By: John Gilleland, Ph.D, Chief Technology Officer
As has been made clear by our Chairman, greater energy R&D is vital to creating breakthrough ideas that solve our pressing energy challenges. Alongside the traveling wave reactor (TWR), TerraPower supports the continued exploration of other nuclear energy technologies. In fact, we maintain a team of engineers within the company dedicated to the origination, evaluation and development of high-risk, high-potential technologies. This team has the freedom to investigate ideas ranging from medical isotopes, to other reactor designs, to advanced manufacturing methods. Out of this process came the molten chloride fast reactor (MCFR), which we believe has the potential to excel in safety, waste, non-proliferation and economics.
MCFR technologies, while relatively simple, are also comparatively unproven. As a result, we were excited to see the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) solicit an Advanced Reactor Industry Competition. The DOE named the Southern Company-led team, including TerraPower, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute and Vanderbilt University as one of two projects to receive funding for advanced reactor concepts. We see this as an opportunity to accelerate the MCFR development. This exciting public-private partnership will further energize the U.S. industry’s role in the global marketplace and, in turn, foster an environment favorable to energy R&D. TerraPower is proud to contribute to U.S. Government efforts to maintain American leadership in advanced nuclear technologies.
The aging U.S. reactor fleet will begin to retire in the 2030s; if our country is to be prepared with the next generation of reactors, the licensing process needs to be initiated now. Opportunities such as this award help to advance the R&D vital to the U.S. NRC’s efforts to establish a licensing structure for non-light-water reactors, while also supporting our company’s mission: to bring clean, reliable, safe energy to the world.