March 19, 2008

Fuji Molten Salt reactor, Ralph Moir Interviews and other nuclear news

Charles Barton has an informative interview with Ralph Moir posted at Nuclear Green and Thorium energy.
Dr. Ralph Moir was an extremely distinguished scientist at Lawrence-Livermore Laboratory, and a personal associate of Dr. Edward Teller. He first discusses fusion/fission hybrid reactors and then molten salt fission reactors.

Fusion holds the promise--yet to be fulfilled--of providing a supply of neutrons that can be used to produce fissile fuel for fission reactors. Even if fusion cost twice that of fission per unit of thermal power produced, its fuel would be competitive with mined uranium at $200/kg. Fusion will be even more competitive as its costs come down. This produced fuel can be used in fission reactors to completely burn up the fertile fuel supply, that is depleted uranium or thorium. Its weakness is fusion is not here and past slow progress suggests future progress might be slow. Furthermore, we are not assured that fusion's costs will be less than twice that of fission.

This seems to suggest that even a partial success with inertial electrostatic fusion where for some reason a full scale commercial fusion reactor is not achieved or is slower in completing, that if it becomes a thousand or ten thousand times better at being a neutron source then it could be part of making completely burning fission reactors. [completely burning fission means no unburned fuel or almost no nuclear waste]

A conventional molten salt reactor can produce almost all of its own fuel but needs initial fuel for start up and needs some makeup fuel and also some fuel to be used to burnout certain wastes. So the fusion/fission hybrid can be this fuel supplier. In this way the combination of a hybrid fuel supplier and molten-salt burners can supply the planet's power for many hundreds or even thousands of years at an increased nuclear power level enough to make a big impact in decreasing carbon usage. Such a combination might have one hybrid fusion fission reactor for every fifteen fission reactors.

Dr Moir favorite fission reactor was the molten-salt reactor whose program was terminated in the 1970s.

It holds the promise of being more economical than our present reactors while using less fuel. I published a paper on this topic that the ORNL people did not feel they could publish. It can come in small sizes without as much of a penalty as is usually the case and can be in large sizes. It can burn thorium thereby getting away from so much buildup of plutonium and higher actinides.

The next step in molten salt reactor development should be the construction and operation of a small <10 MWe reactor based largely on the MSRE that operated at ORNL at about 7 MWth but without electricity production. The FUJI [MSR] project [which I covered in detail] has not gotten funding and is making no progress other than a paper here and there on some particular aspect.

A crash program for molten salt reactor development would only cost about $1 billion.

Dr Moir had a cost comparison of molten salt reactors to PWR and coal. Molten salt would be a bit cheaper than the other two.

He published detailed recommendations for a restart of a molten salt reactor program.

Dr Moir's papers and links to molten salt reactor resources.

Hoglund has a page discussing the benefits of molten salt reactors.

New energy and fuel has a good article that digs deeper into the work to get higher burn rates from nuclear fuel.

The advantages of the research and development of coating technology offers more beyond the increase of burnup percentage. The effects yield that the total fuel used is reduced, the amount needed to produce a given output is reduced and most importantly, the operating temperatures can be raised which brings a dramatic increase in the efficiency, or much more electricity is generated for a given amount of fuel. Oakridge’s review offers that the increase in operating temperature would allow an increase of thermal efficiency from 31% of current plants to beyond 43% which equates to more than 38% more power should current plants be retrofitted. It may be probable that as plants are re-licensed with new reactor technology that new reactor designs are installed.

Florida state regulators Tuesday morning approved Florida Power & Light's request to build two nuclear plants at its Turkey Point facility.

Combined license applications have been filed for 11 reactors so far and do not yet include the two new reactors for Turkey point.

A total of 33 reactors from 22 applications are expected. Most will be filed by the end of this year. The anticipated timeline for licensing is for licenses to be issued in 2011 and 2012. Actually construction could start then.

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