EPD MSR Review Feasibility Study July 2015 .pdf

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MSR Review



1 Introduction


1 Opportunities & Industry Overview


A historic decline of R&D and other investment in UK civil nuclear power is described. Current policy is
directed to improvements in solid-fuelled reactors, including small to medium sized versions, together
with emphasis on researching nuclear fusion possibilities. Liquid-fuelled reactor technology has been
perceived as too far in the future to justify current attention.
Constraints in the UK nuclear industry sector include human resources availability and adequate
investment. As an outcome what is proposed as policy may not be achievable. The suitability of
more-of-the-same solid fuelled PWR technology to provide for planned increases of nuclear power in
the energy sector is questioned.
Financial and economic returns from liquid-fuelled MSR technology are described; potential
environmental benefits in terms of global warming are outlined.

2 MSR Designs Assessed in this Study


Criteria and methods for ascertaining availability of valid MSR proposals for a UK demonstration reactor
are explained. Outlines of six alternative proposals are presented. Each individual outline indicates
relevant features. Five out of the six designs are directly descended from the 1960s experimental
reactor (MSRE). One proposal – the Moltex Stable Salt Reactor – is a development of an earlier
concept from the same MSRE group.

3 Historical Background


Nuclear fission liquid fuelled reactors originated as a conjecture at the time when atomic weapons
were under development in the 1940s. Insights from that time onwards were brought to reality in the
late 1960s by Alvin Weinberg who became director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Civilian
nuclear power was initiated in the USA with the Shippingport pressurised water reactor, a land-based
adaptation of PWR technology chosen for the Nautilus, the first US Navy nuclear submarine. Further
development of MSR technology in the US and elsewhere was effectively abandoned in 1976. The
concepts were kept alive sufficiently to allow resurrection in the last two decades.

4 An Introduction to Liquid-fuelled MSR Technology


Neutrons, electrically neutral particles, together with electrons and protons which carry equal but
opposite electric charges, are the principal components of atoms. Neutron activity induces nuclear
fission which in a fuel salt provides the means for harnessing the energy locked into component atoms.
Neutronic interactions with design materials and fuel salts are described.

5 MSR Benefits


Informed public opinion when polled showed concern about eight specific topics. The benefits derived
from generic MSR technology when addressing these topics - and some others - are reviewed one
by one. In this reviewing process there is an implicit comparison with industry-standard solid fuelled
technology; the outcomes reflect favourably on MSR technology.

6 Challenges


Risks such as proliferation and failures of components are seen as challenges. Over-emphasis on
corrosion issues is perceptible, arising from inadequate familiarity with continuing achievements of
molten salt chemists and the past achievements, in particular at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory,
since the late 1950s. Sources of funding for implementation and development of innovative nuclear
projects in the UK present a major risk and some possible funding opportunities are reviewed.

Energy Process Developments Ltd.