Friday, April 20, 2012

Why Molton Salt Reactors will Probably Cost a lot Less

There are good reasons why the MSR could shave a lot off the capital costesys of nuclear power. First it is more compact than the the size 0f nuclear cores. in addition the MSR does not require a massive steel pressure vessel. Nor does it require a large outer shell intended to prevent steam explosions from leading to Fission Product escape, and to prevent terrorist pilots from damaging the nuclear cost. MSRs operate at one atmosphere pressure, and contain no water, so that there can be no question of a steam explosion. The MSR will not be subject to aircraft attack, if it is housed underground. There are several different ways to accomplish this.

Second, the MSR is simply uses less material, has fewer parts, and the parts would cost less to assemble.

MSRs can be assembled in factories, or at assembly sites from a small number of factory built parts.

Thirdly parts modules, or whole reactors can be transported by truck, rail or barges.

Fourth, Molten Salt Reactors are very efficient compared to LWRs and every IFRs.

Fifthly MSR siting can be underground. In fact a satisfactory site may not require little to any excavation. For example, under the city of Detroit is an old salt mine. The mine is very large and it contains long tunnels, and large chambers. MSRs can be located in such mines, as well as other suitable mines as well. Thus the cost of housing many MSR may be far less than the cost of housing a LWR.

Sixtly the upfront interest charge with MSR technology may be far lower than that of a LWR. LWRs take a long time to build. Debt accumulated during the building process carries with it, interest charges that begins when the money is borrowed. Final construction of MSRs factory built MSRs may only require a few months rather than years. Thus most of the upfront interest related costs are related to the building time. If the building time is short, there will be little upfront interest.

Seventh MSR material costs may vary greatly from reactor to reactor. Conventional MSRs use a special and expensive nickel alloy, that has been specifically designed to cope with high heat and high levels of neutron radiation. Steel can perform well in a high neutron environments. However, Stainless steel will corrode if it comes into contact with Molten Salts. There are steels that will not corrode in a molten salt environment. They can be safely used up to 600 C, and may be used in a reactor's core. Some of these steels can be used in MSRs to save cost.

Appropriate salts may be very expensive, while other useful salts may may be very cheap. FiIBe is usually viewed as the best possible Salt combination for the MSR. but it is very expensive. David LeBlanc keeps reminding us that there are good Salt, although not quite as good as FLiBe, that are much less expensive. If we want a really cheep reactor a

Thus the case for low cost MSR is plausible There are many routs to lowering reactor costs through MSR technology. Many of those routs are not available to LWRs.


Anonymous said...


Adding to the low cost of LFTR/MSR scenario is finding cheaper Nickel. Start with U238-235 Gaseous Diffusion enrichment Plants at Oak Ridge Tn. and in Kentucky. Ken Sorenson commented in his LFTR Plan the reclamation of Flourine if these plants are decommissioned and replaced with Centrifugal enrichment plants. The Gaseous Diffusion Plants are expensive to operateThe installed base of these same plants have a lot of Nickel thru out (Plumbing,Pumps and Diffusion Screen/Filters). The Nickel can be reclaimed. If my memory is correct there may be a lot of Nickel Plating in use at these plant, I'm not sure. Maybe the the Yucca Mountain storage facility funds can be diverted to a Chloride Fast MSR Plutonium/Actinide waste burner.

Charles Barton said...

Anon, both closed Gaseous Diffusion Plants, have been stripped of their nickel. K-25 is in the final stages of its dissembly. The answer to the High cost of Nuckel problem is to use cheaper materials, and accept what ever limitations they place on reactor designers.

Anonymous said...

I have come to think that maybe a fast spectrum MSR would be the best initial and perhaps longterm approach. Although less further along developmentally I think they would have advantages in cost and scaling.
The S-Prism and pyro-processing seem to be the next most probable new nuclear tech to see commercial deployment. Fast spectrum MSRs would be directly competitive and offer significant advantages and could likely be coupled with pyro-processing in a limited ad-hoc way to lower costs and risk.

Nathan2go said...

Another cost advantages that MSRs will have over LWR is for the specific case when reprocessing is added. Society might decide that putting TRU in the waste stream is no longer desirable. Reprocessing is much cheaper for the DMSR than for LWRs because there is no re-fabrication requirement, and even the fast reactor for incineration is not required. Plus, the mass of material that must be reprocessed per GW-year of power output is much less too (5 vs 20 tons/ year).


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