TerraPower today unveiled Bechtel as its plant design, licensing, procurement, and construction partner in a federal grant application to build a demonstration plant for the Natrium™ reactor and energy system architecture. Bechtel, the industry leader in nuclear plant engineering and construction since the 1950s, joins a team that also includes GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, PacifiCorp, Energy Northwest, and Duke Energy.
The Natrium system features an advanced, cost-competitive sodium fast reactor along with an innovative molten salt energy storage system based on those used in solar thermal generation. The result is a design that is affordable and capable of adapting to changes in daily electricity demands driven by solar and wind energy fluctuations. The Natrium technology also separates nuclear and non-nuclear facilities and systems within the plant footprint, simplifying the licensing process and lowering construction costs.
“Natrium fulfills the industry vision of what a true advanced reactor should be—safer, simpler, easier and less costly to construct, less expensive to operate, and able to provide energy that is competitive with fossil fuels and complementary to solar and wind power,” said Barbara Rusinko, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental global business unit. “The Natrium system evens out the peaks and valleys in production when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, and it does so affordably with proven technology. We’re honored to join the team.”
Breakthroughs in sodium fast reactor technology have allowed the Natrium reactor to safely operate at much higher temperatures and lower pressures than conventional nuclear reactors. The heat is used to generate steam for a turbine, like most power plants, but it also can be used for industrial processes or stored in molten salt. The system’s gigawatt-hour-scale energy storage can also be optimized to meet the needs of specific markets.
“Our Natrium technology is an elegant solution to a challenge utilities face as they need clean power that is available 24/7 to support their growing renewable portfolios and make progress toward clean energy targets,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower president and CEO. “Bechtel has decades of experience with major infrastructure projects and we’re proud to have them as a member of the team focused on delivering the Natrium technology in the late 2020s.”
This partnership is part of the TerraPower-led proposal for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which is intended to support the deployment of two first-of-a-kind advanced reactor designs in the next five to seven years.
Artist’s rendering of the Natrium™ reactor and energy system, a sodium fast reactor paired with a molten salt system for heat storage and re-use. (Image courtesy TerraPower.)
TerraPower is a leading nuclear innovation company that strives to improve the world through nuclear energy and science. Since it was founded by Bill Gates and a group of like-minded visionaries, TerraPower has emerged as an incubator and developer of ideas and technologies that offer energy independence, environmental sustainability, medical advancement and other cutting-edge opportunities. It accepts and tackles some of the world’s most difficult challenges. Behind each of its innovations and programs, TerraPower actively works to bring together the strengths and experiences of the world’s public and private sectors to use advanced nuclear to answer pressing global needs. Learn more at https://terrapower.com/.