September 12, 2016

We’ve written quite frequently about the strategic partnerships that support TerraPower’s research and development program. We seek out the best-of-the-best in whatever research area is needed for our technologies, then pipe that data back to inform our designs.

However, we recognize that sometimes it’s best to invest in our own infrastructure. This is especially true as the innovations we explore move along the development pipeline from ideas to designs to explorations to prototypes.

TerraPower has been working to perfect a laboratory space of our own. This expanded space – a custom 10,000 sq. ft. facility in Bellevue, Wash. – will help move our explorations of components, fuels, materials and other technologies along in the development process. It provides us with the space to both explore scaled-up tests to support Traveling Wave Reactor (TWR) development, and to look at forward-thinking, non-TWR nuclear-related technologies.

Our lab will follow an operational testing approach consistent with one developed at NASA, and now widely used in the Department of Defense. This step-by-step approach to assessments follows a very logical and time-tested path:

  1. Bench testing to determine which processes or materials should be tested further;
  2. Scaled-up testing using larger scale components, which helps further develop and refine testing and analytical techniques to ensure that they will be valid for prototype testing;
  3. Prototype testing of full-sized components or final testing of materials; and
  4. Integration with other technologies, components and/or materials being developed, tested and analyzed in the laboratory.
A view of TerraPower’s 10,000-square-foot laboratory space.
A view of TerraPower’s 10,000 sq. ft. laboratory space

Our expanded lab space offers enough space for us to conduct multiple experiments at various stages in this development process. More than 40 scientists, machinists, engineers and support staff can simultaneously work on experiments in the lab. We can gather data to validate our codes and models. We can explore component and materials testing at prototypic conditions. We can develop equipment and instrumentation.

I look forward to sharing more in the future about how this new space advances TerraPower’s exploration of new nuclear technologies.