Molten Salt Reactors in Highgate

September 25th, 2014

Posted by Laurence Watson

A view of Highgate by John Constable [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

A view of Highgate by John Constable [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

The Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution has been the cultural of heart of Highgate Village in north London since it was founded in 1839. It hosts lectures and events on literature, politics and… next-generation nuclear technology.

I was very pleased to represent The Alvin Weinberg Foundation and speak to members of the HLSI and the public about the possible futures for nuclear energy. This included an outline of our favoured design, the Molten Salt Reactor and its various benefits and differences with respect to current technology, as well as some discussion around thorium as a nuclear fuel.

The questions ranged from the more technical, such as how does one maintain criticality with a liquid fuel (answer – the same as with solid fuel, by the configuration of your fuel channels, or tubes such that there is enough nuclear material in one place to achieve criticality), to the amount of waste produced by a Molten Salt Reactor (answer – far less than with a conventional one!). As is often the case, many people by the end asked why, if all the benefits are true, we are not yet using these technologies?

The history of the MSR, the development of the nuclear industry, and subsequent dismantling of our research base provides some of the answers. The challenges to bring these concepts to market are large, but we have the capability to do it. The audience, I hope, were left with a new enthusiasm for a brighter future for nuclear energy and for the solutions needed to decarbonise our world as quickly as possible.

Comments

  1. Donald Kendall says:

    Has the thorium 232 nuclear cycle been developed to the point that it is considered a commercial success?
    Can you recommend one or more institutions to contact for the commercial utilization of the thorium cycle?
    I look forward to your reply.

    • Laurence Watson says:

      Thor Energy in Norway are half-way through trials of solid thorium fuel pellets in the Halden test reactor – their plan is to produce solid fuels for LWRs as a first step to get thorium into the mainstream.
      http://www.thorenergy.no/en.aspx

      Canadian company Candu have also looked at thorium MOX fuels in their heavy-water reactors.

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