America Steps Forward To Expand Nuclear Power
After hemming and hawing for decades, the United States USM is taking some big steps in developing advanced nuclear reactor technologies.
Last week, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) selected two teams – one led by TerraPower in partnership with GE Hitachi, and one led by X-energy – to receive $80 million each in initial funding under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).
In this program, DOE provides initial funding to develop, test, license and build advanced nuclear reactors within five to seven years of the award. DOE plans to invest about $3.2 billion over seven years in these projects that will be matched by the industry.
These plants will generate carbon-free electricity to help meet the nation’s carbon reduction goals, which is in keeping with most climate experts, like Jim Hanson, who warn we cannot achieve any of our climate goals without significant nuclear power.
TerraPower, the brainchild of Bill Gates, together with GE Hitachi, has developed the 345 MWe Natrium™ sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system (figure above). Says Chris Levesque, TerraPower President and CEO, “In addition to its superior economics, the Natrium technology solves an entirely new problem that utilities face today, the need for clean, firm generation and power storage to operate in tandem with wind and solar.”
Natrium’s innovative thermal storage has the capability to boost the system’s output to 500MWe of power for more than five and a half hours when needed. This allows for a better ability to follow daily electric load changes and helps customers capitalize on peaking opportunities driven by renewable energy fluctuations.
Natrium employs metal fuel with HALEU that offers improved reactor economics, greater fuel efficiency, enhanced safety, and lower volumes of nuclear waste.
X-energy’s Xe-100 is a modular 80 MWe (scalable to a 320 MWe four-pack) high temperature gas-cooled reactor that can integrate into large, regional electricity systems as either a base-load source or to load-follow renewables, making it ideal for optimizing the grid’s use of low-emission, intermittent renewables and other clean power.