Terrestrial Energy and Alberta Commercializing SMR Reactor

Invest Alberta supports commercialization of Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor with a focus on reducing emissions in the oil and gas, and petrochemical industries.

Alberta, along with the provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, is working to advance small modular reactor (SMR) technologies through an interprovincial memorandum of understanding it joined in April 2021.

The IMSR plant is a small modular reactor designed for industrial cogeneration as well as high-efficiency, grid-based power generation, and can produce cost-competitive, high-temperature thermal energy with zero greenhouse gas emissions, the company said. It is “ideally suited” for natural resource extraction, low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia production, and many other energy-intensive industrial activities, and has “unique potential” to supply the heat and power needs of activities including those in the Alberta oil and gas, and petrochemical sectors, it added. Already employing more than 100 personnel in its Ontario operation, the company said it anticipates supporting high-quality jobs as it expands its activities in western Canada.

“There is great potential for SMRs to provide zero-emission energy for industrial operations in remote areas and further reduce emissions from Alberta’s oil sands,” Alberta’s Minister of Energy Sonya Savage said. “We’re proud of our industry’s ongoing history of responsible energy development and innovation, and grateful to Terrestrial Energy for supporting job creation and economic growth in Alberta.”

Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR is a 4th generation reactor that uses molten salt as both fuel and coolant, with integrated components, that can supply heat directly to industrial facilities or use it to generate electrical power. It aims to commission the first power plants based on the small modular reactor within a decade. Its IMSR400 configuration, with twin reactors and generators, will mean an overall power plant design with a potential output of up to 390 MWe.

18 thoughts on “Terrestrial Energy and Alberta Commercializing SMR Reactor”

  1. This would be better than using natural gas to extract and process bitumen.

    The process emissions from that nat gas going to CCS, another process that requires energy too.

    Or… as oft suggested, why not just use the SMR and leave the bitumen in the ground. Using cleaner fuels to process dirty fuels is silly, and currently deadly in Pakistan.

    PS – all oil and gas profits should be used to reduce emissions until we get to Net Zero. Eh?

  2. There have been three built with UF4 (sometimes with ThF4) in mixture with alkalai/alkaline metal fluorides to bring the melting point down from 1000C to maybe 560C. One was a retarded US ‘aircraft engine’, the other US one was shut down in 1969, and they’re still considering entombing the building in cement. The third is a 3MW experiment about to start up in China – from what I can glean from scarce sources may have a separate blanket.

  3. Hi, they should be building 3, 5, 10 mw as smaller, build in a factory to contain costs.
    Large 300emw are years to build and billions.
    The smaller size can be added: such as 2 – 10 and 5 = 25Mw which would operate a good portion of homes in Edmonton in the summer.

  4. Zero emissions for extracting fossil energy? Not sure of the ultimate logic of that approach. Alberta must not have got the “zero emissions” memo from the green energy religion that intends to eradicate the use of fossil energy.

    On a more technical note, not so sure high-temperature superheated steam from a molten salt reactor is all that useful for tar sands extraction. Saturated steam is a better fit. A conventional small water reactor seems like a better nuclear solution, particularly because the technology is well proven and does not require reprocessing of nuclear fuel. In passing, historically all molten salt reactors have been multi-billion billion dollar commercial failures.

    There are other solutions involving hybrid-nuclear technologies.

    Best solution, just use a boiler or combined-cycle gas plant for the needed steam and not be overly worried about the CO2.

      • Superheating steam is useful when used to generate power using a turbine/generator. Increases efficiency.
        Process applications generally use the heat associated with condensing steam, which occurs at a constant temperature. The energy of superheat complicates the process because the temperature drops until saturated conditions are reached.

    • First off there are no molten salt reactors that I can think of. Name these MSR that you are talking about “that are failures”. Secondly it is the LWR that are inherently unsafe and have huge cost overruns. Third the used fuel from a LWR requires storage for 10,000 years. Basically you do not know what you are talking about.

      • French phoenix reactor and various salt reactors attempted in US, Britain, Japan to name a few. All failures for a variety of reasons. Stuff catches fire when exposed to air, and turns into rock if system cools off too much (really unhelpful from a power plant operations standpoint).

        The main objective of a fast reactor is to turn Uranium 238 into a nuclear fuel (plutonium) while closing the nuclear fuel cycle. Basically, recycling fuel. However, that is an extremely expensive proposition that also significantly increases the ability to make atomic bombs. The process also creates a radioactive chemical soup that has to be disposed of.

        Current water reactors are reasonably safe but expensive to build. The advanced versions of the water reactors are passively safe but cost remains an issue. The cost of salt reactors is more or less a mystery. The historical record shows that it is an extremely expensive technology.

        The biggest item of concern for any used nuclear fuel is plutonium which has an extremely long radioactive half-life. Best solution is to put it deep underground where it is too difficult to get at.

        Ultimately, is nuclear energy a good energy solution with no problems? No.
        Is renewable energy a good energy solution? Depends on how much of the environment folks do not mind destroying to “save the planet”.

        Ultimately, energy solutions should strike a reasonable balance and not gravitate to extremes.

        • The Phoenix reactor was a sodium metal cooled reactor.
          Sodium metal is flammable. The various salts proposed for molten salt reactors are not.
          There could be other difficulties with molten salt reactors, but the coolant catching fire is not one of them.
          BTW the containment building for the sodium cooled Integral Fast Reactor would be filled with argon to make fire a non-issue. See the book ‘Plentiful Energy’ for the technical details of the reactor.

          • The fluoride salts will react with water to create partially oxidized fluorides and HF (nasty). Further reactions with water and H2 will further reduce the salts to oxide and more HF.

            Not exactly a stark contrast in stability compared to metallic sodium.

            • Molten chloride salt fast neutron reactors are proposed by some people eg: Elysium reactor. Do you see those as less problematic?

              • It’s all very interesting science. You won’t see them commercialized. Fast spectrum chloride reactor is good lab work.

          • Jim, you are correct. The sodium reactors technically used a liquid metal. The machines were unsuccessful commercial adventures.

            There have been only two small research reactors using a salt coolant and, as near as I can tell, none with liquid fuel in the salt. The problems (known and unknown) with attempting to move such technologies forward are daunting and immense. Ultimately, does the technology have a reasonable chance at being competitive? Strikes me as doubtful based on over 50 years of experience in the energy business. I also do not not believe the taxpayer should be betting huge sums of money for such experimentation. That is private industry’s responsibility, with perhaps a small assist from government labs.

            Basically, salt reactors look like a very poor bet, with other reactor types having a much better chance of competitive success.

            • There have been three built with UF4 (sometimes with ThF4) in mixture with alkalai/alkaline metal fluorides to bring the melting point down from 1000C to maybe 560C. One was a retarded US ‘aircraft engine’, the other US one was shut down in 1969, and they’re still considering entombing the building in cement. The third is a 3MW experiment about to start up in China – from what I can glean from scarce sources may have a separate blanket.

    • If you can get the cost of heat low enough, it lowers the price of the liquid or gaseous fuel. Also it lowers the total carbon footprint of the liquid or gaseous fuel delivered.

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