Terrestrial Energy Plans Molten Salt Project for Idaho

Terrestrial Energy USA and Energy Northwest have announced that they have reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the terms of the possible siting, construction and operation of an Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR®) power plant at one of its candidate sites, the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in southeastern Idaho.

This blog first reported the firm’s interest in the Idaho lab site in January 2017.

Conceptual Design Image of an IMSR

“The agreement between Terrestrial Energy and Energy Northwest is another positive step towards the deployment of the first IMSR power plant in the United States,” said Simon Irish, Chief Executive Officer of Terrestrial Energy USA.

“Energy Northwest’s considerable expertise in the region will contribute substantially to the commercial success of an IMSR power plant under consideration at the INL site. We are pleased to be moving forward with Energy Northwest and our assessment of INL as a potential site.”

“As a major producer of emission-free power, Energy Northwest is excited to examine how this innovative reactor can meet regional energy demand through efficient and clean energy generation,” said Mark Reddemann, Chief Executive Officer of Energy Northwest.

“Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR has transformative potential in electric power and industrial heat markets.”

The reactor as designed would be inside a sealed and replaceable reactor core planned to last seven years. Each reactor unit would produce 190 megawatts of electricity or heat for industrial heat related processes.

Terrestrial says on its website that its design will produce a reactor that is simple to operate, cost competitive and could be constructed in four years with an investment of about $1 billion.  Its goal is to have a reactor commissioned in the 2020s.

Energy Northwest is already committed to be a customer for the first of a kind small modular reactor to be built by NuScale at the Idaho lab. The 50 MW NuScale design, which has been submitted to the NRC for design review, is based on light water reactor technology.

Energy Northwest develops, owns and operates a mix of electricity generating resources, and the Northwest’s only nuclear generating facility – the Columbia Generating Station. Energy Northwest comprises 27 public power member utilities serving more than 1.5 million ratepayers.

The Department of Energy has issued a site license to UAMPS, a consortium of utilities which includes Energy Northwest, to build NuScale’s 50 MW LWR type SMR there should it obtain an NRC design certification.

Last November, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) completed the initial phase of a vendor design review of Terrestrial’s 400 MWt IMSR, known as IMSR400. The design is the first advanced reactor to complete the first of three phases of the CNSC’s regulatory pre-licensing review.

The vendor design review provides an opportunity for CNSC staff to assess a design prior to any licensing activities, enabling the vendor to identify potential issues that would require resolution. Phase 1 of the review determines whether the vendor is demonstrating intent to be compliant with CNSC requirements in its design processes and outcomes. Terrestrial plans to bring IMSR power plants to market in the 2020s.

Four Sites Under Consideration

Although the firm’s home office is located in Ontario, Canada, the US subsidiary of the firm – TEUSA – is reported to be examining four sites for its first commercial plant. These sites include the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), near Idaho Falls, ID, as well as additional sites east of the Mississippi River.

There are some other sites that come to mind on a speculative basis though the firm has not named them.

Once could be a site recently named by TVA at its Clinch River site in Tennessee. TVA has submitted an application to the NRC for an early site permit for an SMR at the site, but all four of the reactor designs it lists in that application are based on conventional light water reactors.

Another site could be in Wisconsin. Last year the legislature passed and the governor signed into law a bill lifting the state’s three decade old ban on new nuclear power plants. In 2012 Dominion said that it would close the Kewaunee Power Station in 2013 because it was unable to find a buyer and the plant was no longer economically viable.

The site is large enough that even if the light water reactor there is being decommissioned, it could accommodate a new SMR. Dominion has said it is interested in SMRs.

A third possibility is the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Several SMR developers have looked at SRS as a possible site because of its security, workforce, and the possibility of a partnership with the Department of Energy.

Another fully characterized nuclear site might be the Zion nuclear plant in Illinois which is also now undergoing decommissioning.  Terrestrial Energy has a small grant from the INL GAIN program to work with Argonne National Laboratory, also in Illinois, on molten salt technology. Technical staff from Terrestrial Energy have spent time at the lab which is a mere 60 miles south of the Zion plant just outside the Chicago metro area.

Further afield there have been several efforts in Kentucky to salvage the state’s coal industry by building a nuclear reactor to make petrochemicals from the mineral.

In all cases, TEUSA says has begun to investigate the commercial prospects for an IMSR™ power plant for both electric-power and industrial heat co-generation.

