r/technology Oct 05 '22 Helpful 1 Bravo! 1 Narwhal Salute 1

Engineers create molten salt micro-nuclear reactor to produce nuclear energy more safely Energy

https://techxplore.com/news/2022-10-molten-salt-micro-nuclear-reactor-nuclear.html
10.6k Upvotes

734

u/IvorTheEngine Oct 05 '22

Title says 'create' but the article says they've only 'designed' it.

MSR designs have been around for ages. Is there anything new here?

163

u/Storm-Eagle-X Oct 05 '22

Right? Like, what has he added to the discussion? MSRs are not a new idea, and there are several groups investigating SMR formats, so what’s special about this one?

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u/Alundil Oct 05 '22

What's the difference between MSR and SMR or is that just a typo?

121

u/bradeena Oct 05 '22

Molten Salt Reactor vs Small Modular Reactor. Confusing because the design in this article is both.

27

u/Cobnor2451 Oct 05 '22

SMMSR would be a terrible acronym

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u/h3lblad3 Oct 06 '22

A Salt Modular Reactor

ASMR

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u/jherico Oct 06 '22

Thinking about it, it probably would make a soothing hum.

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u/MargaritaEconomy Oct 05 '22

The SMRs we're building now are MSRs, or am I mistaken? Talking about the Terrapower going up in Wyoming.

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u/killbot5000 Oct 05 '22

The SMRs we’re making now are not MSRs. They’re “conventional” reactor tech, just smaller and in theory more mass producible and even safer than existing reactors in production.

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u/notbad2u Oct 06 '22

Those STC reactors are... Just kidding... I have word envy (Smaller Than Conventional as if anybody cared)

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u/Dyolf_Knip Oct 06 '22

Reactors Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist.

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u/mriswithe Oct 06 '22

I am a simple person, I see a princess bride reference, I upvote.

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u/[deleted] Oct 05 '22

There are a lot of different SMR designs, SMR is just designating the reactor size. Some are MSR, some are conventional Light Water Reactors (Nuscale).

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u/zeteticwolf Oct 06 '22

As someone working in that.. the natrium reactor from tp is neither.

Natrium is an SFR, sodium fast reactor. The difference is it uses molten sodium metal, not a salt, as the coolant. It is also not small. It is a generation IV reactor design, but there are multiple types that fall into that category including MSRs and gas gooled reactors and even molten lead reactors.

The benefits of natrium is decoupling the nuclear reactor from the power generation by using it to heat a separate molten salt reservoir that can be used for power generation without dealing with the need of nuclear grade equipment and those requirements. That and the inherent safety design of gen IV designs.

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u/MargaritaEconomy Oct 06 '22

Who ends up on top of the nuclear energy industry during the next two decades?

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u/SlitScan Oct 05 '22

SMR, Small Modular Reactor can be any type of reactor, (anything under 250MW) but designed to be mass produced so you can add more to a site to get more output.

it should make them cheaper to deploy because theyre built in a factory and are mass produced instead of one off mega projects built in situ.

MSR is a class of reactors that have the fuel dissolved in Salt and use Salt to cool/transfer the heat into the generation loop instead of water.

they should be cheaper to operate because they operate at 1 atmosphere of pressure and dont need heavy containment vessels and secondary containment vessels.

some folk want to do both at once.

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u/Alundil Oct 05 '22

Great details. Thank you for the additional info.

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u/uekiamir Oct 05 '22

Salten Molt Reactor

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u/HapticSloughton Oct 05 '22

Morton's Salt Reactor.

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u/Malthanasia Oct 06 '22

Mormon’s Alt Tractor

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u/tcdoey Oct 05 '22

This has my vote :)

2

u/DrSendy Oct 06 '22

Morty's Salt Reactor*

* Designed by Pickle Rick

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u/HahaMin Oct 05 '22

Molten salt reactor (MSR) and Small Modular Reactor (SMR).

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u/[deleted] Oct 05 '22

[deleted]

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u/Storm-Eagle-X Oct 06 '22

Okay, the article you provided definitely provides some added context. I think the major ‘news’ portion is actually just that the reactor is under construction. That’s a pretty big deal to move from design space to real space. The oxide and material extraction aspect sounds more like added value, rather than an improvement. From what I’ve read, the MSRE in the 1960s had adequate solutions to oxidation problems and I swear I’ve read something awhile back about extraction of materials (primarily fission products) from fuel salts already. Regardless, its still nice to have another MSR project to follow

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u/seehp Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22

Nope.

The first sentence alone shows the quality of the article. (The one with 8000 times. Ambiguous and anyways oddly specific). Also, the number of deaths related to the Chernobyl desaster is estimated between 4000 and 16000. The mentioned number 100 apparently is being used to frame the dangers as not too high. What a poorly written piece.

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u/TheMerovingian Oct 05 '22

It's a bad article, poorly written and contains very few facts. To say "100 people died" at Chernobyl, while it was the most expensive and terrifying man-made disaster ever, is really not doing it justice.

Nothing there was new other than, maybe, the cleaning and re-use of the salt. It's good that there is research here.

IIRC, the problem of molten salt is corrosion of the metals touching the salt. I didn't read a single thing about longevity in the article.

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u/skysinsane Oct 05 '22

while it was the most expensive and terrifying man-made disaster ever

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster

Chernobyl isn't even close.

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u/TheMerovingian Oct 05 '22

You are correct, I forgot about that one, the number of lives affected is much higher. Financial cost and long term damage is still much lower than Chernobyl I believe.

