Skip to comments.A Boy and His Nuclear Reactor (Taylor Wilson & LFTR Thorium Reactors)
Posted on 08/01/2013 3:08:37 PM PDT by ckilmer
Taylor Wilson built a fusion reactor at age 14 and remains interested in nuclear technology. So, at 19, he has presented his idea for a small reactor concept that uses molten salt to make the smaller reactor both more powerful and more efficient than their cousins.
Wilson's fission reactor operates at 600 to 700 degrees Celsius. And because the laws of thermodynamics say that high temperatures lead to high efficiencies, this reactor is 45 to 50 percent efficient.
Traditional steam turbine systems are only 30 to 35 percent efficient because their reactors run at low temperatures of about 200 to 300 degrees Celsius.
And Wilson's reactor isn't just hot, it's also powerful. Despite its small size, the reactor generates between 50 and 100 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000 homes, according to Wilson.
Okay, thats the hot and powerful part.
And unlike traditional nuclear power plants, Wilson's miniature power plants would be buried below ground, making them a boon for security advocates.
According to Wilson, his reactor only needs to be refueled every 30 years, compared to the 18-month fuel cycle of most power plants. This means they can be sealed up underground for a long time, decreasing the risk of proliferation.
And thats the small reactor part. Listening to Wilson at the TED conference and reading the details of his idea, I expected to find more that is, where this idea departs from earlier ideations of small, molten salt reactors.
For example, here is more-or-less (more, Id say) the same thing from Transatomic Power.
Enter Transatomics molten salt reactor (MSR).
The safety advantages of this project are mostly features of molten salt reactors in general. Using high boiling-point coolants like fluoride or chloride salts in place of light or heavy water negates the need to pressurize the system and instantly reduces the dangers associated with super-heated, pressurized liquids.
And the article from ExtremeTech points out that molten salt reactors have been contemplated since the 60s.
Researchers have actually had working models of the MSRs since the 60s [even the 1950s see here], but theyve never been used for commercial purposes. One reason is that much of nuclears research capital comes from the military, and bulky MSR technology has traditionally been less desirable for submarines and aircraft carriers than their relatively slim light-water cousins. Another is that the plants require a separate facility to filter their core mixture.
So we can allow that Wilson may have some new ideas about the molten salt reactor how to make it workable at a smaller size, maybe - but its hard at present to pin down what they are. Or what would cause the technology to gain traction at this particular time which I imagine Transatomic would like to do, too.
But none of this is to say that the idea shouldnt gain traction, or that Taylor has simply reinvented the molten wheel, or that Transtomic and Taylor shouldnt pursue their ideas well, to the extent that patents dont play a role. Right now, its all just a curiosity. And that is the point of TED, right?
Here is the link to Taylor Wilson's Ted talk on his thorium molten salt design. http://www.myvidster.com/video/14466616/TED_Taylor_Wilson_My_radical_plan_for_small_nuclear_fission_reactors_-_Taylor_Wilson_2013
Here is the link to the original article. http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-boy-and-his-nuclear-reactor.html
He will be disappeared by Saudi and GE money....
The energy crime lords don’t like competition which is better than them...
Maybe, but more likely, he will be "disappeared" by his own government.
Monkeying with the government's pet duck is not a good idea, but I'm glad he did it.
I’ve been reading about MSR technology for a couple of years and haven’t yet heard anything that would indicate it is flawed. Imagine living in a world where innovation in energy like this is actually encouraged.
Standing by now for all the self-acclaimed physics experts here to poop all over this like they do others...
The Chinese are big players in this space as well as 5 north american companies. Thorium work is also being done in Norway Chile India. The Aussies and the Brits are doing a lot of talking about getting into the game.
imho there is already too much critical mass in this technology for it to be snuffed successfully. (That’s not to say some people won’t try.)
Imagine living in a world where innovation in energy like this is actually encouraged.
Three new players in north america alone have entered into this game. The Chinese are talking about getting a model done by 2020 or so.
Taylor Wilson thinks he can get a demo out in 18-24 months.
I think the news on this technology is going to get steadily hotter over the next year or two.
And anybody who says otherwise is RACIST.
Even better than not being capable of a catastrophic meltdown, the proposed design also meets the standard of walkaway in the event of internal breakdown. The Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan failed because the standby generators that were supposed to provide the auxiliary power necessary to maintain the cooling system were swamped and left inoperative. Once the runaway series of events began, there was no going back.
With a thorium-powered plant, the neutron concentration is far less intense than with a uranium-powered plant, and the fuel supply does not get “poisoned” by rising concentrations of extremely long-lived isotopes that remain radioactive for thousands of years. In fact, the admixture of the material from these “spent” fuel rods into the thorium fuel also consumes those otherwise long-lived isotopes, and in a “breeder” reaction, removes them from the nuclear chain reactions much more swiftly that relying on natural radioactive decay.
The big objection to the widespread use of thorium as a power source is that the end production of elemental isotopes results in insufficient fissile material to turn into a weapon.
Today there is far too much of these fissionable isotopes in the world, as evidenced by the huge number of “spent” uranium fuel rods that are in storage. But if these “spent” fuel rods could be “burned” in the operation of a thorium nuclear power plant, I see that as a win-win for everybody.
Cheap electrical power, removal of a hazardous waste from the environment, and a vastly expanded industrial base as a result of all this cheap power, as well as replacing “fossil” fuels as a primary energy source.
It would open an industrial revolution greater than anything mankind has yet undertaken in all the advancement of civilization.
Of course, some folks just can’t stand prosperity. The Luddites will fight more furiously against this than anything they ever have before.
Bill Gates stops chasing nuclear wave, pursues variety of reactors (July 24, 2013)
Nothing wrong with the technology.
Refueling and fuel processing is the problem.
U232 side effect of Thorium bombardment is a high gamma ray producer.
Imagine trying to refuel a reactor powered by several tons of Radium.
Google what it did to the “Radioactive Boy Scout” who tried it on a very small scale.
You did catch the sarcasm, right?
I'm just glad you didn't say "Anyone that says supercalifragilisticexpiaidotious... " cause I can't spell that. ;)
All you millenial hipsters take Gasland 2 off your netflix list and try The China Syndrome out... don’t be left out of the latest thing trending on twitter.