TerraPower submits Natrium construction application to the NRC

March 29, 2024, 12:00PMNuclear News

TerraPower today submitted its formal construction permit application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the Natrium reactor demonstration project—a milestone submission for the nation’s first commercial advanced reactor of its kind.

TerraPower purchased land in Wyoming near one of the state’s retiring coal plants to deploy its Natrium sodium fast reactor technology. Kemmerer Power Station Unit 1 would operate a 345-MW sodium-cooled reactor in conjunction with molten salt–based energy storage.

The Bill Gates-backed company has been working in recent months with the NRC on preapplication materials designed to increase efficiency in the licensing process.

Quotable: “This submission marks another step toward bringing the Natrium reactor to market and revolutionizing how a nuclear reactor functions on the grid,” said Chris Levesque, chief executive of TerraPower. “We will continue working closely with local stakeholders, elected officials, and regulatory partners as we begin nonnuclear construction this year while working through this application process with the NRC. This milestone is one of many that paves the way toward clean, reliable, and flexible power for the grid and long-term jobs for the Kemmerer community.”

A closer look: Natrium will use liquid sodium as a coolant instead of water. According to TerraPower, the reactor features improved fuel utilization, enhanced safety features, and a streamlined plant layout that will require fewer overall materials to construct. Because of the reactor’s storage technology, it can boost the system’s output to 500 MWe for more than five and a half hours when needed to meet additional grid demand.

Given the complexity of the design and the time needed to complete the NRC’s application process, TerraPower plans to get ahead on the project by starting non-nuclear construction at the site this summer.

Support for the project: Natrium is one of two advanced reactor demonstration projects selected for competitive funding through the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. (X-energy’s Xe-100 is the other.) TerraPower received $1.6 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Biden in November 2022, which is to be used to ensure the completion of the plant. The company has also raised more than $1 billion in private funding.

Last month, TerraPower announced the second round of contracts for long-lead suppliers supporting the development of the Natrium reactor.

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