In June 2017, Terrestrial began a feasibility study for the siting of the first commercial IMSR at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ Chalk River site. It has also said it intends to submit an application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a design certification or construction permit in late 2019.

And there is competition on the horizon. Southern Nuclear has teamed up with X-Energy to develop a molten chloride salt reactor using pebble bed fuel. Terra Power is also exploring molten salt reactor technology in a partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Terrestrial Energy Signs IMSR Fuel Testing Contract

WNN: Terrestrial Energy of Canada has signed a contract for technical services with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Karlsruhe, Germany. Under the contract, JRC will perform confirmatory studies of the fuel and primary coolant salt mixture for Terrestrial’s Integrated Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR). Terrestrial said the fuel testing contract with the JRC as part of its “validation and verification program for the IMSR power plant design now under way”.

Terrestrial said in a statement that, “The facility will undertake the tests under conditions compliant with quality assurance protocols of nuclear codes and standards, as is required to advance a nuclear power plant design through the regulatory process.”

The JRC is the European Commission’s science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy. It draws on over 50 years of scientific work experience and continually builds its expertise based on its seven scientific institutes, which host specialist laboratories and unique research facilities. They are located in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

Molten salt reactors use fuel dissolved in a molten fluoride or chloride salt which functions as both the reactor’s fuel and its coolant. This means that such a reactor could not suffer from a loss of coolant leading to a meltdown. Terrestrial’s IMSR integrates the primary reactor components, including primary heat exchangers, to a secondary clean salt circuit, in a sealed and replaceable core vessel. It is designed as a modular reactor for factory fabrication, and could be used for electricity production and industrial process heat generation.

Questions for Terrestrial Energy

When the announcement came out on March 14, I contacted the public affairs agency in the US that handles media inquiries for the firm. These are the questions that I posed to the company about their test plans. I’d be happy to post their answers here if they will provide them.

What kind of test facility is involved? Will the fuel be tested in a reactor? If not what the nature of the tests?

The website says, “The IMSR® uses a fundamentally different reactor technology — a liquid fuel, a molten salt, rather than the solid fuel used exclusively in conventional reactors.” If the fuel is in the salt mixture, can you be more specific about the test?

Who is the supplier for the fuel?

What tests have they done and how is the JRC testing different? What do the JRC tests add to TE’s knowledge of fuel performance, safety, etc.

Is the test with the actual liquid fuel or a simulation?

Given that the testing is being done in Europe, based on nuclear codes and standards used in the EU, is it reasonable to assume that TE is targeting EU countries for market opportunities. Have any come up with any that you can discuss?

What would be the path forward for manufacturing the reactor and the fuel in the EU? Can EU firms meet TE’s supply chain needs.

What is TE’s plan for disposition of spent liquid salt fuel from one of its reactors? Does the entire replaceable unit go to a deep geologic disposal site or is the some recovery of salts, components, etc.

Given the highly corrosive nature of fluorine, what materials science challenges are faced by TE and what progress is being made to address them?

X-Energy Signs Fuel Testing Agreement with Centrus

Centrus Energy Corp. (NYSE:LEU), an experienced nuclear fuel technology company, has signed a services contract with X Energy, LLC (X-energy) to support the design of a facility to produce advanced nuclear fuel.

Centrus will provide X-energy with technical expertise and resources to support conceptual design of a facility to produce X-energy’s uranium oxycarbide (UCO) tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel forms. This effort includes nuclear criticality safety analysis, manufacturing equipment layout and infrastructure design, and conceptual development of fuel form transport packages.

The services contract supports the companies’ previously announced joint effort to prepare a deployment plan for X-energy’s TRISO fuel technology; design a cost-effective, highly automated fuel manufacturing process line; and seek funding for a future commercial fuel production facility.

“Establishment of a U.S. domestic capability to produce qualified, high assay low enriched uranium-based fuel forms has become urgent,” states Harlan Bowers, X-energy President.

“Advanced reactor companies must have a reliable fuel source within the next six years to enable first-of-a-kind deployment by the mid-to late-2020s. Through partnership with Centrus, we intend to have our TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility constructed and producing fuel before 2025.”

“Our work with X-energy will build the foundation for deploying an American fuel source for advanced reactors,” said Daniel Poneman, president and CEO of Centrus.

“By performing their fuel work in our Oak Ridge Technology and Manufacturing Center, X-energy will be able to leverage our specialized workforce, equipment, and facilities to enhance their competitive advantage in the rapidly evolving advanced reactor market.”

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