Economics and Finance of Molten Salt Reactors

MSR (Molten Salt Reactor) is a fast or thermal reactor technology cooled by molten salts in the liquid phase and moderated, in most cases, by the graphite. In this technology, the fuel can be in either liquid or solid form.

Economics of Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors

Progress in Nuclear Energy. Volume 129, November 202. Economics and Finance of Molten Salt Reactors

Moir and other previous analysis reaches the following two main results:
– LCOE of a 1000 MWe MSR (20% enriched): $36.5/MWh;
– LCOE of a 1000 MWe MSR is 7% lower than an equal size PWR and 9% lower than an equal size coal plant.

However, the analysis does not consider the impact on the cost of several items such as safety, licensing, and environmental standard.

Terrestrial Energy’s 195 MWe IMSR uses graphite as moderator and molten salts as coolant. Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR is envisaged to adopt modular construction. The 195 MWe IMSR power plant plan is for 4 year construction timeline and an upfront investment of less than $1 Billion. IMSRs could dispatch power at under $50/MWh.

The ThorCon is a 250 MWe scaled-up version of the Oak Ridge MSR Experiment which will use graphite as moderator and a mixture of sodium and beryllium fluoride salts as coolant. Thorcon NPP drawing presents two 250 MWe power modules. They estimation $800–1000/kWe and an electricity generation cost of $30/MWh for a 500 MWe ThorCon NPP. This would drop significantly with a mass production system using shipyards for construction.

Moltex Energy’s SSRs are modular with a size flexible from 150 MWe to 1200 MWe. Moltex Energy commissioned a cost estimation from Atkins Ltd (nuclear engineering company), which estimated a cost to build a NOAK 1 GWe SSR of $2083/kWe. The estimated cost range was $1339-3703/kWe (Energy Economist, 2015). Moltex estimates capital cost of 1 GWe SRR is estimated at $1950/kWe and the LCOE at $44.64/MWh.

The Elysium’s MCSFR is a size-flexible (50–1200 MWe) MSR will use Chloride based Fuel Salt as coolant. There is no detailed cost analysis for this reactor.

SOURCES – Economics and Finance of Molten Salt Reactors
Written By Brian Wang.

6 thoughts on “Economics and Finance of Molten Salt Reactors”

  1. I think the key to making this idea practical will be using a CD-changer style carousel for installing reactor modules. You want to keep some modules online and pumping out power while you change out the spent modules.

    All done while maintaining safety of course, and with a local and practical means of recycling the nuclear waste from the old modules.
    Automate as much as possible so you don't need someone with a doctorate in nuclear science operating the crane.

  2. Agreed – there have been technological advancements in the battery department. However, infrastructure like charging stations everywhere is what made EV useful in peoples minds. Range anxiety etc.
    Short daily city driving, which is the majority of use cases, has been technically possible for a very long time.

    Going back to nuclear plants, if I were an energy minister responsible for procuring power production for the next decade, could I possibly consider MSR even if there were a couple alternatives on the shelf?
    Where can I buy fuel and where can I process the spent fuel?
    There will still be waste, even if it's more short lived, long enough to be a problem.

    I may have to build that infrastructure myself. I guess someone will eventually sell me the fuel because that's easy "fire and forget" money. No one wants to deal with spent fuel. If there was a holistic cost effective solution to the entire thing, new nuclear would grow quickly.

  3. Those fuel pellet bundles in cooling pools represent decades of operation in a MSR, with much better than the .05 fuel burn of a LWR.

  4. To go off on an unwanted tangent, it's unfair to the car industry to say that EVs were just lacking someone to try scaling up battery production.

    For almost all that time, the basic chemistry to give us sufficient energy density just wasn't there. And even once some suitable chemistries WERE in the labs, they were too unstable to put in a consumer product until we were able to have a little computer chip sitting on each cell monitoring and controlling voltage, temperature, current, recharging current etc. to make sure they were all kept under control.

    Even the basic power control unit, required to let you have an accelerator with more finesse than ON/OFF, was still a very expensive, delicate and/or inefficient thing until high power semiconductor power electronics became cheap.

  5. No reprocessing. Build a Thorium breeder reactor that can burn most of its own waste and chemically process or leach out the rest.

  6. There seems to be no shortage of interesting reactor designs.
    Is there any practical work being done to establish the infrastructure needed to close the fuel cycle for these plants? One can't have "mass production" of reactors unless they are backed up by cost efficient fuel production and waste product processing.
    A bit like the EV car industry that was paralyzed for a century because there was no Tesla that scaled up battery production and backing infrastructure.

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