TerraPower, the nuclear reactor design firm founded by Bill Gates, together with PacifiCorp, has unveiled plans to advance a Natrium reactor demonstration project in Wyoming, US.

The Natrium reactor demo project is planned to be built at a retiring coal plant, and the companies are evaluating several potential locations in the state, which will be finalised by the year end.

The demonstration project is intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium system, which a TerraPower and GE Hitachi technology.

TerraPower president and CEO Chris Levesque said: “Together with PacifiCorp, we’re creating the energy grid of the future where advanced nuclear technologies provide good-paying jobs and clean energy for years to come.

“The Natrium technology was designed to solve a challenge utilities face as they work to enhance grid reliability and stability while meeting decarbonization and emissions-reduction goals.”

The project will feature a 345MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system.

The storage technology is capable of boosting the system’s output to 500MW for more than five and a half hours, which is adequate to serve the energy requirement for about 400,000 homes.

It allows a Natrium plant to easily integrate with renewable resources and could lead to faster, more cost-effective decarbonisation of electricity generation, the company said.

In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), has granted $80m funding for the Natrium technology demonstration.

PacifiCorp’s Rocky Mountain Power president and CEO Gary Hoogeveen said: “This project is an exciting economic opportunity for Wyoming. Siting a Natrium advanced reactor at a retiring Wyoming coal plant could ensure that a formerly productive coal generation site continues to produce reliable power for our customers.

“We are currently conducting joint due diligence to ensure this opportunity is cost-effective for our customers and a great fit for Wyoming and the communities we serve.”

In October last year, TerraPower has selected Bechtel as partner for plant design, licensing, procurement and construction, in a federal grant application for the Natrium reactor and energy system demonstration project in the US.