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Senior Staff Nuclear Engineer Exelon Generation

Muhammad is an experienced nuclear engineer with industry and research experience in nuclear thermal hydraulics, licensing, and instrumentation. Currently, he is working as a Senior Staff...

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  • Oct 5, 2020
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Salt-based nuclear reactors are taking on light water technology and may offer better performance.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 5, 2020

All the while generating only one cask of waste every four years. It’s easy to forget that a normal coal plant takes 10,000 tons of coal each day, or just under 15,000,000 tons in that same 4-year period.

This  is a great talking point for the nuclear waste discussion-- obviously not a direct one for one comparison in terms of people fearing nuclear waste, but the scale is definitely often lost in translation

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 5, 2020

Transatomic Power, a startup formed by MIT nuclear engineering grad students in 2009, embarked on a similar mission based on work at the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) at Oak Ridge in the 1960s-1970s.

The company folded five years later, after learning the hard way taking a 8MW reactor to gigawatt-scale was a lot more challenging than expected.

ThorCon has more engineering expertise and investment behind it - nonetheless, that a workable, full-scale prototype might be ready by 2026 is overly-optimisitc by at least a decade.

If we needed a radically-new design for safe nuclear reactors (we don't), the logical place to start would be the Integral Fast Reactor, which was "ready for prime time" when the project was killed in 1994. With all the benefits of molten salt but development essentially complete, the U.S. could be exporting them by 2026 (Russia's public-private consortium Rosatom already is).

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Oct 6, 2020

Molten salt, reactors and water have a long histoy of  operational and safety problems. The economics have also been problematic.

Further, there is not a critical need for carbon-free energy sources; the hysteria over the climate is ridiculous. What is needed is reasonably clean and reasonably affordable energy resources.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Oct 8, 2020

It still uses Uranium. It still produces waste. The U233 is not nice material. Having to replace a big portion of the unit every 4 years seems very wasteful . This is all still projected to be great and safe. I don't want to gamble and play this game. 

QUOTE= Every four years the entire primary loop is changed out, returned to a centralized recycling facility, decontaminated, disassembled, inspected, and refurbished. Upgrades can be introduced without significantly disrupting power generation

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 10, 2020

"Having to replace a big portion of the unit every 4 years seems very wasteful."

Agree, Jim, and more dangerous too. Standard PWR technology, using low-enriched U-235 fuel assemblies, has generated clean electricity in the U.S. for decades without a serious mishap. We're searching for a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Oct 12, 2020

Not so sure I would characterize U.S. nuclear operations as without problems. Three Mile Island suffered a melted core. The radiation impact on the public was minor but was an economic catastrophe for the utility. Therein lies the a key problem for very expensive capital investments that cannot safely and passively ride out major operational upsets (screwups).

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