China has multi-billion projects developing liquid and solid fuel molten salt reactors

China has $3.3 billion funding two large molten salt fission reactor projects. There are 400 SINAP (Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics) scientists that are working on molten salt reactors at a complex of three new building. There are 200 other researchers working on the same subject but at different institutions.

China already generates 60% more electricity than the USA in 2018. China plans to double this by 2030. China wants to increase from 3-4% nuclear power for electricity to 10%. This will mean 300 GW of electricity in 2030. This would be about triple the US generation of nuclear electricity.

Starting in 2010, China is now working on two very different thorium based molten salt reactor programs. One is based on liquid fuel, the other on molten salt cooled solid fuel. Both are designed for specific application areas.

The solid fuel MSR (ThMSR-SF) is a high-temperature reactor, intended for industrial heat, hydrogen-production and electricity production. The ThMSR-SF uses fuel pebbles similar to the ones we know from the gas-cooled High-Temperature Reactors. The difference is that in the ThMSR-SF the fuel pebbles are cooled by molten salt. One area of research is the optimization of the fuel elements. The pebbles are graphite spheres that contain solid fuel kernels, of which several compositions are tested, including thorium kernels.

The liquid fuel MSR (ThMSR-LF) is optimized for the use of thorium. Key to realizing a closed fuel cycle, thus unlocking the full thorium potential, requires mastering the salt chemistry. Adequate salt cleaning is even a prerequisite for the establishment of a closed thorium fuel cycle.

The Chinese development plan for the chemistry of the salt cleaning processes has three distinctive phases.

Phase 1

The deployment of an online batch process. The fuel cycle starts with fuel loading based on low enriched uranium and thorium. There will be online refueling and removal of gaseous fission products, and after several years of operation, the whole core fuel salt will be discharged. Uranium and thorium will be extracted and reloaded to the reactor core. Fission products and minor actinides will be temporarily stored.

Phase 2

The online removal of gaseous fission products will be continued, added will be online extraction and reloading of uranium to enhance the fuel utilization ratio. Fission products and minor actinides will still be stored temporarily.

Phase 3 – closed fuel cycle with virtually no waste

A fully closed fuel cycle will be created. The researchers foresee offline extraction of transuranics, that will be reloaded to the reactor. This may evolve into a full recycling mode in which all heavy elements are recycled until they fission. Once this is realized, geologic disposal will be limited to fission products and small amounts of uranium and minor actinides, basically limited to losses in the reprocessing.

They will use of fluorination for uranium recovery, combined with frozen-wall technique to mitigate corrosion, due to free fluorine (F2) during the fluorination process. The frozen wall technique basically means having some salt freeze on the reactor or piping walls, thus protecting the walls from free fluorine during periods of fluorination. Another area of interest is the demonstration of salt distillation, intended for carrier salt purification.

They will develop electrochemical separation technology for uranium recovery. Electro-deposition of uranium metal from the FLiBe-melt can yield a separation ratio of more than 99%.

Developing and testing new graphite materials

SINAP is testing and creating new nuclear graphites materials in ASME, and is setting new ASTM standards, for instance for testing impregnation of nuclear graphite by molten salt. ASME and ASTM are the worldwide reference standards describing materials properties for engineering applications. The Chinese are now adding new entries to the chapter on nuclear materials. This shows how the center of gravity in nuclear development is shifting from the West to non-Western countries.

64 thoughts on “China has multi-billion projects developing liquid and solid fuel molten salt reactors”

  1. Given Congress is a cheap prostitute for the Oil companies the US is throwing 2% of what China is in this effort. YEEEAAAAA were number one, at least for a short time.

    Reply
  2. The frozen wall tech sounds like the most interesting aspect to me. I can imagine so many ways that can go wrong. I assume they’ve worked through the obvious ones.

    Reply
  3. KAIROS power in Oakland CA is also working on the molten salt cooled pebble bed. They have some funding from the DOE and they have been hiring for couple years now. the berkeley nuclear department thinks it’s a good idea to combine two reactor types that nobody in america wants to build into one design that co-fires (augments) with a natural gas peaking turbine. they want to supply nuclear heat to the same turbine that also burns gas. It’s nuclear’s attempt to join the fracking bandwagon. Smells like fish to me. Frozen wall described in the article shows you just how difficult it is to handle the MSR fuels. Imagine that! they are going to attempt to maintain material on the walls…. Sounds difficult.

