Canada investing $20M in Terrestrial Energy to support development of Integral Molten Salt SMR
Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Hon. Navdeep Bains, announced a $20 million investment in Terrestrial Energy to accelerate development of the company’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plant.
This is the first such investment from the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) announcing support for a Small Modular Reactor (SMR), and is directed to a developer of innovative Generation IV nuclear technology. The company’s IMSR power plant will provide high-efficiency on-grid electricity generation, and its high-temperature operation has many other industry uses, such as zero-carbon hydrogen production.
SMRs are a game-changing technology with the potential to play a critical role in fighting climate change, and rebuilding our post COVID-19 economy.—Hon. Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources
The funding will assist with Terrestrial Energy’s completion of a key pre-licencing milestone with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
In accepting the investment, the company has committed to creating and maintaining 186 jobs and creating 52 CO-OP positions nationally. In addition, Terrestrial Energy is spending at least another $91.5 million in research and development.
The funding announcement comes one week after Ontario Power Generation announced it will advance work with Terrestrial Energy and two other grid-scale SMR developers as part of the utility’s goal to deploy SMR technology.
IMSR. The IMSR incorporates proven molten salt reactor technology with patented enhancements for a reactor that has high industrial value. The IMSR uses molten salt as coolant and fuel. This is in contrast to water circulating through a highly pressurized cooling system and solid fuel, both of which are the signature features of Generation I, II and III conventional reactors.
Molten salts are thermally very stable, making them superior coolants compared to water. This permits lower pressure and high temperature operation. Both are crucial to reducing cost and substantially improving efficiency of electric power generation.
When a molten salt coolant and molten salt fuel are used in combination, the reactor has the potential to incorporate the virtues of passive and inherent reactor safety as well. As a result, using molten salt technology in the IMSR design leads to a nuclear power plant that is “walk-away” safe and has transformative commercial advantages, the company claims.
Operating at 47% thermal efficiency, an IMSR power plant generates 195 megawatts of electricity with a thermal-spectrum, graphite-moderated, molten-fluoride-salt reactor system. It uses today’s standard nuclear fuel—comprising standard-assay low-enriched uranium (less than 5% 235U)—critical for near-term commercial deployment. The IMSR power plant design incorporates many aspects of Molten Salt Reactor operation that were researched, demonstrated and proven by test reactors at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Source: Terrestrial Energy
The IMSR improves upon earlier Molten Salt Reactor designs by incorporating key innovations that create a reactor suitable for industrial use and ready for commercial deployment. The key challenge to MSR commercialization has been graphite’s limited lifetime in a reactor core.
Commercial power reactors require high energy densities in the reactor core to be economic, but such high-power densities significantly reduce the graphite moderator’s lifespan. Replacing the graphite moderator is difficult to do safely and economically in a commercial setting.
The IMSR patented innovation integrates the primary reactor components, including the graphite moderator, into a sealed and replaceable reactor core called the IMSR Core-unit. This has an operating lifetime of seven years, and it is simple and safe to replace.
The Replaceable IMSR Core-unit. Source: Terrestrial Energy.
The Core-unit supports high capacity factors of IMSR power plants and hence high capital efficiency. It also ensures that the materials’ lifetime requirements of other reactor core components are met, a challenge often cited as an impediment to immediate commercialization of MSRs.
The result is a small modular reactor that delivers a combination of safety, high energy output, simplicity of operation, and cost-competitiveness necessary to drive broad commercial deployment.