PacifiCorp and TerraPower, backed by Wyoming governor Mark Gordon have announced efforts to push forward a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming. The companies are evaluating several potential locations in the state.
Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower, commented: “The Natrium technology was designed to solve a challenge utilities face as they work to enhance grid reliability and stability while meeting decarbonisation and emissions-reduction goals.”
“Siting a Natrium advanced reactor at a retiring Wyoming coal plant could ensure that a formerly productive coal generation site continues to produce reliable power …” said Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp. “We are currently conducting joint due diligence to ensure this opportunity is cost-effective for our customers and a great fit for Wyoming and the communities we serve.”
The location of the Natrium demonstration plant is expected to be announced by the end of 2021. The demonstration project will be a fully functioning power plant and is intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology.
The project features a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MW of power for more than five and a half hours when needed. This allows a Natrium plant to integrate seamlessly with renewable resources and could lead to faster, more cost-effective decarbonisation of electricity generation. The technology’s novel architecture separates and simplifies major structures, which is said to reduce complexity, cost and the construction schedule, without compromising safety.
In October 2020, the US Department of Energy, through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Programme, awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial funding to demonstrate the Natrium technology. TerraPower signed the co-operative agreement with DOE in May 2021. To date, Congress has appropriated $160 million for the ARDP and DOE has committed additional funding in the coming years, subject to appropriations.
The Natrium system is a TerraPower and GE Hitachi technology. Along with PacifiCorp and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, members of the demonstration project team include engineering and construction partner Bechtel, Energy Northwest, Duke Energy and nearly a dozen additional companies, universities and national laboratory partners. Next steps include further project evaluation, education and outreach, and state and federal regulatory approval.