Terrestrial Energy is developing molten salt nuclear reactors that can use heat from its nuclear power plants to produce hydrogen at low cost and combine it with carbon to produce low-carbon gasoline. Plans to build their first commercial plant in Ontario is for the 2020s and a second plant is planned for the U.S. Terrestrial Energy claims it can build a 200-megawatt plant for $1 billion, compared to traditional nuclear power plants which cost between $8-20 billion. Molten salt reactors have less danger in terms of meltdowns compared with water-cooler nuclear power plants. Terrestrial Energy was named one of the top 10 breakthrough technologies in MIT Technology Review, a list curated by Bill Gates in 2019.
Terrestrial Energy created the Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) which uses liquid nuclear fuel which is a molten salt. Conventional reactors use solid fuel. Like all nuclear power plants, there are zero emissions from their reactor.
Molten salts are thermally stable and work well for capturing and dissipating heat from the fission process. The IMSR is a thermal-spectrum, graphite-moderated, molten-fluoride-salt reactor system which generates 195 megawatts of electricity using standard-assay low-enriched uranium. The system incorporates aspects of the Molten Salt Reactor operation researched and tested at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
In nuclear power reactors a neutron moderator is a one of the core elements and is responsible for slowing the neutrons ejected from nuclear fuel rods during fission in order to create a nuclear chain reaction. Graphite moderators are often used. One of the innovations in the IMSR different from previous Molten Salt Reactor designs is the addition of having the graphite moderator sealed in a sealed and replaceable core. This IMSR Core-unit has an operating capacity of seven years and can be replaced simply and safely, something more difficult to do in other Molten Salt Reactor Designs.
Government funding from Canada and the U.S. has provided 25% of financing. Terrestrial Energy USA is an affiliate of Terrestrial Energy Inc. In 2018, Terrestrial Energy USA was awarded $3.15 million in funding by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). In 2016 Terrestrial Energy received a grant award of CAD $5.7 million from the Canadian Federal Government’s Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s (SDTC) SD Tech Fund.
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- Cluster: Clean technologyA process, product, or service which reduces negative impacts on the environment while offering competitive returns for investors and customers. Clean technologies provide solutions which reduce energy usage, use sustainable resources, or protect the environment.
- Cluster: Nuclear technologyA cluster of topics related to nuclear technology