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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Thorium (Th-232) is among the least radioactive materials (half life 14 billion years); you can safely hold in your hand enough to generate all the electricity you’ll use in your entire life.

Thorium can’t fission (is fertile, not fissile), must be converted into Uranium before it can produce energy. This happens inside the reactor (no fuel fabrication):

  • Uranium in the reactor core releases neutrons,
  • Thorium in a salt “blanket” around the core absorbs a neutron, and decays in a few steps into U-233, which is fissile.
  • Bubbling fluorine gas through the blanket salt converts Uranium (as UF4) to a gas (UF6), which is collected and converted back to UF4, then transferred into the fuel salt.
Make 1000MW electricity for 1 year: LWR 35,000kg store 100,000 yrs; MSR 1,000kg store 10 yrs and 350 yrs
from Kirk Sorensen’s presentation slides TEAC3

The Department of Energy is planning to destroy all our existing U-233, at a cost of $500 Million. This will be needed to start fission in the first molten salt reactors. “We are currently not supporting any projects that require U233 for testing. As such, the disposal of U233 will go forward.” – DoE. Molten Salt Reactors are one of the reactors proposed for the Generation IV International Forum, that the United States is part of, for example see DoE’s A Technology Roadmap for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems (2002). Sign the online petition to stop the destruction of U-233, http://wh.gov/EgnF.

How does a fluoride reactor use thorium?
from Kirk Sorensen’s presentation slides TEAC3

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