    Reply
  4. Given Congress is a cheap prostitute for the Oil companies the US is throwing 2{22800fc54956079738b58e74e4dcd846757aa319aad70fcf90c97a58f3119a12} of what China is in this effort. YEEEAAAAA were number one at least for a short time.

    Reply
  5. The frozen wall tech sounds like the most interesting aspect to me. I can imagine so many ways that can go wrong. I assume they’ve worked through the obvious ones.

    Reply
  6. KAIROS power in Oakland CA is also working on the molten salt cooled pebble bed. They have some funding from the DOE and they have been hiring for couple years now. the berkeley nuclear department thinks it’s a good idea to combine two reactor types that nobody in america wants to build into one design that co-fires (augments) with a natural gas peaking turbine. they want to supply nuclear heat to the same turbine that also burns gas. It’s nuclear’s attempt to join the fracking bandwagon. Smells like fish to me.Frozen wall described in the article shows you just how difficult it is to handle the MSR fuels. Imagine that! they are going to attempt to maintain material on the walls…. Sounds difficult.

    Reply
  7. I am just an interested observer in this liquid salt development . I can’t believe that more money is being throwing to this. This technology is the future and is a way out of our climate change mess. If we wait til 2030 what kind of planet will still be left. One thing that I do notice is that the Germans haven’t got into the metallurgy part of the issue. They have been the “Masters of metal” throughout history. As far as the USA and this technology, we will have to buy it, not make it. The history here in the US is to tainted, we can never get this done here. Thank you for the article

    Reply
  8. Now to be fair, KAIROS is just a way for a greedy utility to cover both their baseload and peak needs using a thermal store via the NACC-FIRES approach. It’s not completely hairbrained to downsize the nuclear island part of the plant so that nighttime excess power can be thermally stored but is insufficient for daytime peaks. In some ways it isn’t all that different from CAES fronted gas turbines, where you are essentially storing post-compressor air temporarily to decouple the brayton cycle parts. Though if you have a coolant molten salt anyways, why don’t they simply upgrade/oversize their coolant salt pool size directly? Is a peaker gas turbine with HRSG that much easier than a more variable steam turbine array, in terms of cost (capex/opex) and ease of operation?

    Reply
  9. I am just an interested observer in this liquid salt development . I can’t believe that more money is being throwing to this. This technology is the future and is a way out of our climate change mess. If we wait til 2030 what kind of planet will still be left. One thing that I do notice is that the Germans haven’t got into the metallurgy part of the issue. They have been the Masters of metal”” throughout history. As far as the USA and this technology”” we will have to buy it not make it. The history here in the US is to tainted”” we can never get this done here. Thank you for the article”””

    Reply
  10. Now to be fair KAIROS is just a way for a greedy utility to cover both their baseload and peak needs using a thermal store via the NACC-FIRES approach. It’s not completely hairbrained to downsize the nuclear island part of the plant so that nighttime excess power can be thermally stored but is insufficient for daytime peaks. In some ways it isn’t all that different from CAES fronted gas turbines where you are essentially storing post-compressor air temporarily to decouple the brayton cycle parts.Though if you have a coolant molten salt anyways why don’t they simply upgrade/oversize their coolant salt pool size directly? Is a peaker gas turbine with HRSG that much easier than a more variable steam turbine array in terms of cost (capex/opex) and ease of operation?

    Reply
  11. Can you see the difficulty? If they provide a fluorine atmosphere in a component some part of the salt will go from UF4 to UF6 and become volatile so they can syphon it off mixed with majority F2. They realize passivation coatings or whatever aren’t good enough to protect the SUPERALLOYS from the fluorine at 800 deg-F so they must reverse heat trace the conduits with the proper REFRIGERATION to keep some whatever eighth inch of frozen hypofluoride on the conduit wall and a flowing liquid core in 2 phase with F2 with enouogh residence time to react. Mind you heat tracing is required to keep the bulk above 800F. That is the simple synopsis of ONE part of one engineering problem and we all assume it has mean time between failure on order of years. Let them try. No new tech and SOS.

