Dr. David LeBlanc and Chris Popoff of Terrestrial Energy conducted an in-car interview regarding the use of nuclear power to make oilsands production more environmentally friendly.
Their reactor is a Denatured Molten Salt Reactor called the “Integral Molten Salt Reactor”, drawing on the single fluid MSR research conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
There is an important difference between the Canadian and the US regulatory authorities. The Canadian Regulatory system is more “performance based” than the US NRC “prescriptive based” system. The difference and advantage is Terrestrial Energy can present an overall safety case (long before the reactor is built of course) which the company and regulator then work on together.
All of the US rules are based on light water reactors. Canada’s nuclear regulators could allow a molten salt reactor to be built and operating in 6 years.
The oilsands and molten salt reactors are a good energy transition with an overlap. Molten salt reactors can produce the steam to get oil from the oilsands. The economics work where more oil from the oilsands pays for the the development and the first few hundred molten salt reactors.
Molten salt reactors would create “green” bitumin production. It would bring oilsand oil production to be equal or better environmentally than other oil production. Currently oilsand oil is less environmentally friendly than other oil sources.
73 minute video explains details of the Molten Salt reactor and SAGD oil extraction from the oilsands
They can get to 250 – 300 MWe that would fit on the back of a truck.
They will start with a smaller reactor.
They will go for a burner reactor and not a breeder. This will enable them not to have tritium issues.
The IMSR reactors do not need engineered safety. They are passively safe.
Molten salt deals with all of the rational anti-nuclear complaints.
The smaller size of the reactor matches the size of oilsand project stages. Staged development is needed to de-risk projects.