New Projects, Nuclear, Reactors

Bechtel leading EPC work on TerraPower next-gen nuclear reactor demonstration bid

TerraPower, the advanced nuclear reactor design firm founded by Bill Gates, has selected Bechtel as its engineering, procurement and construction partner to build a proposed demonstration power plant.

The deal with Bechtel will be included in a federal grant application to fund construction of the plant for the company’s Natrium reactor and energy system architecture. Bechtel is part of a team that, in addition to TerraPower, includes GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, PacifiCorp, Energy Northwest and Duke Energy.

The Bellevue, Washington-based company has designed the Natrium sodium-cooled fast reactor and a molten salt energy storage system. The goal is to create a cost-competitive market for the small reactors.

“Natrium fulfills the industry vision of what a true advanced reactor should be—safer, simpler, easier and less costly to construct, less expensive to operate, and able to provide energy that is competitive with fossil fuels and complementary to solar and wind power,” said Barbara Rusinko, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental global business unit. “The Natrium system evens out the peaks and valleys in production when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, and it does so affordably with proven technology. We’re honored to join the team.”

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The partnership is key to TerraPower’s proposal for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. The DOE effort intends to support deployment of two first-ever advanced reactor designs in the next five to seven years.

Proponents of the sodium fast reactor technology say it can safely operate at much higher temperatures and lower pressures than conventional nuclear reactors. The heat is used to generate steam for a turbine but can be used for industrial processes or stored in gigawatt-house-scale molten salt.

Terra Power and small modular reactor (SMR) developer NuScale Power will be participants in a “Future of Advanced Nuclear Reactors” session in the virtual POWERGEN+ series. The session is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Eastern U.S. time and can be accessed via powergenplus.com.

Gates has spoken out as a big proponent of carbon-free nuclear energy and helped start TerraPower about a decade ago. Other investors include venture capital firms and the DOE.