Economic Case for Nuclear Fusion Also Applies to Advanced Fission Reactors

Malcolm Handley of ARPA-E had a presentation that made the economic case for nuclear fusion. The economic case also applies to molten salt nuclear fission reactors and other high-temperature nuclear fission projects. Molten salt nuclear reactors were built and operated in working prototypes in the 1960s and 1970s.

Malcolm indicated that early nuclear fusion reactors could have a reasonably sized market if the price of energy produced was about $60-$75 per megawatt-hour. This could be about $10-30 per megawatt-hour more if there was some of the proposed costs for carbon were introduced.

Process heat is high-temperature heat for industrial purposes. This is 20% of energy usage. Renewables like solar and wind are very inefficient at generating high-temperature heat. These are markets for many nuclear fusion designs and some high-temperature nuclear fission designs. Citing restriction mean nuclear fission would only be able to address 20% of this market. However, if there were safer advanced nuclear fission then the same restrictions on where they could be built may not apply.

Historical solar and wind deployments have been slower than nuclear deployments in Sweden, France and the USA.

Written By Brian Wang,