Pilot nuclear plant
The Natrium Reactor Demonstration project is a nuclear power generation facility proposed to be built in Wyoming, US. The pilot project was announced by US-based nuclear reactor design firm TerraPower and electric power company PacifiCorp in June 2021.
The demonstration plant will build a 345MW nuclear plant based on Natrium technology, a sodium fast reactor with integrated energy storage and flexible power generation. It is expected to be built at a retired coal plant in Wyoming.
TerraPower and PacifiCorp are exploring several possible locations in the state to build the demo project. The location is expected to be announced by the end of 2021.
The project will go through further evaluation, education and outreach programmes, as well as regulatory approvals before the acquisition of a Natrium facility. The nuclear demonstration project is backed by contractors, universities and national laboratory partners. It is expected to generate tax revenue for the state and generate jobs for the local communities.
The fully functional power plant will be used to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology.
The demo project will feature a 345MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The technology incorporated in the storage system is designed to increase the capacity to 500MW for more than five and half hours which will be enough to meet the electricity needs of approximately 400,000 households.
The project is expected to be located on approximately 16 acres of land and the overall site will be about 44 acres. It will be seamlessly integrated with renewable resources, leading to faster, cost-effective decarbonisation of power generation.
The demo project will be based on a sodium-cooled fast reactor, where metal oxide fuel is used and the fast neutron reactor is cooled by liquid sodium. It will commence commercial operations as a Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed, grid-scale reactor upon completion.
Once the reactor is available for commercial use, it will allow the country’s nuclear industry to enrich and fabricate high-assay and low-enriched uranium fuel, as well as to licence, build and operate the advanced reactor.
The architecture design of the Natrium technology will not only help in simplifying major structures but also reduce the complexity, cost and construction schedule while generating safe and reliable electricity.
The Natrium technology was developed by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. Besides following daily electric load changes, the integrated energy solution will allow utilities to leverage peaking opportunities created by fluctuations in renewable energy such as wind and solar.
The technology is designed to help utilities resolve challenges in increasing the reliability and stability of the power grid while meeting sustainability goals such as decarbonisation and emission reduction.
In October 2020, the US Department of Energy (DOE) agreed to provide initial funding worth $80m to support the Natrium reactor and energy system demonstration project.
The funding was awarded under the DOE’s Advanced Reactors Demonstration Program (ARDP), a programme launched in 2020 to facilitate the construction of advanced nuclear reactors through funding appropriated by the US Congress.
It will enable TerraPower to demonstrate and build an advanced reactor that is expected to become operational within the next seven years.
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is the technology co-developer while Bechtel is the engineering and construction partner.
Bechtel is responsible for the nuclear plant design, licensing, procurement and construction.
Several utilities including PacifiCorp, Energy Northwest and Duke Energy are supporting the project in the areas of licensing, siting, grid requirements and operations and maintenance.
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