Bruce Hoglund's

Molten Salt Interests

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Introduction | 'Nuclear Transistor' | The Worries That Motivated These Pages

Energy Beliefs | Eclectic Nuclear Solutions | Proliferation Issues | References

 

 

Web Site Contents
 

Static References

What is Molten Salt and Its Technology?

H.G. MacPherson's, The Molten Salt Adventure", 33k.

Everything you wanted to know about Thorium!

Everything you wanted to know about Radiation!

The 1st Aqueous Homogenous Reactor, the LOPO.

The Aqueous Homogenous Power Reactor, the HRE.

MOLTEN SALT REACTORS FOR BURNING DISMANTLED WEAPONS FUEL (i.e., excess plutonium), Gat, Engel, Dodds.

Multi-Mission Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) and Proliferation paper, by Bruce Hoglund, ~100k.

Professor Furukawa (Tokai University, Japan) Accelerator Driven Molten Salt Target Breeder

Introduction

 

I enjoy finding, using, and teaching others superior technology. Unfortunately, people often think they use "the best technology", but most of the time they do not fully understand what makes one technology better than another. The technology they usually use is 'what their friends or co-workers are using', or what their company/government forces them to use. The statement is often made, "We use it because everyone else does (or has)." Obviously, this is not an optimum choice based on superiority of one technology over another based upon rational evaluation.

Often a superior technology is kept out of the market because there is little motivation for the existing manufacturers to bring an innovation to market. A good example was the United States inventing the Transistor in 1947, but neither General Electric, RCA, Motorola, nor any of the other large American firms, saw a reason to commercialize this amazing innovation. Basically the transistor did what the vacuum tube did, just much smaller, cheaper (ultimately), faster, more reliably, and with much greater energy economy. It took an organization (Sony) outside the dominant (at the time) electronics industry to introduce the innovation of the transistor 10 years later in the form of the World's first pocket radio.

 

Sometimes technology is rushed to market too quickly and the market (consumers) reject the innovation. For example, the picture telephone. It was too expensive and most people did not want to pay extra for so little value. Both these examples apply to nuclear energy. It was rushed to market because of the amazing advance that occurred due to the Manhattan Project. Imagine Ben Franklin discovering electricity and then 5 years later we have vacuum tube radios (within the industrial capability of the 1700s). This is what happened with nuclear energy; fission was discovered in 1939 and by 1944 the first atomic bomb was exploded! This amazing, yet tragic thust of a new technology because of military needs has tainted nuclear energy ever since. Most people can not separate the military from the commercial, nor do they fully understand the breadth of nuclear technology. Most see it as humankind's most recent Frankenstein; a technology beyond human control. This unfortunate perception is due to a lack of understanding of nuclear technology by most people. These web pages are my attempt to educate those interested in learning more about a lesser known area of nuclear Technology: Fluid Fuel Reactors.

 


 

 

Here are some of my beliefs about energy and nuclear technologies:

 

NUCLEAR:

  • Was too hastily advanced in order to make a weapon (bomb) for war. Because of this rush, little consideration was given to the overall system design until much of the infrastructure was already in place, and thus hard to change. No "systems" type analysis was done on the many possibilities open to us. Many of the nuclear waste difficulties came from the military nuclear byproducts, not the commercial nuclear industry. Nuclear was also a virtual slave to military needs until very recently, and by then the public's attitude had reversed. Nuclear is a broad field, just as electronics is. Think of all the different applications of electronics and you will begin to appreciate nuclear's depth. Everything from medicine, to basic materials and biological processes studies, to the obvious energy and weapons use, are a few of nuclear's past and present uses. Space propulsion is a real possibility in nuclear's future, as chemical rockets do not have enough power for a trip to Mars and back.

