TerraPower announces nuclear reactor with molten salt power storage

Matthew Farmer 28 August 2020 (Last Updated August 28th, 2020 16:51)

TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy have announced the launch of a small nuclear reactor design made to store power with molten salt.

TerraPower announces nuclear reactor with molten salt power storage
TerraPower expects to bring the cost of construction down by isolating the reactor from all other mechanisms. Credit: Stern Laboratories.

TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy have announced the launch of a small nuclear reactor design made to store power with molten salt.

In a statement, TerraPower said its new “advanced” Natrium reactor would complement energy transmission systems with high amounts of renewable generation.

The system would use a 345MW sodium fast reactor to store energy in a molten salt system. This power storage would allow the plant to increase its total output to 500MW for over five and a half hours, implying a storage capacity of at least 850MWh.

A TerraPower spokesperson said this would allow the reactor to adapt to daily cycles of electricity demand. They also sayid that the reactor designs were based on technology used in concentrated solar generation, which also uses molten salt to store electricity.

The plans would house all non-nuclear technology in a separate building to the reactor. The company says this would reduce costs by allowing large sections of the plant to be built to industrial standards, instead of nuclear-grade standards.

It believes this approach would reduce the required amount of nuclear-grade concrete by 80% compared to a large reactor. The design also involves fewer interfaces for equipment.

TerraPower president & CEO Chris Levesque said: “As a nuclear innovation company, TerraPower values collaboration with GE Hitachi to make nuclear generation as affordable as possible. Our exceptional technology development capabilities, unmatched financing credibility, and achievable funding strategy mean that the Natrium technology will be available in the late 2020s, making it one of the first commercial advanced nuclear technologies.”

General Electric Hitachi president & CEO Jay Wileman said: “Our collective experience brings unparalleled capabilities in design and construction that ensure the Natrium product can drive value for our customers. We designed this system with operator input to potentially increase their revenues by 20% through the use of energy storage.”

The company’s statement says its design has “attracted the attention of numerous utilities” through the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. It says it has seen support from Duke Energy, Energy Northwest, and Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s subsidiary PacifiCorp.

TerraPower was founded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in order to advance nuclear power and science.