Indonesia and Thorcon Will Build a Mass Production Next-generation Molten Salt Reactor

Indonesia’s state company PT PAL Indonesia signed an agreement with next-generation molten salt nuclear energy company Thorcon International Pte Ltd for a development study and construction of a 500-megawatt reactor.

Thorcon still needs to raise more funds to build the reactor and the Indonesian government has not officially approved the reactor project. PAL Indonesia is a state-backed ship building company that is willing to work with Thorcon.

The Thorcon reactor can be mass-produced at 100 Gigawatts of nuclear power per year. This would be the entire US supply of nuclear reactors that currently exist. Every 5 years, the entire current world supply of nuclear reactors could be equaled. Within 14 years the entire US electricity production could be converted to nuclear power. All of the coal and natural gas in the US could be replaced in ten years (5 years for the first and completing 100-gigawatts per year.

The molten salt nuclear reactor will be built onto a floating ship. The 174×66 meters floating facility is expected to be built by Daewoo Shipyard & Marine Engineering in South Korea.

PAL Indonesia, which makes naval warships and commercial vessels, will build the reactor and supporting components designed by Thorcon.

ThorCon is a graphite-moderated thermal spectrum molten salt reactor that will produce 250 MWe power. It will be cheaper than coal energy. Coal is 5 cents per kilowatt hour and Thorcon will be 3 cents per kilowatt-hour. The basic concept is similar to the MSRE (Molten Salt Reactor Experiment) in ORNL which was built and operated in the 1960s.

Thorcon is working with Indonesia and could have its first 1 GW commercial unit in 4-6 years.

ThorCon is a liquid-fuel fission power plant, under development in the US, to be built in a far-east shipyard, then floated to Indonesia, with testing starting in 2023-2025. It generates emission-free electric power, cheaper even than from a coal-fired plant. Its full-time electric power will improve developing nations’ economies and lifestyles, while also dissuading them from burning fossil fuels which emit CO2.

New energy is being mainly built in Asia (China, India, South and South East Asia) and the developing world. There is very little net new power being built in the USA, Europe, and Japan. Thorcon logically will focus on certification for markets where power is actually being built.

ThorCon’s genesis is in ship production. Eight oil supertanker ships were built by ThorCon’s predecessor company. This ship is the largest double hull tanker ever built. She can carry 440,000 tons of oil. Her steel weight is 67,000 tons. She required 700,000 man-hours of direct labor, a little more than 10 man-hours per ton of ship steel. About 40% of this was expended on hull steel; the rest on outfitting. She was built in less than 12 months and cost 89 million dollars in 2002.

ThorCon reactor is in a Can, which is simple and safe

• Safety is intrinsic from physics, not add-on safety systems; overheating stops chain reaction.
• Any break will drain reactor fuel to cold shutdown fuel salt drain tank.
• Decay heat is removed by silo cooling wall continuous passive water circulation, even in power blackout.
• Radioactive fuel salt at low, garden-hose pressure can’t disperse in catastrophe.
• Fluoride salt chemically locks up hazardous fission products iodine-131, cesium-137, strontium-90.
• Can operates for four years, then cools down for four years, and then is changed out.
• Each power module has two Cans housed in silos.
• Liquid fission plant comprises 1 to 4 power modules of 557 MW (thermal) generating 250 MW (electric).
• Four freeze valves will be used to ensure the passive shutdown in case of overheating

Super Low cost and mass production from today’s ship yards

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 turbinegenerator 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.

Waste recycling

Thorcon Potential Global Impact to help developing world and climate

34 thoughts on “Indonesia and Thorcon Will Build a Mass Production Next-generation Molten Salt Reactor”

  1. Bolding “decision makers passed over” MSR hardly enhances your point. The bureaucrats, with prompting by Nixon, killed a successful project that received a tiny bit of funding that went to other designs. It means exactly nothing as to the worth of MSRs.

    And $200 million to dig up and move everything away from an experimental nuclear reaction doesn’t seem extraordinary. As you omitted they could entomb the reactor where it is for much less.

    I hope you also noted the corrosion problems were solved. That’s another staple the in “MSRs don’t work” playbook.

    I don’t have a dog in this race but it rankles me to see MSRs attacked on a personal level.

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  2. I agree with the “flavor” of your comment. This material is worth 100 times its weight in gold.

    What can I say about the Russians? As much as we disparage them, they can put plutonium oxide in a tube and build nuke plants approximately on time and on budget in foreign countries.

