Terrestrial Energy: small modular reactor breakthrough?

Terrestrial Energy technology review

Our Terrestrial Energy technology review focuses on a next-generation nuclear fission company, founded in 2013, based in Ontario, Canada, has c100 employees and is aiming to build a small modular reactor, more specifically, an Integral Molten Salt Reactor.

Game-changer? A plant with 2 x 442MWth and 2 x 195MWe reactors might use 7 hectares of land, get constructed within 4-years, and for less than $1bn per reactor (long-term target is $2,600/kWe), yielding levelized costs of 5c/kWh (company target, we get to 5-7c/kWh for a 5-10% equity IRR in our own models), a CO2 intensity below 0.005 kg/kWh and multiple ways to back-up renewables.

Our patent review shows one of the strongest patent libraries to cross our screens from a pre-revenue company. 80 patents, filed in 25 geographies, lock up 8 core innovations, and give a clear picture for how the reactor achieves high efficiency, high safety and low complexity.

To read more about our Terrestrial Energy technology review. please see our article here.

Commonwealth Fusion: nuclear fusion breakthrough?

Commonwealth fusion technology review

Commonwealth Fusion Systems spun out of MIT in 2018. The company is based in Massachusetts, has 165 employees and made headlines in November-2021 as it raised $1.8bn in Series B funding, which we think is the largest capital raise of any private fusion company to-date.

CFS aims to be the “fastest and lowest cost path to commercial fusion energy” by creating a commercial nuclear fusion reactor, the SPARC tokamak, which could be around 98% smaller than ITER. A single test magnet using 267km of its HTS tape sustained 20 Tesla magnetic fields in 2021.

Our patent review found CFS to have a high-quality patent library, of specific, intelligible, practical and commercially-minded innovations to densify the magnets that would confine plasma in a Tokamak. Specific details, and minor hesitations are in the data-file.

NuScale: small modular reactor breakthrough?

NuScale SMR technology review

NuScale was founded in 2007 and is developing a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR), measuring 2.7m wide x 20m tall, weighting 700T and producing 250MWth of heat, for 77MWe of power.

Recent progress is strong. It is the first SMR design to win US regulatory approval, unlocking the first plants in 2029-30. In November-2021, plans were also announced to build SMRs in Romania, by 2028, displacing coal power.

NuScale’s patents scored well on our framework, with multiple, clear innovations to improve the safety, compactness and cost-effectiveness of SMRs. This could enable nuclear plants to be constructed for costs below $3,000/kW. Details that impressed us are in the data-file.

Uranium mining: the economics?

economics of uranium mining

This simple model aims to disaggregate the marginal costs of a new uranium mine, as a function of uranium prices, ore grade, capex and opex. Our base case is a marginal cost of $60/lb for a 10% IRR. However, lower ore grades can easily require $90/lb uranium prices in order to justify investment. Cash costs range from $7-40/lb.

Uranium mining: company screen and market outlook?

Screen of companies in uranium mining

This data-file is a screen of companies in uranium mining and also contains useful supply-data on the global uranium market. We profile large producers, such as Kazatomprom, Cameco, smaller miners, and the the 200M lbs pa for U3O8 yellow-cake, with a breakdown by country, and approximated forecasts through 2035.

We have screened c20 uranium miners, assessing each company’s production, reserves, asset base, size and recent news flow. 10 of the companies are publicly listed, while the remainder are private or state-owned.

Uranium supply-demand forecasts are also presented in the data-file, along with notes and CO2 intensity calculations for the sector.

Our market outlook is that firm uranium supply could be around 100M lbs pa under-supplied by 2030, on a U3O8 yellow-cake basis.

This is even after mine restorations (especially in Canada), and attributes both to >3% pa demand growth and the slow decline of pre-existing mines.

Hence we see the need for additional uranium mines, ramping nuclear energy both to alleviate energy shortages and to progress the energy transition.

Our screen of companies in uranium mining includes proposed new mine projects in the US, Australia, Canada; which are being progressed by junior miners. Interestingly, some will co-produce Rare Earth metals.

All of our research into nuclear in the energy transition can also be viewed chronologically. There is also a read across to mining equipment companies and upside for mining in the energy transition.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2019-2023.