Last Energy is an innovative new company governed by a philosophy of avoiding the invention of anything that has not been done before. They have created a business that is laser focused on building, owning and operating small (20 MWe), modular pressurized water reactors and selling the electricity they produce under long term power purchase agreements.
On Atomic Show #303, Bret Kugelmass, the founder, president and CEO of Last Energy describes the path he took from earning a masters degree in robotics at Stanford, through the founding and operation of a successful drone company, to a highly respected podcast, through a non profit think tank and into a utility company that has designed a nuclear power plant that can begin operating as early as 2025 with commercial scale repetition starting almost immediately.
Where some believe that nuclear fission requires highly specialized equipment, Last Energy has found that pressure vessels, pumps, piping, heat exchangers and valves of similarly high quality standards are widely available from experienced, commercial suppliers. Their systems, structures and components (SSC) use well-accepted ASME codes and standards and are often identical to the SSC that have been used for decades in chemical processing, oil and gas, and other industrial applications.
Last Energy has chosen a small number of initial deployment locations, specifically in the UK, Romania and Poland. They are aiming to supply power to major industrial consumers that need somewhere between 20 and 100 MWe. They will connect to their customers “behind the meter”. From the customer point of view, Last Energy power will look and act like the electricity they currently purchase from their local utility company.
Last Energy systems will have approximately 2 m diameter pressure vessels that can accommodate full length fuel assemblies and standard control rods with proven drive mechanisms mounted on the reactor head. There will be fewer assemblies in the core, and they will be replaced as a whole unit every 6 years. Each plant will have a single steam generator and coolant pump.
Kugelmass explains the reasons behind the company philosophy and design choices. He provides a good summary of their business model and their driving motivations.
One aspect of Last Energy’s plans should motivate US politicians to modify our current export control regime. Even though their plants are designed to be well within the production capability of US manufacturers, the company is studiously avoiding the production of any nuclear component in the US. Export control processes are too burdensome to be economically justifiable.
I hope you enjoy the show and participate in the conversation.
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