TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) recently announced the new Natrium™ technology, one of the world’s fastest and lowest-cost paths to providing world-changing, advanced clean energy. It is the result of the two companies’ efforts to combine their extensive experience with sodium technology to create a flexible and cost-competitive product that is designed to offer execution certainty. The Natrium technology also supports load following, energy storage and industrial process heat applications.
Clean and stable energy to support high penetrations of renewables
The Natrium technology has a 345MWe sodium fast reactor coupled with a molten salt-based integrated energy storage system that will provide clean, flexible energy and stability for the grid. It seamlessly integrates into power grids with high penetrations of renewables and can be optimized for specific markets. For example, the storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500MWe of power for more than five and a half hours when needed. It also benefits from the lessons learned from previous salt-based storage systems.
The Natrium technology’s sodium fast reactor produces heat, which can be used to generate electricity immediately or be contained in thermal storage reserves for hours. This innovative combination with energy storage allows the reactor to operate at a steady state, supporting the increased use of renewables and helping utilities capture more daily electricity revenue. As more and more renewables are integrated into the grid, the demand for gigawatt-hour-scale energy storage will continue to increase.
Simplified, cost-competitive advanced nuclear technology
The Natrium technology has been designed to reduce cost and construction schedule. The key innovation relative to past reactors is the novel architecture that separates and simplifies major structures. The Energy Island, which represents most of the plant, can be constructed and operated without the need for special nuclear requirements or nuclear regulatory approval.
In addition, the compact atmospheric pool reactor system with passive vessel cooling significantly reduces space and the amount of nuclear-grade concrete required. In fact, on a per MWe basis, the Natrium technology uses 80% less nuclear-grade concrete compared to today’s large reactors.
Decades of unparalleled design expertise and technical capabilities
The team behind the Natrium technology combines decades of unparalleled design expertise and the technical capabilities necessary for bringing this innovative system to market. The TerraPower and GEH team has extensive experience on large-scale nuclear projects, first-of-a-kind technology delivery and power generation operations.
The Natrium technology also has a complete and logical development plan stemming from the team’s directly relevant experience with technology development and deployment, Nuclear Regulatory Commission pre-application evaluation, and plant design and project planning.
Together, the team is aligned to a vision focused on advancing the nuclear industry and addressing the long-term challenges of meeting global demand for clean, reliable and affordable electricity.
One of the first commercial advanced nuclear technologies
TerraPower, GE Hitachi and Bechtel submitted a proposal based on the Natrium technology for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. The technology will be demonstrated at full commercial scale, avoiding the need to transition from a small-scale prototype in order to become commercially viable. The demonstration plant is designed to be delivered in the next seven years. That means the Natrium technology will be available in the late 2020s, making it one of the first commercial advanced nuclear technologies.
With significant private investment behind it, the Natrium technology has unmatched financial credibility and an achievable funding strategy. The technology is right and the time is now.