ThorCon requires sound engineering, but nothing we don’t already know how to do. This is essential to meeting our schedule.
ThorCon is a scale up of the remarkably successful Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE). The MSRE is ThorCon’s pilot plant. But in scaling up, we must be very disciplined in enforcing the No New Technology (NNT) rule. In particular, this rule implies:
- There are two possible routes to a thorium breeder: two salt, and one salt. The two salt concept requires a barrier material that does not exist. The one salt design requires nearly continuous, complex chemical processing of a very hot, extremely radioactive fuelsalt. This process has not yet been fully demonstrated even at laboratory scale. Both concepts need highly enriched lithium which doesn’t exist in anything like the quantities required. The first generation ThorCon is a simple converter.
- The salt that most molten salt designs are counting on is flibe: a mixture of very highly enriched lithium-7, beryllium and fluorine. Unfortunately, flibe does not exist in anything like the quantities we need. The only proven process for creating highy enriched lithium-7 required one-third of the USA’s mercury stocks and was an environmental disaster. No one knows when flibe will be available in the quantities we need at a price we can afford. Until then, ThorCon must use a salt that is currently available and whose cost is known.
No Brayton Cycle
- Many new reactor designs are based on using a closed Brayton (gas) cycle to turn heat into power. Unfortunately, closed loop Brayton turbines exist only at laboratory scale where they are encountering a series of vexing problems. Even open air Brayton turbines are developmental in the molten salt reactor context. ThorCon can feed its heat to the same standard super-critical steam cycle used by coal plants around the world for decades. The result is nil power loop development risk and ThorCon Power can simply replace current coal plant boilers and their pollution.
No Further Scale Up
- ThorCon is based on 250 MWe modules. The prototype will simply be one of these modules. As soon as the prototype has proven itself, we can go straight to full scale production.
If we accept these constraints, we can be cutting steel for ThorCon in 2017.