Gates backed nuclear firm initiates Natrium
Nuclear-heat storage system designed for green energy grids Metal Tech News – September 2, 2020
Last updated 9/1/2020 at 4:31pm
TerraPower, a nuclear innovation company co-founded by Bill Gates, and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy are developing a hybrid nuclear reactor and energy storage system specially designed to be integrated with renewable energy dominated power grids.
While conventional nuclear power plants are excellent at delivering large and steady loads of carbon-free electricity into a power grid, they are not good at shifting their output to offset fluctuating outputs from solar and wind.
TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Natrium reactor and energy system architecture overcomes this weakness by combining cost-competitive sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system.
The Natrium system features a 345-megawatt electrical reactor that stores heat in thermal salts that would store the potential to boost the system's output to 500MWe of power for more than 5.5 hours.
This allows for a nuclear design that follows daily electric load changes and helps customers capitalize on peaking opportunities driven by renewable energy fluctuations.
Building on the heat storing technology used in solar thermal generation, TerraPower says Natrium energy storage and flexible power production will offer abundant clean energy in time to help meet climate goals.
The Natrium technology's modular architecture is expected to make these nuclear power plants cheaper to build and safer to operate.
Non-nuclear mechanical, electrical, and other equipment will be housed in separate structures, reducing complexity and cost. This will allow large non-nuclear portions of the plant to be built to the standards of common industrial standards, reducing the costs of permitting and building these sections.
This design also reduces the amount of nuclear-grade concrete needed by 80% compared to large reactors.
PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Energy Northwest, and Duke Energy are interested in funding and utilizing the innovative nuclear power solutions Natrium has to offer.
"Our exceptional technology development capabilities, unmatched financing credibility and achievable funding strategy mean that the Natrium technology will be available in the late 2020s, making it one of the first commercial advanced nuclear technologies," said TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque.
The Natrium system demonstrates the benefits of modern virtual design and construction tools, and reflects the depth of experience the partners bring to the design table.
"Our collective experience brings unparalleled capabilities in design and construction that ensure the Natrium product can drive value for our customers," said GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy President and CEO Jay Wileman. "We designed this system with operator input to potentially increase their revenues by 20% through the use of energy storage."