Jimmy va industrialiser ses chaudières nucléaires dès 2026

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The start-up Jimmy designs and operates thermal generators based on nuclear fission to provide manufacturers with carbon-free heat.

To generate this heat, the start-up designed an HTR type micro-reactor (high temperature reactor), which uses uranium as fuel, graphite as fission moderator and where the heat transfer fluid is helium.

From 2026, Jimmy wants to industrialize his first generator and equip his first client, a food industry manufacturer, with low-carbon industrial heat. A boon for many industrial sectors wishing to produce the heat necessary for their processes while limiting their carbon impact. The solution developed by Jimmy could allow them to do without current gas or oil boilers.

Antoine Guyot, co-founder of Jimmy, answered questions from Techniques de l’Ingénieur.

Engineering Techniques: What path led you to co-create Jimmy in 2020?

Antoine Guyot : After graduating from an engineering school in 2018, I worked in the field of strategy consulting. Field that I left because I felt the desire to create something. The climate problem quickly imposed itself on me, and the observation that goes with it: today, the ecological future goes against the margins. By pursuing this reflection, the idea of ​​developing inexpensive, carbon-free energy quickly emerged as the most effective way to limit CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. In this sense, nuclear fission is of particular interest, since it produces a very large quantity of heat, with a very low fuel cost. We must therefore be able to implement low-cost nuclear reactors, so that manufacturers no longer have to choose between economy and ecology. This is the very subject of Jimmy’s genesis.

The nuclear boilers developed by Jimmy specifically target industrialists. For what reasons ?

Provide a large amount of heat thanks to the nuclear makes it possible to resolve several constraints encountered by certain industrial sectors. Indeed, the latter consume heat in large quantities, their needs are predictable and they are not mobile.

Also, they are ready to assume risks, since they manage them on a daily basis on industrial sites. Thus, the needs of industrialists fully correspond to the advantages of a nuclear boiler.

After identifying potential customers, the challenge consisted of being able to produce the tool itself, and in particular the nuclear reaction. We studied the different existing reactor sectors, and we focused on the HTR, whose industrial chain is mature. The maturity of the industrial chain is a key factor in hoping to develop a safe and efficient tool. Also, the HTR is a reactor which has intrinsic safety properties, which is interesting for using it in different industrial contexts.

Finally, HTR reactors provide heat at higher temperatures, which makes it possible to conquer many markets.

How important was using mature technologies to develop Jimmy?

This approach is Jimmy’s DNA. Once the choice of the HTR reactor was made, our approach, which characterizes our vision of the project, was to use all the existing technological bricks to create a low-tech reactor. We did not want to enter into work of requalification of the technologies that we would have developed based on what exists. The idea is to use already proven techniques to be able to provide a safe, economical and ecological energy supply.

Where are you today?

We are currently in the design phase and are now preparing the creation authorization request. Our design is designed to optimize the industrialization of the generator and its reactor, with the objective of offering the most scalable model possible.

What are the constraints you face?

The first constraint is to develop a secure tool. The second is that this safe tool is profitable.

The scientific work is mature in our project, since the fuels and materials used are already qualified. The challenges lie above all in our ability to sufficiently simplify our reactors and industrialize them. Thus, all the parts constituting the interior of our reactor will be mass-produced.

And the safety constraint?

In terms of safety, our contact is the ASN, with whom we communicate very regularly. Assessing the safety of our reactors is a mission for ASN that differs slightly from its usual prerogatives. For our part, we are a private player, new to the nuclear world and we must prove ourselves. There is therefore work to be done on both sides – Jimmy and the ASN – to evaluate the safety of our tool in a relevant and effective manner.

More broadly, ASN has initiated a process to update its procedures to best respond to the new challenges and specificities covered by the SMR. The sizes, shapes and powers of these new reactors are in fact very different (and smaller) from those of traditional operational reactors.

When is the actual industrialization phase planned?

The start of the project is planned for the beginning of 2026 and must end the same year, that is the objective. To be able to achieve this, the structure of the building is designed to be able to quickly assemble the reactors and then the generators.

Likewise, we want to conduct as many tests as possible within our facilities, in order to keep the tests to be carried out at the customer’s site to a minimum.

Do you have competitors in nuclear boiler technology?

In reality, our main competitors at the moment are gas and biomass. At the technological level, similar projects are being developed in the United States, on lower heat levels. We have no competitors at European level on HTR micro-reactors. Projects are underway on molten salt reactors, but we are here for the long term, since everything must be reinvented technologically.

Finally, do you plan to recruit between now and 2026 and the transition to the industrialization of the project?

We currently have 60 employees. We plan to double this figure by 2026, to achieve the objectives and concretely move to an operating phase where the company becomes more and more industrial. This involves building an industrial platform, this is the ambition that currently drives us.

Comments collected by Pierre Thouverez

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