Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Mitsubishi FBR Systems (MFBR), and TerraPower have expanded their collaboration on the development of sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR) technologies.

The agreement expands on an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and will allow the partners to collaborate on a common reactor design concept based on Japan’s FR demonstration program and TerraPower’s existing technologies.

Japan’s Strategic Roadmap for FR technology identifies SFR as a promising technology. In July 2023, the Japanese government selected a 650MW pool-type SFR concept proposed by MFBR as the design to be developed, and MHI as the main manufacturer and constructor.

Bill Gates-backed TerraPower is currently developing the Natrium reactor in the United States, with the support of the US Department of Energy (DOE) through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

TerraPower president and CEO Chris Levesque commented: “In order to achieve our climate goals, countries across the world are going to need to deploy advanced reactors starting in the 2030s, and this agreement will help us evaluate the design opportunities for large-scale Natrium plants that can support Japan’s carbon targets.”

MHI executive vice president Akihiko Kato said, “MHI group, as the core company in charge of design and development of the Japanese demonstration fast reactor, will steadily proceed in accordance with the strategic roadmap. We would like to contribute to fast reactor development cooperation between the US and Japan by utilizing the technology and experience we have cultivated over many years.”

Natrium reactor concept

GE Hitachi and TerraPower collaborated to develop the sodium fast reactor combined with a molten salt energy storage system.

The system features a 345MWe reactor, and thermal storage that has the potential to boost the system’s output to 500MWe of power for more than five and a half hours when needed.

According to TerraPower, this allows for a nuclear design that follows daily electric load changes and helps customers capitalize on peaking opportunities driven by renewable energy fluctuations.

The company is developing the Natrium Reactor Demonstration Project, which is being developed in Kemmerer, Wyoming, near a retiring coal plant. The simulator will be able to replicate normal operation and plant protective functions, which the company said offers opportunities to integrate system functions and perform virtual commissioning in the early stages.

Originally published by Pamela Largue in Power Engineering International.

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