Mobile nuclear power generators could become a viable energy source in the future.
Earlier this week Mississauga, Canada-based Terrestrial Energy signed a collaboration agreement with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which successfully ran a 7.4MW molten salt reactor experiment from 1965 to 1969 in the US.
Terrestrial Energy plans to advance the molten salt reactor to the engineering blueprint stage by late 2016.
The technology allows for the installation of nuclear-powered, on-site electricity generation suited for mining in remote locations and large-scale industrial processes requiring on-site heat generation, such as refineries and petrochemical facilities, Terrestrial Energy CEO Simon Irish told BNamericas.
“Our design is very closely related to the Oak Ridge reactor, and we have built on that design,” Irish said in a phone interview from New York.
Developing the technology is still a long way off due to regulatory requirements, and the firm does not expect to unveil its first reactor until well into the next decade, once it has received the green light in Canada.
“The licensing process takes between five and seven years, followed by two years to advance our design. Making our safety case to the regulator is critically important,” Irish said.
Once a demonstrable and fully licensed reactor enters operation, the firm will be able to showcase it to possible clients, which could include mining firms and industries in Latin America. The firm would have to obtain a license from the local regulator to operate in each country.
Potential Latin American markets include Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Mexico, where mining operations are located in isolated, rugged terrain and where supplying on-site electricity is a challenge. In September, Bolivia confirmed the presence of uranium deposits in Santa Cruz department.
“Developing markets tend not to have an extensive grid architecture, so bringing energy from the source to the demand is an issue. The commercial value of our reactors is that they are portable: they can be trucked into a site and assembled. An 80MW facility can be sited at a minehead or where industrial production is taking place. If you can bring in substantial electricity at a cost-effective price, you can turn that into tremendous economic value,” Irish said
The technology would provide an alternative to coal- and diesel-powered industries, providing a more cost-efficient and cleaner energy solution.
“The 700-degree-Celsius of heat generated can directly drive industrial processes such as fertilizer and petrochemical production, as well as desalinization,” Irish said.
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