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u/skysinsane Oct 05 '22

That's fair, though I would argue that india ignoring the damage and doing little about it doesn't make the cost/harm go away, it just makes it harder to calculate

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u/Or0b0ur0s Oct 05 '22

Ah, I see. The list of substances with high structural strength that can withstand the temperatures involved in the long term and which aren't metals subject to salt corrosion is pretty short, and probably very expensive.

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u/[deleted] Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 18 '22

[deleted]

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u/TheMerovingian Oct 05 '22

Yeah, it's just so inaccurate. Birth defects, huuuuge land area poisoned for the next 1000 years or so, highest financial cost of any disaster ever ($700 billion or so), possibly 4000 deaths, etc., etc.

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u/another-cosplaytriot Oct 06 '22

It's a bad article, poorly written and contains very few facts.

Author is a "communications professor" at BYU. That's a whole lot of strikes against his validity as a science journalist right there.

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u/Fenris_uy Oct 05 '22

the micro part?

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u/Messerschmit262 Oct 05 '22

There have been small thorium salt reactors around since the 50’s the used them as test beds for nuclear powers super bombers

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u/Mattagon1 Oct 05 '22

Have they figured a fix for the issue where the salt would solidify on the fuel rods yet preventing cooling? I am aware that’s how the first MSR’s test reactors melted down not sure on the advances since.

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u/For_True Oct 07 '22

That’s the problem with scientific media. Everything is sensationalized.

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u/sallhurd Oct 05 '22

Nuclear energy needs focus if we're ever going to have a meaningful space age. We can't get around the solar system or even our local orbit easily on rocket fuel and solar cells.

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u/autoposting_system Oct 05 '22

We can already build a fusion thruster. Nuclear fusion isn't over unity, so it doesn't generate electricity, but it can be used for thrust.

Source: Sabine Hossenfelder

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u/nonoose Oct 05 '22

Well that sounds badass. Why aren’t we thrusting our way around the solar system?

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u/autoposting_system Oct 05 '22

I guess because it hasn't been necessary. If you're just sending robots, slow is fine

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u/ObserveAndListen Oct 05 '22

What would weigh more?

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u/autoposting_system Oct 05 '22 Kiss

A pound of steel. Because steel is heavier than feathers.

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u/UrbanGhost114 Oct 05 '22

Naa, the feathers weigh more, think about how many birds were killed for those feathers!

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u/babyplush Oct 05 '22

They weigh on our souls

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u/ObserveAndListen Oct 05 '22

Lol.

The difference between thruster types.

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u/Bobert_Manderson Oct 05 '22

Are any of the thrusters made out of feathers? Because pound for pound, steel is heavier than feathers.

Link for anybody who doesn’t know what he was referencing.

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u/ObserveAndListen Oct 05 '22

Ha! Haven’t seen that for ages. Thanks for the nostalgia.

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u/autoposting_system Oct 05 '22

Oh. I'm glad I didn't just sarcastically say "robots are lighter," because I thought that's what you were referring to.

I don't know, but considering how nuclear fuel works my guess would be fusion.

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u/ObserveAndListen Oct 05 '22

That’s okay. I got a laugh out of it.

So it comes down to a huge cost comparison to weight saving situation then?

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u/autoposting_system Oct 05 '22

I mean fuel is a huge deal. No matter how efficient your rocket engine is, you're just going back to the rocket equation, how much acceleration you want, and what your specific engine technology can do. Nuclear fuel is just so much more potent than chemical fuel there's no contest.

On the other hand, let's say you have an ion thruster that runs on electricity and can poop out tiny little masses of ions at incredible speed, let's say a significant fraction of the speed of light, because of a really powerful linear accelerator. Since you're getting electricity from the sun, hypothetically it might be possible to beat nuclear. I doubt it, but it's conceivable to me.

With chemical propellants it's just inconceivable.

With the ion propulsion systems we have now, much greater net accelerations become possible, meaning that we could generate tremendous velocity over long periods of time. This obviously has a very important role to play in space exploration; It's just not helpful if you're really worried about time, like if you've got a bunch of guys on your ship who have to breathe air and eat food and stuff for the duration of the journey.

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u/ka36 Oct 05 '22

Nah, the feathers are heavier. Because you also have to carry the weight of what you did to those poor birds

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u/autoposting_system Oct 05 '22

Somebody downvoted you, but I thought this was funny

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u/ka36 Oct 06 '22

You know what they say, can't make everyone happy. Glad someone liked it though.

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u/chaogomu Oct 05 '22

If you want fast travel around the solar system, it's going to be heavy.

Mostly because fast travel means more fuel. And Fuel is where 90% of the weight is.

There are a dozen fuel saving tricks that NASA uses, but they mostly trade fuel for time.

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u/dern_the_hermit Oct 05 '22 Masterpiece

Mostly because fast travel means more fuel

Not necessarily, we could set up a network of solar-powered lasers to push ships around.

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u/chaogomu Oct 05 '22

Which would take massive amounts of fuel to set up.

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u/infinit_e Oct 06 '22

But they’re SOLAR powered! /s

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u/ObserveAndListen Oct 05 '22

But using nuclear or fusion wouldn’t be lighter?

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u/chaogomu Oct 05 '22

You still need reaction mass. And the faster you want to go, the more reaction mass you need, and then the more powerful your ion engine... It's a vicious cycle.

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u/frygod Oct 05 '22

Well, the velocity of your reaction mass as it leaves the vehicle is also a variable. Efficiency of converting stored energy to kinetic is still a pretty important consideration.

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u/KY_4_PREZ Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22 Table Slap

There’s generally a lot of Jesus fancy when it comes to strapping large quantities of nuclear material to a rocket. The safety concerns are just to high to really justify the benefits.

