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Integral Molten Salt Reactor touted as promising source of carbon-free, highly reliable, low-lifetime cost power Mississauga, Toronto
If we are to keep up with growth in global energy demand, especially from developing nations, the world will need to change the way it thinks about nuclear energy, says one of Canada's long-time business leaders, and the Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), one of a new generation of nuclear reactors, is poised to help fill that supply gap and "grab a significant foothold in the markets of the future."
In a recent speech to the Economic Club of Canada, Hugh MacDiarmid, a former chief executive of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), Laidlaw Transit, and Lumonics, and a former top executive with Canadian Pacific Railway, said Molten Salt Reactor technology "offers answers to the most challenging questions surrounding nuclear energy today and, with those questions addressed, we can begin to realize the inherent potential of nuclear as carbon-free, highly reliable, low-lifetime-cost power."
Mr. MacDiarmid was recently named non-executive Chairman of the Board of Terrestrial Energy Inc., a Mississauga-based company that will be seeking license approval for its IMSR design from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. "The size of the upcoming gap between energy supply and demand is staggering," said Mr. MacDiarmid. "And there aren't enough good answers in the existing range of supply alternatives."
Mr. MacDiarmid noted that, in our search for ways to meet Canada's and the world's energy demands, "We have more issues and obstacles than we have solutions." Coal is "not acceptable to today's social norms" for environmental protection; "making a bet on natural gas is highly risky" in terms of long-term fuel cost; "we are approaching the limits" of exploiting our massive hydroelectric resources, and "there is no evidence that renewables such as wind and solar can make the BIG difference to the BIG energy problem we have." Even conventional nuclear "continues to operate in a parallel universe, with those of us who are insiders firmly believing in the rightness of our cause, while the rest of the world sees only issues of safety, management of long-term wastes, and the costs and financial risks associated with construction of new capacity or life extension of existing capacity."
Molten salt reactors, however, are fundamentally different from conventional nuclear reactors. MSRs use a liquid fuel, whereas conventional reactors use a solid fuel, and MSRs operate at atmospheric pressure, whereas conventional reactors are highly pressurized. "The ability to operate at atmospheric pressure brings many engineering advantages," said Mr. MacDiarmid. " The IMSR will be a much less expensive machine to build and operate, period."
The IMSR also has a fundamentally different risk profile. "The IMSR design offers a 'walk away safe' level of assurance," Mr. MacDiarmid told the Toronto audience: "Zero operator intervention, even with a total loss of site power."
Moreover, the IMSR consumes one-sixth the fuel to produce the same amount of electricity, and can also be designed to consume the spent fuel of today's fleet of conventional nuclear reactors. Mr. MacDiarmid summed it up, saying, "Our estimates indicate that the IMSR will demonstrate the lowest Lifetime Cost of Energy of any known technology, and by some margin."
Declaring that Terrestrial Energy planned to build its first demonstration unit in Canada, establish the headquarters for its design team and its manufacturing facility in Canada, and build a supply chain in Canada, Mr. MacDiarmid called the IMSR project a "made in Canada success story," and said, "We can build a very robust export-oriented business model that will be a source of pride for all Canadians."
"The world is changing," Mr. MacDiarmid concluded. "Voters are turning their backs on technologies that they believe pose a risk to their environment. This is not lost on the world leaders who gathered at the UN yesterday. Public policy has been moving, and will continue to move, in only one direction â€“ rewarding carbon-free alternatives and making it tougher for the others. We believe Terrestrial Energy is well placed to benefit from this changing world, and to contribute in a positive way to a brighter energy future."
Terrestrial Energy Inc. (TEI) intends to commercialize its proprietary Molten Salt Reactor technology in Canada by early next decade. Molten Salt Reactor technology represents a revolution in nuclear safety, waste and proliferation resistance, and in energy cost-competitiveness. TEI's Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) is a small modular design, with models ranging from 80 MWth to 600 MWth, ideally suited for remote communities and industrial operations, including on- and off- grid power provision. Canada provides a favourable jurisdiction for the company's Molten Salt Reactor development, licensing and marketing. TEI's board consists of executives from the nuclear, natural resource and finance sectors.