P3Tek Recommends Thorcon Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor for Indonesia

P3Tek presented the results of a 10-month study of the ThorCon thorium/uranium-fueled molten salt reactor (MSR) power plant. The study reviewed regulation, safety, economics, and the grid load and concluded the ThorCon TMSR500 liquid fission power plant can supply Indonesia electricity needs in 2026-2027.

ThorCon International is a nuclear engineering company that has expressed interest in developing and building its TMSR500 in Indonesia with an investment of approximately US$1.2 billion.

P3Tek is an agency of the Indonesia Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. It is the R&D center for electricity technology, new and renewable energy, and energy conservation.

Regulation. The study reported building a ThorCon TMSR500 would meet Indonesia’s regulations for nuclear energy safety and performance.

Safety. Many experts have concluded that theoretically, the ThorCon MSR technology has a high level of safety with a passive safety system and simple structure operating at low pressure. It is also cost-effective and produces clean electricity. ThorCon MSR technology can be built in the near future, said nuclear experts Elsheikh from the Egyptian Nuclear Energy Supervisory Agency; Lumbaraja & Liun, senior researchers of BATAN; and Staffan Qvist, one of IAEA’s experts from Sweden. Qvist, BATAN and BAPETEN concluded a TMSR500 would respond quickly and safely even in accident scenarios worse than Fukushima.

Economics. Financially, a 2x500MW power plant operating at 90% capacity factor is economic selling electricity at US $ 0.069 per kWh — below the Indonesia national cost of electricity generation of US $ 0.077 per kWh.

the licensing process is carried out effectively and efficiently by the relevant government institutions, the power plant construction project could be completed within seven years. Assuming a 2020 start, Phase I with a capacity of 500 MW can be operating commercially in 2027. Phase II with a capacity of 3 GW begins 2 years later.

To reduce risks and increase the certainty of the safety system, ThorCon International will carry out the implementation in two stages, development and construction. In the 2-year development stage, ThorCon International will build a Test Bed Platform facility at a cost of US $ 70 million to validate the design, test the thermal-hydraulic system and safety system of the TMSR500, and demonstrate ThorCon safety technology functions before the government and the public. The construction stage would begin in 2023 with commercial operation in 2027.

43 thoughts on “P3Tek Recommends Thorcon Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor for Indonesia”

  1. Certainly, a stable good implosion of thin metal shell requires quite an effort, especially during testing. High-speed xray machines are “dual use” for that reason.Stable high-quality explosives require some work. But people achieved good enough implosion in 1945 without benefits of modern electronics, and useful yield without tritium – it is not a problem in 2019. Just needs some doing.

  2. Agree that just cause one uses thorium does not mean you are proliferation proof. It does require safeguards – not much different than used in a normal reactor.
    (But you need more than tritium to make a bomb).

  3. cost is estimated at 3 cents/kwhr once we have a commercial license. Price is to be negotiated between 6 and 7 cents/kwhr. The difference pays the investors for taking a risk.

  4. Fusion reactors are not really meant to produce power in the foreseeable future but to provide secure tenure for scientists and engineers.

  5. Yeah, it seems that ThO2, well irradiated in a PWR (Indian Point 1), generated an isotopic mixture of 98.5% 233U and 1.5% 232U, which was loaded as the fissile content of the 3rd Shippingport experiment, which was the thermal breeder demonstration. Numerous sources of information, including wiki show that 232U decay products quickly build-in to become a sterilizing gamma emitter within a year, which gets worse over decades.

    It’s remarkable that so much 232U is formed because most of the n,2n reactions don’t even start until incident neutron energy greater than 5MeV (which is only 5% of fission neutrons). I want to look into that some more.

    Regardless, 233U is very fissile and has low spontaneous neutron emission, so it doesn’t *need* to be tested in WMD. In other words, it’ll work. No doubt. Like others said, it might not be practical.

    This following site isn’t easy to use, but it is really useful.


