Modular Molten Salt Reactors Starting 2028

Late in 2021, Terrestrial Energy has unveiled an upgraded 390-MWe design of its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR®) power plant to meet utility requirements and boost its cost-competitiveness as part of an effort to ramp up its candidacy for deployment at Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. Terrestrial Energy announced a series of developments that could further its bid to commercialize the Generation IV small modular reactor (SMR) technology and begin operating its first plant by 2028.

UPDATE – Ontario Power Generation Darlington selected GEH BWXT boiler water reactor. Terrestrial Energy is now working to get its first reactor deployed in the UK or the USA.

The old design was half as large (195-MWe plant). The IMSR is a Generation IV molten-salt reactor that operates at 700C. It supplies its steam turbines with superheated steam at 600C, which potentially raises the system’s fuel efficiency to up to 48%. Regular nuclear reactors have fuel efficiency around 30-35% with lower operating temperatures.

Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) resumed planning activities to build an SMR of up to 300 MW as early as 2028 at its Darlington Nuclear Station in Clarington, Ontario. This is Canada’s only site that holds a preparation license for future new nuclear development, with a completed and accepted Environmental Assessment (EA). The utility’s indicative schedule assumes that the CNSC (Canada’s nuclear regulator) will issue a license to build by 2024, and a license to operate by 2027. Last October, meanwhile, OPG kicked off advanced engineering and design work for that project by choosing three SMR developers: GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), Terrestrial Energy, and X-energy.

X-energy won U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Reactor Demonstration (ARDP) program. They have a prime contract with the agency worth about $1.23 billion to build a commercial four-unit power plant based on its Xe-100 reactor design, an 80-MWe/200-MWth (565C steam) pebble-bed high-temperature gas reactor. Under the ARDP, X-Energy is working to operate a 320-MWe “four-pack” project in Washington State in 2027. The DOE’s funding will also support X-energy’s delivery of a commercial-scale fuel fabrication facility for its proprietary TRISO-X fuel.

GEH BWRX-300 SMR can be deployed by as early as 2028. The BWRX-300’s candidacy at Darlington is an improvement on the old boiling water reactor. The BWRX-300 is derived from the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design.

Terrestrial says one edge it offers is that the IMSR400 uses “nuclear fuel at standard enrichment,” making it “the only Generation IV SMR power plant designed to do this today.” That aspect avoids “the considerable cost and time of re-licensing uranium enrichment plants and removes hurdles to commercialization, hastening deployment.”

On Sept. 28, Terrestrial announced a memorandum of understanding with Saskatoon-based First Nations Power Authority (FNPA)—the only North American, non-profit, indigenous-owned and controlled power developer—to explore development of SMR technologies to benefit indigenous communities in Canada. Terrestrial might be able to build small reactors on Indian land.

SOURCES- Power Mag, Terrestrial Energy