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TerraPower announced plans to team up with Centrus Energy to establish commercial-scale, domestic production capabilities for high-assay, low-enriched uranium (Haleu), which will be needed to fuel many next-generation reactor designs including the recently announced Natrium power storage system designed by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

The proposed investment is part of the TerraPower-led proposal for the US Department of Energy’s advanced reactor demonstration programme, which is intended to support the deployment of two first-of-a-kind advanced reactor designs in the next five to seven years.

The programme requires applicants to “establish a plan by which they would obtain the fuel/special nuclear material needed for their projects”.

The TerraPower application proposes that, if selected for the programme, the company would work with Centrus to build commercial-scale capacity to produce Haleu and fabricate it into metal fuel assemblies. Haleu, which is not commercially available today, offers improved reactor economics, greater fuel efficiency, enhanced safety and proliferation resistance, lower volumes of waste and other advantages.

TerraPower, a US-based innovation company founded by Bill Gates, and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy recently the Natrium reactor and energy system architecture that features a cost-competitive sodium fast reactor combined with a molten salt energy storage system.

The Natrium system features a 345-MW reactor and can be optimised for specific markets. For instance, its innovative thermal storage has the potential to boost the system’s output to 500-MW of power for more than five and a half hours when needed. This allows for a nuclear design that follows daily electric load changes and helps customers capitalise on peaking opportunities driven by renewable energy fluctuations.

Date: Thursday, 17 September 2020
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