US-based Terrapower has selected four suppliers to support its Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project being developed in Kemmerer, Wyoming near a retiring coal plant. Terrapower says the contracts will help to establish key elements of the supply chain that the advanced reactor industry will require as new reactors are brought to market.

TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy are developing the Natrium technology, which features a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MWe for more than five and a half hours when needed. According to Terrapower, this “allows a Natrium plant to integrate seamlessly with renewable resources and leads to faster, more cost-effective decarbonisation of the electric grid while producing dispatchable carbon-free energy”.

Tara Neider, Senior Vice President & Project Director for the Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project said: “Throughout the process of bringing the Natrium Reactor and Energy Storage System to market, we have found that working with a diverse supply chain strengthens our ability to deliver a cutting-edge technology. The commercialisation of advanced reactors relies on the support of experts from various industries, and we look forward to collaborating with these suppliers to build the Natrium reactor.”

Supplier awards include the following:

  • Western Service Corporation (WSC) will provide the software platform and engineering services for the Natrium Engineering Simulator. Advanced reactor designs require Simulation Assisted Engineering (SAE) that offers opportunities to integrate system functions and perform virtual commissioning in early stages. Development of an Engineering Simulator, which adopts detailed modelling and sophisticated computation, is a key component of the SAE approach. TerraPower is developing a Natrium Engineering Simulator that can simulate normal operation and plant protective functions, and WSC will provide services central to its development.
  • James Fisher Technologies is designing and building an injection casting furnace system that will be implemented in TerraPower’s Everett laboratory and will demonstrate the basic functionality of the injection casting process.
  • BWXT Canada Ltd will design the Intermediate Heat Exchanger for the Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project. The Intermediate Heat Exchanger transfers heat from the primary sodium in the primary heat transport system to the intermediate sodium in the intermediate heat transport system. Successful design and fabrication of this component by BWXT Canada Ltd is key to the planned achievements of the Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project’s power generation.
  • Curtiss-Wright Flow Control Service (dba Curtiss-Wright Nuclear Division) will develop the Reactor Protection System (RPS) for the Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project. The RPS performs important safety functions in accordance with regulatory requirements. This contract follows a phased approach including provision of a prototype system, planning and engineering support, prior to the detailed design, manufacture, testing and delivery of the RPS. Successful implementation of RadICS system by Curtiss-Wright is key to the successful delivery of the Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project.

Terrapower says the process of awarding contracts for the project is ongoing and it will continue to provide updates as additional contracts are awarded.

In July, Terrapower and Centrus agreed to collaborate to ensure the Natrium demonstration reactor has access to HALEU to ensure that the project’s 2030 operation date can be met. The two companies said they will establish a cost-competitive and timely source of enrichment capacity in the US at Centrus’s HALEU production facility. TerraPower and Centrus have been working together since 2021 when they entered into a contract for services to help expedite the commercialisation of domestic enrichment technology at Centrus’s Piketon, Ohio, facility.

In October 2022, Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A), a GE-led joint venture, and TerraPower agreed to build a Natrium Fuel Facility at the site of GNF-A’s existing plant site near Wilmington. The Natrium Fuel Facility will be jointly funded by TerraPower and DOE through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), which aims to speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with US industry. The Natrium Fuel Facility requires the use of HALEU. The US Energy Act of 2020 authorised DOE to support availability of HALEU for domestic commercial use, although supplies, which were formerly provided by Russia, are now limited.

In December 2022, TerraPower said it expected operation of the Natrium demonstration reactor to be delayed by at least two years because there will not be sufficient commercial capacity to manufacture high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel in time to meet the proposed targets.

Image: Rendering of a Natrium plant (courtesy of TerraPower)