Leading the Way
The IMSR® uses standard-assay low-enriched uranium (less than 5 percent 235U) fuel, the only nuclear fuel commercially available today. This is a critically important commercial feature and distinguishing attribute of the IMSR® in the advanced reactor sector today.
The company is on track to commission with its first customer the first commercial IMSR® power plants in the 2020s. It is now one important step closer. In November 2017, Terrestrial Energy completed the first engineering program for the IMSR® design and the first step of the Canadian regulatory phase — Phase I of CNSC’s Vendor Design Review. This is a first for an advanced reactor. In addition, IMSR® power plant site selection work is underway in Canada and the United States.
Growing worldwide demand for a clean, reliable, cost-competitive energy source will drive demand for IMSR® power plants, and Terrestrial Energy is seeking to deploy hundreds of IMSR® reactors over the next two decades. Furthermore, government policies that support emission-free power generation and industrial heat production can sharply accelerate deployment. In these scenarios, the only technology that meets policy and market needs of the day and can be scaled rapidly is nuclear energy, as was demonstrated in the 1970s.
Building on Proven Technology
The IMSR® is a truly innovative small modular reactor design that uses proven and demonstrated reactor technology. It is a liquid-fueled reactor, a type of Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), and it embodies MSR technology pioneered at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, U.S.A.
Oak Ridge has developed MSR technology over many decades, building and demonstrating two experimental MSRs: first the Aircraft Reactor Experiment (ARE) and next the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE). Based on the successes of these operating reactor experiments, ORNL commenced a commercial power plant program for MSR technology, which led to the Denatured Molten Salt Reactor (DMSR) in the early 1980s. Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR® is most similar to the DMSR.
MSR technology has yet to be deployed commercially. Conventional reactors, which have military origins and used the solid fuel method, gained an early and dominant market position, and these types of reactors adequately met market needs for many decades. However, in recent years, conventional reactors have struggled to remain commercially and socially viable in an evolving global energy marketplace where energy technology innovations in other sectors have successfully driven down the cost of energy.