    To blend down that plutonium? Terrible. Maybe that is interstellar propellant they are using to heat tea kettles. Politicians often walk the path to hell while attempting to implement reasonably good intentions.

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  3. Yucca mountain is/was the dumbest idea ever. It is an oxidizing environment. WIPP works today and in service today.

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  4. We never should have tried making MOX from weapons grade PU 239. It was a fools errand. It should have been packaged up for IFR style reactor or Molten Chloride Reactor. Russian did it for < $300M USD.

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  5. All experimental facilities that were not LWR got their funding cut, and then there were none.

    I have BWR and PWR history – equally, and you must be an avid reader of MSR blogs.

    “A successful but spurned and dormant experimental nuclear reactor is ending its days as a cleanup project…. MSRE demonstrated what many believed would be the optimal reactor technology…. There are still quite a few true believers in molten-salt technology at Oak Ridge and elsewhere. However, decision makers passed over the concept and the MSRE shut down in 1969 after four years of operation….Engineers then had a more protracted challenge: How to remove both the UF6 that had collected in the piping and the very radioactive and chemically unstable uranium-233 that had collected in charcoal-bed filters for off-gases….The UF6, which was an unanticipated product of the annual reheating of the fuel, will eventually be converted to a more stable oxide

    Gotta be over $200M in cleanup costs… smells like a turd to me. You only hear of “cleanup” at an LWR site after criminal negligence (Chernobyl) or natural disaster (Fukushima).

    https://web.ornl.gov/info/ridgelines/nov12/msre.htm

    https://oakridgetoday.com/2017/11/26/great-technical-achievement-molten-salt-reactor-entombed/

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  6. I get you have a PWR history and those are your babies. But calling MSRs a “turd” is your bias writ large. The ORNL MSR did just fine until Nixon cut its funding.

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  7. I don’t really like Allison Macfarlane, but this recent article from her is entirely factual and rational, except for her points about decay heat in Yucca Mountain.

    It’s a short read; here is some highlights:

    “Many of these “advanced” reactors are actually repackaged designs from 70 years ago. If the United States, France, the UK, Germany, Japan, Russia, and others could not make these reactors economically viable power producers in that time, despite spending more than $60 billion, what is different now? Moreover, all of the “advanced” designs under discussion now are simply “PowerPoint” reactors: They have not been built at scale, and, as a result, we don’t really know all the waste streams that they will produce.”

    “Some of these new reactors would use molten salt-based fuels that, when exposed to water, form highly corrosive hydrofluoric acid. Therefore, reprocessing (or some form of “conditioning”) the waste will likely be required for safety reasons before disposal. Sodium-cooled fast reactors—a “new” technology proposed to be used in some advanced reactors, including the Bill Gates-funded TerraPower reactors—face their own disposal challenges. These include dealing with the metallic uranium fuel which is pyrophoric (that is, prone to spontaneous combustion) and would need to be reprocessed into a safer form for disposal.”

    https://thebulletin.org/2019/07/recycle-everything-america-except-your-nuclear-waste/

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  8. What could go wrong with a ship full of radioactive salt in an harbor of a major city? In today’s world you have to do things with the idea that there are groups of people who are going to do their best to make your nightmares come thru.

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  9. I understand Korean shipbuilder with no nuke background is the plan. The “tech” is an ORNL turd that these retirees have attempted to polish. What I am saying is that ThorCon has no credibility, despite the men of various ethnicities standing together holding signed ceremonial certificates – Dago Dazzlers, if you will.

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  10. Do you think the price for the MAX might come down a bit now ? Seriously, even Russian and Chinese LWRs are objectively orders of magnitude safer than western jets, but as you say, they’re not competing with coal. The countries that buy the coal plants are liable to buyer remorse in a generation – Vietnam and Indonesia especially will be very hard hit by sea level rise. I respect your insider knowledge of the industry, but I sure hope you’re wrong.

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  11. This is to be built in a shipyard and delivered to a coastal site. It won’t have to cross any borders, and it’s not being marketed as for the US – which has got stagnant power demand anyway. Spent fuel from an MSR isn’t supposed to be stored for eternity anyway, but recycled. Whether that’s economic, or will become so, I don’t know. At least it should be easier than for solid fuel. In France, communities were keen enough to have reprocessing facilities, but didn’t want to host an permanent, an fuel graveyard. I don’t think any should have to – every part of the ‘waste’ should be usable eventually, once they start using the fissile component.

