The IMSR® uses Generation IV molten salt technology. This is the heart of its competitive advantage. Molten salts are thermally very stable and superior to water as a coolant; water is the coolant in conventional reactor systems. The use of a molten salt coolant permits the IMSR® to operate at both high temperature and lower pressure, and benefit from the transformative advantages of both.
The IMSR® power plant’s 700°C high temperature operation achieves greater than 44 percent thermal efficiency for electric power generation, a game-changer. Conventional reactors use water and are forced to operate a much lower temperatures of no more than 300°C and are limited to 33 percent thermal efficiency; small conventional reactors are unable to reach 30 percent. The 50 percent greater thermal efficiency of IMSR® power plants translates directly to 50 percent more electricity generated, and by extension, to 50 percent more revenues and lower costs per unit of electricity.
The IMSR® low-pressure operation avoids the considerable engineering complexity and costs of the high-pressure operation required for conventional reactors using as a water coolant.
When a molten salt coolant and molten salt fuel are used in combination, as is the case with the IMSR® design, the reactor incorporates the powerful virtues of passive and inherent safety. Passive and inherent safety delivers a “walk-away” safe nuclear power plant with considerably reduced engineering complexity and cost.
At 195 megawatts, an IMSR® power plant is right sized for today’s market opportunity, and designed for fast modular construction using modules manufactured in factories and transported by truck or rail for on-site modular assembly. This modular approach to manufacturing and assembly allows for construction of an IMSR® power plant in four years, under half the time required for conventional nuclear power plants.
Selecting an IMSR® power plant means significantly lower construction and financing costs. Being smaller, an IMSR® power plant requires a much smaller upfront investment (less than U.S. $1 billion rather than $10 billion plus for conventional power plants). Consequently an IMSR® power plant is more affordable and easier to finance compared to conventional nuclear power plants, which today require government backing and financing support.
It is the combination of high-temperature and low-pressure operation, inherent and passive safety, smaller size, and modularity of the IMSR® power plant design that creates its transformative commercial potential. An IMSR® power plant is a clean and cost-competitive alternative to burning fossil fuels.
In electric power markets, IMSR® power plants can generate dispatchable power at a levelized cost of under U.S. $50 per megawatt-hour. This is cost-competitive with natural gas and coal, and never faces the prospect of carbon penalties.
In industrial heat markets, IMSR® plants have the potential to be cost-competitive with natural gas and heating oil. They provide an in-furnace cost of heat of less than U.S. $6 per MMBtu, within U.S. $2.50 of North American in-furnace natural gas costs.
Simple, fast, modular plant construction
IMSR® power plants are smaller and simpler to build than today’s conventional reactor power plants.
They use a modular design for ease and speed of construction, and each module is mass-manufactured in factory settings, easily transportable by truck or rail for on-site modular assembly.
This modular approach to manufacturing and assembly allows an IMSR® power plant to be built in four years, under half the time required for conventional reactor power plants. Selecting the IMSR® means lowering construction and financing costs very significantly.
Note: Reference spot natural gas price for power plant delivery is $2.74 per MMBtu. A $1 increase in the price of a MMBTU of natural gas increases the LCOE of Gas Advanced CC electric power by ~$10 per MWh to $48 per MWh. A $50 per tonne carbon penalty will increase the price of natural gas by $2.90 per MMBtu and Gas Advanced CC electric power by $30 per MWh to $68 per MWh.