  6. My reading of the technology is that the Plutonium is burned and the U233 is necessary for the start of the reaction. The U233 is burned in the process. Apparently the gamma ray intensity and the intense processing required to extract the refined product from the salts makes this a non starter for making bombs.

  7. Indonesia plans to put its nukes on the north coast, which is fairly safe from tsunamis. The same applies to the Japanese west coast. ( The proposed site is actually on Bangka, an island off Sumatra, on the opposite side from the plate boundary, and not too far from Singapore.)

  8. They won’t build it for a good while if they do. US $0.069 per kWh just isn’t a good enough price when its likely it will cost twice that for the first pair or four. Nobody wants to commit the billions to see if there’s a nice learning/price curve when they can simply wait and see if somebody else succeeds first and then follow.

  9. The 50s activities re: nuclear waste were eye wateringly bad – look at the Hanford site for instance.
    I don’t think they are at all relevant to current day practices, though. Look at all the hand wringing over discharging the relatively tiny (compared to that) radioactivity of the Fukushima water tanks into the ocean.

  10. You’re relying on your imagination for several concepts, thus you are incorrect about how boosting gas begins to fuse and role of external neutron source. The DT is not lit or ignited by the source. The boosting DT begins to fuse AFTER fission device heats it, with various radiations, to 10-200 KeV before hydrodynamic forces are able to disperse the device. The only active component in these weapons is high explosive… everything else is passive. The zipper is there to supply source neutrons since spontaneous neutron emission low in weapons grade. The ‘zipper’ provides the initial source reliably and repeatably. They used a alpha-Be source, ‘Urchin’, in the Fat Man too – and that had much higher neutron background.

    This quote from: https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/4594044 shows why the source is needed (Godiva 93%+ 235U ‘burst’ reactor).

    “Another characteristic of such reactors is the random variation in delay time, the interval between the attainment of maximum reactivity and the time of peak burst power. With no external neutron source, the mean delay time for Godiva II is ~3 sec…”

    If fuel is clean, then core will just sit there in assembled state, waiting for neutron source to rise through many decades. They use an external neutron source to seed it; it doesn’t ignite anything. Not enough neutrons when you need them with high quality weapons-grade material; source would be the last thing needed in bomb made of “piss poor” Pu.

  11. U233 was used in a couple of test explosions – the US tried a plutonium/233 core in the Teapot series, and the Indians set off a very low yield U233 one. I don’t think anyone is using them for actual operational weapons. U233 can be handled without too many precautions immediately after the uranium has been separated from any impurities, but the longer you wait, the more highly radioactive daughter products from the decay of U232 will build up. The same gamma rays will threaten, over time, to degrade the electronics of your expensive bomb. U235 and Pu239 have been shown to be far easier to weaponise.

  12. The proposed site is on Bangka Island, off the north coast of Sumatra, and not too far from Singapore. The plate boundary is on the other side of Sumatra, so it is safe from major tsunamis. The same is true for reactors on the west coast of Honshu.

  13. The point was that “waste” is mostly uranium, which makes the term nonsensical. “Irradiated fuel” is more descriptive.

  14. You will excuse me for not arguing about facts. You may research this matter yourself and get answers.
    Piss-poor refers to plutonium-239 with heavier plutonium isotopes. That is not a weapons-grade material because of pre-detonation and resulting extremely low yield, also thermal issues and so on. Tritium provides the balance of neutrons for the first steps in chain reaction, thus a piss-poor material hollow core after implosion can be only near-critical, the D-T gas inside it is also compressed, then a pulse neutron source provides the neutrons for ignition, which results in a boom instead of fizzle. Without tritium, it is first generation and pure critical mass, which only works with “weapons-grade” materials such as HEU and Pu-239. The whole idea of “non-proliferation” is based on false notion that people would follow the whole development path. History showed that notion is false. Every one of the new nuclear powers chose some unique way in their unique circumstances. If North Korea could do tritium-boosted plutonium device under all those sanctions, anyone with resolve and some money could do it. It is a 70-years old technology for goodness sake.

