Terrestrial Energy on track to commercial molten salt reactor competitive with natural gas prices

Terrestrial Energy is developing a 190 megawatt small modular molten salt reactor that will cost less than $1 billion to build. This will result in kilowatt-per-hour costs of less than 5 cents, a price competitive with power from natural gas.

Terrestrial Energy of Canada has signed a contract for technical services with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Karlsruhe, Germany. JRC will perform confirmatory studies of the fuel and primary coolant salt mixture for Terrestrial’s Integrated Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR).

The IMSR® uses a fundamentally different reactor technology — a liquid fuel, a molten salt, rather than the solid fuel used exclusively in conventional reactors. This provides a fluid medium to carry a nuclear fuel, a uranium fluoride salt. Molten salts are thermally stable and are excellent heat-transfer fluids, ideal for capturing and dissipating heat from the fission process.

The IMSR® uses simple, safe and natural mechanisms to dissipate heat from the fission process, and this results in a far superior design to reactors that use conventional technology. The use of a molten salt is at the heart of many virtues of the IMSR® and directly leads to IMSR®’s key commercial advantages – a cost-competitive and “walk-away” safe nuclear power plant.

An IMSR® power plant generates 400 megawatts of thermal energy (190 MW electric) with a thermal-spectrum, graphite-moderated, molten-fluoride-salt reactor system. It uses standard-assay low-enriched uranium (less than 5 percent 235U) fuel. It incorporates many aspects of Molten Salt Reactor operation researched, demonstrated and proven by test reactors at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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.

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.

Terrestrial plans to bring IMSR power plants to market in the 2020s.

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