    Reply
  12. Haven’t we (USA) spent $6B just building a facility to blend 37 tons of Pu into MOX per treaty obligation? USA is hopeless. In the old comment system I described how this 37 tons has a retail value under $2B. My country is sick and dying.

    Reply
  13. Can you see the difficulty? If they provide a fluorine atmosphere in a component some part of the salt will go from UF4 to UF6 and become volatile so they can syphon it off mixed with majority F2. They realize passivation coatings or whatever aren’t good enough to protect the SUPERALLOYS from the fluorine at 800 deg-F so they must reverse heat trace the conduits with the proper REFRIGERATION to keep some whatever eighth inch of frozen hypofluoride on the conduit wall and a flowing liquid core in 2 phase with F2 with enouogh residence time to react. Mind you heat tracing is required to keep the bulk above 800F. That is the simple synopsis of ONE part of one engineering problem and we all assume it has mean time between failure on order of years. Let them try. No new tech and SOS.

    Reply
  14. Haven’t we (USA) spent $6B just building a facility to blend 37 tons of Pu into MOX per treaty obligation? USA is hopeless. In the old comment system I described how this 37 tons has a retail value under $2B. My country is sick and dying.

    Reply
  15. Design a production Molten Salt Reactor. Calculate the cost. And then decide whether or not it is worth doing. If you can’t get the MW price under natural gas then don’t bother.

    Reply
  16. Design a production Molten Salt Reactor. Calculate the cost. And then decide whether or not it is worth doing. If you can’t get the MW price under natural gas then don’t bother.

    Reply
  17. About 6 minutes into the video the English captions say they have developed fine grain graphite that solves the graphite swelling problem. If so that is a big help for all varieties of graphite moderated reactors.

    Reply
  18. About 6 minutes into the video the English captions say they have developed fine grain graphite that solves the graphite swelling problem. If so that is a big help for all varieties of graphite moderated reactors.

    Reply
  19. Molten salts… what could possibly go wrong with that? 😉 😉 😉 Somehow this seems inherently unsafe to me. Also, doesn’t mixing the fuel in with the salt make it even worse? Note, won’t there be a whole bunch of really nasty radioactive fission byproducts dissolved in the salts after operating for a couple of years? Note, if you leak some cooling water for a reactor it’s not a big deal but even a tiny leak of this stuff would be a nightmare by comparison.

    Reply
  20. Molten salts… what could possibly go wrong with that? 😉 😉 😉 Somehow this seems inherently unsafe to me. Also doesn’t mixing the fuel in with the salt make it even worse? Note won’t there be a whole bunch of really nasty radioactive fission byproducts dissolved in the salts after operating for a couple of years? Note if you leak some cooling water for a reactor it’s not a big deal but even a tiny leak of this stuff would be a nightmare by comparison.

    Reply
  21. I’ll leave more a detailed reply up to scaryjello et al, but in my limited understanding, if any of these salts leak outside of an operating reactor, they would very quickly freeze, so they can’t get very far. On the hand, water can leak underground, into nearby water reservoirs, etc, and carry any contaminants with it. Furthermore, molten salt reactors are often designed to operate at much lower pressure, so leaks are far less likely to begin with. Off-gassing can still be an issue, which needs appropriate technical solutions, but conventional reactors also have that problem if a meltdown occurs.

    Reply
  22. I’ll leave more a detailed reply up to scaryjello et al but in my limited understanding if any of these salts leak outside of an operating reactor they would very quickly freeze so they can’t get very far. On the hand water can leak underground into nearby water reservoirs etc and carry any contaminants with it. Furthermore molten salt reactors are often designed to operate at much lower pressure so leaks are far less likely to begin with. Off-gassing can still be an issue which needs appropriate technical solutions but conventional reactors also have that problem if a meltdown occurs.

    Reply
  23. Liberal trolling you mean. The Left uses fear of “Ecological Catastrophe” of various kinds, generally a anti technology and quasi-religious (Gaia, the Earth Mother) spin to demonize tech.

    Reply
  24. Liberal trolling you mean. The Left uses fear of Ecological Catastrophe”” of various kinds”” generally a anti technology and quasi-religious (Gaia”” the Earth Mother) spin to demonize tech.”””

