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Offline Marlin

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The Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor: Why Didn't This Happen (and why is now the right time?)

Offline bramwell

Re: The Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor: Why Didn't This Happen
« Reply #1 on: Apr 07, 2015, 11:39 »
Funding became big issue in doing that project.


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Re: The Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor: Why Didn't This Happen
« Reply #2 on: Apr 08, 2015, 06:43 »
Funding was the symptom.  The real reason was that it didn't fit in with the grand idea(s) of the day so it wasn't funded.  There are several references to Rickover in this talk but they do the Admiral a disservice.  One of Rickover's big complaints was that he couldn't get funding for exploring different solutions to the nuclear propulsion issue.  As such, I think the Admiral would have supported the MSR concept for power generation as shown by his end run on congress with the Shippingport thorium "converter" reactor.

Despite the conditions in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (as amended), I always suspected that one of the reasons that the government pushed both light-water and breeder technologies was to have a supply of plutonium for military uses.  Who would notice a missing kilogram or two every now and then?


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Re: The Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor: Why Didn't This Happen
« Reply #3 on: Apr 08, 2015, 07:22 »
The biggest hurdles to developing Thorium reactor technology is all about the massive amounts of capital that must be invested in order to develop a commercial reactor.  Much of the work for developing this reactor was performed by the DOE in their pursuit of the Integral Fast Reactor.  It was a sad day in history back in 1994 when funding for this reactor design was cut off just as they were in the final stages of the design process.  These molten salt reactors (MSR) can tolerate nasty casualties that a Light Water Reactor would have no hope of surviving long term.  These MSR also have the ability to provide our species with millions of years of energy while we figure out what the next source of energy will be.

Thorium Fueled Reactors are the future energy source for humanity.  All major advancements made by our species required new and improved sources of energy.  I wish we could know the name of that bipedal hominid that figured out how to make fire because they are the person that launched our ascent to becoming the most powerful species to inhabit the earth in terms of the amount of energy that we have under our control.

Light Water reactors (LWR) are just not good enough to be the only answer.  They use their neutrons inefficiently because their neutron spectrum is not hard enough.  Unlike the LWR of today, Liquid Metal Fast reactors make better use of those extra neutrons  by burning Pu-239 and then using the extra neutrons for seeding a blanket of Th or U238 for making the fuels of future reactors.  The one good thing that the LWRs of today have given us is plenty of valuable material to reprocess into fuel for these advance reactor designs.  Ironically the State of Nevada is making a very good call about our spent waste but for the wrong reasons.  The MSR can offer a solution for both breeding and burning U-235/233 and Th 232 with a thermal design. 

I can see a possible synergy between LWR technology with the new Small Modular Reactors (SMR) and these molten salt breeders.  Why not develop these SMR for broad use and then take their old fuel to be burned in larger power plants with molten salt breeders?  The LWR SMR would then be like a battery that you use once for 5 years, send it back to the factory to be refurbished and refueled.  They would be perfect for large ships traversing the oceans or remote areas requiring power.  The larger molten salt reactors would then both provide our major sources of electrical power and the fuels to run the smaller SMR.
« Last Edit: Apr 08, 2015, 07:45 by Nutty Neutron »


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