THE NUGEN ENGINE™


SUMMARY.  Because of its compact robust configuration and wider range of potential uses, we call it the NuGen Engine™.  It has a patented revolutionary helical fuel core, which results in a shorter fuel core and higher efficiency.  The helical fuel core and other components are fully integrated and enclosed in a single module.  Due to its integrated simple configuration, the NuGen Engine™ offers superior scalability, adaptability, manufacturability and versatility.


CHARACTERISTICS AND DIFFERENTIATORS.  Key characteristics and differentiators of the NuGen Engine™ are:

  • It is a direct-cycle gas-cooled microreactor enclosed in a single module.  Using a direct-cycle concept eliminates the “balance of plant” infrastructure, such as the secondary loop, allowing a simpler design.
  • Its patented helical fuel core is fully integrated with the other components and subsystems.  The helical fuel core offers higher efficiency and reduced unit size.  The full integration is another factor leading to the simpler design.  
  • As a small gas reactor, it is viewed in the nuclear industry as intrinsically safe.  This is due to several industry-recognized safety factors for small gas reactors.  In addition, the simpler configuration of the NuGen Engine™, with fewer and simpler parts, makes it even safer.
  • Due to its simplicity—simple configuration with fewer and simpler parts—the NuGen Engine™ would be highly manufacturable.  Impressive advances in the nuclear and aerospace industries in additive manufacturing, including 3-D printing with reduced manufacturing costs and time, are very promising.  With its simplicity, the NuGen Engine™ can convert this promise into commercial reality.
  • Due to the design’s simplicity and full integration, it is highly scalable and adaptable, including through integrated computer modeling and rapid prototyping.  This ability to efficiently produce designs and prototypes for a broad range of uses—coupled with the ability to economically manufacture units and deploy them safely in a wide range of uses—are key to versatility and NuGen’s business plan.
  • Its simplicity will minimize licensing costs, operational requirements, maintenance costs and the risk of damage during transportation and siting. 
  • It offers superior proliferation resistance.  The encapsulated fuel would be factory-loaded, which eliminates the greatest risk of proliferation—onsite theft or pilferage during fueling.  The fuel will be enclosed and protected in the containment vessel while onsite.  Encapsulating the fuel adds a further significant barrier to access to the fuel.
  • Its output would be 1-50 MWe. It also has process heat and direct mechanical capabilities.  These capabilities add to its already broad versatility.  The process heat could be used for various industrial purposes, including in the production of chemicals and transportation fuels.  The direct mechanical capability could be used for a number of purposes, such as to power watercraft.   
  • NuGen’s initial design focus is on a transportable smaller autonomous unit for special off-grid uses including:
    • At remote locations, such as in Alaska and northern Canada, which are dependent on expensive diesel generators and high transportation costs for fuel
    • At mining sites that are also dependent on expensive diesel generators
    • For 24/7 secure off-grid electricity for critical infrastructure, such as military bases, data centers and financial institutions
    • For desalination
    • For deployment in emergency response scenarios, such as in the aftermath of hurricanes
  • The design is adaptable for space applications.  It could serve as a lunar reactor at a permanent outpost or habitat on the moon and provide heat and electricity for in situ resource utilization (e.g., for water extraction, fuel production and 3-D printing).  It could also serve as the electricity generator to power an electric propulsion rocket for travel to Mars. 


Description of Design.  Below is an illustration and a conceptual representation of the NuGen Engine™, followed by a description of key components and features.  The representation is not too scale and is not intended to include all components or their final configuration.  The lack of specificity is to protect ongoing R&D work

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  • The gas propulsion chamber is in the center and houses the helical fuel core.  The helical passageways provide two key physical advantages:
    • The longer helical contact paths for the gas allow for a shorter core length
    • The helical passageways support the enhanced gas transport envisioned for the NuGen Engine
  •  A drive shaft runs through the center of the fuel core. The streamlined turbine and simplex compressor are coupled to the drive shaft, as is the electrical generator and, if needed, a circulation fan
  •  After the gas leaves the outlet it is cooled by a variety of mechanisms, including:
    • high-temperature heat exchanger
    • expansion of the gas in the containment vessel
    • mixing with the relatively cooler gas that bypasses the propulsion chamber  
    • cooling pipes and other cooling features could also be added 

The NuGen Engine™ is designed to maximize the gas transport within the system.  Maximizing the gas flow increases the power and efficiency and delivers better heat removal. Several factors bolster the gas transport: 

  • the unit being fully integrated 
  • its streamlined turbomachinery 
  • minimizing the vector changes in the gas flow
  • the gas bypass
  • other features, including a circulation fan, if needed