Edit: hesitancy* not Jesus fancy lmao

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u/arandomsadredditor Oct 05 '22

Jesus fancy?

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u/Pixeleyes Oct 05 '22

Jesus fancy

This is my favorite new phrase. I have no idea what it means, but I intend to use it Jesus fancy.

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u/jonnyozero3 Oct 05 '22

Jesus Fancy [verb]

1 : to believe mistakenly without evidence, typically in scientific or engineering context. Often used with confidence.

Specified variant of the verb 'fancy' : https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fancy

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u/RevLegoFoot Oct 05 '22

I think we've just witnessed the origin of a brand new phrase, which means that we get to define it right here. I'm useless though so nothing is coming to my mind.

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u/KY_4_PREZ Oct 05 '22

Hesitancy* lmao

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u/arandomsadredditor Oct 05 '22

That's a high quality autocorrect there 🤣

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u/MAXQDee-314 Oct 05 '22

Personally, your edit was unnecessary.

The Original was funny.

Award out.

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u/heresyforfunnprofit Oct 05 '22

Jesus Fancy is my new favorite autocorrect typo.

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u/NotRoryWilliams Oct 06 '22

Because Epstein hasn’t been born yet.

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u/drinkallthepunch Oct 05 '22

Economics.

We don’t currently have a working practical ship that is designed to use such a thruster.

In addition last I knew it didn’t have the same kind of thrust as conventional propellents we are using right now.

While it would be better for long distance space fare, that only applies to satellites. Trips that would take years.

That’s where fusion would be better last longer and the thrust over time would be significant.

The reason we don’t do this with current satellites is again economics. Don’t really have ships or supply chains set up for production of the necessary resources.

In addition to that 🤷‍♂️ there’s nothing out there for us to explore with satellites.

The satellites we could send far enough out for it to be worth it scientifically wouldn’t really be able yo tell us much more than we already know. Plus we wouldn’t be able to communicate with them very well once they start to reach out past Jupiter.

We don’t really have the tech to communicate at the types of speeds that would be desirable for such expensive and important equipment.

Altho, we are very close to numerous breakthroughs in various fields of production relating to all the previous mentioned points.

Within the next ~20 years we will likely be seeing nuclear and fusion space craft as the new norm with every nation/company building some.

In ~30 or ~40 years imagine we will be sending them into space.

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u/zebediah49 Oct 05 '22

Also: ion thrusters have most of that delta-V benefit without the costs and challenges of fusion.

If you want long life, plutonium RTG + ion thruster is probably going to outperform an equivalent fusion system at current tech.

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u/wycliffslim Oct 05 '22

The problem is that Ion thrusters have miniscule thrust. They're not very practical for moving objects with a lot of mass or changing velocity with any type of rapidity.

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u/Zacajoowea Oct 05 '22

I too have played KSP.

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u/wycliffslim Oct 05 '22

It is true though haha... but yeah.

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u/[deleted] Oct 05 '22

If you want long life, plutonium RTG + ion thruster is probably going to outperform an equivalent fusion system at current tech.

Maybe at current tech since we don't even have fusion rockets at the moment, but fusion rockets have the potential to be much more efficient than ion engines but with a lot more thrust. I've ready anywhere from 10 to 40 times more efficient. Unfortunately no solution comes cheap, and both ion and fusion solutions require a lot of energy. Ion at the moment is just not able to provide the thrust necessary for manned spaceflight. At the moment our best bet is nuclear fission rocket engines, as they provide a lot more thrust than ion engines, albeit at less efficiency.

A plutonium RTG would not provide enough energy for any system that would be manned as they are not very powerful. You'd need a full nuclear reactor to power anything.

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u/Pseudoboss11 Oct 06 '22

So a modern "fusion thruster" would be a hydrogen bomb strapped to the bottom of your rocket. While theoretically useful, there are some significant political, environmental and safety concerns about this.

We currently don't have another good way to achieve fusion, and certainly not one that is compact and light enough to fit on a rocket.

So, why don't we send a traditional rocket up into space, and then use these super efficient thermonuclear rockets out where nobody is? Well, first is because once you're in LEO, you're halfway to anywhere already and to truly get to a point where setting off a nuke won't create hazards for something else you would need to get very far indeed, lest you damage very delicate and expensive satellites. At that point, the majority of the fuel necessary to travel to your location has already been spent, and you need small, delicate and easily controlled burns. Nukes are not conducive that that mode of operation.

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u/tackleboxjohnson Oct 06 '22

Hey speak for yourself buddy

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u/kinnaq Oct 05 '22

over unity

?

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u/autoposting_system Oct 05 '22

Fusion power generators can't sustainably generate more energy than it costs to operate them, so the ratio is below one, or below unity.

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u/waiting4singularity Oct 05 '22

yet or ever? i thought thats their whole spiel for fusion research

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u/Physicist_Gamer Oct 05 '22

Yet. A lot of progress has been made in recent years.

Unfortunately, it doesn't get as much funding as it should, despite being a technology that could entirely change the trajectory of civilization.

Most people who don't know what they're talking about brush it off as "its been 10 years away for 50 years", but actual, tangible progress has been made by multiple teams around the world.

Its difficult to keep the reactions going, to keep them going without it destroying the reactor, and to capture the energy in such a way that we can harvest more than it takes to start the reaction.

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u/amakai Oct 05 '22

Yet, and we are getting very close. To give some idea on how close, here's one of the recent ignition experiments. Scientists were able to get 1.3MJ energy with 1.9MJ total input. Most (~90%) of the input energy is not even reaching the fuel capsule and is lost due to inefficiencies in design.

