Indonesia Could Justify Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Development to Get a Nuclear Navy

In July, 2020, ThorCon and Indonesia’s Defense Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to study developing a 50 MW thorium molten salt reactor (TMSR) for either power generation or marine vehicle propulsion.

Indonesia could justify additional costs for a modular molten salt nuclear reactor to get a nuclear navy. Nuclear reactors for a nuclear navy could be three times or five times more expensive as the same size reactor for commercial energy generation.

Indonesia is working towards shipyard-produced thorium/uranium fueled power plants generating electricity cheaper than coal. Thorcon will provide technical advice for building 50 MW thorium fueled plants. ThorCon is a graphite-moderated thermal spectrum molten salt reactor.

Thorcon design phase for its 500MW reactor has been nearly completed, computationally modeled, expressed in 2D drawings and 3D CAD models, and shared with potential suppliers. The company will build a pre-fission test facility (PTF) at full scale.

Thorcon believes the 50MW project with Indonesia should make significant progress by 2025.

SOURCES- Neutron Bytes, NEI Magazine, Thorcon
Written By Brian Wang,

24 thoughts on “Indonesia Could Justify Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Development to Get a Nuclear Navy”

  1. I'm at a loss to see what is undergoing the corresponding reduction. Is it because the salts are solid, redox equilibration is prevented. Then radiation drives local disproportionation energetically uphill?
    I assume if you saw a reliable technical fix you would not highlight this point. Please know that I don't want to make work for you, so only answer if you (or an MSR person) feels like it.

  2. Thanks for your detail response.

    I just think we need a very simple reactor that doesn't need a complex system to keep it from failing because a complex system will fail.

    A clean sheet approach that depends more on physics and less on engineering. Designed to be cheap and safe and to run for twenty to thirty years without refueling. If we can't figure out something, I don't think nuclear power will ever be useful.

  3. Wikipedia article – They were supposed to be kept above the 125C freezing point while in port by superheated steam, sometimes on another ship. But ..' The facilities completely broke down early in the 1980s and since then the reactors of all operational Alfas were kept constantly running. While the BM-40A reactors are able to work for many years without stopping, they were not specifically designed for such treatment and any serious reactor maintenance became impossible. This led to a number of failures, including coolant leaks and one reactor broken down and frozen while at sea. However, constantly running the reactors proved better than relying on the coastal facilities. Four vessels were decommissioned due to freezing of the coolant…' They couldn't be refuelled, either, and replacing a reactor would mean cutting through the titanium pressure hull, a very tricky job. You couldn't just get in there with a blowtorch to melt the lead, it's too radioactive – plus irradiating bismuth produces polonium 210, the isotope the Russians poisoned Litvinenko with. ( The coolant was actually about a 50/50 mix of lead and bismuth, the element one up from lead on the periodic table. Pb/Bi eutectic has a freezing point 200C lower than pure lead, which makes life a bit simpler.)

  4. China and India are far more relevant players in nuclear power development than the US at this point, given the US 'go slow/backward' nuclear power policies.

  5. So how many light water reactors have been commissioned during your career ? Don't be surprised if in a decade, the climate is showing that we're leaving the status quo far behind, and people are waking up to what wind and solar can't do.

  6. The guys who mothballed the MSRE didn't think the hiatus in development was going to last thirty years. If they had, they would have processed the fissile out much earlier, there wouldn't have been a slow fluorine gas buildup, and handling would have been much easier. Used salt is supposed to go back into another reactor, not sit indefinitely. Like the MSRE, some of the proposed molten salt reactors need very highly enriched lithium 7 ( about 99.995 %), so not reusing it is wasteful.

  7. They stopped using them, because although super compact and powerful, they were just too expensive. For one thing, if they ever let them cool down, they turned into a lead brick.

  8. By then they'll be up to animated videos on tiktok.

    Powerpoint is SO last century. It assumes the audience will bother to read…

  9. If you have two nuclear power plant technologies, and one has “hundreds of millions of dollars” of cleanup costs that the other technology does not have, then I'd say that it IS an argument against the project.

    How else would you judge commercial power plant projects?

  10. Unlikely, but not impossible. Making TRISO fuel over standard UO2 adds cost, several more unit operations than just UO2. Add in that TRISO fuel is less power dense for the same enrichment, meaning if you want more power density, you will need to much higher enrichments (more cost), makes TRISO fuel much more of an academic topic for the time being. Enriching nitrogen on a commercial scale and economically has not yet been demonstrated. Then there's also all the yet unexplored potential safety issues… We have explored the LWR side of safety issues quite well, for example, if a fuel rod leaks, UO2 is super stable in water, how about triso fuel embedded in nuclear graphite if exposed to sea water? Wonder if there is a salt water incursion would there be an increase reactivity compared to compressed N-15?

  11. Is the fact that it cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” supposed to be an argument against the project? Is “creating unsafe conditions” a reason to fear risk and go slow? It’s not like going slow doesn’t create existential risks for all of humanity and the biosphere of earth. It’s always about balancing risks on both sides. The risks of nuclear or going fast on nuclear are utterly trivial compared to the risks of not doing so.

  12. Starship going up in a huge cloud of flames and everybody at SpaceX cheering wildly is exactly what rapid progress in technology looks like.

  13. It’s what you get with technologies like Nuclear or Spaceflight (before SpaceX) where the decision makers are so fearful of failure they can’t/won’t just build stuff and iteratively improve it. Starship vs SLS. Decade long technology timelines can only be the result of intense institutional fear of failure.

  14. You'd probably also need a new advanced non steam turbine system if you want nuclear boats cheap enough that you can have a fully nuclear navy, not just reactors on few hyper expensive captial ships (carriers + large subs). Teh steam turbine system can be quite massive and complicated to maintain I believe. Supercritical C02 turbines have been proposed for some time now, but I'm not sure where their development has got to?

    Rod Adams (of Atomic Insights) talks about Heavy Nitrogen 15 in closed brayton direct cycle turbines (with the N15 going through a pebble bed core). Could (non N15) closed brayton cycle turbines be used with a molten salt reactor if Supercritical C02 turbines are still some way off availability?

  15. The project is expected to have made considerable progress by 2025. Progress. Not build a trial reactor, just made progress. I.e. more power-point presentations by 2025.

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