  15. Uranium-233 WAS used in weapons on multiple occasions, mostly in combination with other usual isotopes. Apparently, India made and tested a pure U-233 device.

  16. I would argue reposession of a rented full reactor wasn’t physically feasible before, so nobody really talked about it. Nobody rents reactors in reality (barring legal sophistry about holding companies and actual energy companies)(though there was that whole international nuclear fuel rod pooling thing where the fuel rods are managed and replaced by an external organization). A canned reactor designed for full retrieval as part of the fueling cycle from the outset changes things.

    If Indonesia doesn’t pay their reactor rental fees, then short of armed sovereign takeover of assets, they aren’t really in any position to refuse reactor retrieval due to nonpayment. Though as I said, the russian whole barge NPP would make repossession trivial as that requires effectively zero cooperation. It’s similar to those Powerships mobile powerplants, where if you don’t pay they can and will leave.


    Indonesia wanting the fuel/radioactive materials is a different story, but at that point it will be plainly obvious that it is of a nefarious nature, as that requires both extraction of the can from the host barge, then opening the can. That will cause enough of a freakout on it’s own.

  17. Oh, you have it backwards. “Keeping” a reactor full of irradiated fuel, with “nefarious” motive, only works when reprocessing factory is available. If not, you are stuck with a toxic item you cannot touch, use or dispose. And “nefarious” motive requires neutron flux, which is what you get inside an operating reactor. So if you want to make some plutonium and tritium for a “nefarious” project, you want to keep your reactor running, fuelled, supplied, serviced and out of news. But really, “nefarious” motives require Hanford-B for both plutonium and tritium. If you want to do it in style and with cash flow, it is heavy water and natural uranium (CANDU-like). Going into trouble of molten salt fuel with nefarious motive just does not make sense, as there are far better ways.

  18. You seem to miss the point. Many of the people who push for Thorium reactors do so because of the claim that Th can’t be used for nuclear weapons. But with the claim that U233 CAN be used for nuclear weapons*, and U233 is an integral part of the Th reaction process, then that so-called advantage disappears.

    The other big advantage claimed for Th is that it doesn’t need Uranium. But with Uranium supplies fairly abundant and cheap (unlike in the 1960s when the concern was invented) then this only makes sense for a couple of places like India that happen to have lots of Th but no U and don’t trust the international supply chains.

    *I, personally, can’t say if U233 is good for weapons or not. But this is what the argument is about.

  19. Repossession rights are not a real thing when it comes down to nuclear reactors sold to independent sovereign nations.

    If you still have good relationships with Indonesia, then they will continue the current business contracts and let you retrieve your reactors in exchange for a new one.

    If you don’t have good relationships with Indonesia and they have decided to take control of the irradiated fuel for nefarious reasons, then the fact that you have a bit of paper saying you’re still the owner is completely immaterial.

    There will be international pressure on them to not do so, but that pressure is concern for nuclear proliferation, and would be there regardless of the legal ownership.

  20. The ThorConIsle concept uses one piece reactor “cans” as removable modules, that contain the nuclear part completely, as they are proposing a full modular swap-and-retrieve lifecycle for the reactor rather than on-site refueling. Can refueling is done at a central site that is specialized to handle reactor refueling for the global deployed can fleet. Somewhat similar to how gas turbines are operated and maintained, with a swap fleet and depot maintenance, to reduce downtime.

    In that sense the Indonesians are leasing/renting cans effectively, and ThorCon is probably by definition the owner of the cans and can probably exercise repossession rights. Though extracting the cans requires a not insignificant amount of work as the main barge is largely fixed and the cans are in internal halls connected to power equipment, so you can’ just walk up like some repoman, cut the power cables, and tow the thing home like the russian NPP powerbarge.

  21. I concur. But there must be safeguards if we must satisfy–if that’s at all possible–the anti-proliferation crowd. And who isn’t against proliferation?

