September 26, 2019
For nearly a decade, TerraPower maintained about 10,000 square feet of laboratory space. This is where we prove aspects of our two advanced reactor designs and explore other innovative nuclear science and technology approaches. In addition to a full-scale fuel handing machine for the traveling wave reactor (TWR) technology, this facility also houses several salt loop experiments for the molten chloride fast reactor (MCFR) program. This summer, TerraPower achieved major milestones with both designs. Idaho National Laboratory inserted TWR fuel into the advanced test reactor for testing and an MCFR salt loop achieved 1000 hours of continuous operation. With high-quality results coming in, the TerraPower team shifted attention to guests interested in seeing our work in progress.
Visitors included the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy, Dr. Rita Baranwal, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner Annie Caputo and Chairman Kristine Svinicki, students from the Pacific Science Center’s Discovery Corps, a delegation of U.S. Representatives and local reporters from the Seattle area. We expect additional climate and energy sector leaders to visit later this fall. It’s an exciting time to share the progress we’ve made and to collaborate with others on possibilities our approach to nuclear innovation has to offer.
On separate visits, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Commissioner Annie Caputo and Chairman Kristine Svinicki saw the testbeds behind our TWR and MCFR technologies. Andrea Araiza, Senior Engineer on the MCFR team, showcased the forced flow molten salt loop testing. The system had just operated for more than 1000 hours at 550°C, proving performance of key components in our molten chloride fast reactor design. This salt loop and our TWR fuel handling prototype are two of many research initiatives generating data which will be used in the design and licensing process of our advanced nuclear reactors.
With efforts underway to expand TerraPower’s laboratory space later this year, we recognize the importance of inspiring future generations of researchers and engineers as well. Student visitors from Pacific Science Center’s Discovery Corps had the opportunity to learn about TerraPower’s technologies and careers with members of the engineering and research staff. Seattle-based journalists and documentarians have also been on the lab’s guest list as TerraPower becomes known as a regional employer of choice.
TerraPower also had the honor of a visit to our lab by elected federal officials. They discussed how the company plans to lead efforts to decarbonize the economy. TerraPower’s systems not only offer power at grid-scale but also represent platforms for additional research as well as wholly-new applications for process-heat, water desalinization and a host of other important tasks which currently require large amounts of emissions-intensive power.
As TerraPower expands its laboratory footprint, we make our way towards the next set of milestones for our advanced nuclear technologies. Our research prepares us for licensing and deployment. It’s been great to see the interest from regulators, lawmakers, students and reporters around our efforts to bring clean energy to market. Nuclear technology has a strong role to play in addressing global energy poverty and climate change, and American leadership and investment in the next generation of nuclear are pivotal to the safety and security of this energy transition.