Energy Northwest in Richland will help an emerging nuclear company, Terrestrial Energy USA, with a new type of commercial nuclear reactor.
Both companies working with Energy Northwest want to operate a plant in Idaho.
Terrestrial announced Wednesday that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Energy Northwest.
“Energy Northwest’s considerable expertise in the region will contribute substantially” to the commercial success of the power plant proposed by Terrestrial in Idaho, said Simon Irish, Terrestrial chief executive.
Mark Reddemann, chief executive of Energy Northwest, said the reactor proposed by Terrestrial “has transformative potential in electric power and industrial heat markets.”
Energy Northwest has agreed to provide some design advice and also is prepared to help with the assessment of Idaho National Laboratory in southeastern Idaho as a proposed site.
Energy Northwest also would have the right to operate a Terrestrial nuclear power plant in Idaho, if it chooses.
The public agency operates the Columbia Generating Station north of Richland, a boiling water reactor that produces 1,207 megawatts, or enough electricity to power a city the size of Seattle.
Terrestrial, established in 2013, is developing a new type of nuclear power plant, an Integral Molten Salt Reactor.
The reactor will use a liquid nuclear fuel — a molten salt — rather than solid uranium fuel.
The technology was pioneered at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and demonstrated in two experimental reactors, but the technology has yet to be used commercially.
The reactor component would be inside a sealed and replaceable reactor core planned to last seven years.
Each reactor unit would produce 190 megawatts of electricity or heat for industrial processes.
Terrestrial says its design will produce a reactor that is simple to operate, cost competitive and could be constructed in four years with an upfront investment of less than $1 billion.
Its goal is to have a reactor commissioned in the 2020s.
NuScale, which is working on small modular reactor systems, appears closer to having a reactor commissioned.
Its design is under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as a boiling water reactor. The NRC so far has no review process for the type of reactor planned by Terrestrial.
NuScale is proposing factory-built modules that each could be transported to where they are needed and would produce 50 megawatts each. They could be combined in groups of up to 12 modules in a single power plant as more electricity is needed.
NuScale has signed up the Utah Area Municipal Power System as a customer for its first plant, likely in Idaho.
Energy Northwest has the first right to operate the plant.