Terrestrial Energy, an advanced nuclear technology company bringing its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) technology to industrial markets in the 2020s, has raised CAD$10 million in Series A funding.
The names of the investors were not disclosed by the firm. The company told MIT Technology Review this week (details below) that it plans to offer its first-of-a-kind unit to a customer within the next 10 years.
“Funds will be used to support the Company’s pre-construction and pre-licensing engineering, and to support further engagement with industry and nuclear regulators,” said Simon Irish, CEO, Terrestrial Energy.
“These programs allow the Company to demonstrate to industry the commercial merits of the (Molten Salt) IMSR design.”
Molten Salt Technology
Readers are particularly referred to the company web page which has some very interesting information on how this technology is differentiated from other thorium reactor designs. Here are few highlights from the company’s web site.
Molten Salt Reactors (“MSRs”) are nuclear reactors that use a fluid fuel in the form of a molten fluoride or chloride salt. This is a fundamentally different approach compared to conventional nuclear systems that use solid fuel. As an MSR fuel salt is a liquid, it functions as both the fuel (producing the heat) and the coolant (transporting the heat away and ultimately to the power plant). This represents a change paradigm in nuclear reactor safety: a reactor that cannot lose coolant and cannot melt down.
Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR features a self-contained reactor, within which all key components are permanently sealed for its operating lifetime. At the end of its 7-year design life, the IMSR Core-unit is shut down and left to cool. At the same time, power is switched to a new IMSR Core-unit, installed a short time before in an adjacent silo within the facility. Once sufficiently cool, the spent IMSR Core-unit is removed and prepared for long-term storage, a process similar to existing industry protocols for long-term nuclear waste containment.
Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90. It is fertile rather than fissile, and can only be used as a fuel in conjunction with a fissile material such as recycled plutonium. Thorium fuels can breed fissile uranium-233 to be used in various kinds of nuclear reactors. Molten salt reactors are well suited to thorium fuel, as normal fuel fabrication is avoided. Many scientists believe thorium is key to developing a new generation of cleaner, safer nuclear power.
According to Richard Martin, who has published extensively on thorium as a nuclear fuel, writing in the MIT Technology Review on 1/12/16:
“Terrestrial was founded by David LeBlanc, a former professor at Ottawa’s Carleton University and an expert in molten salt reactor technology. That design, first developed in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, uses a molten fluid as both fuel and coolant, making it essentially meltdown-proof and, in theory, much less expensive to build than today’s reactors.”
Terrestrial Energy, however, is hoping to first win regulatory approval in Canada, CEO Simon Irish says, and plans “to commission our first commercial power plant in the 2020s. That’s important because if you’re part of the 2030s, in terms of climate change, you’re not going to make too much of a difference. We can’t wait an extra decade to bring new nuclear plants online; we have to start now.”
Martin also notes;
“Transatomic Power, a nuclear startup founded by a pair of MIT PhDs, has raised $6.3 million from investors including Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. Nevertheless, many new nuclear startups are still scrambling to fund their research and development programs. Terrestrial’s funding is “good news for everyone,” says Transatomic founder Leslie Dewan, “because it provides market validation for the sector as a whole.”
Company Advisory Board
In other news Terrestrial Energy recently announced that Caterpillar Inc. has joined its International Advisory Board (IAB) which also includes among its members former senior executives of Fortune 500 companies:
- Paul Blanchard: Strategic Communications Consultant who is retired from NASA;
James Cameron: founder and former Chairman of Climate Change Capital and Member of HM Treasury’s Infrastructure UK advisory council;
- Thomas Drolet: former President and CEO of Ontario Hydro International;
- J. R. (Dick) Engel: former Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) scientist and Chief Engineer of ORNL’s Molten Salt Reactor Experiment;
- Ben Heard: Principal of Think Climate Consulting and Decarbonise SA;
- Ray O. Johnson: former CTO of Lockheed Martin;
- Julian Kelly: CTO of Thor Energy;
- Jeffrey Merrifield: former Commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Legal Counsel to the IAB);
- James Reinsch: former President of Bechtel Nuclear;
- Christine Todd Whitman: former Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two-term Governor of New Jersey; and,
- Nabila Yousef: former Director of Pickering Engineering for Ontario Power Group.
For those of you who haven’t got a lot of time to wade through a mass of technical data, the company has posted a series of videos with its principals talking about the reactor design and its main features.
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