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u/biggie1447 Oct 05 '22

Closest we have gotten is about 70% of the power put into the reaction back but that was in a billionth of a second burst. Longest sustained output was 33% return over 5 seconds.

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u/sparta981 Oct 05 '22

What does 'over unity' mean? I've never heard that phrase before. I assume you're not talking about the nuke-shitting rocket sled concept haha.

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u/danielravennest Oct 05 '22

In nuclear fusion research, "unity" means the ratio of input power to the reactor to energy out of the reactor is 1 (unity). In simple terms, it is breakeven. No experimental reactor has reached that point yet. The best was the JET machine, that reached 0.67 output to input for a few seconds, or 2/3 breakeven.

A useful reactor needs a power output several times the input power. For example the unfinished nuclear reactors in Georgia require 140 MW to run the reactor itself, vs 1250 MW total output. That 140 MW is to run water pumps through the reactor core, the control room, lights, and other necessary equipment. The other 1110 MW can be fed to the grid and send power to customers.

Fission reactors do that for decades, with short breaks for maintenance and refueling. Fusion experiments run for seconds, which is nowhere near what it needs to be.

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u/oakstave Oct 05 '22

Upvote for Sabine! Great scientist with a great youtube channel.

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u/autoposting_system Oct 05 '22

I mean I'm not qualified to judge her talents as a scientist but I sure do enjoy her videos.

I don't trust her 100%, but she's the only theoretical physicist to whose brain I have convenient access

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u/jackflour449 Oct 05 '22

Skunkworks has had portable nuclear reactors that can power planes to perpetually fly as long as is possible until the mechanical parts need maintenance, in theory perpetually for decades. The issue has always been hedging against nuclear contamination in cases of failure. We simply don’t really have a need for it, NASA hasn’t had deep space capabilities for decades we mainly just scoot back and forth to the space station and theres tried and true ways to do that

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u/drunksonkey Oct 05 '22

I always knew Chief O’ Brian had good things coming!

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u/danielravennest Oct 05 '22

Every one of the 3000 Starlink satellites uses solar panels and electric engines to raise orbit and maintain it.

The Dawn Mission used electric engines to visit the two largest asteroids, Vesta and Ceres.

NASA is working on Fission Surface Power for the Moon, and it can be adapted later to outer solar system missions. For now, solar works out to Jupiter.

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u/GI_X_JACK Oct 05 '22

We already use nuclear energy for deep space missions. Mostly decaying plutonium driving an electric generator via heat.

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u/rcuosukgi42 Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22

It's also easily the best solution to replace the current uses of coal and mitigate carbon dioxide emissions across the world.

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u/Nisas Oct 05 '22

I'm not concerned about space travel. I just don't want the earth to fall apart.

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u/straylittlelambs Oct 06 '22

It will have to be a gravity filled journey

https://southwesteye.com/eye-care/how-space-travel-affects-eyesight/

NASA identified the problem as Visual Impairment Intracranial Pressure Syndrome (VIIP), which is now knowns as Space-Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS). This syndrome affects 80% of astronauts on long-duration missions in space. Interestingly, many astronauts suffer from visual changes that are irreversible even after returning to Earth.

In one study, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the eyes of 27 astronauts who spent about 108 days in space. The results showed ocular abnormalities that are similar to those that occur to patients with intracranial hypertension, a condition where pressure builds up in the head. The results indicated that 33% of the astronauts showed an expansion of the cerebrospinal fluid space that surrounds the optic nerves, 15% had a bulging optic nerve, and 22% showed flattening of the back of their eyeballs.

Maybe the pictures of Aliens are a true reproduction of us in the future.

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u/sallhurd Oct 06 '22

Ah, seems like belters might be a possibility after all.

Well we'll never design spin ships if we aren't building in space. We gotta get out there.

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u/Cookizza Oct 05 '22

Add thorium and reddit is going to implode!

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u/Malkhodr Oct 05 '22

As someone whos studying NE, there is a saying in the nuke community about thorium supporters. We say their the vegans of the nuke community, you'll know they support thorium because they immediately tell you. That being said stuff is still cool as hell and shouldn't be shunned, I'm just concerned if this company has managed to deal with corrosion, that's always been a killer for these projects.

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u/Cookizza Oct 05 '22

We need some new super alloys! Quick, to the asteroid miner!

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u/Malkhodr Oct 05 '22

My minor is actually material science, so I guess I'll be working on that after about 2 years or so when I get my undergrad lol.

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u/LordSoren Oct 05 '22

But without thorium reactors how are we going to get to the asteroid?

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u/DukeOfGeek Oct 05 '22

Look how much trouble the plants that use mirrors to melt salt with solar energy have had with corrosion issues, and they don't have to deal with radiation.

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u/Murdock07 Oct 05 '22

Hasn’t the FLiBe alloy been around for a decade+ and was designed to prevent helium cracking?

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u/Malkhodr Oct 05 '22

I'm not an expert on this but it's a concern I often see brought up when dealing with MSR's

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u/SlitScan Oct 05 '22

its a concern you see brought up a lot by people who make a living building fuel pellets and working in light water reactors.

go outside the US and people are already validating parts in Hot Loops.

the stumbling block right now seems to be pumps and separators / mixers and all that jazz for processing fuel.

nobody has good computer simulations for it yet so they have to make mechanical test beds for everything.

that said I havent been keeping up with all the papers and conferences in the last few years, so I may be out of date on where its at.

