TerraPower has submitted its construction permit application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the Natrium reactor demonstration project, which is being developed in Kemmerer, Wyoming, near a retiring coal plant.

TerraPower said the Bill Gates-backed company is the first to submit its construction permit application for a commercial advanced reactor to the NRC.

“This submission marks another step toward bringing the Natrium reactor to market and revolutionizing how a nuclear reactor functions on the grid,” said Chris Levesque, President and CEO of TerraPower.

Levesque recently told the Financial Times that construction work would begin in June. That would specifically be non-nuclear construction, while nuclear-related construction activities would begin after the application is approved.

The Natrium technology features a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MWe for more than five and a half hours when needed. TerraPower said the Natrium plant would integrate well with renewable resources.

Other advantages of the Generation IV reactor cited by TerraPower include improved fuel utilization, enhanced safety features and a streamlined plant layout that will require less overall materials to construct.

In December 2022 TerraPower said it expected operation of the Natrium reactor to be delayed by at least two years due to not enough commercial capacity to manufacture high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel in time to meet the proposed 2028 in-service date.

The company since agreed with Centrus Energy on a collaboration aimed at establishing commercial-scale, domestic HALEU production capabilities.

Last month, TerraPower announced the second round of contracts for long-lead suppliers supporting the development of the Natrium reactor, aimed at strengthening the North American advanced nuclear supply chain.

TerraPower’s construction permit application is being submitted the same week the NRC issued new guidance documents to facilitate the licensing process for non-light water reactor designs, like Natrium and X-energy’s Xe-100.

The NRC finalized 10 documents that would help streamline the licensing process for reactor applicants.

According to a release from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the new guidance places an added emphasis on the parts of the design and its operation that most directly affect safety and is seen as an important in establishing an efficient and cost-effective approach to licensing non-light water reactors. 

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