Prime Engineering advancing civil nuclear technologies

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Prime Engineering photo courtesy VCET.

Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies VCET member company Prime Engineering is making significant strides in the field of next-generation nuclear technology. Benjamin Hardy, Managing Partner & Principal Engineer of Prime, recently shared insights about the company’s journey, its unique position, and what’s ahead.

Founded in 2021 by Keith Oldinski, Burlington-based Prime specializes in engineering solutions for advanced nuclear manufacturers and designers. Their expertise lies in the design of small vessels and other components vital to the next wave of civil nuclear technologies.

“The whole U.S. civil fleet is 40–50-year-old technology. There’s a number of startup companies that are developing the next wave of civil nuclear,” Hardy, a VCET member since February 2022, said. “We fit in right when the physics ends and they’ve got to start doing some testing. They start interacting with government codes and regulations. So we help them maneuver that, as well as do some pretty high-end engineering work.”

The recent infrastructure bill under the Biden administration has injected substantial funding into nuclear development. Consequently, startups require engineering expertise.

“They’d much prefer to hire new hires, if they could. But we have kids, we wanted to stay in the area, and most of those companies want you to move out to Minnesota or Seattle,” said Hardy, who is originally from Orange, Vermont.

Working closely with startups in the nuclear development space poses unique challenges. Hardy acknowledges that the majority of these ventures won’t succeed, so Prime needs to carefully select its partnerships and continuously monitor key metrics and performance.

In its third year, Prime has already celebrated several achievements. Most recently, Prime secured significant design contracts for next-gen nuclear pressure vessel and tank work, which will be used to carry nuclear fuel.

“There’s a ton of work out there,” Hardy said. “We basically booked for the year in December.”

Hardy notes that the company’s small team –– three full-time employees –– has been integral to its success. Dillon Ryan, who graduated from UVM this spring, is also working for Prime as a summer intern before beginning his master’s in Mechanical Engineering in the fall.

“You’ve got to want to be in that arena,” Hardy explained. “Just think about how sharp the pencil has to be when you’re doing nuclear calculations, right? You want to know that you move the needle at a company every day that you come in. That is where job satisfaction comes from.”

Looking ahead, Prime intends to diversify its customer base, continue building trust with key partners, and actively participate in conferences and regulatory organizations to establish a strong presence in the industry.

Hardy imparts valuable advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: prioritize problem-solving, focus on what truly matters, and be mindful of time constraints:

“If you’re not planning and thinking about how to spend your day, there’s just not enough time to do it all. I think that’s where most entrepreneurs fail – they try to bite off too much.”

Prime’s journey as a small engineering firm working out of VCET showcases its expertise in next-generation nuclear technology. With a strong focus on quality and nuclear safety, Prime has become a trusted partner in the field, securing significant design contracts and positioning itself as a key player in the evolving nuclear landscape.

To learn more about Prime, visit their website.

Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) programs, facilities and capital programs serve a select few firms by supporting the design, positioning and acceleration of a new product idea, a better service offering or a truly breakthrough platform technology. VCET, based in Burlington, is a 501 (c) 3 public benefit corporation serving all of Vermont. VCET - Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies