July 08, 2016

Transatomic technical paper shows its molten salt reactor would reduce waste by 53-83% depending upon level of enrichment used

Transatomic Power Corporation has released technical information on the design of its molten salt reactor (MSR), which it says offers multiple advantages over existing generation technologies.

The technical white paper (22 pages) issued by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company outlines how its 1250 MWth reactor design - the TAP MSR - uses the properties of its liquid fuel to increase fuel utilization while decreasing the overall amount of waste produced.

Transatomic published the white paper after the US Department of Energy awarded it a $200,000 grant under its Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) Nuclear Energy Voucher pilot program. The funding will enable the company to perform high-fidelity modelling of the design in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Transatomic is developing a next-generation Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) based on technology first demonstrated at ORNL in the 1960s, and has been completing reactor core performance analyses as part of its technology development work. The company released results that show promise for an economical power plant that can generate carbon-free baseload power and even extract energy from traditional nuclear reactors’ so called “spent fuel.”

Traditional “light water” nuclear reactors, named for the material that they use to control their nuclear chain reactions, are limited in the amount of energy they can extract from their solid uranium fuel. The Transatomic design, which instead uses a liquid uranium-salt mixture, does not have the same performance constraints as light water design.

For nuclear energy to be a viable source of baseload power, new nuclear reactor designs must address existing concerns about waste storage by increasing fuel utilization and reducing overall waste production. This paper outlines the ways in which the Transatomic Power 1250 MWth molten salt reactor design takes advantage of its liquid fuel in order to address these challenges. By employing continuous fission product removal and core geometry modification, the TAP MSR achieves more than twice the fuel utilization of light water reactors (LWRs). When using 5% enriched uranium – the maximum enrichment readily available in the current supply chain – this increased efficiency leads to an approximate 53% waste reduction compared to LWRs. Using higher enrichments, up to the 20% Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) limit, this reduction reaches 83%.

The TAP MSR design takes advantage of its liquid fuel to allow for more than twice the fuel utilization of light water reactors, leading to an approximately 53% reduction in waste when using 5% enriched uranium, the maximum enrichment readily available in the current supply chain. Using higher enrichments, up to the 20% LEU limit, this reduction reaches 83%. These accomplishments represent major leaps forward, inverting commonly-held beliefs about the nature of nuclear technology, and enabling nuclear energy to be a viable source of carbon-free baseload power.









SOURCE - Transatomic Power

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