Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A) and TerraPower announced a plan to build a natrium fuel facility at existing GE-Hitachi operations near Wilmington, North Carolina.
The facility, to be funded by TerraPower and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), aims to bolster the domestic supply chain and speed up the demonstration of advanced nuclear reactors.
“Reinvigorating the domestic nuclear supply chain is a critical step in building the next generation of reactors,” said Tara Neider, TerraPower senior vice president and Natrium project director.
GE-Hitachi and TerraPower plan to build the natrium reactor in Kemmerer, Wyoming, where the coal-fired Naughton power plant operated by PacifiCorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power is set to close in 2025.
Proponents of the project, featuring a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor and molten salt-based energy storage, say it would perform better, be safer and cost less than traditional nuclear power.
The natrium fuel facility would utilize high-assay, low-enriched uranium. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) includes $700 million in funding for domestic high-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) production.
Previously, the Energy Act of 2020 authorized DOE to support availability of HALEU for domestic commercial use.
Construction on the natrium fuel facility is expected to begin in 2023 and, once complete, is expected to support up to 100 jobs.
Overall, GE-Hitachi (GEH) projects it will grow its workforce by nearly 500 employees in the next five years. The company said many of these employees will support the natrium reactor technology GEH and TerraPower are developing.
GEH has several partnerships involving its BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR). Along with Ontario Power Generation (OPG), GEH is working to deploy the BWRX-300 at the province’s Darlington site as early as 2028. SaskPower wants to bring the BWRX-300 to Saskatchewan in the mid-2030s.
In August 2022, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and GEH agreed to work together on preliminary licensing for the possible deployment of the BWRX-300 at the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. TVA is currently developing a construction permit application and hopes to submit it to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in late-2023.
The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation reactor with passive safety systems based off the design and licensing of GE-Hitachi’s NRC-certified ESBWR. As the tenth evolution of the boiling water reactor (BWR), the company says the BWRX-300 represents the simplest, yet most innovative BWR design since GE began developing nuclear reactors in 1955.
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