Creating a Safe, Secure Energy Source
Conventional reactors capture only about 1 percent of the energy potential of their fuel. The traveling wave reactor (TWR) represents a new class of nuclear reactor. It is a near-term deployable, truly sustainable, globally scalable energy solution. Unlike the existing fleet of nuclear reactors, the TWR burns fuel made from depleted uranium. This substance is currently a waste byproduct of the enrichment process. The TWR’s unique design gradually converts this material through a nuclear reaction without removing the fuel from the reactor’s core. The TWR can sustain this process indefinitely, generating heat and producing electricity.
The TWR offers additional benefits over today’s light water reactor (LWR) designs:
- Provides up to a 50-fold gain in fuel efficiency, which means less fuel producing more electricity. Increased fuel efficiency also means less waste at the end of the reactor’s life.
- Eliminates the need for reprocessing and significantly reduces and potentially eliminates the long-term need for enrichment plants. This reduces proliferation concerns and lowers the cost of the nuclear energy process.
- Directly converts depleted uranium to usable fuel as it operates. As a result, this inexpensive but energy-rich fuel source could provide a global electricity supply that is, for all practical purposes, inexhaustible.
TerraPower is committed to the near-term deployment of TWR technology. We aim to achieve startup of a 600 megawatt-electric prototype in the mid-2020s, followed by global commercial deployment. Read about the details of our TWR design.
History of the Design
In 1958, Saveli Feinberg first thought of the traveling wave reactor concept. Read about how Feinberg’s idea became TerraPower’s TWR.
Members of our team have published many papers for different journals and conferences. Access these publications.