TerraPower and Southern Company to demonstrate molten salt reactor

28 February 2022

 A rendering of the MCRE (Photo credit: Southern Company)US TerraPower and Southern Company have finalised a subrecipient agreement to design, construct and operate the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) – intended to be the world’s first critical fast-spectrum salt reactor – at Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

“TerraPower is eager to continue its partnership with Southern Company – an established energy company that offers a crucial perspective and expertise to further position our Molten Chloride Fast Reactor technology for success,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower’s president and CEO. “We are honoured to be part of a team that is dedicated to advancing next-generation, low-cost, carbon-free nuclear technology to help meet global emissions-reduction targets and provide reliable power.”

The MCRE project was selected for funding under the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), and will advance TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR)— a technology that could provide low-cost, clean energy for a sustainable future. Southern Company research and development will lead the effort in a collaboration that includes TerraPower, INL, CORE POWER, Orano Federal Services, the Electric Power Research Institute and 3M Company. The team’s ongoing alliance with DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy through the ARDP is essential for delivering this key technology and will be supported by a five-year, $170 million cost-shared funding agreement.

“Southern Company is honoured to work with DOE, TerraPower, INL and our other team members to advance next-generation nuclear as part of a comprehensive strategy to deliver clean, safe, reliable, affordable energy to the customers and communities we serve,” said Dr Mark S Berry, Southern Company vice president of R&D. “The Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment will advance a revolutionary technology that promises to address climate change benchmarks on a timescale to deliver on Southern Company’s goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”  

The MCRE project represents a significant inflection point in the technology demonstration roadmap for TerraPower’s MCFR, as the project will inform the design, licensing and operation of an MCFR demonstration reactor. MCRE is targeted for operation at INLand will be authorised by DOE.

The MCRE project will not generate electricity, but it will operate at a power of up to 500 kilowatts and demonstrate key physics performance important to the broader MCFR programme. An environmental review will be completed for the MCRE project in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act before final design and construction begin. MCRE first criticality is scheduled for late 2025.

Through a public-private partnership that was initiated in 2015, Southern Company and TerraPower joined DOE and others in the nearly $80 million project building integrated infrastructure necessary to support early development of the MCFR technology. The newly selected Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment will further advance this development.

Photo: A rendering of the MCRE (Photo credit: Southern Company)

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