The Natrium technology is claimed to separate nuclear and non-nuclear facilities and systems within the plant footprint


Artist’s rendering of the Natrium reactor and energy system. (Credit: TerraPower.)

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.

The nuclear plant engineering and construction company joins a team that also includes GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, PacifiCorp, Energy Northwest, and Duke Energy.

Along with an advanced sodium fast reactor, the Natrium project will feature a new molten salt energy storage system, which will be based on the systems used in solar thermal generation.

The design is expected to result in a reactor which is affordable and capable of adapting to changes in daily electricity demands, driven by solar and wind energy fluctuations.

The Natrium technology is also claimed to separate nuclear and non-nuclear facilities and systems with the plant, simplifying the licensing process and lowering construction costs.

Bechtel Nuclear, Security & Environmental global business unit president Barbara Rusinko said: “Natrium fulfills the industry vision of what a true advanced reactor should be—safer, simpler, easier and less costly to construct, less expensive to operate, and able to provide energy that is competitive with fossil fuels and complementary to solar and wind power.

“The Natrium system evens out the peaks and valleys in production when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, and it does so affordably with proven technology. We’re honored to join the team.”

Natrium reactors can operate at much higher temperatures and at lower pressures

It is claimed that the breakthroughs in sodium fast reactor technology has allowed the Natrium reactor to safely operate at much higher temperatures and lower pressures compared to  conventional nuclear reactors.

According to TerraPower, the heat can be utilised for industrial processes or stored in molten salt, apart from producing steam for a turbine.

TerraPower president and CEO Chris Levesque said: “Our Natrium technology is an elegant solution to a challenge utilities face as they need clean power that is available 24/7 to support their growing renewable portfolios and make progress toward clean energy targets.

“Bechtel has decades of experience with major infrastructure projects and we’re proud to have them as a member of the team focused on delivering the Natrium technology in the late 2020s.”