MSR Benefits

Molten Salt Reactor Advantages

  • Molten Fuel - Fuel circulates through the reactor, fission products get removed, for over 99% fuel use (vs. LWR ~3%). No long-term radioactive waste.
  • Salt Cooled - Coolant far below boiling point, reactor operates at atmospheric pressure. Fuel dissolved in stable salt (no water), no loss of coolant accident possible. No need for high-pressure safety systems.
  • High Inherent Safety - No water, no high pressure, nothing that could propel radioactive materials into the environment. Thermal expansion/contraction of molten fuel salt strongly regulates fission rate; MSR is a very stable reactor. Simple safety systems work even if no electricity or operators.
  • Easy Construction and Siting - Low pressure operation, so no high-pressure safety systems. No water, so no steam containment building. Reactor factory assembled, with modern quality control, sensors and communication.
  • Lower Cost - Even with exotic materials, construction costs will be dramatically lower than LWR — factory construction, minimal manual on-site preparation. No long-term radioactive waste, so no long-term storage.
  • High Temperature Operation - Heat to generate electricity, desalinate water, produce CO2-neutral vehicle fuel, etc.
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http://www.utexas.edu/news/2012/09/12/nuclear-waste-burning-technology-change-face-of-nuclear-energy/
“patented the concept for a novel fusion-fission hybrid nuclear reactor that would use nuclear fusion and fission together to incinerate nuclear waste”, still in a conceptual phase.

Here are my comments to the article:

There is already a nuclear waste-burning technology, tested and operated for over 20,000 hours, stable, easy to control. Used materials that didn’t corrode and not affected by radioactivity. Engineering work would be needed to make this commercial scale (100MW to 2GW, 200MW most likely), but no scientific breakthroughs would be needed.

In light water reactors (LWR, most reactors in the world), fission byproducts absorb neutrons stopping fission; fuel rods get damaged by radiation; only ~1% of fuel fissions.

Use molten uranium in a molten salt coolant, and fission byproducts are easily removed; over 99% of the fuel is fissioned.

83% of the fission byproducts are safe in 10 years; 17% safe in 350 years; a fraction have long half-lives, but would remain in the reactor until they absorb a neutron and decay to short term byproducts.

The coolant has a boiling point much higher than the reactor temperature, so (unlike water-cooled reactors) a Molten Salt Reactor works at atmospheric pressure. This is inherently much safer, eliminating almost all the (water-based) risks of current reactors. Systems and construction would be much easier, lowering costs; no steam containment building needed, since there is no steam.

LFTR is a type of molten salt reactor, that can breed thorium to U-233, or use U-235, or breed U-238 to plutonium; in an easy to control thermal spectrum. Spent fuel from LWR can be removed from the fuel rods and used, no “reprocessing” needed. Hard gamma rays prevent proliferation risks (much easier to make plutonium in a 1950s graphite pile).

While I think we should continue fusion research, we are much more likely to build a molten salt reactor, such as LFTR, long before a fusion-fission reactor.

Since materials and design have been demonstrated (though modern materials and improved designs will need testing), the main stopping point for developing a LFTR in the USA is legal and regulatory changes. Fusion-fission, with higher energies, will need much more testing and regulatory changes than LFTR!

Let’s start burning nuclear waste, instead of fossil fuels, before your fusion-fission reactor gets built.

See much more about LFTR, how they work, why they are so much safer, how they make electricity plus desalinate water and generate vehicle fuels, how much less they would cost, how they can be manufactured and installed, at http://liquidfluoridethoriumreactor.glerner.com/

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