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Terrestrial Energy USA, a company that is developing a fourth-generation molten salt nuclear reactor, has joined forces with Southern Co. and several U.S. [...[ DOE national labs, in a [...] R&D project that seeks to pin down whether its reactor technology can produce hydrogen efficiently using nuclear heat and power.
The two-year-long project will examine how efficiently and economically Terrestial’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plant can produce industrial-scale hydrogen. It will test a hybrid sulfur process, which is a carbon-free method of generating hydrogen from water and “may be more efficient than high-temperature steam electrolysis,”
Interest in molten salt reactor technology has also kicked up of late. Molten salt reactors under consideration for future licensing by the Office of New Reactors, an arm of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), use either solid fuel or liquid fuel (fuel mixed with molten salt). The NRC notes that at least four molten-salt reactor designs are under development—Flibe Energy’s 600-MWth LFTR (liquid-fluoride thorium reactor), Martingale’s 557-MWth ThorCon, Transatomic Power’s 1,250-MWth TAP (Transatomic Power), and Terrestial’s 400-MWth IMSR. “The thermal spectrum liquid fuel reactors use a fluoride salt and some employ on-line removal of fission products and possibly actinides. Some have unique ways of adding fissile and fertile material,” notes an April 2018 report from Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Nuclear Science and Technology Department.
According to SRNL, hybrid sulfur hydrogen generation is a two-step thermo-chemical cycle based on sulfur oxidation/reduction. A key step in the reaction is electrochemical water splitting using a sulfur dioxide–depolarized electrolyzer. SRNL says the demonstration could develop a “plausible path” to producing hydrogen gas using both thermal and electrical energy (78% thermal energy and 22% electrical energy) at a cost of less than $2/kilogram of hydrogen. Molten salt reactors are the “best choice” for high turn-down electrical power generation efficiency, it says. In a June 13, 2018, presentation, SRNL noted that total funding for the project to demonstrate the hybrid sulfur hydrogen production process integrated with a molten salt reactor would be equally cost-shared. The DOE’s share is $525,000 and industry would pick up the remaining $525,000.
In a Tuesday announcement, Leslie Dewan, Transatomic’s CEO and co-founder, wrote, “We haven’t been able to scale up the company rapidly enough to build our reactor in a reasonable timeframe. It is therefore with a heavy heart that I must announce that Transatomic is suspending operations.”
Dewan also announced that the Cambridge, Mass.-based company will be “open-sourcing our intellectual property, making it available for any researchers — private, public or nonprofit — who want to continue the work we’ve started.”
NuScale Power, based out of Portland, Oregon[, ...] issued a press release today saying that, after 18 months of searching, it has selected manufacturing company BWX Technologies to begin engineering work that will lead to manufacturing the company's Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design.
Phase 1 engineering and manufacturing begins today and will last until 2020, NuScale wrote, and then Phases 2 and 3—"preparing for fabrication" and "fabrication," respectively—will continue from there.