Moltex molten salt reactor being built in New Brunswick Canada

UK-based Moltex Energy will build a demonstration SSR-W (Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner) at the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant site in Canada under an agreement signed with the New Brunswick Energy Solutions Corporation and NB Power.

The agreement provides CAD5.0 million (USD3.8 million) of financial support to Moltex for its immediate development activities and Moltex will open its North American headquarters in Saint John and build its development team there. It also calls for Moltex to deploy its first SSR-W at the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant site before 2030.

Stable Salt Reactors build on the fundamental safety and simplicity breakthrough of molten salt fuel in essentially standard nuclear fuel tubes. Stable Salt Reactors are modular in construction. Their rectangular cores can be extended module by module to create reactors from 150MW to 1200MW power.

Many versions of Stable Salt Reactors are possible. The first being developed now is a “waste burner”. This uses fuel produced by a new, low cost and very simple process from spent conventional reactor fuel. Reduction in the radioactive life of the majority of that spent fuel from hundreds of thousands of years to just a few hundred years will effectively clean up a large part of the hazardous residue of the first nuclear era. Second generation Stable Salt Reactors will be able to breed new nuclear fuel from depleted uranium and thorium.

* The fuel salt is held in vented tubes. Venting is safe because in our reactors the dangerous fission products form stable compounds, not gases.
* The tubes are bundled into fuel assemblies similar to those in a conventional PWR. These are held in the support structure which forms the reactor modules.
* The tank is filled with a safe molten salt coolant, which is not pressurized like gas or water coolants in today’s power reactors and not violently reactive with air and water like sodium in today’s Fast Breeder reactors. A second similar coolant salt system takes heat from the primary coolant salt to steam generators kept well away from the reactor.
* Refueling is simple: Fuel assemblies are simply moved sideways out of the core and replaced with fresh fuel assemblies. This results in a near on-line refueling process.
* The entire construction is simple, with no high-pressure systems, few moving parts, and no Pressure Vessel needing specialist foundries.

Moltex technology has unique advantages over both current reactor technologies and other advanced reactor concepts. These include
* Grid scale energy storage so the SSR can produce electricity at triple its reactor power for the 8 hours a day of peak demand while running the reactor itself continuously at full capacity
* Low cost conversion of spent fuel from today’s reactors into fresh fuel for the SSR, saving billions in costs of waste disposal
* Low cost electricity, estimated at <3.5p (<5c) per kWhr when operated as baseload, and 4p (6c) when operated as a peak demand plant * Capital cost per kW similar to a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine plant but with far lower running costs

The government of New Brunswick announced on 26 June its commitment of CAD10 million (USD7.5 million) to help the New Brunswick Energy Solutions Corporation develop a nuclear research cluster in the province, which is home to the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant. The move aims to position New Brunswick as a leader in the field of research and development of SMR technology.

Advanced Reactor Concepts sodium-cooled fast reactor

Last week, Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC) was announced as the first partner in the nuclear research cluster. ARC is developing the ARC-100, a 100 MWe integrated sodium-cooled fast reactor with a metallic uranium alloy core.

ARC is developing an exportable, factory-produced, 100 MWe nuclear reactor with fixed fuel costs for 20+ years.

The ARC-100 design creates a “walk away” passive safety system that insures the reactor will never melt down even in a disaster that causes a complete loss of power to the plant site. In addition, it can be fueled with the nuclear waste produced by traditional reactors, and its 20-year refueling cycle offers new levels of proliferation resistance. It provides a new model for nuclear power that is based on factory fabrication of modular components that can be shipped for rapid site assembly, thereby promoting the prompt start of a revenue stream.

The reactor’s basic technology was proven through the successful 30-year operation of the EBR-II prototype. ARC has made significant proprietary advances to the original EBR-II design in order to create the ARC-100.

The prototype for the ARC-100 reactor is a reactor known as the EBR-II. The EBR-II was operated by the US government’s Argonne National Laboratory in Idaho for 30 years as a very successful test and demonstration sodium-cooled fast-reactor power plant.

The ARC-100 reactor system is very economically competitive. It is designed to produce electricity at a target cost of approximately $0.05 per kilowatt-hour. Long-life fuel packages freeze the ARC-100 reactor’s fuel costs for 20 years or longer and thus facilitate energy security for its clients.

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