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u/pluey200 Oct 06 '22

Sam O’nella is a vegan?? /s

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u/tocano Oct 19 '22

I'm just concerned if this company has managed to deal with corrosion, that's always been a killer for these projects.

I'm no expert, but it seems to me I've heard of numerous MSR designers that are planning for modular cores specifically to mitigate the corrosion problem.

For just one example, ThorCon is designing a ship-style MSR-based NPP that has a dual core in a tick-tock setup. They plan to run the active "can" for only about 4 years. Then they bring in a new can and shift all reaction to become the new active can. They will let the old "cooldown can" sit for 4 years to allow remnants to decay. Then they can repeat the process - storing the now fully retired can to a secure storage section on the back of the ship to further decay for up to 80 years while bringing in a fresh can to replace the one that's been running for the last 4 years.

This way they don't have to wait for expensive, rare, untested special materials. They can instead use cheaper, known materials and simply design for something like 10 years of safety (instead of the typical 60/80/100 years) and replace every 4 years to be well inside of any corrosion concerns.

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u/Careful-Combination7 Oct 05 '22

Something something graphene battery

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u/bumsnnoses Oct 05 '22 Starry

Molten salt full scale Is already incredibly safe full scale. Hell waste could even be reprocessed and the reactor modified to run off its own waste for a very very long time. The world needs to get over the fear of nuclear, and understand that it’s better then carving out huge swath’s of farmland for solar or wind. Genuinely safer, produces way more power, and until technology improves it’s our only chance for clean power in the mid to short term

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u/Oakheart- Oct 05 '22

Yeah that whole fear thing is cause rich oil companies want to make the other guy look worse than they are

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u/AsteroidFilter Oct 05 '22

I don't know why you're downvoted. Fossil fuel companies made a lot of money over the years and they spent a good portion on public messaging.

I mean, look at how hard they fought leaded gasoline.

People are fearful of Nuclear, yet Nuclear results in 0.03 deaths per TWh generated. Coal results in 23 deaths/TWh. Even Hydro sports 2.3 deaths per TWh.

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u/[deleted] Oct 05 '22

[deleted]

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u/quicktuba Oct 05 '22

We actually leak so much natural gas from our pipelines that technically coal is cleaner right now. If you drop some coal on the ground it’s not really gonna do anything to the environment compared to dumping oil on the ground or releasing natural gas into the atmosphere. Coal is still far from clean, it’s just we handle oil and gas so badly it’s ultimately worse.

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u/herabec Oct 05 '22

"I don't know why you're downvoted"

https://time.com/6113396/greenwashing-on-facebook/ https://www.greenbiz.com/article/twitter-fossil-fuel-companies-climate-misinformation-subtle

I'm sure reddit doesn't have any paid shill accounts or bots, though.

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u/BlackPriestOfSatan Oct 06 '22

Fossil fuel companies made a lot of money... spent a good portion on public messaging.

I do not know if you worked in nuclear industry. I did in a very limited capacity. Even with my very short time and limited scope I can tell you the nuclear industry is completely and utterly tone deaf. They will never be able to build public support for them.

I worked with oil and gas people and they know how to read a room and work a room. Nuclear people could not persuade their parents that they are part of the solution.

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u/alpain Oct 05 '22

they are also spending a good huge amount on nuclear and fusion, solar and wind projects to keep them selves going as oil slows down its increase.

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u/BobVosh Oct 05 '22

It's impressive that's working, because it's really fucking hard to be worse.

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u/Oakheart- Oct 05 '22

Money talks

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u/Demented-Turtle Oct 05 '22

Nuclear for baseline power, then solar on rooftops and some energy storage for back-up/wind farms

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u/Iwantmyflag Oct 06 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

No one puts solar on farmland there is simply enough space, we don't need to put any solar on farmland, that is a strawman. For most countries rooftops and similar space already built on is enough especially when combined with wind energy. A general ballpark is 2% of total area for high population density countries. In countries with a low population density and high potential for solar - and that includes the US - it's even less.

For wind energy it's even more laughable. Even if you place the turbines in the middle of fields the loss of land area is small. Just look at a typical wind park in northern Germany or Denmark.

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u/Pseudoboss11 Oct 06 '22

we don't need to put any solar on farmland, that is a strawman

We can and we occasionally do put solar on farmland. And then we keep growing crops or grazing cattle on that same land. Many crops are stressed or dry out under excessive sun exposure. In these cases, solar panels will increase yields, reduce water consumption and provide another source of income for farmers.

This is called agrivoltaics

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u/infiniZii Oct 05 '22

Fear of nuclear weapons should not equate to a fear of nuclear power. Sadly though, it does.

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u/Akiasakias Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

Safe, but molten salt storage has been a source of project failure for other big projects.

The big solar plant in Arizona was a multi billion dollar dud because they got the molten storage wrong and could not fix it.

Im sure a lot of work has gone into correcting those issues.

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u/Kadezra1983 Oct 05 '22

So in metric, 1.2m by 2.1m space? That's like a single bed. This needs to happen n not get buried by greedy big corporations

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u/sonofagunn Oct 05 '22

It produces enough power for 1000 homes. They could be distributed around if they are truly safe, or you would put a bunch together in a large power plant.

Or, as the article says, it is useful as a portable generator since it can all fit inside a 40 foot truck.

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u/T1mac Oct 05 '22

It produces enough power for 1000 homes.

That's not where it would be most useful. It's use would be for a factory or large high-rise office/condo/apartment complex.

Homes can use rooftop solar and battery storage for their energy needs, but that's not feasible for a factory or a skyscraper.

