said Jim Fitterling, Dow's chairman and CEO. “X-energy’s technology is among the most advanced, and when it's deployed, it will deliver safe, reliable, low-carbon power and steam. This is a great opportunity for Dow to lead our industry in carbon-neutral manufacturing by deploying next-generation nuclear energy.”

Xe-100 is a Generation IV, high-temperature, gas reactor built on decades of research, development and operating experience. Each reactor is engineered to operate as a single, 80-megawatt (MW) electric unit, and is optimized as a four-unit plant delivering 320 MW. The reactor can provide clean, reliable and safe baseload power to an electricity system, or support industrial applications with 200 MW thermal output per unit of high-pressure, high-temperature steam.

"Nuclear energy has always offered the promise of broad, economy-wide decarbonization. Today’s announcement marks another important step in turning that aspiration into reality,” explained Clay Sell, X-energy's CEO. “Dow has a remarkable 125-year history of bringing innovative solutions to the market, and their leadership is a critical driver in meeting these decarbonization goals in the energy-intensive industrial sector. Consequently, X-energy is proud to combine our leading nuclear technology with Dow’s production capabilities to deliver a global materials supply chain that's safer, cleaner and greener than ever before.”

The U.S. Dept. of Energy has recognized that advanced, small, modular nuclear reactor technology is a key part of the department’s goal to develop safe, clean and affordable nuclear power options. In 2020, X-energy was selected by the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to deliver a four-unit Xe-100 plant in Washington state, which will make it among the first operational, grid-scale, advanced reactor plants in North America.

Small modular nuclear represents a key technology to enable energy-intensive industries to decarbonize. And this announcement marks an additional step in Dow’s efforts to deliver a 30% reduction in scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions since 2005 by 2030 and on its path to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.