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Molten Salt Reactor (MSR)

The MSR is distinguished by its core in which the fuel is dissolved in molten fluoride salt. The technology was first studied more than 50 years ago. Modern interest is on fast reactor concepts as a long term alternative to solid-fuelled fast neutrons reactors. The onsite fuel reprocessing unit using pyrochemistry allows breeding plutonium or uranium-233 from thorium. R&D progresses toward resolving feasibility issues and assessing safety and performance of the design concepts. Key feasibility issues focus on a dedicated safety approach and the development of salt redox potential measurement and control tools in order to limit corrosion rate of structural materials. Further work on the batch-wise online salt processing is required. Much work is needed on molten salt technology and related equipments.

MSR 02-GA50807-02b 350

Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) technology was partly developed, including two demonstration reactors, in the 1950s and 1960s in the USA (Oak Ridge National Laboratory). The demonstration MSRs were thermal-neutron-spectrum graphite-moderated concepts. Since 2005, R&D has focused on the development of fast-spectrum MSR concepts (MSFR) combining the generic assets of fast neutron reactors (extended resource utilization, waste minimization) with those relating to molten salt fluorides as fluid fuel and coolant (low pressure and high boiling temperature, optical transparency) .

In contrast to most other molten salt reactors previously studied, the MSFR does not include any solid moderator (usually graphite) in the core. This design choice is motivated by the study of parameters such as feedback coefficient, breeding ratio, graphite lifespan and 233U initial inventory. MSFR exhibit large negative temperature and void reactivity coefficients, a unique safety characteristic not found in solid-fuel fast reactors.

Compared with solid-fuel reactors, MSFR systems have lower fissile inventories, no radiation damage constraint on attainable fuel burn-up, no requirement to fabricate and handle solid fuel, and a homogeneous isotopic composition of fuel in the reactor. These and other characteristics give MSFRs potentially unique capabilities for actinide burning and extending fuel resources.

MSR developments in Russia on the Molten Salt Actinide Recycler and Transmuter (MOSART) aim to be used as efficient burners of transuranic (TRU) waste from spent UOX and MOX light water reactor (LWR) fuel without any uranium and thorium support and also with it. Other advanced reactor concepts are being studied, which use the liquid salt technology, as a primary coolant for Fluoride salt-cooled High-temperature Reactors (FHRs), and coated particle fuels similar to high temperature gas-cooled reactors.

More generally, there has been a significant renewal of interest in the use of liquid salt as a coolant for nuclear and non-nuclear applications. These salts could facilitate heat transfer for nuclear hydrogen production concepts, concentrated solar electricity generation, oil refineries, and shale oil processing facilities amongst other applications.

References

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  • C.W. Forsberg et al, “Liquid Salt Applications and Molten Salt Reactors”, Revue Générale du Nucléaire N° 4/2007, 63 (2007).
  • E. Merle-Lucotte, D. Heuer et al., “Introduction of the Physics of Molten Salt Reactor”, Materials Issues for Generation IV Systems, NATO Science for Peace and Security Series – B, Editions Springer, 501-521 (2008).
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  • ISTC# 1606 final report, International scientific technical centre, Moscow, July, 2007.
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  • O. Beneš, M. Beilmann, R.J.M. Konings, “Thermodynamic assessment of the LiF-NaF-ThF4-UF4”, Journal of Nuclear Materials, Volume 405, Issue 2, 15 October 2010, Pages 186-198.
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  • V. Ignatiev, et al, “Progress in Development of MOSART Concept with Th Support”, ICAPP’12, Chicago, USA, June 24-28, 2012, Paper No. 12394.
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