 

  • There are over 900 possible nuclear reactors! To put that in perspective, there are just 3 different Internal Combustion engines that power our entire transportation system; gasoline (Otto cycle), diesel (Diesel cycle), and gas turbine ("Jet engine", Brayton cycle). We (the USA) use just 2 primary nuclear reactors; Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) & Boiling Water Reactor (BWR). Canada uses an independently developed CANDU Reactor (CANadian Deuterium Uranium Reactor - because the USA kept its WW II nuclear secrets from Canada due to secrecy worries), which is a pressure tube, heavy water reactor. Britain has some old gas cooled reactors still running. France, Japan, and Russia continue to play with nuclear fire; The Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR). These type of reactors have very poor safety records and availability. Many have suffered core melts (e.g., EBR-I & Fermi) and/or fires (e.g., Monju's recent fire). Of interest is Argonne National Laboratory's Integral Fuel Reactor (IFR), which uses Molten Salt Processing of the fuel (they call it "Pyroprocessing" so as to avoid association with Molten Salt Reactors [MSRs]). Unfortunately, the excellent "Pyroprocessing" (Molten Salt processing) is coupled to a LMFBR type reactor.

 

  • LWRs, or Light Water Reactors, e.g., the BWRs & PWRs that constitute the 110 commercial nuclear reactors the USA has operating to supply about 20% of the USA's electricity needs. They are very flexible reactors, as demonstrated by the replacement of the original core of America's first commercial reactor so it could utilize all the nuclear resource ("breed" its own fuel) in the "Light Water Breeder Reactor" (LWBR) experiment during the late1970s. Alvin Radkowsky was Admiral Rickover's reactor core designer, and he designed the LWBR's core too. Alvin Radkowsky started a company in Israel devoted to recoring existing reactors so they can fully utilize their nuclear resource.

 

  • Nuclear energy will continue to be pursued and will expand in the future due to the following fact:
    • Nuclear energy gives over 1000000 times the energy that you could get from burning any material. Nature gives us few 'million to one' improvements, so why throw it away?
    • Total energy of uranium is over 1000 years for all humans' needs.
    • Total energy from thorium is 3 times larger than uranium.
    • No Greenhouse Gases ("Global Warming Gases") are produced.

 

  • Nuclear wastes, if burned completely (to fission products only), become less radioactive than the dirt they came from in ~300 years of storage.

 

  • Nuclear wastes will be valuable in the future. Laugh if you will, but natural gas was once considered a deadly menace to oil drillers and was avoided or vented where ever possible. One of the worst nuclear wastes is Strontium-90 (Sr-90), which constitutes about 5% of the nuclear waste (fission products) produced. Just ~0.5 kilograms (1 pound) of Strontium-90 gives steady, predictable energy at a rate similar to burning ~1000 liters/year (250 gals/year) of gasoline. No control is needed besides containing the strontium (chemically similar to calcium) and its heat. Maybe we will use it in space where there is no biosphere. Should the irrational fears over radiation subside, we may find it useful to power deep ocean probes (submarines).

 

  • The only way to get rid of plutonium is with neutrons. The main source of neutrons is from a reactor, from where plutonium came. Plutonium must go back into the reactors, if we want to be rid of it. The situation reminds me on one of my favorite stories, Tolkien's Trilogy, where Frodo has to throw Sauron's evil ring back into the fires from which it came!
"Plutonium can only be destroyed by neutrons; burial only hides it. Plutonium needs to be viewed differently than it is today, perhaps best expressed by the statement; 'Plutonium should not be considered a waste, nor a resource, but instead, an endowment'."

Professor Wolfe Häfele at The First Annual "Alvin Weinberg Lecture", Oak Ridge National Laboratory, April 25, 1995.

 

  • Solar energy is much more difficult than nuclear energy due to huge economic obstacles. Also, as my friend Jack Pleasant points out, it is primarily in the narrow band 35° above & below the equator. Most of the energy demand is well beyond that region. I lived in Germany, which is above the latitude of most of the Continental USA, so I know how long solar energy can be gone! Unless countries change completely, it is very unlikely they will want to be completely dependent upon the countries within the solar band for their energy needs. If wars are fought over oil, what will happen when narrow geographies control solar energy? Despite this, I believe solar can and should be exploited. One of the easiest and most cost effective, yet still rarely done, is using solar for domestic heating ("passive solar" heat & "active" hot water heaters). Interestingly, solar may be very good for meeting the "Peak Electrical Loads" (usually from noon to dinner time). Thus, a possible scenario would be for nuclear to provide most of the base load (the electricity demand that is constant, day and night, day after day) and solar and other alternative energy forms (e.g., wind) provide much of the peaking load, with gas turbines providing backup.

