Partnership set up for IMSR fuel supply

18 August 2021

Westinghouse, the UK National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and Terrestrial Energy have announced a partnership in the UK to advance the industrial scale up and commercial supply of enriched uranium fuel for use in Terrestrial's Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR). An agreement between the three defines the process for delivering IMSR fuel for commercial use, concurrent with schedules for commercial operation of IMSR power plants.

The IMSR is a Generation IV advanced nuclear power plant, which is being developed in Canada by Terrestrial. The reactor is fuelled with standard assay low enriched uranium (LEU) - the commercial fuel standard in today's operating nuclear power plants - which is enriched to up to 5% uranium-235.

The IMSR is currently the only Generation IV reactor designed to use standard assay LEU in operation. Standard assay LEU is readily available for civilian use, a major advantage for early deployment, Terrestrial Energy CEO Simon Irish said. The company is working on a multiple sourcing strategy for IMSR fuel supply, he added, recognising the world-class fuel expertise and production capabilities at the NNL and Westinghouse. "Our agreement is an important step to demonstrate reliable, secure and long-term commercial supply of reactor fuel to utilities operating IMSR power plants," he said.

Westinghouse's Springfields facility, near Preston in the UK, is a global supplier of uranium fuel for commercial reactors. The NNL is the UK's national laboratory for nuclear fission research, and provides technical support services to Westinghouse from its research facility which is also located on the Springfields site.

NNL Chief Executive Paul Howarth said implementing the agreement harnesses the laboratory's expertise in collaboration with Westinghouse's global fuels experience and capabilities. This, he said, is vital to expand the supply capability for advanced reactor fuels. "We look forward to implementing the processes and facilities, creating jobs which will be pivotal in supporting the first operating IMSR nuclear power plant," he added.

Westinghouse Regional Vice President Sophie Lemaire said advanced nuclear fuel technologies will support skilled manufacturing jobs at Springfields, which she described as a strategic national asset for the UK. "As a leading global supplier of commercial nuclear fuel, we have the knowledge, technology and capability to develop new fuel manufacturing routes for advanced nuclear technologies," she said.

Terrestrial Energy is engaged with regulators and industrial partners to complete IMSR engineering and plans to commission the first IMSR power plants in the late 2020s. The IMSR is undergoing a pre-licensing vendor design review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and Terrestrial Energy is one of three grid-scale SMR developers Ontario Power Generation is working with as part of its goal to deploy SMR technology.

Earlier this year, the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opened the country's Generic Design Assessment to advanced nuclear technologies, and also published a policy paper stating that the advanced nuclear sector has the potential to play an important part in the country's Industrial Strategy.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News