TerraPower submits permit for Natrium; X-Energy opens training center

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Control room at X-Energy's Plant Support Center (Source: X-Energy)

TerraPower has submitted its construction permit application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the Natrium reactor demonstration project, the company said in a statement early April.

The step is the first construction permit application for a commercial advanced reactor submitted to the U.S. regulator.

The Natrium technology features a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system.

The reactor has improved fuel utilization over light-water reactors, enhanced safety features, and a streamlined plant layout, while the storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MWe for more than five and a half hours when needed, Terrapower said.                                                                                                          

“This submission marks another step toward bringing the Natrium reactor to market and revolutionizing how a nuclear reactor functions on the grid,” said President and CEO of TerraPower Chris Levesque.

TerraPower has been working closely with the NRC in pre-application meetings and is confident in its application, TerraPower said.

Non-nuclear construction on the plant will begin in the summer of 2024, and nuclear construction will begin once the NRC has approved the application, the company said.

X-Energy opens training center

X-Energy Reactor Company has opened the first training center for future operators of its Xe-100 advanced small modular reactor, the company said in a statement.

The 10,000 square foot (929 square meter) Plant Support Center (PSC) includes a full-scale plant control room simulator, Reactor Protection System prototype, and virtual reality experience, offices and classrooms, it said.

The PSC is designed to train up to 52 operators at once and offers a hands-on, experiential learning environment for future Xe-100 operators, it said.

“The opening of X-energy’s first Plant Support Center marks another stride forward to the deployment of our first Xe-100 reactors,” said X-energy CEO J. Clay Sell.

“Today represents an evolution in nuclear operator training and learning, equipped with cutting-edge, high-fidelity simulation and virtual reality technology.”

Before its first trainees, the PSC will be used for the final development of the X-Energy training program and reactor operating procedures, the company said.

Google, Microsoft, Nucor launch clean energy project

Google, Microsoft, and Nucor have come together to develop new business models and aggregate their demand for advanced clean electricity technologies, including advanced nuclear, next generation geothermal, clean hydrogen, and others, the companies said.

Firm, dispatchable clean electricity and advanced energy storage systems are needed to decarbonize grids and fill the gaps in wind and solar production to support grid reliability, and that gap is currently filled by fossil fuels, they said.

Developing new commercial structures and aggregating demand from three of the world’s largest energy buyers will help advanced clean electricity technologies face the challenges of first movers and early projects that are struggling to secure the necessary financing they need.

The initiative has sent out a request for information (RFI) and responses will be accepted until April 12. Selected projects will be notified by mid-June and power purchase agreements will be granted in early 2025, they said.

The focus will initially rest on proving out the demand aggregation and procurement model through advanced technology pilot projects in the United States.

“In addition to supporting innovative technologies that can help decarbonize electricity systems worldwide, this demand aggregation model will bring clear benefits to large energy buyers,” the companies said.

“Pooling demand enables buyers to offtake larger volumes of carbon-free electricity from a portfolio of plants, reducing project-specific development risk, and enables procurement efficiencies and shared learnings.”

Startups, Orano, to develop molten salt reactors

The startups Stellaria and Thorizon, each in consortia with Orano, have been selected to receive 10 million euros ($10.8 million) each from the French government to develop molten salt reactors (MSR) as part of the France 2030 investment plan.

The companies are working on two molten salt reactor-type designs, each of which can generate the equivalent of 250 MW thermal or 110 MW electric power to decarbonize industrial applications with round-the-clock energy needs, Orano said in a statement.

Thorizon is developing a molten salt reactor powered by modular cartridges while Stellaria is designing the first reactor to generate all of its fuel in-core during operation, Orano said.

Stellaria, Thorizon, and Orano aim to achieve a circular economy by creating an MSR industry that covers the whole of the reactor and the front end and back end of its fuel cycle, the company said.

"The two consortia created with Thorizon and Stellaria within the framework of the France 2030 investment plan are an opportunity for Orano to accelerate our development activities to supply fuel salt common to all reactors of this type, thanks to our unique expertise and experience in high activity nuclear processes,” Senior Executive Vice President, New Activities, Innovation and R&D for Orano Guillaume Dureau said.

“The results obtained will also be useful to other MSR designers."

By Reuters Events Nuclear