 

  • Global Climate Change is real! It is caused mainly by too much burning of fossil fuels. Ironically, burning some fossil fuels might actually be good for the earth as these materials are those that the earth's recycling mechanism missed. However, we are burning (consuming) fossil fuels and changing the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate. To think it can continue without any consequences is pure stupidity. One way to reduce CO2 and NOx emissions is to displace as much fossil generating electricity with that from nuclear power plants. The sooner we start, the less drastic the change we have to make. To argue against this needed change is to insure our future change will be a virtual panic.
    • To those who believe God will fix the messes we make, please ask yourself, "If I made (make) a mess at my home, did (do) my parents always clean it up without complaint?" If your answer is YES, then let us hope we are God's spoilt children!

 

  • Radiation standards have become a fanatic's dream; they are set well below any real danger. In fact, they are so strict that a coal burning plant now releases 100 times the radiation of a nuclear plant. Sound impossible? (Read Coal Combustion .) No, it is an example of well intentioned regulations becoming ever tighter just because the regulator thinks it is what the public wants and because they can! To learn more about radiation go to myRadiation Facts Page.

 

I believe the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) is the "Nuclear Equivalent to the Transistor" ©:

  • Invented in the USA in 1954
  • Not yet commercialized, even after 2 successful MSRs were built & operated
  • Meltdown proof
  • Does not produce weapons grade plutonium
  • Has inherent nonproliferation features
  • Thousands of years of energy
  • Its wastes are simpler and less toxic than current nuclear wastes
    • Only hundreds of years of storage versus thousands for the current wastes
    • Can burn the existing wastes (spent fuel)!
  • Higher thermal efficiencies (operates at a "Red Heat"; ~700° C [1260° F])

 

The real question about Molten Salt Reactors is not will they be commercialized, but who and when will they do it! If you have not heard about the MSR, do not worry; neither have most nuclear engineers and scientists. If you think this is some sort of 'Government Conspiracy' type information, please read on, or better yet try to visit the last remaining Molten Salt Reactor, the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (near Knoxville) in building number 7503. The MSRE has been designated "an American Nuclear Society (ANS) Historic Landmark Site" and is also a short distance (~5 kilometers; ~3 miles) from the other ANS Historic Site, the "Graphite Reactor". Unfortunately, the MSRE site is not open to the public, but Oak Ridge's Museum of Energy is supposed to have obtained the "worlds largest machined piece of beryllium" which was to have been half of the core of the Molten Salt version of the Aircraft Nuclear Reactor; the "Fireball". Intrigued, but confused and doubtful? Good!  Now is the time to begin your personal "Molten Salt Adventure"; read on & learn!

 

 

Here are my worries, and thus the main reason I have created these web pages.

I believe,

  • a Western country, most likely the USA, will be the victim of a  Clandestine Nuclear Weapon. Little is being done to prevent this, despite government statements to the contrary. Excess weapons plutonium must be destroyed in nuclear reactors.
  • Global Climate Change is real and will have a greater and greater impact upon our lives.
  • ignorance (or stupidity) has become a virtue instead of the vice it should be. No choice is perfect, so we must use our knowledge (as imperfect as it may be) to make a good, rational choice.

 

Some of my Eclectic Interests, and Solutions to the Above Problems, are:

 

Fluid Fuel Reactors (FFRs)

Aqueous Homogeneous Reactors
  • LOPO's anniversary
  • HRE (Homogeneous Reactor Experiments)
Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs)
  • The Best First Paper to Read on Molten Salt Reactors, "The Molten Salt Adventure", 33k (Back)
  • Excellent early suggestion to use MSRs to destroy Excess Weapons' Plutonium,
    • MOLTEN SALT REACTORS FOR BURNING DISMANTLED WEAPONS FUEL, Gat, et. al.

      The molten salt reactor (MSR) option for burning fissile fuel from dismantled weapons is examined. It is concluded that MSRS are potentially suitable for beneficial utilization of the dismantled fuel. The MSRs have the flexibility to utilize any fissile fuel in continuous operation with no special modifications, as demonstrated in the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, while maintaining their economy, The MSRS further require a minimum of special fuel preparation and can tolerate denaturing and dilution of the fuel. Fuel Shipments can be arbitrarily small, which may reduce the risk of diversion. The MSRS have inherent safety features that make them acceptable and attractive. They can burn a fuel type completely and convert it to other fuels. The MSRs also have the potential for burning the actinides and delivering the waste in an optimal form, thus contributing to the solution of one of the major remaining problems for deployment of nuclear power.