    Reply
  25. Molten salts have a very high freezing point. They go solid under 460 C, and they’re as viscous as water. So a few safety advantages: 1. If they magically melt through the tank, they solidfy as soon as they go out. (and it’s a tank within a tank, so they’re caught either way) 2. You can passively stop fission. The salts are *inside* their moderators, so you can set it up so that when power goes out, they’ll just drain out of those tubes (downward via gravity) and into a tank with no moderator, allowing them to go solid nearly-instantly. The original MSR experiment used a drain pipe (like in a bathtub) with cold air blowing at the base so the plug was a “frozen” (lower than 460 C) chunk of the same fuel salt. When the power went off, the air would stop, the plug would melt, and all of the radioactive salt would go into the drank tank. They would actually turn their nuclear reactor off for the weekend this way. On Monday they would heat it up and pump it back up into the reactor. Ran fine for four years. 3. No pressure. You can design a system to manage heat pretty easily; we’ve got all kinds of great technologies available for insulation nowadays (airgels, vacuum insulation, etc.) and not having a pressurized vessel makes them even easier to implement.

    Reply
  26. Molten salts have a very high freezing point. They go solid under 460 C and they’re as viscous as water.So a few safety advantages:1. If they magically melt through the tank they solidfy as soon as they go out. (and it’s a tank within a tank so they’re caught either way)2. You can passively stop fission. The salts are *inside* their moderators so you can set it up so that when power goes out they’ll just drain out of those tubes (downward via gravity) and into a tank with no moderator allowing them to go solid nearly-instantly.The original MSR experiment used a drain pipe (like in a bathtub) with cold air blowing at the base so the plug was a frozen”” (lower than 460 C) chunk of the same fuel salt. When the power went off”” the air would stop the plug would melt and all of the radioactive salt would go into the drank tank. They would actually turn their nuclear reactor off for the weekend this way. On Monday they would heat it up and pump it back up into the reactor. Ran fine for four years.3. No pressure. You can design a system to manage heat pretty easily; we’ve got all kinds of great technologies available for insulation nowadays (airgels vacuum insulation”” etc.) and not having a pressurized vessel makes them even easier to implement.”””

    Reply
  27. Molten salts have a very high freezing point. They go solid under 460 C, and they’re as viscous as water.

    So a few safety advantages:

    1. If they magically melt through the tank, they solidfy as soon as they go out. (and it’s a tank within a tank, so they’re caught either way)
    2. You can passively stop fission. The salts are *inside* their moderators, so you can set it up so that when power goes out, they’ll just drain out of those tubes (downward via gravity) and into a tank with no moderator, allowing them to go solid nearly-instantly.

    The original MSR experiment used a drain pipe (like in a bathtub) with cold air blowing at the base so the plug was a “frozen” (lower than 460 C) chunk of the same fuel salt. When the power went off, the air would stop, the plug would melt, and all of the radioactive salt would go into the drank tank. They would actually turn their nuclear reactor off for the weekend this way. On Monday they would heat it up and pump it back up into the reactor. Ran fine for four years.

    3. No pressure. You can design a system to manage heat pretty easily; we’ve got all kinds of great technologies available for insulation nowadays (airgels, vacuum insulation, etc.) and not having a pressurized vessel makes them even easier to implement.

    Reply
  28. Water cooling causes two things: 1. fuel rods uncovered = meltdown, 2. steam or hydrogen explosions. I’d rather have the hot salt at atmospheric pressure.

    Reply
  29. Water cooling causes two things: 1. fuel rods uncovered = meltdown 2. steam or hydrogen explosions. I’d rather have the hot salt at atmospheric pressure.

    Reply
  30. Yawn. Wake me up when they building dozens of these and not just striving for a meager 10{22800fc54956079738b58e74e4dcd846757aa319aad70fcf90c97a58f3119a12} electricity production share.

    Reply
  31. Liberal trolling you mean. The Left uses fear of “Ecological Catastrophe” of various kinds, generally a anti technology and quasi-religious (Gaia, the Earth Mother) spin to demonize tech.

