Why it matters
Transatomic Power's advanced molten salt reactor consumes spent nuclear fuel cleanly and completely, unlocking vast amounts of cheap, carbon-free energy. It solves four of the most pressing problems facing the nuclear industry: ecological stewardship, public safety, non-proliferation, and cost-efficiency. Only an advanced reactor that meets all four goals at once can truly change the game and allow for broad adoption of nuclear power.
Our technical white paper gives a more detailed description of the reactor design.
Why it works
The reactor can be powered by nuclear waste because it uses radically different technology from conventional plants. Instead of using solid fuel pins, we dissolve the nuclear waste into a molten salt. Suspending the fuel in a liquid allows us to keep it in the reactor longer, and therefore capture more of its energy. Conventional nuclear reactors can utilize only about 3% - 5% of the potential fission energy in a given amount of uranium before it has to be removed from the reactor. Our design captures 96% of this remaining energy.
Why it's different
Molten salt reactors are not a new technology - they were originally developed and tested at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In many respects, Transatomic's reactor is similar to these early designs. We use similar safety mechanisms (such as freeze valves), chemical processing techniques (such as off-gas sparging), and corrosion tolerant alloys (such as modified Hastelloy-N). These similarities to previous designs allow us to build on an established body of research and reduce the uncertainty associated with the design.
The main differences between Transatomic Power's molten salt reactor and previous molten salt reactors are our metal hydride moderator and LiF-(Heavy metal)F4 fuel salt. These features allow us to make the reactor more compact and generate electricity at lower cost than other designs. Furthermore, previous molten salt reactors, such as the Oak Ridge Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, used uranium enriched to 33% U-235. The reactor can operate using fresh fuel enriched to a minimum of 1.8% U-235, or light water reactor waste.