That other nuclear reactor

In his inaugural speech, Professor Jan-Leen Kloosterman pleaded for the Molten Salt Reactor on Thorium as the basis for future nuclear energy last Friday (April 1st, 2016).

Nuclear energy has a reputation problem because of the Fukushima accident and the ensuing German ban on nuclear energy. And then there is the problem with the storage of long-lived nuclear waste, for which no one has a permanent solution. It takes a brave man to face the challenges and propose a new form of nuclear energy that can provide electrical power in conjunction with solar and wind energy and that will allow us to restrain CO2-driven climate change.

Kloosterman is a well-known advocate for the thorium reactor: a form of nuclear energy that was shortly investigated in the 1960s but was then side-lined for the uranium reactor. Still, the thorium reactor, also known as the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), holds many promises, as Kloosterman underlines. Such as much less long-lived nuclear waste, abundant accessibility of thorium and inherent safe reactor designs.

Kloosterman said: “Since we run the MSR with thorium instead of uranium, this reactor has the potential to produce electricity safely, and in an extremely clean and sustainable manner. Thorium itself is not a fuel but a breeding material that decays into uranium-233 which is highly fissile. The uranium continues to circulate in the salt, as a result of which very little radioactive waste is produced. Moreover, the most (potentially) hazardous elements continue to circulate in the salt solution until they have been completely split into fission products.”

About ten years ago, Delft researchers started to revisit the early American designs and made some improvements. Shortly experiments will start to study the behaviour of materials under radiation and in contact with molten salts. Nonetheless, the number of technological hurdles is such that Kloosterman thinks it could take decades before a functioning MSR on thorium will be built.

Related articles in Delta (in Dutch):

De toekomst van kernenergie (27 april 2015)

Terug naar thorium (21 juni 2012)

Editor Redactie

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