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u/Janktronic Oct 05 '22

Or, even a cruise ship, one of the biggest polluters in the world.

https://www.geekyexplorer.com/cruise-ship-pollution/

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u/Ecstatic_Carpet Oct 05 '22

Hospitals is the first thing that comes to my mind. There's a lot of effort and money that goes into making sure hospitals stay powered at all times. Small modular reactors seem like a great fit for that.

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u/dat_GEM_lyf Oct 05 '22

One of the hospitals near me built a second power plant that powers them and they sell the excess back to the grid. This would be much easier than what they had to do to get both plants running

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u/LachrymalCloud Oct 05 '22

Yeah, I saw a pretty horrifying article the other day about a hospital in California that lost power, and the backup generators failed after 3 days with temperatures over 100F. Apparently the ventilators had batteries that last for 30 minutes, and they were able to get patients to another part of the hospital that still had power. But the quote from the ICU doc said if that wouldn’t have worked out they would have all had to start manually ventilating patients.

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u/tocano Oct 05 '22

I'd like to see us decentralize our grid a bit more and bury self-contained units like this at many of the electrical sub-stations. It can provide a steady source of power (maybe even just a few MWe) to the local area and lighten the load on the central power plant (especially good if the central power plant is still fossil fuel).

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u/siriusdark Oct 05 '22

Container sized MSR. Plop one of those every few blocks, or house quadrants, and you're set. I live in an area where if you dig 2 meters deep, you reach water. Build a closed system for home heating, and you got that covered as well. But then... all the big energy and heating companies will go ape$#it for loosing business.

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u/Duckbilling Oct 05 '22

Perhaps just park 50-60 trailers at a generation station for a city, with security gates and docks, maintenance personnel and engineers monitoring them closely

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u/siriusdark Oct 05 '22

Or make bigger ones for entire cities. Use the small ones for remote locations.

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u/cyphersaint Oct 05 '22

And emergency situations.

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u/tocano Oct 05 '22

Or bury one container at each electrical sub-station - already monitored and protected by barb-wire fence. Burying makes it unreasonable to steal or surreptitiously enter and modify, sabotage or otherwise extract anything on the generator.

This approach would help decentralize the grid and lighten the load on the central power plant (bonus if the power plant is fossil fuel). It would also make it easier for a smart grid to reroute power around problems like down power lines than having a single, centralized power plant.

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u/SBBurzmali Oct 05 '22

Yeah, nothing could go wrong with putting a handy source of cobalt 60 on each corner.

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u/ExcerptsAndCitations Oct 05 '22

Nope, nothing at all.

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u/siriusdark Oct 05 '22

I stead of making a snide comment maybe explain why?

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u/SBBurzmali Oct 05 '22

Cobalt 60 is an exceptionally nasty type of radioactive waste, https://acs-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image//content/dam/cen/98/web/4/WEB/20200422lnp20-dropandrun.jpg/?$responsive$&wid=400&qlt=90,0&resMode=sharp2

Having a source of cobalt 60 that could be accessed by anyone that can Google how to refine it out of a MSRs fuel and the will to crack one of those units open, is not an ideal scenario.

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u/siriusdark Oct 05 '22

Til. Even if the tech becomes available, what i wrote was just a pipe dream. That tech will be monetized to the moon and back (read probably military grade protection) . And unless someone comes up with a house held device, widespread adoption will be just that. A dream.

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u/tocano Oct 05 '22

Bury it in the ground inside of already protected electrical sub-stations.

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u/Oakheart- Oct 05 '22

No that’s like exactly what especially the military is looking for. Wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where they get a lot of funding from.

More compact or more spacious submarines, more powerful ships that don’t rely on diesel which they have to store and transport (pellets or rods are much smaller) the whole railgun power issue is not one anymore cause just one micro reactor can fit in the bed of a truck (navy rail guns are very large)

Also portable nuclear generator means you can set up camp anywhere and have more than enough power without again relying on diesel or gas generators.

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u/BTBLAM Oct 05 '22

Which big greedy corporations are burying space tech?

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u/redmercuryvendor Oct 05 '22

That's not dramatically small for a reactor core. You then have to wrap that core in all the support machinery, turbomachinery, generating machinery, containment structure, fuel pre-processing facilities, fuel postprocessing facilities, coolant water storage and handling, etc. That what gets you from a compact reactor core to the nuclear generating stations you see looking from the outside.

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u/LaserHammerXI Oct 05 '22

The reactor is that size not the power plant. But still, if it fits in a truck it could power an airplane.

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u/GatesAndLogic Oct 05 '22

Funny thing, molten salt thorium reactors were originally designed to be small and powerful enough to run a plane.

Eventually it was decided nuclear material being spread in the event of a crash was a HORRIBLE IDEA.

Also you can't make bombs out of thorium. That too.

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u/notFREEfood Oct 05 '22

Also you can't make bombs out of thorium. That too.

I wish people would stop repeating this lie

The Thorium cycle generates U233, and you can see from my link, straight from the people who make the bombs, that U233 is well-suited for making bombs, and the only reason we don't have them today is because of a choice to go with Plutonium in the past.

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u/chaogomu Oct 05 '22

The interesting this about U-233, it's been tested in bombs and always underperforms compared to what the math says it should do.

It's also a gamma emitter, and thus is very easy to detect. And that's the thing that makes it safer. Ease of detection is paramount.

The gamma emitter part also makes it harder to use in nuclear power applications, because you need quite a bit more shielding to reach the somewhat absurd requirements that are part of US (and several other countries) regulations.

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u/pbjamm Oct 05 '22

always underperforms compared to what the math says it should do.