    Reply
  32. I’ll leave more a detailed reply up to scaryjello et al, but in my limited understanding, if any of these salts leak outside of an operating reactor, they would very quickly freeze, so they can’t get very far. On the hand, water can leak underground, into nearby water reservoirs, etc, and carry any contaminants with it. Furthermore, molten salt reactors are often designed to operate at much lower pressure, so leaks are far less likely to begin with. Off-gassing can still be an issue, which needs appropriate technical solutions, but conventional reactors also have that problem if a meltdown occurs.

    Reply
  33. Molten salts… what could possibly go wrong with that? 😉 😉 😉

    Somehow this seems inherently unsafe to me. Also, doesn’t mixing the fuel in with the salt make it even worse? Note, won’t there be a whole bunch of really nasty radioactive fission byproducts dissolved in the salts after operating for a couple of years? Note, if you leak some cooling water for a reactor it’s not a big deal but even a tiny leak of this stuff would be a nightmare by comparison.

    Reply
  34. About 6 minutes into the video the English captions say they have developed fine grain graphite that solves the graphite swelling problem. If so that is a big help for all varieties of graphite moderated reactors.

    Reply
  35. Design a production Molten Salt Reactor. Calculate the cost. And then decide whether or not it is worth doing. If you can’t get the MW price under natural gas then don’t bother.

    Reply
  36. Can you see the difficulty? If they provide a fluorine atmosphere in a component some part of the salt will go from UF4 to UF6 and become volatile so they can syphon it off mixed with majority F2. They realize passivation coatings or whatever aren’t good enough to protect the SUPERALLOYS from the fluorine at 800 deg-F so they must reverse heat trace the conduits with the proper REFRIGERATION to keep some whatever eighth inch of frozen hypofluoride on the conduit wall and a flowing liquid core in 2 phase with F2 with enouogh residence time to react. Mind you heat tracing is required to keep the bulk above 800F. That is the simple synopsis of ONE part of one engineering problem and we all assume it has mean time between failure on order of years. Let them try. No new tech and SOS.

    Reply
  37. Haven’t we (USA) spent $6B just building a facility to blend 37 tons of Pu into MOX per treaty obligation? USA is hopeless. In the old comment system I described how this 37 tons has a retail value under $2B. My country is sick and dying.

    Reply
  38. I am just an interested observer in this liquid salt development . I can’t believe that more money is being throwing to this. This technology is the future and is a way out of our climate change mess. If we wait til 2030 what kind of planet will still be left. One thing that I do notice is that the Germans haven’t got into the metallurgy part of the issue. They have been the “Masters of metal” throughout history.
    As far as the USA and this technology, we will have to buy it, not make it. The history here in the US is to tainted, we can never get this done here. Thank you for the article

    Reply
  39. Now to be fair, KAIROS is just a way for a greedy utility to cover both their baseload and peak needs using a thermal store via the NACC-FIRES approach. It’s not completely hairbrained to downsize the nuclear island part of the plant so that nighttime excess power can be thermally stored but is insufficient for daytime peaks. In some ways it isn’t all that different from CAES fronted gas turbines, where you are essentially storing post-compressor air temporarily to decouple the brayton cycle parts.

    Though if you have a coolant molten salt anyways, why don’t they simply upgrade/oversize their coolant salt pool size directly? Is a peaker gas turbine with HRSG that much easier than a more variable steam turbine array, in terms of cost (capex/opex) and ease of operation?

    Reply
  40. Given Congress is a cheap prostitute for the Oil companies the US is throwing 2% of what China is in this effort. YEEEAAAAA were number one, at least for a short time.

    Reply
  41. The frozen wall tech sounds like the most interesting aspect to me. I can imagine so many ways that can go wrong. I assume they’ve worked through the obvious ones.

    Reply
  42. KAIROS power in Oakland CA is also working on the molten salt cooled pebble bed. They have some funding from the DOE and they have been hiring for couple years now. the berkeley nuclear department thinks it’s a good idea to combine two reactor types that nobody in america wants to build into one design that co-fires (augments) with a natural gas peaking turbine. they want to supply nuclear heat to the same turbine that also burns gas. It’s nuclear’s attempt to join the fracking bandwagon. Smells like fish to me.

    Frozen wall described in the article shows you just how difficult it is to handle the MSR fuels. Imagine that! they are going to attempt to maintain material on the walls…. Sounds difficult.

    Reply

Leave a Comment