Terrestrial Energy thinks its molten salt reactor may have a future in ammonia

June 13, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
A cutaway of the Integral Molten Salt Reactor and balance of plant. (Image: Terrestrial Energy)

Ammonia is a carbon-free energy carrier that could be produced using thermal energy from nuclear power plants. Terrestrial Energy announced June 9 that it has signed an agreement with engineering firm KBR to explore the use of its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) for both hydrogen and ammonia production.

The plan: Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR is molten salt–cooled and –fueled and can supply heat at 585°C via a tertiary molten salt loop for direct use in on-site electric power generation and energy-intensive processes including desalination, hydrogen production, petrochemical refining, and clean synthetic transport fuels production.

KBR has experience supplying ammonia production technology to chemical facilities worldwide. Under the agreement with Terrestrial Energy, KBR’s energy advisory services team will analyze technical integration issues, while its program management and integrator solutions teams will work on commercial frameworks for future deployment and marketing of ammonia production technology with IMSR cogeneration.

Why ammonia? Ammonia (NH3) is a versatile carbon-free energy carrier that is easier and safer to store and transport than hydrogen. It can be used as a fertilizer, as a fuel in industrial processes, and as a fuel for heavy-duty transportation, such as marine transport.

Ammonia could be produced by using heat from a nuclear reactor to first produce hydrogen, either through high-temperature electrolysis or a thermochemical cycle with reusable chemical catalysts. That hydrogen would then be combined with nitrogen, available in abundance in the air, using the Haber-Bosch process or a thermochemical process.

They said it: “This agreement connects Terrestrial Energy and its sector-leading IMSR plant cogeneration technology to the world leaders in ammonia technology. It represents a gateway industrial relationship to the production of affordable and zero-emissions ammonia. Its success will deliver a major global decarbonization objective to a hard-to-abate industrial sector and drive affordable food supply,” said Simon Irish, chief executive officer of Terrestrial Energy. “We’re delighted to be collaborating with KBR to deliver on our shared technological, commercial, and market vision.”

“This agreement with Terrestrial Energy will leverage KBR’s growing capabilities and aligns with our mission to develop new technologies and deliver solutions that help customers accomplish their most critical business objectives with sustainability at the core,” said Andrew Barrie, president of KBR’s Government Solutions EMEA business.

Making headway on licensing: Terrestrial Energy announced on June 7 that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission completed their first joint technical review of the IMSR. The IMSR was selected in December 2019 to be the first advanced non–light water nuclear reactor technology to be studied under an August 2019 NRC/CNSC memorandum of cooperation aimed at enhancing regulatory effectiveness through collaborative work on technical reviews of advanced reactor and small modular reactor technologies.

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