Reuters SMR Panel: TerraPraxis Co-Founders Present Repeatable System for Repurposing Coal Plants

May 4, 2023

Reuters SMR Panel: TerraPraxis Co-Founders Present Repeatable System for Repurposing Coal Plants

ATLANTA — May 4, 2023 — At the Reuters SMR & Advanced Reactor 2023, Anthropocene Institute's colleagues at TerraPraxis discussed “Fast, Low Cost, Repeatable: Designing the Global Coal Repowering System.” Ingersoll and Gogan began by presenting the ambitious IPCC targets for halting climate change, as well as the growing need for energy, requiring installed nuclear capacity of 400 gigawatts by 2050. The speed and scale needed to achieve these goals is daunting, but nuclear energy will play a big role in electricity generation and in targeting the hardest to decarbonize sectors, including coal — the single largest source of global carbon emissions today.

“But it’s incredibly difficult, because people need the energy,” said Gogan, “…and communities depend on plants for jobs, socioeconomic benefits and to stabilize their grids.” She added that nuclear can decarbonize other parts of the economy such as industrial heat and alternative fuels to accelerate and scale the energy transition.

In seeking out the right level of speed and scale needed to address climate disruption, TerraPraxis examined products like airplanes, ships, cars, and iPhones, all produced in factories. While the nuclear industry has not been known for speed and scale in the past, Ingersoll provided the example of one conventional nuclear plant that achieved 560 megawatts per year and employed 5,000 workers on site — that’s 112 kilowatts per worker per year at a cost of $4,285 per watt. TerraPraxis seeks to take these types of achievements and convert successful nuclear technologies and capabilities into products that can be deployed quickly and at scale.

To reduce errors, engineering costs, licensing complexity, and schedule risk, TerraPraxis is providing a repeatable system that will convert 2,400 coal plants around the world to nuclear. “We need a system that can be delivered to a sufficiently large number of sites but that can accommodate a variety of site conditions and quickly, repeatably, and without new safety reviews each time,” said Gogan.

The TerraPraxis solution consists of standard reactor units that go into a standardized set of seismically isolated buildings equipped with the proper safety systems. “The high-temperature gas reactors can be linked to the existing plant and the thermal storage energy system. There’s also the possibility to repurpose the existing coal plant infrastructure and retrain the existing workforce,” said Ingersoll.

Added Gogan, “Fundamentally, this is about lowering all the barriers to entry, making this a very investable and easy decision for coal plant owners. Or, project developers can decide to deploy these standardized building systems designed for new, clean steam generation and supply that to existing coal plants and to other industrial applications as well.”

To achieve its vision, TerraPraxis has assembled a world-class consortium of partners including Bryden Wood, Microsoft, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and University at Buffalo, along with a consortium of global utilities. Find out more about the Repowering Coal initiative.
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