Westinghouse has revealed it is designing a transportable nuclear power plant (TNPP) featuring an eVinci microreactor with Canadian firm Prodigy Clean Energy, aiming to deliver a first project in Canada by 2030.
The project will potentially integrate a single or multiple 5-MWe eVinci microreactors within a Prodigy Microreactor Power Station—a purpose-designed floating facility that will likely be deployed at a shoreline. The TNPP would be pre-fabricated and transported to site to supply reliable power and heat to “remote industrial sites, data centers, communities, defense installations, and to islands and island nations,” Westinghouse said in a blog post on Jan. 23.
While the target location in Canada is subject to a non-disclosure agreement, Prodigy told POWER the company is currently “working with end-users in the mining industry in Canada to conduct site feasibility assessments for potential deployment of a TNPP featuring the eVinci microreactor.”
A Novel Approach to Enable Nuclear Fleet Deployment
The TNPP project will mark Prodigy’s entry into the global floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) market, which has flourished in recent years, propelled by a global urgency to add new nuclear capacity to address modern power challenges.
While FNPPs—mainly naval facilities and nuclear icebreakers—have operated since the mid-1960s, industry observers point to new potential roles for the niche market, including to provide reliable power and heat to remote and off-grid areas, to bolster renewables-heavy grids, and to furnish power-intensive industries with new clean energy options. The prospect of reliable mobile power and heat may open up new applications for offshore oil and gas platforms, commercial ports, mining and deep-sea mining, hydrogen and synthetic fuel production, aquafarming, ocean cleanup, desalination, and data centers, they suggest.
So far, only one purpose-built FNPP is operational: the 70-MWe/58-MWth Akademik Lomonosov, in Pevek, Chukotka, in Russia’s Far East, which Russia’s state-owned nuclear company Rosatom officially began operating in May 2020. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) records at least eight water-cooled marine-based small modular reactors (SMRs) among 83 SMR designs under development and deployment worldwide. At least five FNPP designs are in the detailed design stage, it notes.
Prodigy underscores flexibility will be a key driver for the emerging FNPP market. But rather than developing reactors, its approach is to partner with leading SMR vendors to offer a standardized, scalable, and fully transportable nuclear power plant system—essentially by linking expertise in three mature industries: nuclear, maritime, and transport.
A Transportable Nuclear Option
The distinction carried by TNPPs, as Westinghouse noted on Tuesday, is important. “The IAEA defines a TNPP as ‘a factory manufactured, movable nuclear power plant… capable of producing final energy products such as electricity and heat.’” it said. “This includes ‘Floating Nuclear Power Plants’ that are docked close to where the energy is needed, reducing the need for building the permanent infrastructure.”
Under Prodigy’s model, the structure would be shipyard-fabricated and, after outfitting, would be transported by a dedicated heavy-lift carrier to its deployment location. “But then the deployment itself would have specific infrastructure in place to hold and house the vessel in a safe place,” as Prodigy Clean Energy President and CEO Mathias Trojer explained during a November 2023 panel at the IAEA’s first symposium on FNPPs.
“FNPPs is not just about reactor ownership, it is an integrated facility whose systems—nuclear as well as non-nuclear—must work together to demonstrate that nuclear, marine, maritime transport and environmental regulations are being met, and that nuclear materials will be appropriately safeguarded,” he noted.
“We are merging proven technologies in nuclear engineering and nuclear civil construction with decades of experience in marine manufacturing, [operations and maintenance (O&M), lifecycle management of vessels, and integrating these with well-established approaches to nuclear and heavy equipment transport,” he said. “By selecting SMRs with proven safety and operability features at an adequate level of technology readiness, and capitalizing on best practices across these three industries, Prodigy will deliver FNPPs that are safe, robust, economical, but most importantly, licensable under current frameworks and ready for near-term implementation,” he said.
For now, the company’s focus is centered on developing two active programs to allow SMR developers to package their reactors into TNPPs—the Microreactor Power Station, which can be marine or land-based variants, and the Grid-Scale Station, which would be installed at a shoreline within a protected harbor.
Prodigy, notably, already has a memorandum of understanding with NuScale Power for a grid-scale marine TNPP that could feature six to 12 NuScale modules (for a combined output of 924-MWe). Since the companies completed conceptual design and economic assessments for the potential project in 2021, work has been ongoing “to progress” the design, it told POWER on Tuesday. In November, Prodigy’s Trojer suggested the company was slated to begin a site pre-feasibility assessment with end-users that could factor in the power needs of a “large industrial site.” Prodigy is also continuing to work with Kinectrics, a testing, inspection, certification, and consulting firm, “given their significant expertise, especially in nuclear regulations and nuclear safety analysis,” the company noted.
