Major breakthrough in molten salt reactor tech for maritime use

The development of molten salt reactor technology for maritime use has taken a huge step forward with the successful start of pumped-salt operations at a dedicated facility in the US.

Image credit: Southern Company

Specifically, Southern Company, TerraPower and CORE POWER have kick-started pumped-salt operations in the Integrated Effects Test (IET) facility installed at TerraPower’s laboratory in Everett, Washington.

“Southern Company believes the next generation of nuclear power holds promise in providing an affordable and sustainable net-zero future that includes reliable, resilient and dispatchable clean energy for customers,” said Mark S. Berry, Southern Company Services senior vice president of research and development.

“It’s exciting to see each new landmark in the Integrated Effects Test, as it helps our nation rebuild lost molten salt reactor knowledge.”

Project partners CORE POWER, Southern Company, and TerraPower see this as a major achievement, taking the project to bring TerraPower’s first-of-a-kind Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR) to market into an important new phase.

The project team has already completed mechanical, electrical, and control verification and commissioned all systems at the facility. Chloride salt has now been loaded into the primary coolant salt loops and pumped-salt operations have begun. It marks the start of a multi-month test campaign which is set to provide valuable salt operations data and know-how for the MCFR program.

The IET is a nonnuclear, externally heated, up to 1-megawatt multiloop system – the world’s largest chloride salt system developed by the nuclear sector. The project was initiated by Southern Company and TerraPower under the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC-15) award, a multiyear effort to promote the design, construction and operation of Generation-IV nuclear reactors. The project team also includes CORE POWER, EPRI, Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt University.

“The startup of the Integrated Effects Test is a milestone achievement in the development of the first fast-spectrum molten salt reactor, and we are immensely proud to contribute to its success,” said Mikal Bøe, president and CEO of CORE POWER.

“The Integrated Effects Test allows us to collect that crucial last-mile data for a design and build of the Molten Chloride Fast Reactor, and takes the team one step closer to a genuinely unique way to do new nuclear that is appropriate for the commercial marine environment.

“New Nuclear for Maritime is the only solution that can take the ocean transport industry to actual zero. It’s the end game of our energy transition and with solid progress being made in building a new nuclear technology that actually works for shipping, we see the momentum continuing to build.”

“The Molten Chloride Fast Reactor has the potential to meet the carbon-free needs of hard-to-decarbonize industrial sectors including and beyond electricity. The Integrated Effects Test will help us gather and evaluate data to support the development of our technology, and we are excited to launch pumped-salt operations,” said Jeff Latkowski, senior vice president for the Molten Chloride Fast Reactor.

The IET will inform the design, licensing and operation of an approximately 180-megawatt MCFR demonstration planned for the early 2030s time frame.