Charles S. Holden founder of Thorenco LLC working with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory physicists has proposed a small transportable 50-megawatt-thermal Thorium converter reactor for multiple uses: producing electricity (15 megawatts), burning up high-level actinides from spent fuel, and producing low-cost, high-temperature steam (or process industrial heat). This high-temperature steam can be used for extraction of oil from tar sands, or desalinating, purifying, and cracking water. The reactor’s fuel matrix can be “tuned” to provide the right output for each particular work process.
The reactor core is a squat cylinder, about 140 centimeters in diameter and 50 centimeters tall. Its size makes it portable, so that it can be brought to remote locations to work site and supply heat and electricity there without dependence on long-distance transmission lines. Its small size also allows it to be factory-built and transported to its destination, “plugged in” in a deep underground containment structure, and put to work quickly. The core can be shipped back to the factory when the fuel needs to be changed.
Thorium Energy Alliance held its third national conference on May 12, 2011 – Charles S. “Rusty” Holden, founder of Thorenco LLC, did offer a specific design: a 40MW pilot plant that he called “a little LFTR.” Using fissile uranium-235 as a source of ignition neutrons and a mix of thorium tetrafluoride in a beryllium fluoride molten salt, Thorenco’s design includes a deep salt pool with a honeycomb geometry that offers “a superior way to clean and condition the fuel during operations,” Holden said.
•Neutrons convert Fertile Thorium-232 to fissile Uranium-233
•No Plutonium Produced
•No melt downs
•No fuel rods
•No cooling ponds
•No 10,000+ year spent fuel storage
•10 years at 40 megawatts
•141 Kg. U-233 “burned” during decade
•More than 100 Kg. of fissile produced
•1600 kilograms of U-233 fissile load
•9000 kilograms of Th-232 fertile load
•23 Grams U-232 produced in fuel over the decade of operations
•Hexagonal Prism 160 Cm. Width and Height
•Fuel Volume 2330 Liters
•Fuel 11.65 Metric Tonnes; 1-2 Metric Tonnes Fissile in Fuel
•Coolant 93,200 Liters; 450 Tonnes
•Reflector Volume 1420 Liters 16.65 Metric Tonnes
Thorenco’s ceramic fuel is dispersed in an inert metal matrix covered by Holden’s Patent Cooperation Treaty application. This solid state metal alloy is composed of four materials. The thorium and uranium fuel particles are embedded in the alloy, which both slows and moderates the fissioning process. There are moderating materials dispersed in the alloy along with the actinide particles. Using the metallic alloys as moderators (instead of the water used in other Thorium reactor designs) allows Thorenco’s reactor to operate in a more energetic neutron spectrum so that its core can have a long life.
The self-regulating reactor is expected to operate for 10 years without needing refueling.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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