Game changing nuclear molten salt reactor will be cheaper than natural gas

Recently , Terrestrial Energy Inc.’s (TEI) announced the completion of the first phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) pre-licensing vendor design review.

They submitted the Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) design to CNSC in the fall of 2016, taking the first step in a several step process leading toward the construction and operation of power generation units. As promised, the CNSC completed its non-binding review of the design information within a year of the application submission.

Rod Adams interviewed Terrestrial Energy CEO Simon Irish at Forbes.

Rod Adams: How does completing phase one of the vendor design review fit with your development schedule?

Simon Irish: One of the biggest challenges when developing new reactor technology is reducing the risk associated with obtaining an operating license. Successfully completing the regulatory scrutiny included in the vendor design review encourages potential utility customers to see there is a bounded risk associated with obtaining an operating license for a project using the reviewed design. We can now talk to our stakeholders about the results of the review and move on to phase two of design review in Canada.

Phase two requires further design detail. It takes 18 months to 2 years. The opinion issued after that stage is successfully completed is a “very important statement” about the presence or lack of any fundamental barriers to licensing.

Adams: Now that you have successfully completed phase one, how long will it be before your formally enter phase two?

Irish: We’re expecting to complete phase two by the end of 2019. The CNSC will post information about our contracted review on its web site. It is a publicly disclosed event.

A third phase of the design review process is only needed if there are outstanding issues from phase 2 review.

The molten salt reactor will be vastly simpler and cheaper to build than current nuclear reactors.

Cost Breakthrough

Natural gas and coal remain the most cost-competitive sources of energy for industrial heat and electric power provision, with natural gas becoming increasingly important. Fossil-fuel dominance will continue as long as there is no alternative dispatchable, reliable, versatile energy source that is more cost-competitive. In North America, Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) power generation is now the preferred new-build power plant because of its low costs, and because of currently low North American natural gas prices, a product of fracking innovations.

IMSR® power plants are far simpler to build and operate than conventional nuclear power plants. They cost less than USD $1 billion, can be built within 4 years with much lower project risk, and can be financed by ordinary means.

IMSR® power plants are low-risk and cost-competitive clean-energy alternatives in North American and many other markets. In electric-power markets, IMSR® plants can dispatch power at under USD $50 per MWh (levelized cost), cost-competitive with NGCC for power generation, and probably more so with a volatility-adjusted price of natural gas; they are more cost-competitive when compared to coal. In industrial heat markets, IMSR® plants are also cost-competitive with natural gas; they have an in-furnace cost of less that USD $6 per MMBtu, within USD $1 of current in-furnace natural gas costs.