  22. Discount rate. If your discount rate is 5%, in about 14 years the “future value” halves. So 1 Thorcon reactor is 1/4 the value of one right now in 28 years. If you just factor that in to the cost, it still may be a cheaper way to do things in a relatively “disposable” way.

  23. The problem is the meaningless word “waste”. A typical thermal neutron light water reactor burns only U235 in fuel with about 3% of U235 in total uranium. The rest is U238, which is not fissionable by thermal neutrons. So when U235 is burnt to the lower limit, fuel turns to “waste”, while almost all uranium is still in there, plutonium is there too, and only U235 (not even all of it) turned into fission products. A fast reactor (with high energy neutron spectrum) can burn U238, but such reactors use different coolants, hence fuel has to be different – reprocessed, with uranium, plutonium and perhaps other heavy actinides extracted and made into new fuel. That is being done now with Russian sodium-cooled fast reactors, as an experiment. If such reuse is achieved, the “waste” is about 3% fission products, and not even all of that, as some of fission products are highly valuable materials. But to do that, much more than just a reactor is required: a radiochemical factory that takes used (“hot”) fuel apart, separates and recovers its elements, refines useful ones, and processes them into form suitable for fuel manufacturing – all that done by remote control in hot cells. Only a few countries achieved that.

  24. André Gsponer and JeanPierre Hurni, “ITER: The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor and the Nuclear Weapons Proliferation Implications of Thermonuclear Fusion Energy Systems”, 2008

  25. To be honest bruce, fissionable/fertile/fissile material is fungible and may be re-used in ANY other nuclear reactor.

    If re-manufacturing old/used/spent fuel into new fuel was cheaper than enriching clean ore into new fuel, then we would do that. Still, 99.5% of our reactors are burners; the breeders we’ve built have not been competitive with LWR.

  26. Generating U233 & then fissioning it is the whole point of any reactor that includes thorium? They will fission the U233 to generate heat which is used to generate electricity.

  27. In the past I have seen references to reactors that burned waste from previous generation reactors. Is this something that is not really viable?

  28. It would be better for everyone if Indonesians (and others) invested in Tokamak Energy’s fusion reactor. “Faster way to fusion”, you know. In the meanwhile they can install those solar panels and batteries built on a Gigafactory nearby. I don’t even mention Alam’s cycle gas power plants.

    All of that looks like trolling of Australians or whoever is their neighborhood…

  29. Other countries aren’t asking Indonesia for their opinions, but Indonesia’s opinions do seem to imply that maybe Thorcon will get to build their reactor there in the near future.

  30. “even piss-poor quality fissile material, such as low-enriched uranium or reactor-grade plutonium, can be used if several tens of grams of tritium is available”
    Could you please provide a link to your sources.

  31. I wonder how they intend to reconcile the long lifecycle of NPP with a short lifecycle of a carrier ship. After 30 years in seawater outside, and fission inside, that thing would be in a rather precarious state due to corrosion, and simultaneosly rather “hot” due to irradiation dose. Where will that ship end up? It will not be accepted even at Alang.

    Also on the matter of “proliferation”. Everyone and their brother parrot about proliferation without the first clue on what that means, or how that works. In order to make weapon development harder, restriction on only one material is essential: tritium. Not uranium, not plutonium, not any other fissile element. Anyone who knows anything about nuclear weapon technology knows that even piss-poor quality fissile material, such as low-enriched uranium or reactor-grade plutonium, can be used if several tens of grams of tritium is available for boosting it. Everything else is commonly available: deuterium can be made by anyone with a water tap, a power point and proper education, and lithium is just commonly available. Lithium deuteride (fusion fuel), not even isotopically pure lithium-6, is good for second stage of a weapon. In summary, a fairly large bang is achievable once tritium is made available. And in order to make tritium, one needs only a neutron flux, which is the basic capability of ANY fission reactor. Voilà, proiferation. If they chose thorium because it is “not proliferation”, well, they deserved it.

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