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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The World’s Largest Nuclear Plant Can’t Generate Power on the TEPCO-owned Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. “According to Forbes, it is the biggest producer of nuclear electricity in the world and the fifth-largest producer [of] electricity using any means. With all its reactors running, it is capable of producing around 8,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity…”

My comments:

TEPCO had no sea wall at Fukushima-Daichi, and had the backup diesel generator in the basement in the flood zone, at least two things that are stupid mistakes, “not paying attention to safety”. The other reactor sites ocean-side (hit by the 40m tsunami), where the operators had sea walls and had diesel generators located in the building above any possible flooding, were undamaged. If someone from anywhere in the world had brought in some common simple diesel generators, enough to power the cooling system pumps, Fukushima-Daichi would very likely be an operational reactor today.

If TEPCO goes ahead with the plan to increase the sea wall at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, and IAEA inspectors say the plant is undamaged, and says TEPCO has done required water/fire/electrical safety, and trained people properly; or if another company took over, with a better safety culture than TEPCO, then I would recommend the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors be restarted.

These reactors are built, ready or easily ready to be operational, produce power more cleanly than the coal or natural gas plants that are being used now.

As bad a mess as Fukushima-Daichi is, it’s not as bad as the anti-nuclear people are saying, it’s not going to “kill all the fish in the sea” or “ruin all California agriculture”.

Going forward, we shouldn’t build more Light Water Reactors, or any other type of water cooled nuclear power. We have simpler designs that have better safety and much better fuel use at lower cost. We are using LWR because that’s what USA Congress picked, advised by their owners, the coal and oil companies; even by 1960 the Atomic Energy Association, the top nuclear physicists and reactor designers said we should be using other very different reactor designs, not cooled by water. The patent holder for LWR was fired by Congress, for saying LWR wasn’t safe and could have loss of coolant accidents (e.g. Fukushima), in his job running Oak Ridge National Laboratories where he managed the Molten Salt Reactor program.

Molten Salt Reactors could be fully assembled in factories, 200MW units shipped in standard truck/rail/boat cargo containers, installed where electricity or desalinated water or CO2-neutral vehicle fuel or industrial heat was needed, with no loss of coolant accidents (cooled by stable salts far below their boiling point, chemically bound to the molten fuel, at atmospheric pressure), over 99% fuel use (no long-term nuclear waste, 170 kg aka 375 lbs per GW-year electricity to store for 350 years, nothing else for longer than 10 years).

p.s. The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, on the Japan Sea (west) side of Japan, had a bigger sea wall than Fukushima-Daiichi on the Pacific Ocean side of Japan. Now, TEPCO is increasing Kashiwazaki-Kariwa sea wall from 3.3m to 15m

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