The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has signed another memorandum of understanding (MOUs) related to small modular reactors at the 28th Conference of the Parties to the original 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in Dubai. The latest agreement is with Terrestrial Energy, signed by ENEC CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi, and Terrestrial Energy CEO Simon Irish.

This followed previous agreements with US-based small modular reactor (SMR) and micro-reactor developers X-energy, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), TerraPower and Westinghouse Electric as well as with UK-based developer of molten salt nuclear technology MoltexFLEX.

The agreements came after ENEC launched its ADVANCE programme, in the run up to CO28, aimed at leveraging the UAE’s experience in successfully delivering the four-unit Barakah NPP, constructed in Abu Dhabi by a South Korean consortium. ENEC said the ADVANCE programme is intended to harness the latest advancements in nuclear energy technologies and to strengthen the UAE's position as a leading nation in accelerating the global clean energy transition to Net Zero. The programme will evaluate the latest SMR and microreactor technologies and ENEC will work with national stakeholders to determine deployment pathways and international partners for technology and project collaboration opportunities.

Terresrial is developing an Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) plant. The IMSR is a 442 MWt per Core-unit (IMSR400) small modular molten salt fuelled, graphite moderated, thermal spectrum reactor. Terrestrial Energy has developed a two-unit configuration which can deliver 884 MWt/390 MWe. The design features a completely sealed reactor vessel with integrated pumps, heat exchangers and shutdown rods all mounted inside a single vessel – the IMSR core-unit. The sealed core-unit is replaced completely at the end of its useful service life (nominally seven years). This allows factory production levels of quality control and economy, while avoiding any need to open and service the reactor vessel at the power plant site. Terrestrial says it operates at the high temperature required for broad industrial relevance with transformative economic potential.

ENEC and Terrestrial Energy will collaborate to focus on the potential of IMSR plant for electricity generation and for large-scale industrial heat applications. These uses include the IMSR plant’s role in decarbonising energy-intensive and hard-to-abate industrial sectors. The parties will also consider frameworks for development and deployment of the IMSR plant in target industrial applications in the UAE and other markets.

H.E. Mohamed Al Hammadi commented: “We are committed to exploring the latest technologies in advanced reactors as we continue to rapidly decarbonise the power sector through clean electricity from nuclear energy…. We look forward to close collaboration with Terrestrial Energy as we identify the potential deployment of IMSR technology in the UAE and overseas.”

Simon Irish said the IMSR has immense potential to support industrial growth and decarbonisation. “Terrestrial Energy’s prioritisation of national and international regulatory requirements supports the aims of our MOU as does the IMSR’s use of nuclear fuel at standard enrichment levels, which has long-established international acceptance. We look forward to working with ENEC to accelerate development and deployment of the IMSR plant in target industrial applications and commercial markets.”

In April 2023, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), following a systematic and multi-year review against Canadian regulatory requirements, concluded that there were no fundamental barriers to licensing the IMSR plant for commercial use. This was the first regulatory review of a commercial nuclear plant using molten salt reactor technology and the first advanced, high-temperature fission technology to complete a review of this type.

The conventional nuclear power plant fuel used by the IMSR – Standard Assay Low Enriched Uranium – is the only fuel available and transportable today for civilian reactor use and has international regulatory acceptance. Its use supports an early deployment path for IMSR plants across multiple markets. In August 2023, Terrestrial Energy signed a manufacturing and supply contract with Springfields Fuels Limited, a UK-based subsidiary of Westinghouse, for the design and construction of an IMSR fuel pilot plant.