  • Multi-Mission Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) and Proliferation paper, by Bruce Hoglund, ~100k

    A brief history of the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), but the main focus is proliferation of nuclear materials and how the MSR can reduce, if not eliminate, the proliferation possibility via its use of the Thorium Fuel Cycle, as opposed to the current Uranium-Plutonium Fuel Cycle. The destruction of the excess Weapons Fissile Material (Highly Enriched Uranium, HEU, & Bomb-Grade Plutonium) by emplacement in a MSR and converting the excess material's neutrons into proliferation resistant Uranium-233/232 (233U & 232U) is examined. Various postulated proliferation means are discussed and where possible, quantitatively shown not to be possible with MSRs. A good source of references for the interested student of MSRs.

 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)'s Singular, Amazing Achievement:

  • The Molten Salt Reactor (MSR)
    • Best paper to start with for MSR Education:
  • Their Director who was fired (pg.. 198 - 200, "The First Nuclear Era: ...") for advocating the MSR, the Amazing Dr. Alvin Weinberg
    • Read about his life's work as a "Technological Fixer" in his book:

      "The First Nuclear Era : The Life and Times of a Technological Fixer", by Alvin Martin Weinberg (1994). Book's contents (sections) are:

      Table of Contents
      Acknowledgments
      Prologue
      1. Robert Hutchins' University of Chicago, Nicolas Rashevsky and Carl Eckart
      2. The Metallurgical Laboratory and Eugene Wigner's Hanford
      3. Clinton Laboratories - Where Man First Created Huge Quantities of Radioactivity
      4. Research Reactors: ORNL's Scientific Centerpiece
      5. Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion
      6. Fluid-Fuel Power Breeders
      7. Economic Nuclear Power is Here?
      8. Desalting the Sea and Other Technological Fixes
      9. International Euphoria
      10. Nuclear Reality: The Faustian Bargain
      11. Smolny Institute on the Potomac
      12. Energy Think Tankery
      13. Moonlight Philosophy of Scientific Administration
      14. The Bomb
      15. Could We Have Done Better?
      Index

 

Proliferation Concerns

(Back)

 

 

References

900 Possible Reactor Choices:

Page 25, "Nuclear Power Reactors", Edited by, James K. Pickard (1957), as part of "The Geneva Series on The Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy":
"The enormous difficulty of choosing a proper path for reactor development is easily seen by estimating the number of conceivable reactor types. With 3 fissionable fuels [233U, 235U, 239Pu], 2 fertile materials [232Th & 238U], 3 neutron energy ranges [slow or thermal, epithermal or resonance, & fast], at least 5 coolant types [2 waters {light & heavy}, sodium, CO2, He, & air], 5 moderators [light & heavy water, graphite, beryllium, & beryllium oxide], and 2 general categories of geometrical arrangement (heterogeneous and homogeneous), there are 900 possible combinations! [3 x 2 x 3 x 5 x 5 x 2 = 900] Of course not all of these are sensible; for example a fast reactor could hardly be cooled with H2O. Even so, there are probably at least 100 combinations which are not obviously unfeasible." NOTE: I added the comments in the brackets []. (Back)

 

Notes on theTransistor History:

Taken from Britannica CD 97 (search for " transistor" & "Sony Corporation"):
Invented by "... three American physicists at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain, and William B. Shockley" in 1947. They allowed the electronics industry to advance due to "their small size, low heat generation, high reliability, and relatively small power requirements".

Morita Akio, one of the founders of theSony corporation, which "In 1957 Sony introduced the world's first pocket-sized, all-transistor radio. In 1960 Sony introduced an 8-inch (20-centimetre) transistorized television set, creating a new market for television". (Back)

 

 


 

Copyright © Bruce N. Hoglund, 1997


The above was written and created by Bruce Hoglund <bhoglund@earthlink.net.DoNotSpamMe>, © 1997

Please send me any HELPFUL comments or suggestions. Responsible use is allowed as long as the author is cited.

Last modified, 20 Nov 97 



Index to this Page

Introduction | 'Nuclear Transistor' | My Motivational Worries | Energy Beliefs |

Eclectic Nuclear Solutions | Proliferation Concerns | References


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