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  12. Shipping from country to country won’t be the problem. Shipping across state lines will be the problem. We spent billions to build a waste repository in Nevada only to have the governor saying no you can’t ship that stuff here.

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  13. Since 1970 the price of LWRs has tripled. These guys claim they can avoid some of the drivers that have ratcheted up the costs.

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  14. Monopoly? First that’s that’s totally untrue. Nuclear fuel has typical competitive margins (like 14%).

    Reprocessed MOX fuel assemblies costs 2.5x as much as fresh so they’re economically unviable. Claiming fuel processing/reprocessing is cheap and easy isn’t supported by any real world data yet. Quite the opposite; the MSRE cleanup was and is very expensive.

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  15. Now hold on there. We won’t get greenpeace wailing about possible leaks? I’m going to need to see some serious evidence for that outrageous claim.

    We may not see them wailing in Indonesia, where the cops and security are not quite as nice as in the USA.

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  16. True, but one inch welded containers should be much cheaper to make, and easier to licence, than nine inch thick forged ones. Also you won’t have Greenpeace wailing about micron scale cracks thirty years later, and closing power plants till someone tells them to fornicate off.

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  17. You’re right that there is no shortage of conventional U235/U238 ore waiting to be laboriously and expensively processed by an energy monopoly. But MSR does appear to be a superior tech from several perspectives, including the processing of fuel. Add to that such goodies as low-pressure, high-temperature, safety by physics, and fuel efficiency (over 99%burn v less than 1% for rods), and this allows the low maintenance cans that Thorcon says it can make by the dozen.

    Smaller, cheaper, safer, far more efficient. Some designs can even mix “waste” nuclear fuel with the U233, reducing one of the worst problems with fuel rod reactors. Assuming Thorcon can actually deliver these things, I don’t see much reason not to try this approach, while we all wait for fusion, which is only 20 years away… 😉

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  18. Wow how many things can you get wrong in one statement? First off fuel shortage is NOT an issue for molten salt reactors since they can burn new fuel, spent fuel rods, and thorium.

    Molten salt reactors are intrinsically cheaper and safer and easier to run. MSR were shelved since they did not provide plutonium for bombs and because of politics.

    Your assuming reprocessing is necessary.

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  19. This is the time for an angel financier. One with deep enough pockets to cough up 3-4 billion dollars. Expensive but doable especially for someone who actually gives a damn about the planet.

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  20. True, but LWR vessel has to hold 75 atmospheres pressure, or more, for forty years. MSR has near one atmosphere, and in this case, the container only has to last four years.

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  21. I’m not sure they are. It all seems very rational and straightforward.

    I’m an old bod now. I feel ‘meh’ about most things instead of the wonder of my youth. But thorium power…. I am excited about this one.

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  22. No. DMSR ( misnamed by Brian ) stands for ‘ Denatured Molten Salt Reactor ‘. ‘Denatured ‘ means there’s enough U238 in the fuel to make any U233 produced unsuitable for a weapon without further enrichment, and enrichment is much easier with fresh natural uranium from a mine. Any plutonium produced will soon have too much Pu240 to make a bomb, unless the bomb maker is very technically savvy. Uranium 238, which is 140 times more common than U235, turns into Pu 239 if it absorbs a neutron. Pu 239 is ideal for making bombs, but if left in the reactor, some will fission, making power, and about a third will become Pu240. Pu 240 is too unstable, and is liable to set a bomb off early, scattering it before a full blown chain reaction can get underway. Again, the easy way to a weapon is to build a plutonium production reactor for the purpose, not use a power reactor.

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  23. Shiploads of plutonium have gone from the UK to Japan and back. No word yet on who’s supplying the fuel – nearly 20 % enriched, from memory. Iran ? Anyway, once the thing’s running, there’s no great rush to send used fuel cans back for processing. Current light water reactors have been running for a lifetime without much reprocessing, and the amount of spent fuel produced is only a problem for people with not enough to worry about.

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  24. I was always concerned about the chemical processing plant that some MSR needed. The Thorcon idea gets rid of it. But it has a new headache and that is the transportation of the highly radioactive unit across state lines. That’s won’t sell.

    Maybe what they can do instead is to bring the chemical plant to the reactor. Processes the salt and store the waste onsite. But now the plant is radioactive.

    How about pumping out the plant like you would a septic tank.

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