Terrestrial Energy’s molten salt nuclear reactor clears first regulatory hurdle
The nuclear technology firm's next-generation reactor uses uranium fluoride salt as a liquid fuel, replacing the solid fuels in use at conventional pressurized water plants today
OAKVILLE, Ont.—Terrestrial Energy’s next-generation nuclear power technology has taken its first steps toward securing a key regulatory approval that could take it from the drawing board to the commercial market.
The Oakville, Ont.-based company, which has been working on a design for a new type of molten salt reactor since 2013, said last week that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has completed the first phase of its review of the new reactor.
The process, known as a vendor design review, lets the CNSC size up a company’s design before any official licensing steps are taken. It’s designed to give the vendor—Terrestrial Energy in this case—an early warning about any possible issues the Canadian nuclear regulator sees in the blueprints.
Terrestrial Energy’s reactor cleared the first phase of the review with few issues. The CNSC noted the company has a firm grasp of the licensing requirements and that it has incorporated lessons learned from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster into its design. The one caveat the Canadian regulator included was the need for Terrestrial to “establish robust quality-assured processes for design and safety analysis activities” in the next stage of the review.
The design review is a three-step process that goes into more specific detail in phases 2 and 3.
“Completing phase 1 of the vendor design review—the first advanced reactor to do so—is a landmark achievement,” Simon Irish, the company’s CEO, said in a statement. “It places the company as an early leader in a fast growing technology sector.”
“The IMSR nuclear power plant is a transformative energy technology that is now one step closer to making a major contribution to the world’s growing demand for low-cost, clean and reliable energy,” he added.
Terrestrial Energy is one of several technology companies working to reinvent the nuclear industry with small, modular power plants. It’s proposed a 400-thermal megawatt version of its design to the CNSC. Unlike conventional pressurized water reactors, which have been built on a global scale since the 1970s and use solid nuclear fuels, Terrestrial’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) uses a low-enriched type of uranium fluoride salt as a liquid fuel.
Among the possible sites for testing the new reactor, Terrestrial is looking at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories facility in Chalk River, Ontario. The lab, which developed much of the technology responsible for the CANDU reactor, is planning to test a new type of small reactor on-site within the next decade.