Its first project, however, will be its Mirocreactor Power Station TNPP featuring a Westinghouse eVinci microreactor. “All practices being developed, including methodologies to licensing, transport, logistics, deployment, and decommissioning, to support Prodigy’s microreactor TNPP program, are directly translational to Prodigy’s grid-scale marine TNPP program,” the company said.
eVinci—A ‘Plug and Play’ Design Well-Suited for TNPPs
As Westinghouse noted on Tuesday, its project with Prodigy stems from a 2019 collaboration that sought to evaluate deployment models for the eVinci microreactor. Westinghouse’s flagship microreactor, introduced in 2017, is a fully passive heat pipe–cooled design that will use tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel and alkali metal heat pipe technology. The design, which can provide a reliable source of industrial-grade heat—of up to 600C—features few moving parts, requires no water, and can operate for eight-plus years without refueling. Westinghouse has told POWER the design is well-suited to various applications, including remote mining operations, remote communities, industry, and distributed energy.
The design, notably, already has a potential first customer—Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC), Canada’s second-largest research and technology organization. SRC has said it plans to pilot an eVinci microreactor by 2029, though that timeframe will be subject to licensing and regulatory requirements. Saskatchewan’s provincial government is expected to determine that project’s location as it progresses.
Work toward a potential TNPP design for the eVinci has also progressed relatively quickly. “A multinational corporation operating strategic critical minerals assets in Canada funded a study in 2019-2020 to identify more reliable clean energy sources,” Westinghouse said on Tuesday. “In the study, Prodigy assessed the eVinci microreactor for deployment in a marine facility fixed at shoreside to power a remote mine.”
In 2022, Westinghouse and Prodigy signed an agreement to further a potential TNPP design customized for eVinci. So far, backed with an award from Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund, the companies have completed milestones for conceptual engineering and regulatory studies.
“Next steps for Westinghouse and Prodigy include completing the TNPP design for the eVinci microreactor, completing development of a nuclear oversight model for TNPP manufacturing, outfitting and transport, and progressing licensing and site assessments to support a first project in Canada by 2030,” Westinghouse said.
According to Jon Ball, president of eVinci Technologies at Westinghouse, the TNPP from Prodigy “brings an additional value to the inherent transportability of the technology.” From the start, “our eVinci technology was designed to be transportable, that was a key design principle,” he noted.
Prodigy’s Trojer, meanwhile, noted eVinci’s “compact design and simplified operating requirements make it optimal for integration into a Prodigy TNPP.” The technology “will enable fleet deployment of the eVinci, accelerating the timeline to deliver clean, reliable, and affordable power at commercial scale to remote regions,” he said.
FNPP Companies Are Embarking on Uncharted Waters
While Prodigy’s model could provide a simplified new pathway for reactor vendors to potentially integrate their SMR designs into standardized TNPPs, Trojer has acknowledged that several challenges lie ahead for the widespread deployment of FNPPs.
“Executing the development and deployment of an FNPP is a very complex exercise that needs to be carefully planned and systematically carried out,” he said during the IAEA’s panel in November. While the Akademik Lomonosov “is a highly successful proof of concept,” as the industry sets out to “pioneer a new paradigm, there are significant questions that must be answered “around the design, replicability, standardization, the regulations, and more generally, the legal framework,” he said.
Prodigy’s choice of Canada as its first project was “strategic,” Trojer noted, given the country’s “highly mature regulatory framework and regulator.” Canada also offers strong government support for local innovations, he said. “Prodigy’s emergency planning approach is informed by the safety features of the SMR and decides conditions where the facility will be deployed. We’re using the IAEA safety and security framework as a benchmark, and where more precision and detail is required, we look at the Canadian and U.S. nuclear regulatory framework,” he said.
Several companies in the emerging FNPP market, however, are considering broader approaches that support offshore commercial activities such as mining and oil and gas projects, while others are exploring deploying nuclear reactors in commercial cargo ships to decarbonize shipping.
Danish technology firm Seaborg, for example, is developing the Compact Molten Salt Reactor (CMSR) power barge, a 250-MWth/100-MWe molten salt reactor designed for use in modular floating nuclear power barges. According to Seaborg CEO and co-founder Navid Samandari, the modular power barge, which will be serially produced at shipyards, “can be constructed fast and at low cost.” The biggest challenges Seaborg faces, however, relate to licensing, he noted.
