Business Irish

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Dubliner's nuclear power firm gets Canadian utility backing

Rory O'Sullivan aims to build Moltex Energy's first 300mw plant by 2028, writes John Reynolds

Moltex Energy CEO Rory O'Sullivan
Moltex Energy CEO Rory O'Sullivan

John Reynolds

A nuclear power firm led by a Trinity College engineering graduate aims to build its first safe stable salt reactor (SSR) power plant in Eastern Canada by 2028.

Moltex Energy, whose CEO Rory O'Sullivan is based in Canada, has secured a $5m investment from a Canadian utility firm, New Brunswick Power, and an award of $2.5m by the US Department of Energy's advanced energy research laboratory, ARPA-E.

The company is also hoping to secure a £10m grant from the British government, to follow on from £300,000 it has received as part of its advanced modular reactor programme.

Dubliner O'Sullivan said he had a "double-digit" stake in Moltex, but declined to elaborate.

The company was formed when he partnered with two British entrepreneurs, John Durham and Dr Ian Scott, the latter a former chief scientist at consumer goods giant Unilever.

Scott made a breakthrough in establishing that containing molten salt nuclear fuel in tubes, rather than pumping it around pipes, is far safer than existing nuclear power technology.

The stable salt reactor method keeps the fuel locked up in closed tubes and also uses fuel that can be converted from nuclear waste.

SSR technology does not need as much highly specialised, expensive fail-safe systems for cooling, containment and safety control, which raise nuclear power costs.

Moltex says it is likely to raise further funding of £36m (€42m) over the next three years.

It plans to be a design and IP-led business, selling its completed design to customers around the world, and providing design and engineering support throughout development and construction of its reactors. The firm has also patented a system called GridReserve, which allows energy to be stored and then released to the power grid when needed.

The firm's ambitious plans foresee more than 50 reactors being built, or in the process of being constructed, by 2040.

"We need hundreds of these," said O'Sullivan. "The world is still building gas and coal power stations, with more than 1,500 being built or planned... We want to replace gas and coal use.

"We are already talking to the local community in New Brunswick [Canada] about our plans. It's a long process. There's a small amount of opposition, but about 80pc of people there support nuclear power."

O'Sullivan previously spent five years in London working for construction firm Bouygues, managing civil and structural engineering of a £25m school and then overseeing 250 staff on a £56m apartment block.

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