APPLICATIONS.  The NuGen Engine™ has a wide range of potential applications.  These include those uses identified for most SMRs, including grid, limited grid and distributed generation.  The principal potential applications for the NuGen Engine™ include:

  • Off-Grid Generation.  The simplicity, safety and autonomous controls of the NuGen Engine™ mean that it is ideal for providing off-grid electricity and heat to remote sites.  These would include Alaska, Canada and many mining operations where diesel engines are used.  There are over 250 remote communities in Northern Canada, for example, using expensive diesel generators and bearing the challenges and costs associated with the transportation of the diesel.
  • Limited Grids/Microgrids/Secure Generation.  The NuGen Engine’s simplicity and safety mean that it is ideal for electricity generation for limited grids, such as in developing countries where small grids cannot accommodate larger reactors; for microgrids (localized grids that disconnect from the grid and operate autonomously to provide grid resilience); and for secure off-grid electricity (24/7 or as backup) at critical government and commercial strategic sites and infrastructure.
  • Cogeneration (CHP).  An especially important application for the NuGen Engine™ would be for process heat and cogeneration.  The gas temperatures contemplated for the NuGen Engine™ should be appropriate for a wide range of process heat applications.  Due to its safety and simplicity, the unit could be sited adjacent or close to the facility to which process heat and electricity is being provided.
    • Some cogeneration examples include replacing fossil fuels in the production of synthetic fuel, chemicals, fertilizer and hydrogen and in other industrial production.  The heat and electricity from the NuGen Engine™ can also be used in the extraction from oil shale and tar to lower the overall life-cycle carbon emissions.
  • Desalination.  NuGen Engines™ could provide the electricity needed to power desalination plants, along with process heat for those plants using thermal processes.  Their simplicity and safety would be a key advantage and allow their deployment and siting at the locations needed.
  • District Heating.  NuGen Engines™ could provide district heating, as provided in Europe by nuclear power to heat residential and commercial buildings.
  • Direct Mechanical Energy.  The NuGen Engine™ would also be able to produce mechanical energy directly.  This would be done by replacing the generator with a mechanical device, such as a propeller, or using the two components in tandem.  The NuGen design is one of the few designs to provide this capability.  This mechanical capability has a number of uses, such as heavy-duty motors for industrial uses.  An especially intriguing use would be for propulsion, such as for submarines or other watercraft.
    • In the case of a submarine or other watercraft, it could provide also the electricity and heat on onboard.  The NuGen Engine™ offers several other advantages in this regard: its operation should be very quiet and the enrichment of its fuel should be substantially lower than the level generally reported for current naval reactors.
  • Space Applications.  An exciting potential use for NuGen Engines™ is for space applications, an area where nuclear power’s value has been recognized. These applications would include for space stations, distant space missions, asteroid mining and lunar and planetary sites.  The compact but robust configuration of the NuGen Engine™, as well as its safety, simplicity and autonomous controls, make it an ideal candidate to be deployed in such demanding environments to meet the power needs of public and private space programs.
  • Baseload Generation.  The NuGen Engine™ offers several advantages for baseload generation.  Its factory manufacture and simplicity would offer cost savings and greater predictability.  NuGen units could be sited together to multiply their output.  Units could also be added sequentially at a site as needed to meet a forecasted increase in demand in electricity, thereby lowering the upfront costs as compared to an initially larger generating plant.  NuGen units would also have load-following capability, which is important for grid systems, especially as intermittent renewable sources represent a larger share of grid generation.
  • Geoengineering.  In addition to the carbon-emission-reducing benefits described above, the NuGen Engines™, if such a need arises, could provide what would be substantial power requirements (electrical and possibly mechanical) on a broadly distributable carbon-emission-free basis for certain geoengineering apparatuses currently being discussed (e.g., CO2 extraction from the air).


VALUE PROPOSITION.  The first pillar of NuGen’s business plan is premised on the wide range of applications for the NuGen Engine™, as summarized above, which offer a broad diverse potential customer base.  The second pillar is the design’s simplicity which, as described, offers easier licensing, reduced manufacturing and construction costs, enhanced transportability and lower operating costs.  The third pillar is premised on the proposed and other anticipated reductions in regulatory and other impediments to the commercialization of small modular reactors.  These reductions are driven by the increased interest in advanced small modular reactors in the industry and by Congress and the Department of Energy. This comes at a time when deployment of nuclear power in other countries, and the interest in small modular reactors in such countries, continue to increase, and when efforts are underway in Congress and the Administration to facilitate the export of US nuclear technology to such countries.