Indonesian President Might Start Revolutionary ThorCon Reactor Project This Year

ThorCon demonstration plant’s safety and economics case are being studied by Indonesia Ministry of Energy in conjunction with Indonesia electric utility PLN. The study started in January, 2019 and should be completed at the end of next month. Recommendations, will be presented to the President of Indonesia.

Ideally, if the President of Indonesia approves the project at the end of this year, then by the end of 2024, a 500 MWe molten salt reactor could be connected to the Indonesian power grid and generating commercial power. The first reactor should cost less than $1 billion and a follow-on three billion agreement would then see another 3 gigawatts of commercial nuclear power by about 2030.

The ThorCon reactors are designed to be built using shipyard manufacturing technology by designers who have built modular ships at shipyards. They will use standard and cheap thermal generators used at coal plants.

The systems have passive quadruple and triple redundant safety systems.

2020-2025 – Phase 1 is to build and test it with step by step commissioning, ending in a type license for future power plants.
2026-2030 – Phase 2 is shipyard production of ThorCon plants to provide an additional 3 GW of cheap, reliable electric power.

ThorCon avoids three costly LWR issues: low temperature, high pressure, solid fuel.
• Thanks to high temperature, ThorCon uses the same, competitively-sourced, $500/kW supercritical steam turbine generator as a modern coal plant.
• Thanks to low pressure, ThorCon avoids reinforced concrete mausoleum and 9-inch-thick forgings.
• Thanks to liquid fuel, ThorCon can move fuel around with a pump. No exacting fuel pin fabrication. No complex reshuffling refueling systems.

Design. Much of the design phase has been completed, computationally modeled, expressed in 2D drawings and 3D CAD models, and shared with potential suppliers. Suppliers’ cost estimates for future production versions are compatible with company estimates of electricity production costs of 3 cents/kWh prior to profits and government fees.

Pre-fission construction. The company will build a pre-fission test facility (PTF) at full scale, including the components of the fission island and the thermal power conversion chain. The fuel salt will not contain enriched uranium and will not sustain a chain reaction to generate power. The components will be brought up to operating temperatures using electric heating. The absence of radioactivity allows intrusive instrumentation, direct observation, and internal access to components.

Pre-fission testing. Extensive testing will include operating pumps at full temperatures and pressures, freeze valve drains to drain tanks, actuation of shutdown rods, and instrumentation. Engineers will measure thermal expansion, confirm heat transfer rates, verify thermal hydraulics characteristics, test sensors, transfer molten salts between the Pot and fuel casks. System responses to simulated failures will be monitored closely.

ThorCon plans to make offshore 500-MWe thorium molten salt reactor constructed inside a ship’s hull. It will provide power from rivers and coastal areas. The ThorCon pot will operate at garden hose pressures of 3 times atmospheric pressure. It has one moving part—the pump impeller and uses a four-loop steam cycle with 45% efficiency.

Summary of ThorCon economic advantages

Liquid fuel: simple fuel handling, higher temperature efficiency, no cladding.

ORNL R&D. ORNL built two MSRs then designed MSDR guiding ThorCon.

No new technology: commercially available, affordable materials.

Shipyard construction: reduces cost, controls quality, scales to make 100 GW of power plants per year.

Small modular reactor: 250 MWe module has economy of scale and simplifies safety.

Molten salt reactor ran from 1965 to 1969 at US Oak Ridge National Lab

Full-scale prototype: No scale-up surprises or delays; only design once.

Maintenance by replacement: CanShip moves Can and fuel to recycling facilities.

Thorium: cuts uranium consumption, improves proliferation resistance.

Step by step commissioning: Indonesia will create final regulations as prototype is tested.

Complete power plant design: not just another fission reactor idea.

SOURCES- ThorCon, Youtube
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

21 thoughts on “Indonesian President Might Start Revolutionary ThorCon Reactor Project This Year”

  1. I prefer to be thought of as someone pragmatic. I believe PWR are inherently unsafe so I do have a problem with them. But a choice between climate change which has an high probability of happening and PWR which have a significantlty lower odds I will take PWR. But while I am saying this I think renewable are good up to 50% for some countries. But there are high population density countries where renewable aren’t good like Singapore.