“That’s where two worlds need to meet,” Samandari noted during the November IAEA symposium panel. “Currently, there is no regulatory framework for molten salt reactors, and there is no regulatory framework for floating nuclear facilities. That’s why the regulatory pre-engagement is key, and where we are now is the first step in this dialogue on a potential licensing.” The two worlds that will significantly “need to meet” include the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which maintains a regulatory framework for international shipping, and national regulatory bodies, he said.
At the November IAEA event, Andrey Rozhdestvin, general director of JSC Rusatom Energy Projects, highlighted Russia’s progress on FNPPs after its rollout of the Akademik Lomonosov—a project that spanned more than 15 years from construction start to completion. The pioneering FNPP recently completed its first 3-year refueling of its KLT-40S reactors, which have a cartridge-type core.
Russia has since adopted the RITM-200M, derived from the latest Russian icebreaker projects, for its fleet of Optimized Floating Power Units, which are considered the second generation of marine-based SMRs. So far, six RITM-200 reactors, built as a series of icebreakers, have already been successfully installed in Russia’s Arctic, Siberian, and Ural regions, manufactured under a unique “conveyor belt” model by Rosatom’s Mechanical Engineering Division in Podolsk. However, a contract for the supply of the power units has ended.
According to the IAEA, another design, the ABV-6E, “although in its finished final design, it has not yet been licensed. The VBER-300, a unique design completely relying on passive safety systems, is in the stage of completing its basic design documentation.” Russia, notably, is also working on a water-cooled RITM-200N that adapts a shipboard design for a ground-based SMR, and a project Yakutia is expected to begin operations in 2028.
However, Rozhdestvin also underscored a list of challenges the FNPP sector must consider. These include “mobility,” along with safety improvements, and cost reductions. Another issue hovers around shipbuilding capacity. “We are facing the lack of capacities. We have preliminary interest in 50 nuclear plants, and even if we can internally produce our reactors to fulfill market demand, if we talk about shipyards, we have to go not only in Russia but abroad,” he said. “It means if you are talking to shipyards and you want to scale up, you need to explain the program based on serial production, and [this poses] uncertainty regarding [nuclear and maritime] regulations and requirements in each country, as well as international requirements.”
Mikal Bøe CEO and founder of Core Power, a UK company that is developing nuclear ships and working to become a “a licensed, type-approved advanced nuclear-electric power package for ocean transportation and heavy industry,” also suggested mobility will always be a key challenge.” He said the sector will need to ensure “various strands are tied together to do that.” Core Power, notably, is working with TerraPower, Southern Co., and the U.S. Department of Energy on the Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR), that “will go live in 2026” and inform a final design for a larger machine. “They’ll go into the FNPPs that we aim to launch,” he said.
Challenges associated with rolling out a first-of-a-kind FNPP are related to safety, Bøe suggested.“It’s really a different approach to safety,” he said. “If we’re going to have seafarers and nonnuclear technicians operate on the nuclear power side like this, we’re going to have to have a passive walkaway safety system. Most of the reactors, certainly Gen III+ to Gen IV reactors, are the sign for passive safety, so that’s not a hard hurdle to climb, we think,” he said. “Importantly, I think one of those is a low-pressure system or an ambient pressure system, and the reason for that is related to the emergency planning zone.”
Waste management will also emerge as a challenge, Bøe predicted. “The handling of waste the handling of spent nuclear fuels and radioisotopes imports is always going to be a contentious issue. If we can avoid this by having very long fuel cycles in closed-cycle reactor technology, we can start to overcome them,” he said.
Trojer noted that Prodigy, too, considered the potential for commercial nuclear propulsion in ocean-going and internationally sailing vessels as part of a two-year shipping industry–funded project that ended in 2020. While the study determined that microreactors “were technically feasible,” the regulatory and legal frameworks needed to support near-term commercialization of nuclear shipping, “or more simply, deploying an operating reactor onboard self-propelled civilian vessels do not currently exist,” he told POWER. “It became clear to Prodigy that the immediate path to market would be non-self-propelled, shoreside-installed marine microreactor facilities.”
For now, Prodigy continues engagement with the IAEA, but it is also actively working with the U.S. National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) Marine Nuclear Application Group (MNAG). “In each case, representatives from the nuclear and marine sectors are laying out approaches to deploy marine TNPPs and to identify and resolve any legal and regulatory gaps that might impede these technologies from being successfully deployed. For example, Prodigy is working within MNAG to publish a report that covers ‘a review of the Regulatory and Licensing Landscape’ for marine-based TNPP facilities,” the company said.