A step towards advanced nuclear

Online Editor

Two industry experts team up to introduce a new power production and storage system

TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) have joined forces to launch the Natrium reactor and energy system architecture. This advanced nuclear technology features a cost-competitive sodium fast reactor combined with a molten salt energy storage system. Building on the technology used in solar thermal generation, Natrium energy storage and flexible power production will offer abundant clean energy in time to help meet climate goals.

The Natrium technology’s novel architecture simplifies previous reactor types. Non-nuclear mechanical, electrical and other equipment will be housed in separate structures, reducing complexity and cost. The design is intended to permit significant cost savings by allowing major portions of the plant to be built to industrial standards. Improvements use fewer equipment interfaces and reduce the amount of nuclear-grade concrete by 80% compared to large reactors. Natrium reactors are designed to provide firm, flexible power that seamlessly integrates into power grids with high penetrations of renewables.

The system features a 345MWe reactor and can be optimised for specific markets. For instance, its innovative thermal storage has the potential to boost the system’s output to 500MWe of power for more than five and a half hours when needed. This allows for a nuclear design that follows daily electric load changes and helps customers capitalise on peaking opportunities driven by renewable energy fluctuations.

Successful collaboration between TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

“As a nuclear innovation company, TerraPower values collaboration with GE Hitachi to make nuclear generation as affordable as possible,” says Chris Levesque, TerraPower president and CEO. “Our exceptional technology development capabilities, 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.”

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

Industry response to the announcement 

The breadth of the team’s expertise reflects years of work on multiple reactor designs and efforts across the nuclear lifecycle. The Natrium system demonstrates the benefits of modern virtual design and construction tools and has attracted the attention of numerous utilities through the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Energy Northwest and Duke Energy have expressed their support for the commercialisation effort, which will provide energy and energy storage to the electrical grid.

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