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  2. The radiation from a reactor is the same, no matter what kind it is, and is in direct proportion to how much power it’s made. It’s ok if you don’t have to go anywhere near it! With uranium dioxide solid fuel, it stays in the rods (unless they overheat.) With salt, the idea is to close the fuel cycle, which solid fuel reactors have never really done – because fresh fuel is cheap. Light water reactor spent fuel already has 1% fissile in it, versus uranium ore that has to be dug up in Canada or Kazakhstan, and might be 0.001% fissile. Once the ore has been processed, it has to be enriched, to raise the percentage of U235 from 0.7% to about 4.5%. That used to take much more energy than mining, transport, making the fuel, and building the reactor. France had three reactors at Tricastin just to power their gaseous diffusion enrichment plant. Since centrifuge enrichment has come in, the amount of energy needed for a Separative Work Unit has gone down forty x, and laser enrichment might bring it down another order of magnitude. That’s a sensitive issue, though, since easy enrichment is the fast route to everyone having an A-bomb. The Powers That Be are pretty sure they can be entrusted with nuclear weapons themselves, but those lesser breeds without the law can not. Cheap reprocessing, instead of cheap enrichment, might be a way round this. It’s much more difficult to make a bomb out of a hell brew of fission products and mixed actinides, but that could still work in a MSR.

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  3. Wigner energy in graphite, and neutron embrittlement in steel, are just the same – heat it up a bit, and the molecular bonds shake down and link up again. Salt just does it at a lower temperature, and it’s not as though elemental fluorine needs much encouragement to hook onto whatever’s around.

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  4. So we agree that the dump tank is superfluous. I’m pretty sure no power is going to sell them 20 tons of 20% enriched U without an extremely invasive, enormous, and persistently continuous proctological examination a la gape. Selling PWR assemblies to UAE ain’t the same thing. Belarus is, well Russia, and Russia does whatever it wants to do, so their mention isn’t really apropos.

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  5. Yeah. Heard it all before. Somehow beta / gamma decay driven radiolysis over decade at 10w/liter at room temperature makes the salt chemically unstable whereas high energy FP/neutron driven radiolysis at 50kw/liter at 800C is just fine. if you can’t smell the fish, maybe you should work in the fish market john.

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  6. So what is the bottom line? Do you always get this kind of radioactivity after a mere decade of running, or was it due to the way the reactor was shut down? Or put in a different way, does the high level of radioactivity in the MSR experiment show that molten salt reactors are not practical..?

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  7. Thanks, I’ll try uBlock. I appreciate you spending your time to help me, NP, you’re a good egg.
    The usability of this website greatly increased the day after this admittedly somewhat whiny comment, as has that of zero hedge which indulges in intense hawking of largely useless products, usually with self starting videos. I suspect is was a chrome(OS) update I installed, that made the difference.

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  8. Not all MSRs propose to use dump tanks. Terrestrial Energy, which is probably the closest Western design to full certification (in Canada) don’t have one – they use a higher melting point salt in a jacket round the core. If the core overheats, the surrounding salt melts, and then convection sets in to greatly increase heat loss through the tank. As you say, by that time fission will have stopped.
    Terrestrial’s proposal is very similar to Thorcon’s otherwise, except that they want to use lower enriched uranium, and no thorium. Thorcon originally wanted 19.75% enriched uranium. Now they say they can get by with below 5%, though I think makeup fuel would have to be higher. Indonesia is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so somebody will probably sell them fuel – even if they are Muslim majority. Pakistan is not NNPT compliant, but China still sells them fuel.
    The latest newcomers to the LWR owners club have been United Arab Emirates ( GDP per head $68,000) and Belarus ($18,900.) The latest countries to cancel plans for LWRs, on cost grounds, have been South Africa ($13,500) and Vietnam ($6,900.) Indonesia is at $12,400, so I don’t think they’ll be beating on Rosatom’s door, or Nuscale’s. If they’re going to adopt nuclear power in the next decade or so, it will probably have to be something like this.