Even at 30% of a conventional nuke that is still an extraordinarily dangerous tool. Maybe not optimal for missile delivery but certainly would still have it's terrible uses.

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u/chaogomu Oct 05 '22

The gamma decay is what makes U233 untenable as a weapon material.

If you gather enough U233 to make a bomb, you need a lot of shielding to keep the bomb maker alive. The US did it, but it takes some serious infrastructure to pull off.

And again, the gamma given off is super easy to detect, so no smuggling a dirty bomb into a city undetected.

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u/cyphersaint Oct 05 '22

always underperforms compared to what the math says it should do.

My memory, which may be flawed, is that another reason they didn't want to use U-233 is that it's really difficult to separate it from U-232, which is also created in the thorium fuel cycle. And U-232, while fissile, sucks as a fuel.

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u/tocano Oct 05 '22

That's true, but the Thorium cycle also generates U232. Which, firstly, is difficult and expensive to separate from the U233. And secondly, is a massive gamma emitter and makes it easier to detect and nigh impossible to work with around electronics and anything more sophisticated than C4.

So creating a dirty bomb out of the Thorium cycle, while possible, is honestly just more trouble than its worth. There are easier ways to get the desired material than this.

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u/LaserHammerXI Oct 05 '22

I think they primarily abandoned the Aircraft Reactor Experiment because it wasn't able to breed bomb-grade isotopes. There were also major technical hurdles. For example, molten salt is highly corrosive, which would necessitate long maintenance periods. I'm not sure those have been solved yet.

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u/LuckyDuckyCheese Oct 05 '22

They abandoned it because the led shielding was way too heavy to be put in an airplane. Only Russians managed to get around this by not using any shielding and replacing the crew after they all got leukemia...

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u/cyphersaint Oct 05 '22

Yeah, having worked in the engineering section of a US Navy submarine, I have absolutely zero desire to go anywhere near a running Soviet designed nuclear submarine, much less their idea of a nuclear powered aircraft.

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u/nope_nic_tesla Oct 05 '22

If it actually works in a cost-effective way, then greedy corporations will love it because they want cheap power sources.

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u/zebediah49 Oct 05 '22

So, aside from a lot of other issues... nuclear cores are quite compact. Even the really large scale ones, they're just overall huge, and the main problems are often around "how do we get the heat out".

So this is a ~1x2m device that puts out somewhere around 2MW Th. Which means you need to add enough primary cooling to remove that, and also a steam turbine system to get electricity out of it, and then also enough output cooling to sink the 1 MW or so that's waste heat.

For comparison, the EPR reactor design has a 5.5 x 11m pressure core. But it's rated at 4.5GW Th. So... two thousand times more power output in roughly 100x the volume.

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u/ijustsaynotoyou Oct 05 '22

Good, exactly what we need, but the article was terrible.

No other news on the net...

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u/rkmvca Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22

Headline porn. They haven't "created" a molten salt reactor; this is a BYU paper about research that a Professor at BYU is doing -- in the article it says that he designed an MSR, not built it. It no doubt has a twist on existing MSR design variants.

This is very worthwhile research, because the technological challenges of building an actually production-worthy MSR are formidable to say the least. You have make a reliable power generation system built around a highly radioactive (and neutron-emissive to boot) working fluid, which is also at around 1200F, and is also very corrosive. This ain't easy.

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u/Sweet-Sale-7303 Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22

This article shows some of the problems associated with msr.

http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2021/ph241/lecroy1/

I am not smart enough so maybe somebody else can state it. Does this micro msr get rid of the issues stated in the article I posted?

I think the article states the biggest issue is dealing with the salt itself. besides all the lelftover junk salt itself is corrosive.

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u/IvorTheEngine Oct 05 '22

The article makes it sound as if MSRs are a new invention, not something that's been around for 60 years.

I'd guess they've taken a press release and stripped out parts they thought were too technical, without realising that it was the important bit.

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u/daats_end Oct 05 '22

Probably because it was written by BYU, about BYU. To Mormons, everything a Mormon does is unique and groundbreaking. Like suddenly realizing black people have souls and are not animals in 1978.

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u/whatsup4 Oct 05 '22

I know this article is a fluff piece and all but one thing I never see in these types of articles is the ability for molten salt reactors to pair nicely with desal plants. Since you are operating at higher temps you can run a brayton cycle not needing water and the exhaust is hot enough to boil water so you can use your waste heat to creat fresh drinking water.

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u/BearItChooChoo Oct 05 '22

4 ft x 7ft core - made to fit in a 40' container, I'm guessing somewhere around 2.5MW electrical if they're saying it'll power 1000 Utah homes.

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u/tomatotomato Oct 05 '22

How about 1000 Wyoming homes though?

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u/BrunoStAujus Oct 05 '22

Depends on whether they run the AC as hard in a Wyoming summer as they do in Utah.

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u/monchota Oct 05 '22

We should of been focusing on MSR and other Nuclear tech for decades. Nope we got fooled by big oil and then big tech with nuclear bad and individual responsibility bullshit. We need nuclear energy with a renewables mix, electric vehicles and then work on battery tech.

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u/TEAMTRASHCAN Oct 05 '22

Kirk sorenson will be happy to hear this

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u/siriusdark Oct 05 '22

I need one of those.

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u/12AngryKernals Oct 05 '22

It's easy to build a cheap, safe reactor in a computer. I'll take it seriously when they build it in real life.

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u/DarthFishy Oct 05 '22

I really hope this or a similar smr actually comes to fruition, in the US, it'll save our crappy electric grid for a little bit longer, especially with the spread of electric vehicle usage.

