US-based TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) have announced the launch of the Natrium reactor and energy system architecture – a 345MWe cost-competitive sodium fast reactor combined with a molten salt energy storage system.
“Building on the technology used in solar thermal generation, Natrium energy storage and flexible power production will offer abundant clean energy in time to help meet climate goals,” TerraPower said.
The Natrium technology’s novel architecture simplifies previous reactor types. Non-nuclear mechanical, electrical and other equipment will be housed in separate structures, reducing complexity and cost. The design is intended to permit significant cost savings by allowing major portions of the plant to be built to industrial standards. It uses fewer equipment interfaces and reduces the amount of nuclear-grade concrete by 80% compared with large reactors.
“Natrium reactors are designed to provide firm, flexible power that seamlessly integrates into power grids with high penetrations of renewables,” TerraPower said.
The Natrium system features a 345MWe reactor and can be optimised for specific markets. For instance, its thermal storage has the potential to boost the system’s output to 500MWe of power for more than five and a half hours when needed. This allows for a nuclear design that follows daily electric load changes and helps customers capitalise on peaking opportunities driven by renewable energy fluctuations.
“As a nuclear innovation company, TerraPower values collaboration with GE Hitachi to make nuclear generation as affordable as possible,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower President and CEO. He added that Natrium technology would be available in the late 2020s, “making it one of the first commercial advanced nuclear technologies”.
“Our collective experience brings unparalleled capabilities in design and construction that ensure the Natrium product can drive value for our customers,” said Jay Wileman, GEH President and CEO. “We designed this system with operator input to potentially increase their revenues by 20% through the use of energy storage.”
The Natrium system demonstrates the benefits of modern virtual design and construction tools and has attracted the attention of numerous utilities through the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Programme. PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Energy Northwest and Duke Energy have expressed their support for the commercialisation effort, which will provide energy and energy storage to the electrical grid.
Photo: TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy have introduced the Natrium™ Power Production and Storage System (Credit: TerraPower)