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  9. Most molten salt reactors do exactly the opposite. They rapidly become less reactive at higher temperature. This is true for both uranium-fueled and thorium breeder designs. It’s likely true for Thorcon as well, especially since it’s very similar to the early MSR experiments.

    Conventional reactors are designed this way too but it’s an especially strong effect in MSRs. Kirk Sorenson talked about this a lot in his presentations, and said it responds so quickly that the reactor just naturally load-balances. Pull more power from the reactor, it cools and the reaction speeds up. Pull less power and the opposite happens.

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  10. ORNL was a FOAK shutdown.

    Looking at Terrestrial energy you are meant to drain the reactor, put in a new reactor (no fuel, just fresh graphite & parts) and pump the used fuel in to the new reactor.

    So in theory a single run of fuel salt could run for decades?

    Supposedly processing waste salt is much easier than processing oxide fuel. So you could set up a plant to do this.

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  11. So a Molten Salt Reactor plant can never be affordably shut down?

    I’m having trouble seeing how any MSR would be allowed to start up without this being an already affordably solved problem. And by affordable I mean at a cost of like $0.33 per watt thermal like current decommissions are. Not $40 per watt thermal like the ORNL one.

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  12. I think this is a breeder reactor converting thorium to uranium and then fission. If I remember right, the breeder as it heats up will become more reactive and that is why the U.S didn’t use that back in the day. Well best of luck

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  13. If the fuel becomes too hot it will expand and become less reactive thus lowering the power/heat of the reactor. If the reactor looses power or you need to shut it down in an emergency then you will dump the fuel. Without the graphite moderator and even the shape of the fuel in the dump tank will serve to make it less reactive so it can be passively cooled until whatever emergency is over.

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  14. After the MSR experiment ended in 1969, the guys running it knew that, if the fuel salt cooled down, radiation would gradually begin to break apart some of the fission product salts, freeing fluorine gas, which is extremely corrosive and toxic, and can also make volatile radioactive compounds. So they reheated the two tanks once a year, which let any free fluorine recombine into the salt.
    They were probably hoping that at some stage, work on MSRs would resume – they had the only supply of uranium 233, and also, the lithium in the salt was 99.995 % lithium7. (Natural lithium has 7.5% lithium6 in it, which has a very large appetite for absorbing neutrons, not ideal in a breeder reactor.) To separate the two isotopes, they’d used most of the US stocks of mercury, which is why that article also discussed ways of disposing of that. Any future reactor using lithium salts will have to find another way of enriching the lithium – mercury would never get the OK, for environmental reasons.
    Anyway, after twenty years, they decided it wasn’t just a pause in the work, and removed the uranium from the salt, in case it somehow concentrated and went critical. It still has the plutonium and the medium to long half-life fission products.
    Short answer – you can’t just chuck fuel from a MSR into a tank and leave it there, like they do with solid fuel reactors. But that’s not what they’re designed for anyway – the salt’s supposed to go straight back into a reactor, minus only the FPs.

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  15. NBF is now pretty much unreadable with my chromebook, unless I continually use the taskmanager to close ad programs. This is just ridiculous. I actually thought something was wrong with my chromebook, but other sites, like slashdot work just fine.

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  16. Well, the reason to have drains for the reaction chamber is that if the fuel would be too hot, it would drain naturally to a container where there is no graphite. Only with a graphite moderator can the nuclear reaction be sustained.

    As for the other details from the article.. Well, depressing…. 1000 rem/hour is a significant dose (lethal in about 6 minutes). How on earth did the reaction core become that radioactive in only one decade of operation? Are there leftover fuel that generates this dose, or is it the metal that has a really high induced radioactivity?

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  17. Since Indonesia population is 264 million they will be able to find a few dozen bright engineers to run the reactor. Do remember IQ is a normal curve so there is a lot of people with IQ 120 and higher.

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  18. Simplified the chemical processing by not doing the more difficult part of removing the radioactive isotopes that will eventually poison the reactor. But that maybe OK as lot as it is eventually done.

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  19. I thought the influence of the local LNG interests had this pathway locked down a while back.
    Just goes to show, no matter how final a particular political decision appears you can never count on it staying that way.

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