Radar – Our selection of innovative businesses #48

European start-ups did not wait for the recent renewed interest in nuclear power to re-launch the race for innovation in the sector. The latest announcements - a plan to revive nuclear power in France, the "green" labelling of nuclear power in Brussels, etc.- have given them a boost.

Startup Jimmy Energy has raised €2.2 million to develop thermal generators based on a nuclear micro-reactor

Founded in 2021 by French entrepreneurs Antoine Guyot and Mathilde Grivet, Jimmy Energy raised €2.2 million in seed funding in mid-February 2022 from EREN Industries, Noria, Otium Capital, Polytechnique Ventures and various business angels. Its ambition? To decarbonise industry by replacing the fossil burners used by manufacturers to produce heat with mini-reactors that run on uranium and do not emit CO2.

To do this, Jimmy is relying on an existing and proven technology: the HTR (High Temperature Reactor). This technology, which can be connected directly to existing installations, combines two qualities for industrial heat: it is hotter and has a passive safety. The HTR has been industrialised several times in Great Britain, Germany and the United States, and is now used in Japan and China.

Jimmy’s ambition is to equip primarily companies in the chemical, food and paper industries. It has begun its industrialisation phase, with the manufacture of the first parts, but its objective of delivering its first customers before 2026 is far from being achieved.


Naarea wants to produce electricity for industry from radioactive waste and thorium

Another promising French start-up, Naarea, founded by Jean-Luc Alexandre and Ivan Gavriloff, is also working on building mini-nuclear reactors. The two entrepreneurs are banking on a technology originally designed for space, which is based on molten salts and works with spent fuel (plutonium and uranium) from current power plants, combined with thorium, a mining by-product from the extraction of rare earths, available in large quantities.

A first patent for this XSMR (Extra Small Modular Reactor) was filed in early 2021 and a first prototype is planned within five years. Eventually, the reactors, with a power of 1 to 40 megawatts and an autonomy of 10 years, will be assembled in a factory, before being delivered to customers – industrial sites, isolated areas, desalination plants, etc.


German start-up Marvel Fusion has raised €35 million for its inertial fusion process

The German start-up Marvel Fusion has just raised €35 million from the venture capital fund Earlybird and several industrialists to develop its inertial fusion process. This process, designed in collaboration with Thales, Siemens Energy and Trumpf, would make it possible to supply vast quantities of energy without producing long-term radioactive waste, unlike fission. The process has many other advantages: a fusion reactor the size of a football pitch would be enough to power a city the size of London, while the fuel used (deuterium, found in seawater) is readily available.

Nevertheless, the process is still based on theoretical models, derived from the work of Donna Strickland and Gérard Mourou, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018. In the United States, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California recently conducted a promising inertial fusion experiment, but the challenge remains to produce more electricity than the reaction consumes on an industrial scale.

Around the world, some 30 start-ups are currently working on the subject of nuclear fusion, including Commonwealth Fusion Systems in the United States, which raised $2 billion in December 2021.


There’s more…

Transmutex in Switzerland is developing a new type of thorium nuclear reactor – Swiss Info

Rondo Energy raises $22 million to decarbonise industrial energy – Business Wire


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