US Dept of Energy Helping Canada and China to create Molten Salt Reactors

Mark Halper reports at Fortune that DOE (US Dept of Energy) plans to sign a 10-year collaboration agreement with China to help that country build at least one molten-salt nuclear reactor within the next decade. And in a smaller development, Oak Ridge publicly announced in January that it will advise Terrestrial Energy, a privately held Canadian start-up, on development of a molten-salt reactor that draws on Weinberg designs and on the reactor scheme that briefly hatched at Oak Ridge after Weinberg left.

The idea from the U.S. perspective—especially with the larger DOE collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences—is to foster a reactor that could eventually gain hold in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy is specifically helping China develop a machine that uses solid, pebble-shaped fuel, but that will use flowing molten salts as the reactor’s “coolant.”

China plans to eventually build a liquid fuel molten-salt reactor as well. The DOE collaboration will help. To help increase their effectiveness, China plans to run the reactors not on uranium but on thorium, which enhances the reactor benefits.

Canada’s Terrestrial Energy is also eyeing the industrial heat market, as well as electricity generation—especially for off-grid locations—for its molten-salt reactor. Terrestrial’s development deal with Oak Ridge is a short term consulting arrangement which could help meet its goal of building such a reactor by the early 2020s.

Oak Ridge will advise Terrestrial on things like salts and heat exchangers, and how to combat corrosion. The Terrestrial reactor will initially run on liquid uranium fuel. It’s based on a designed called the “Denatured Molten Salt Reactor,” which Oak Ridge conceptualized but never built in the 1970s as a follow up to the earlier reactor. The DMSR uses low-enriched uranium, rather than the more highly enriched uranium that Oak Ridge used in the experimental MSR which was to have bred additional fuel. Weinberg wanted to ultimately use thorium.

SOURCES – Fortune