Southern Company, TerraPower, and Core Power (a U.K.-based firm focused on developing nuclear technologies for the maritime sector) have commenced pumped-salt operations in the Integrated Effects Test (IET) facility, the Atlanta, Ga.-based utility announced Tuesday, marking another milestone in the development of TerraPower’s first-of-a-kind, Generation IV Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR).
IET construction was completed last October as a seven-year, $76 million, cost-shared project with funding from a 2015 Department of Energy Advanced Reactor Concepts award. Other entities contributing to the project include the Electric Power Research Institute, Idaho and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and Vanderbilt University.
What is IET? Located at TerraPower’s Everett, Wash., laboratory, the IET is a nonnuclear, externally heated, up-to-1-MW multiloop system that can support future deployment of fast-spectrum, salt-cooled reactors. Test data will help validate thermal hydraulics and safety analysis codes, and the system is equipped with gas and fuel salt handling systems that will be used to train operators who will go on to support the operation of Southern and TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) at INL. As a test reactor of less than 200 kWe, MCRE is being built to provide experimental and operational data. Both the IET and MCRE will inform the design, licensing, and operation of an approximately 180-MW MCFR demonstration, planned for the early 2030s.
According to Southern, the project team over the last year has completed mechanical, electrical, and controls verification and commissioned all systems. Commissioning employed hot argon and chloride salts to confirm readiness, including filling and flushing of drain tanks and verifying the operation of freeze valves. “Chloride salt has now been loaded into the primary coolant salt loops and pumped-salt operations have begun,” Southern stated. “A multimonth test campaign will provide valuable salt operations data and know-how for the MCFR program.”
Official words: “Southern Company believes the next generation of nuclear power holds promise in providing an affordable and sustainable net-zero future that includes reliable, resilient, and dispatchable clean energy for customers,” said Mark S. Berry, Southern Company Services senior vice president of research and development. “It’s exciting to see each new landmark in the Integrated Effects Test, as it helps our nation rebuild lost molten salt reactor knowledge.”
Jeff Latkowski, TerraPower’s senior vice president for the MCFR, noted that “the Molten Chloride Fast Reactor has the potential to meet the carbon-free needs of hard-to-decarbonize industrial sectors, including and beyond electricity,” and that the IET “will help us gather and evaluate data to support the development of our technology.”
Said Core Power president and chief executive officer Mikal Bøe, “The startup of the Integrated Effects Test is a milestone achievement in the development of the first fast-spectrum molten-salt reactor, and we are immensely proud to contribute to its success. The Integrated Effects Test allows us to collect that crucial last-mile data for a design and build of the Molten Chloride Fast Reactor and takes the team one step closer to a genuinely unique way to do new nuclear that is appropriate for the commercial marine environment.”