Reactor Developer Transatomic Power Closes Shop

Nuclear reactor developer Transatomic Power, which aimed to create molten-salt reactor and make use of used reactor fuel, said Tuesday that it is shuttering its operations and would open source its intellectual property to other developers.

Transatomic PowerChief Executive Officer and Co-founder Leslie Dewan said the company was begun at an uncertain time in the history of nuclear power, right after the major accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Generating Station in Japan, yet right on the cusp of fast rising global concern over impending climate change.

“Climate change is real, and unless massive action to de-carbonize the grid is taken soon, it will threaten much of humanity’s way of life,” Dewan asserted Tuesday, noting the reasons for Transatomic Power’s genesis were still valid.

But Tuesday, the CEO noted that the company that was buffeted in 2016 over controversy about a central claim “haven’t been able to scale up … rapidly enough to build our reactor in a reasonable timefreme.”

”It is therefore with a heavy heart that I must announce that Transatomic is suspending operations,” she said. 

Transatomic was begun by two doctorate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who set out to develop a reactor that could deploy used fuel from other nuclear power plants. The company gained status by its work with the Department of Energy’s national laboratories focused on the use of zirconium hydride as a fission moderator.

The company also achieved modest fundraising success. In 2014, the company was granted $2 million from the Founders Fund. In 2015, an additional $2.5 million was granted from Acadia Woods Partners, Founders Fund and Daniel Aegerter, the chairman of Armada Investment AG out of Switzerland, according to Nuclear Engineering International.

But the company hit an embarrassing snag in 2016, when MIT professors refuted Transatomic Power’s claim that its reactor would produce 75 times the power of a comparable light water reactor. After, the claim was revised to twice the amount of power of a comparable light water reactor.

More critically, according to the company, the competition for the next generation of reactors has soared in recent years. There are as many as 70 companies currently racing to develop a reactors, many of them aiming to produce small modular reactors designed to be built in factory conditions and shipped to sites for assembly.

Dewan said the company was “extremely proud of the great scientific and engineering work that we’ve done over the past seven years.” With that in mind, “We will therefore be open-sourcing our intellectual property, making it available for any researchers – private, public or non-profit – who want to continue the work that we’ve started.”

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