Kirk Sorensen has been a leader in promoting thorium energy, molten salt nuclear reactors and the liquid fluoride thorium reactor. Kirk formed the company Flibe Energy back in 2011. Nextbigfuture spoke with Kirk frequently when Kirk blogged at Energy from Thorium.
Kirk presented his latest update on work towards a Molten Salt Reactor. A molten salt and thorium reactors would be far more compact than current nuclear reactors and some designs would achieve almost no nuclear waste. Kirk design would be a higher temperature which would enable about 45% energy efficiency in conversion to electricity instead of about 35% efficiency with current nuclear reactors. Smaller and vastly safer reactors would also enable easy usage of the heat for productive uses.
SOURCES- Gordon McDowell, Flibe Energy
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
27 thoughts on “Kirk Sorensen Updates His Molten Salt Reactor Company”
Perhaps. I have all sorts of objections to the "Fresh Look" plan of launched SPSs, especially LEO. I was forwarding opinion of Pop M. I take Criswell LSP as a reference plan, as it is easy to visualize and a small version is clearly needed for the Moon itself. There is some economic potential in selling 20-200 TWe, no? http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/pdfz/documents/2009/70070criswell/ndx_criswell.pdf.html
Even less economically feasible and even more impractical than hyperloop.
Biomass gives ~1W/m^2. It gives all the pollution of coal. It sucks and is nowhere enough.
Chemical/corrosion testing could probably be done with a much simpler or no nuclear license using depleted uranium; heat the salt and pump it around through the core and heat exchanger. Insulate it instead of cooling it and don't withdraw any heat from the heat exchanger. Make it a smaller scale model or only a representative part of the entire reactor. Won't capture neutron embrittlement and that type of thing but these things could be tested separately on alloys and likely already have in high flux research reactors.
Need to keep the salt around 620 Celsius. Too hot and corrosion happens too quickly.
Technical challenges? I think that these are mostly known.
Plenty of engineering challenges, to say nothing of licensing challenges.
Following some of the MSR presenters one of the companies is offering non radioactive MSR salt, basically salt with most of the chemically equivalent fission byproducts (no Pu obviously).
It is a good idea, validate chemistry on a salt mixture that is mostly identical to what you would expect to have in a reactor.
what are the remaining technical challanges? I know the salt is pretty corosive right?
FLiBe is basically working on perfecting 4th gen reactors. Yes its a PPT reactor, not a near term reactor. To me more of "what is possible" with MSRs.
Again the best approach would be to make a 10 metric ton test reactor that can be shipped to Mars. This thing has so many novelties and moving parts that I don't know how regulators would approve its operation on Earth.
Once you create a demand for biomass, this demand usually increases to a point where local biomass does not suffice or compete with other types of biomass, such as food crops. I have seen these schemes come into being AND fail in my country every single time in the last 4 decades precisely because of that reason. Every time they had to start importing biomass from abroad. When there is a price spike for whatever reason (storm at sea, lower price of competing energy plant) these businesses fail, and that is even without the negative impact they have on biodiversity. They always require the introduction of monocropping to guarantee a predictable production and burn rate, because 'mixing' never works. Beyond very local small scale schemes, they lead to environmental tragedy.
Recent Pop Mechanics, article about Musk solar power/battery theories, but ended up by saying do it in Space, with LEO sats, and power beaming. Article then referenced another Pop Mech article about the New Zealand power beaming.
I agree powersats are cool but who told him that?
Cool idea. But putting the processing plant on the tractor makes it much heavier. I suspect it would be useful only in light terrain where the forest is already being harvested (at least on N Europe where I live). But I'd love to be proven wrong. My dream forest machine would be autonomous, use legs, traverse l terrain and only thin the forest thus harvesting forest without ruining habitats for the fauna.
Nukes for the stormy season on Mars!
my comment? What's with the censorship?
Ha! Got me. Autocorrect can't catch that one.
role –> roll
Kirk! Damn he makes the most beautiful PowerPoint slides and he can sure talk it up. I used to love watching his videos 10+ years ago. Heck, he is the reason I found NBF. So much hope for the future … "burning the rocks" … "power too cheap to be metered!". Alas, we still wait …
I read once about a design of a truck that cuts its way into the forest and gasifies the wood it cuts with lasers and rids the solid waste as fertilizer back to the forest all at once. I don't see a reason not to continue the process and convert the gas to LNG on the truck altogether greatly simplifying the associated cost and transport of harvesting forest biomass.
Major mag just told Musk to go full blast with his solar plans, but with one improvement, LEO sats and power beaming instead of Earth bound panels. Nuke for heat, not grid.
In order to get the dead tree to the power plant you need to chop it down, truck it to the power plant, chop the tree, etc. Say 5-10 gallons of Diesel per tree?
Were I Mr. Sorenson I would focus on making the smallest possible test reactor possible to validate the chemistry and pitch the DOE and Musk to fly it to Mars for testing.
How much energy is required to get the biomass to a power plant? Make sure to subtract that from the energy produced.
Biomass is awful for many reasons.
They are moving to a 2 can configuration similar to terrestrial energy but they don’t swap the cans.
They alternate between cans and pump the salt fuel from one to the other so that they can replace the graphite moderator once the can not in use cools down.
Supercritical CO2 turbines as a mechanism to trap tritium is interesting.
What "role" do your eyes play?
The thing is, even if thorium molten salt reactor are going to be much safer and more efficient, which needs to be thoroughly analyzed, we have huge biomass resources in this country that are waiting to burn like a tinder box that can be used as a base generation supply and much more. If we are not going to burn them controllably, we have seen nothing yet in terms of fire storms.
Whenever the rotary dial telephone to iPhone comparison is put on slides, I immediately role my eyes.
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