By: Kevan Weaver, Ph.D, Director of Technology Integration
One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is traveling to visit the offices and plants of the many small businesses that supply TerraPower with specialized components, data and skills. Although there is much hand-wringing at times during the political cycle over the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States, I believe that the United States offers the best resources of this kind on the market today. The Traveling Wave Reactor (TWR) requires the unparalleled expertise these small businesses offer in niche areas important to our next-generation nuclear technology development.
By prioritizing quality of components, TerraPower is keeping much-needed manufacturing jobs here on American soil. We believe this collaboration with leading U.S. small businesses and their highly specialized engineers will usher in a new fleet of improved technological components. These components have the potential to extend TerraPower’s innovations beyond our flagship technology, the TWR.
Here are some quick snapshots from the more than 80 American companies that TerraPower partners with:
- In Connecticut, we are collaborating with Cryogenic Consulting Services to build a pilot plant to demonstrate the effectiveness of using a cryogenic process to clean radioisotopes from the reactor cover gas. This system will be used to augment the TWR sealing system to ensure products from fission reactions are retained within closed systems. Like Missouri, Connecticut has experienced years of losses in the manufacturing sector, but this year the numbers show a modest gain. TerraPower is part of that positive story.
- With Merrick & Company in Denver, Colorado, and its project partners in Kennewick, Washington, and Shoreview, Minnesota, engineering development is underway to design for the eventual construction of large scale precision robotic equipment that supports the first TWR.
- In California, Veridiam is working with TerraPower to develop fuel tubing and duct manufacturing processes and to demonstrate the feasibility of product production. This tubing is also being used for experimental work to evaluate performance at elevated temperatures in a neutron radiation environment. The results of these tests are crucial for the long-term performance of the TWR.
- TerraPower also supports jobs in its own backyard: Mid-Columbia Engineering employs 65 people in Richland, Washington, in a state where more than half of all manufacturing companies employ less than 20 individuals. Through a collaboration with TerraPower to develop fuel fabrication, the companies are together preserving the demand for engineering and manufacturing jobs in Washington state.
Although we work closely with the U.S. government at the Department of Energy (DOE) and DOE’s national laboratories, TerraPower is a commercial enterprise. The development of TWR technology provides substantial benefits to manufacturing businesses in the United States while improving clean, safe energy options for all nations seeking a peaceful path to nuclear energy.