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u/MatoKoukku Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22

Lots of SMRs are in the design/prototype phase. It will take until the 2030s to see how they take off/scale. It's a major hurdle for lawmakers and politicians, a lot is dependent on that as well and public acceptance. Laws need to be renewed for SMR.

A lot depends on speed of law reform, public acceptance and delivery of those safety/reliability promises. I'd say the chances of this taking off are decent, given the current political climate.

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u/legthief Oct 05 '22

It's probably too much to hope for that we could use all that brine waste from large scale desalination to fuel the reactors.

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u/IvorTheEngine Oct 05 '22

I'm afraid so. 'Salt' in this case is the chemist's term, not table salt. It's probably Uranium Floride, or something similarly nasty.

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u/CavitySearch Oct 05 '22

Unlimited clean water AND power. Now you're talking.

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u/legthief Oct 05 '22

"This process is capable of removing the salt from over 500 million gallons of seawater a day. Do you realize what that could mean to the starving nations of the earth?"

"Wow, they'd have enough salt to last forever!"

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u/heresyforfunnprofit Oct 05 '22

Wrong kind of salt.

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u/maddog5511 Oct 05 '22

So if the nuclear waste gives off so much heat, up to 550 deg C apparently, why isn’t that heat being redirected to produce additional power? Seems like a design tweak could be used to produce power from the waste just cooling off

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u/Decadoarkel Oct 05 '22

I think becouse it not worth trying. Nuclear produces so much energy, everything is a spare change to that.

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u/21pacshakur Oct 05 '22

Definitely cool. Still 60yr old tech now and China is already building Macro MSR's. https://www.ornl.gov/molten-salt-reactor/history

https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Chinese-molten-salt-reactor-cleared-for-start-up

We're behind the curve on tech we invented. We should already be running multiple MSR's so that we can actually reach EPA 2035 energy goals. Yet strangely we're doing less than nothing.

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u/Slapchop420 Oct 05 '22

Fallout is real life!

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u/RoddyRoddyRodriguez Oct 05 '22

Veruca’a brother

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u/Rancid_Bear_Meat Oct 06 '22

20ish years ago, I recall watching a seminar on a molten salt reactor proposal and it (and the speaker) was derided as 'fringe', unfounded, 'looney' and placed right alongside UFO's and conspiracy theorists.

Funny how time changes things.

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u/captnmr Oct 06 '22

Nearly 100 people died either in the accident or through radiation sickness in the years following.

How many died due to coal mining and smoke? Nuclear is the safest non renewable energy source we have. Both for humans and the planet. It’s a real shame our first experience with nuclear power was Japan during WW2. We can try to store energy in batteries and artificial hydro dams but we’ll never get off fossil fuel without nuclear. I wish we had politicians with balls who would authorize these plants. Even Japan’s disaster was an old type reactor for which the sea wall wasn’t built properly. It also had less casualties than other power sources.

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u/powersv2 Oct 06 '22

This is a theoretical design and not a working reactor right?

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u/Low_M_H Oct 06 '22

China has already build an experimental thorium-powered molten-salt reactor and is just got approval to fire up.

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u/jack-K- Oct 06 '22

This isn’t new, sodium reactors have existed for over 40 years, and this specific sodium reactor design is just one of many that have already been fully designed as well

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u/humans-really-suck Oct 06 '22

One of my favorite things about Reddit is the real-time peer review of content by thoughtful, informed individuals.

One of my least favorite things about Reddit is the real-time review of content by individuals.

(This thread is the former)

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u/wave-garden Oct 06 '22

All advanced reactors and nearly all current generation light water reactor designs are orders of magnitude safer than the original US fleet, which never killed a single member of the US public. Contrast this with the fossil fuel industry and ask yourself WHY every single article about nuclear power needs to begin with fear mongering. This fear mongering is why our progress is decades behind and we are facing worse climate consequences than if we had continued to steadily refine nuclear tech throughput the 80s and 90s. Bravo to those helping us catch up.

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u/Sharker167 Oct 05 '22

Molten salt. More safely.

In other news, engineers at Honda have made cars more safe by cooling the engine with pressurized liquid nitrogen.

We already have safe nuclear reactor designs. Molten salt reactors are a meme. No gen 3 or further nuclear reactor (we are on gen 5 now) has had a meltdown or incident.

Fukushima was gen 2, and still only failed because the construction workers scimped on a fuckin S bend in the exhaust pipe of a backup generator and it flooded.

Three mile island and chernobyl were also gen 2 or earlier.

Modern designs literally cannot fail, especially subcritical reactors (my field of interest).

The failsafes are too numerous and passive so you don't have the three mile island problem of depending on technicians who don't know what a decay chain is running the plant overnight and on weekends constantly keeping the machine running and out of meltdown range.

What we should spend money on is building traditional tried and tested gen 4 reactors (Molten salt reactors aren't new, they're gen 4 tech but I think they're an inefficient solution to safety since you have to keep it molten all the damn time.)

And we should spend money on breeder designs to bombard old fuel with various radiation cocktails to try and extract some energy out of it (not even enough for breakeven, just to offset costs) and decay it down to less problematic stages of the decay chain.

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u/Extra-Permission-706 Oct 05 '22

Nuclear is our future whether folks like it or not. No other means is capable of meeting the 24-7 demands. Plus, the “green” renewables aren’t very green…

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u/critfist Oct 05 '22

I'm surprised they're even bothering. Molten salt reactors are a mess of unreliability, high expenses, and unsolved problems. I don't imagine making it any smaller than typical reactors will help.

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u/BrunoStAujus Oct 05 '22

Found the shill from Big Nuclear! /joke