Radiation damage to core parts is also a potential problem for the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). This problem would be most acute, were the LFTR used in a base power generation role like LWRs. But in a grid with a high level of nuclear penetration, rhe reach of nuclear power, and in particular the use of LFTRs may extend far beyond the base load role of current technologies. Indeed if LFTRs are confronted with limited core life, it would be in the interest of LFTR owner/operators to utilize the limited LFTR core life to maximize profits. That would mean limiting LFTR operations to periods when electrical generation receives the most favorable rate of return. Given limited core lifetimes, It would not be rational to sacrifice limited core life, when electrical generation pays only a small return.
Light Water Reactors are capable of operating 90% of the time over a period of 60 years without major core rebuilding. High initial capital investment is repaid by continuous operation year in and year out. In contrast, continuous operations with lower rates of return would not be rational for LFTRs with limited core lives.
Thus LFTRs may be dedicated to none base load functions on the grid and profitably so. LFTRs might perform a variety of part time and part load assignments, including mid load 16/7 and 16/5 power generations, peak load generation and and load balancing. The LFTR offers ideal candidacy for spinning reserve, since it can produce maximum power almost immediately from a full stopped operational mode, something no other electrical generation technology can perform. In addition to operating part time, LFTRs can be normally operated at partial power, since operating at partial power is another way to increase core life. The presence of numerous LFTRs, each operating at say 50% of maximum capacity offers a significant cushion against sudden grid shutdown. The added power demand will quickly pull the LFTR into full power operating mode. LFTR operators wold be compensated for a shorter core life due to maximum power operations, by increased compensation for back up power.
LFTR designers will also have to think of LFTR designs for non-base load operations. Maximum efficiency may not be as desirable as low capital cost and reliability in the face of rapidly changing electrical demands.