With the perceived fear of nuclear, how are we ever going to assure the general public that nuclear power is the direction that our long term energy requirements should be taking and not more off shore drilling in the Atlantic? I have previously shared with you the tremendous value in medical by-products from splitting the atom in a nuclear reactor. God, or some atomic reactor in space gave us an abundance of raw material to leverage for a better life. It is up to us to do the right thing and produce the necessary resources to enhance humanity.
One of those raw materials is salt. Not only do we have radiations all around us, but we also have salt everywhere. I am not just talking about that table salt you are familiar with but industrial salts. Various salts have many industrial uses and come in many flavors, mostly salty, but the one characteristic of fluoride salts is its ability to retain and transfer a tremendous amount of heat. The only thing we need to understand is that molten salt is a liquid and can be used inside the core of a nuclear reactor to moderate the million trillion fission reactions each second and transfer the extreme heat safely to a power conversion system that produces electricity.
There needs to be a way to reduce (not get rid of) the burning of fossil fuels, which has been determined to pollute the atmosphere and oceans with excessive carbon dioxide (CO2) in recent years. Well, there already is a solution and it is called nuclear energy. However, the word nuclear has been given an incorrect stigma of being something evil when in fact it is just the opposite. Most of you have heard of a MRI device used in medical diagnosis. Well, it used to be a NMRI device, where the ‘N’ stood for nuclear. The omission of the word nuclear in public use has hurt humanity more than the physical pollutants of burning fossil fuels.
The initial designs of nuclear reactors were based on solid fuel rods and water cooling. This proved to be quite a challenge to manage the reaction of splitting atoms inside a reactor device. However, that challenge was met successfully, but at a very high cost for each nuclear power plant being built. Like all commercial products, they either evolve or they are replace with better technology (most of the time). Today’s light water reactor (LWR) have evolve as far as we need to take them and it is time to replace that energy source with superior technology based on molten salts for nuclear fuel moderations and heat transfer.
Molten salt reactors form a family of advanced nuclear reactors that anyone interested in sustainable development needs to know more about. They have the potential to deliver cheap, safe, clean energy for tens of thousands of years, maybe even hundreds of millions of years. So now the words finite and renewable are not so important in defining our energy policies. Molten salt can possibly solve the grid storage issue also with a kind of three-layer-cake battery, with molten salt sandwiched between two liquid metals.
Molten salt reactors are inherently safe based on physics, not human intervention. There’s no need to pressurize them with superheated water, eliminating a possible hydrogen explosion. There’s no risk of melt-down because the core is already melted. They’re able to create their own fuel (breeder) but could and should initially consume the unused fuel from the LWR’s. Their liquid core is very hot: 650 to 800 or even 1000 degrees Celsius, depending on the type of molten salt reactor. This makes them suitable for delivering high efficiency electricity production, and also for industrial heat uses like desalination of saline water, my topic in next week’s column.
Bonus article that details the molten salt reactor: http://www.daretothink.org/intro/slightly-longer-introduction-on-molten-salt-reactors/
Canadian MSR Company: http://terrestrialenergy.com/
United States MSR Company: http://flibe-energy.com/
Thorium MSR video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6BXvw6mxtw