By: Chris Levesque, President and CEO
When our founders created TerraPower, they knew that our challenge wasn’t simple. They were individual futurists who saw the absolute necessity for advanced nuclear fission as a major element of the world’s energy system by the middle of this century. The last several months have been dynamic, but we stand here, more than ten years into our journey, undeterred and focused on our mission.
We have now built a team of futurists who share our founders’ vision and we have grown partnerships with world leaders in nuclear energy. We’ve optimized our reactor designs and rapidly proven out new ideas with advanced computer modeling and experiments in the laboratory. Our nuclear industry has a mature culture of excellence in safety and execution. At TerraPower, we are building on this culture and demonstrating that advanced nuclear technologies are ready today.
On October 11 last year, we received news that the U.S. government changed civil export control rules. This news had unfortunate consequences for our plans for a TWR demonstration reactor in China. Bill Gates discussed this in his end of year blog here.
These changes affect our team who is now dealing with a necessary reduction of about 15% of our staff. We are re-evaluating our deployment plans but rest assured that progress on the TWR continues.
I continue to be a complete believer in the future of nuclear energy as a solution to the world’s most pressing challenges. In 2019, TerraPower has several exciting new developments:
- New laboratory space in Everett is now being outfitted for both our work on the MCFR ARC (Molten Chloride Fast Reactor Advanced Reactor Concept) project and our medical isotope work as well as further testing of our reactor systems, components and materials. TerraPower will continue to be the advanced reactor company that masters both computer simulation and proof of concept through laboratory testing.
- We are also settling into a new office space in the heart of Bellevue’s technology district. The move to an open layout with collaborative spaces helps facilitate how we are organizing our engineering teams to better align resources and meet business and project objectives.
- Our molten salt work is accelerating and our partnership with Southern company and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is going well.
- Our studies of process heat applications present new innovations that we look forward to sharing as their technology readiness progresses.
- We are also pleased to be working with DOE and Idaho National Laboratory on the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) and the Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT).
2019 will be an important year for us and for the industry. We are pleased to see multiple advanced reactor companies moving forward while Congress evaluates new energy policies. A rising tide raises all ships. We can’t change the world’s energy system alone. We will need a vibrant supply chain, and a national lab and university backbone in the US, and strong foundations in other countries where we choose to develop. Success will be shared with persistent and ongoing efforts. Society can improve as companies and governments work together to integrate many new nuclear technologies and deliver carbon-free energy to people everywhere.