Posted by David Martin

By Dan Mason, from Flickr

Photo by Dan Mason from Flickr

In an exciting development, a bid to study next-gen Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) has won funding from the Technology Strategy Board, the UK government’s strategic innovation agency. MSRs could be a game-changing way of producing clean electricity, so this is great news for all who support the revival of clean energy R&D to tackle climate change.

The bid was led by the indefatigable Jasper Tomlinson and Professor Trevor Griffiths. In a first for the UK, the project will produce a rigorous desk- and computer-based study of the feasibility of a pilot-scale MSR, based on the latest science.

The TSB’s decision is welcome. This project marks another step in the revitalization of the UK’s next-gen nuclear R&D — although it goes without saying that much more needs to be done.

That said, it is further confirmation that MSRs are no longer seen as “pie in the sky” technology. As R&D gains momentum worldwide – from startups like Transatomic Power and Bill Gate’s Terrapower to China’s research efforts — MSRs are becoming increasingly serious contenders. As the TSB has recognised, the potential prize of safer, cheaper, more-efficient low carbon energy is too attractive to pass up.

We hope that the TSB’s decision is just the first phase of a well-resourced programme of UK MSR research.

We will post further details as we hear them. Keep an eye on the Weinberg’s blog for further updates and an interview with the winners themselves…

Congratulations to all involved in the bid!


  1. James Arathoon says:

    Congratulations to Jasper and Trevor on receiving the TSB funding support, they have been looking for funding for their feasibility study proposal for many years now.

    We saw at a recent meeting on the 19th May 2014 on the topic of Molten Salt Reactors (organised by Atkins in Warrington) that there are now a lot of younger engineers willing to seriously discuss and think about the viability and potential future of molten salt based nuclear reactors. Trevor Griffiths spoke briefly to the audience after the main talk and those who attended will now know that he worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratories on molten salt chemistry in the early 70’s and in the course of that work met with Alvin Weinberg – the person this foundation is named after.

    Change is now in the air at last in the UK, thanks in large part to the Alvin Weinberg Foundation. There will be two new PhD’s studying molten salt reactors (neutronics and materials) at Manchester University appointed soon. Other PhD’s have been working for some years now at UCL in regards to nuclear related molten salt chemistry. Ian Scott has recently founded a UK based molten salt reactor development start-up, Moltex Energy LLP. Terrestrial Energy of Canada has this year appointed a VP for UK business development and so on… Better links between our universities and the Chinese Molten Salt and High Temperature Gas Reactor programmes may be on the cards soon…

    The real hard work begins now…

  2. Jim says:

    Isn’t Bill Gate’s Terrapower trying to build a travelling wave reactor rather than a molten salt reactor?

  3. Robin Gould says:

    Congratulations to all of the Weinberg Foundation team, for vigerously pursuing our need to phase out fossil fuel burning and reverse global warming. An energy revolution – but of course. While academic interest is now steadily increasing, if UK plc is not to be left behind in this race then the general public and the ‘flat earth’ people have to know about about such good news. Why? because most people still ask me “what is Thorium?” when raising the subject and this is a terrible reflection upon our media sources.

  4. James Arathoon says:

    “Molten Salt Reactors enjoy 15 minutes of fame”

    Condescending title to a relatively positive article. We should not forget that there are a lot of “nuclear experts” out there (not normally the nuclear engineers I speak to) deeply wedded to the extremely inefficient and expensive technologies of the past.

    If nuclear experts look around then they will see that innovation can indeed take place in heavily regulated industries as shown by the example of the aerospace industry. In the UK we have to contend with a governing class external to the nuclear regulators that hinder more than help in terms of developing a climate of new nuclear innovation here in the UK. Here are some of the hindrances currently in operation or planned…

    – Instead of encouraging energy intensive industries to become active and enthusiastic customers for factory built Generation IV nuclear reactors and SMR’s the energy intensive companies are given publicly energy welfare payments instead, which immediately acts to discourage them from innovating to find more cost effective forms of energy generation.

    – Instead of welcoming Chinese Engineers, Businessmen and Tourists, the UK government currently imposes VISA restrictions to put the Chinese off from doing deals and investing here in the UK. [As a by-product this policy reduces the need for the existing Third Generation UK nuclear industry to innovate into efficient and cost effective distributive manufacturing techniques widely used in the aerospace industry. (For example if the Chinese order 8 new AP-1000’s and we order 9, then looking for ways of integrating supply chains and regulation across the two countries would be one way of bring down reactor construction costs for both countries – hopefully to the target price of £77 per MWh (2014 prices) here in the UK)]

    – In setting up a new organisation called the Nuclear Innovation Research Office (NIRO) the UK government gave it such a small annual budget (around £400,000 per year) that it is worse than useless. (One director, one secretary and one third generation only nuclear techy; with no one appointed so far with any interest or knowledge of Generation IV nuclear technologies, including molten salt reactors, because the money has run out).

    – Continuing with the pretence that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) as currently managed is fit for purpose, especially if we wish as a country to build up our nuclear industry again and provide Generation IV nuclear energy generation product and service offerings to the worldwide market. For example, we need to drastically reduce spent fuel waste volumes, particular the longer lived transuranics (plutonium, americium, curium etc) so nuclear waste transmutation techniques become much more economic than the highly unpopular long term geological disposal of unpartitioned waste that the NDA continually tries to develop and sell to an unwilling UK public.

    If the UK government becomes responsive to the needs and wants of its citizens, instead of the solely defending the interests of inefficient, unpopular and outdated business models it often represents, then the future of molten salt reactor and high temperature gas reactor industries in the UK is bright, and certainly destined for more than just 15 minutes of fame.

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