In the sixties, nuclear innovation was in full bloom, there were a plethora of different designs and principles being tested and one of these was the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR). The MSR is the brainchild of Alvin Weinberg and Eugene Wigner. Where most reactors work on a solid fuel principle with fuel inefficiencies (3~4%), the MSR works on a liquid fuel principle with high fuel efficiency (90+ %). The MSRe or Molten Salt Reactor experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratories proved that we can run highly efficient and safe reactors based on the liquid fuel cycle which in term is based on salts with a relatively high melting point. This higher melting point for the work- and cooling fluid brings about a great passive safety feature, once the power fails, the fluid cannot melt down, because it is already molten! You can cool it passively through the use of the inherent convective flow of the fluid and through the implementation of a freeze plug and a sub-critical drain tank, or through the use of blanket-salts. The MSRe ran successfully for 4 year straight and proves that we know the technology and can replicate it. And I have to add that innovation in this field of science has hardly taken off, so the learning curve again can be very steep indeed.
You can read more here : https://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/ornl.pdf
Terrestrial Energy is one of the companies that aspires to make the dream of Weinberg come to fruition; To build a sustainable fleet of nuclear reactors that can stretch human potential and raise prosperity for all. They are working on it by combining the best talents and minds in the industry; by forging alliances with companies like Caterpillar, Energy Northwest, Ontario Power Generation
PSEG, and the Southern Nuclear Operating Company; also by working hand in hand with Canada's government and taking all the necessary steps to make the case of their reactor design and make testing and commercializing it a possibility.
Consider this concept video of how they envision one of their facilities.
Consider comparison in size between their largest unit and other reactors working on different principles. (note the little human silhouette).
One of the best aspects of this reactor design is that we can build them on assembly lines, which means that we will be able to meet a growing demand of energy as a result of a growing world population and emerging economies.
I am extra stoked that Canon Bryan (CFO) has been reading Science a la Carte and shared this picture with me!
Check their story out and learn something incredible