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Natrium reactor demonstration project slated for Wyoming

TerraPower and PacifiCorp announced efforts to advance a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming. The companies are evaluating several potential locations in the state.

The Natrium technology has a 345MW sodium fast reactor coupled with a molten salt-based integrated energy storage system that will provide clean, flexible energy and stability for the grid. The system can boost output to 500MW for more than five and a half hours to serve peak demand. The reactor maintains its thermal power constant during its entire operating period, maximizing its capacity factor and value.

The technology provides dispatchable power at a scale that can make a difference in efforts to decarbonize electricity and stabilize grids with high penetrations of renewables.

In October 2020, the US Department of Energy (DOE), through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial funding to demonstrate the Natrium technology. TerraPower signed the cooperative agreement with DOE in May 2021. Next steps include further project evaluation, education and outreach as well as state and federal regulatory approvals, prior to the acquisition of a Natrium facility.

The development of a nuclear energy facility will bring welcome tax revenue to Wyoming’s state budget, which has seen a significant decline in recent years. This demonstration project creates opportunities for both PacifiCorp and local communities to provide well-paying and long-term jobs for workers in Wyoming communities that have decades of energy expertise.

This project is an exciting economic opportunity for Wyoming. Siting a Natrium advanced reactor at a retiring Wyoming coal plant could ensure that a formerly productive coal generation site continues to produce reliable power for our customers. We are currently conducting joint due diligence to ensure this opportunity is cost-effective for our customers and a great fit for Wyoming and the communities we serve.

—Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a business unit of PacifiCorp

The location of the Natrium demonstration plant is expected to be announced by the end of 2021. The demonstration project is intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology, which is a TerraPower and GE Hitachi technology.

TerraPower was started by Bill Gates, Nathan Myhrvold, & others after an invention session in 2006. The goal was investigate advanced fission reactors for world-scale energy production.

Comments

SJC

fast reactor
Use nuclear waste for fuel

charlesH

A step in the right direction, but the use of sodium as the coolant is risky. There are better alternatives.

gryf

The original TerraPower TWT and GE Hitachi PRISM sodium-cooled fast reactor designs did plan to use depleted uranium as a fuel source. However, The DoE awarded TerraPower and X-Energy each an initial $80M award to build and demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors within seven years that use High-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), i.e. almost 20 percent U235 enrichment . The X-energy Xe-100 is a high temperature gas-cooled "mobile reactor" for the US DoD. The fuel will be supplied by Centrus Energy.
Possibly, future versions of the TWT and PRISM reactors will use depleted fuel.
Sodium-cooled reactors have been around since the Experimental Breeder Reactor (EBR-1) built in 1951. They are well developed, though have not been required due to issues more related to fuel reprocessing than safety.

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