August 20, 2013

Molten Salt Reactor Research review and getting to an Integral Molten Salt Reactor demo reactor in 8 years

David LeBlanc of Terrestrial Energy makes a new presentation at the Thorium Energy Alliance Conference 2013.

He compares molten salt reactors.
He repeats that thorium vs uranium is not that important.

Many Design choices are possible.
* burner vs breeder reactors.
* Single fluid vs two fluid.
* Fast spectrum vs thermal.
* Denatured and not.

Le Blanc wants to make choices that will be approved faster and will be cheaper to develop
Every effort should be made to simplify and remove technological hurdles as well as proliferation and regulatory “whatifs”

LeBlanc argues that denatured single fluid thermal spectrum molten salt reactor is the fastest reactor possible for certification, and still offers many benefits over solid fuel reactors.

They use more heat exchanger volume to achieve higher energy density.
Oilsand developers can fund molten salt reactor development out of their pocket change.
One year for the detailed predesign exploration for the IMSR (integral molten salt reactor)
8 years to get the demo IMSR.

Summary of Current World Efforts
• Funded U.S. efforts now on “salt cooled,solid fueled” options or FHR (Fluoride Salt,High Temperature Reactor). Many view as a compromise technology
• European efforts on Fast Spectrum, 1 and½Fluid design. Many challenges, only modest funding
• China has a major 500M$ program with hundreds of staff and goal of first FHR Pebble Bed test reactor by 2017 and a true Molten Salt “fueled” reactor a few years later
• India actually was quite involved in the 1970s, large resurgent interest
– Recent Molten Salt conference eye opening experience,
• Several MSR StartUp firms in North America and worldwide

Breeder vs Burner?
• Breeder
– Needs fissile to start(U233,U235, Pu) but afterwards makes own fuel
– With MSRs this is traditionally the Thorium to U233 cycle
– Requires processing of the salt to continuously remove fission products
– Deemed a priority in the 1950s and 60s due to a mistaken belief in a severe shortage of uranium

• Burner(i.e. converter)
– Needs annual fissile makeup
– Can skip fuel processing
– Less R&D needed
– Core design greatly simplified

Denatured Molten Salt Reactor (DMSR) Burner Reactor

Oak Ridge`s 1000 MWe 30 Year Once Through Design (1980)
• Developed to maximize anti‐proliferation
• Startup with LEU(20% 235U) + Th or simply less than 5% LEU
• No salt processing, just add small amounts of LEU annually
• Low power density core gives 30 year lifetime for graphite (8mx 8m)
• Only about 1/6 th the uranium needs of LWR
• Makeup Fuel cost only 0.1 cents/kWh
• Better reactivity coefficients than MSBR
• Easily incorporates spent LWR fuel as a fuel source

Uranium is not the enemy…
• Only “cheap” uranium is in limited supply
– 500$/kg assures virtually unlimited supply
– Still only 0.2 cents/kWh for “Burner” DMSR
• A few million tonnes U ore per year(51 kt Uat world ave 3% ore grade)
• Compared to a few Gt(billion tonnes) iron and copper ore and 7Gt of coal
• If uranium is used in DMSR designs, 100%of world’s electricity (2500GWe) without increasing current
mining or enrichment
• Even if we needed to go to very low grade ore (0.03%) still only 200 Mt annual ore (most is now insitu recovery any how) Denatured Molten

Not So Fast…Many significant challenges
• Hastelloy N has limited lifetime when exposed to neutrons, must thus greatly limit flux reaching vessel
• Must design to ease replacement of components and graphite
• Opening the reactor to replace graphite and/or service heat exchangers NOT TRIVIAL
– Even traces of volatile fission products will mean large regulatory challenges
– Always a big debate at ORNL: Low power density and keep things shut for good favored by many but drives up cost
• Age old issue of interesting manufactures without the “razor blade” of long term fuel fabrication contracts

Canadian Focal Point?
• Strong Nuclear Community going idle as “advanced” CANDU work halted
• University sector and Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories very interested
• CNSC far less “inertia” than NRC and is very open to evaluating Small Reactor designs in Canada
• Oil Sands developers could fund entire IMSR development from pocket change
– When affordable oil is gone,they’d still have a piece of the energy pie

Terrestrial Energy Inc.
• Recently founded by core group with diverse financial and entrepreneurial expertise including Oil Sands insiders all drawn to MSR’s potential
• My job, with the help of gathered talent,to further refine and consolidate design for the most Capex and R&D efficient DMSR,the patent pending IMSR
• Their job,to attract the modest investment and industrial partners needed to get to the conceptual blueprint stage
• Followed by the more challenging stage of funding a demonstration reactor
• As IP and patents are disclosed, I hope to make their job a lot easier

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