Terrestrial Energy, Westinghouse ink deal for IMSR fuel plant

August 4, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

Canadian nuclear tech firm Terrestrial Energy has signed a manufacturing and supply contract with Springfields Fuels Limited—a Britain–based subsidiary of Westinghouse Electric Company—for the design and construction of an Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) fuel pilot plant.

In an August 3 press release, Terrestrial said that Springfields’ reactor fuel manufacturing facility has extensive existing infrastructure available to support the fuel supply for IMSR development and is scalable to support a fleet of IMSR plants operating in the 2030s. Located near Preston, Lancashire in northwestern England, the Springfields facility is the only site in the United Kingdom for nuclear fuel manufacturing.

The contract—which follows a scoping and planning agreement signed between Terrestrial, Westinghouse, and the United Kingdom’s National Nuclear Laboratory in July 2021—calls for the delivery of “a pilot plant in advance of a scaled-up facility for commercial reactor fuel supply to a fleet of IMSR plants,” according to the release.

Helping with that delivery is the U.K. government, which has committed £2.9 million (about $3.7 million) to establish the pilot plant under its Nuclear Fuel Fund program.

C-suite statements: “Our commercial strategy for IMSR is to use existing nuclear industrial infrastructure, materials, skills, and capabilities to the greatest extent in the operation of the IMSR plant,” said Simon Irish, Terrestrial Energy’s chief executive officer. “This strategy, focused on capital efficiency, is clearly expressed with the use of standard-assay LEU fuel and repurposing of the extensive fuel production capabilities at the Springfields site. We are delighted to be moving forward with our Springfields fuel manufacturing and supply plans in partnership with Westinghouse and with funding support from the U.K. government.”

Said Tarik Choho, president of Westinghouse Nuclear Fuel, “We are excited to work with Terrestrial Energy to develop a pilot plant creating next-generation nuclear fuel at Springfields to power molten-salt reactors. This is yet another important vote of confidence in the U.K. nuclear industry broadly and specifically for Westinghouse products, services, and people that support energy security and net-zero goals.”

The tech: Terrestrial’s IMSR is a Generation IV molten salt–cooled and –fueled unit that 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. The reactor is designed to use standard-assay low-enriched uranium, avoiding the need for the high-assay form known as HALEU.

In case you missed it: Terrestrial Energy announced on May 16 that its U.S. branch has been awarded a regulatory assistance grant from the Department of Energy to support the company’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing program for the IMSR plant. The licensing program is one of the 10 industry-led projects that the DOE had selected the previous week for $22.1 million in funding through the Office of Nuclear Energy’s industry funding opportunity announcement.

Also, in April of this year, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission completed phase two of its prelicensing vendor design review for the IMSR, concluding that there are no fundamental barriers to licensing the plant. (Phase one began in April 2016 and was completed in November 2017.)

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