Dr. Fleming will be talking to us about Nuclear Science. The current technology involved in nuclear power generation along with new and different ideas. One of the ideas he will be speaking about is Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR). Many of you probably have heard about them, there has been a small buzz on the Internet about them. We brought The good doctor in to educate us about LFTR technology and to counter the rumors going around.
What is a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)?
A LFTR reactor is a type of a breeder reactor that uses Thorium as the fuel source. The fuel is in a fluoride-based molten salt mixture to power the reaction. Breeder reactors are much more efficient than the light-water reactors in use today, extracting as much as 100% of a fuel’s energy versus 1%. Also since they operate at atmospheric pressures there is no chance of the reactor vessel exploding.
Wikipedia has a large list of advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few of the advantages:
- LFTRs can be designed to be inherently safe: They can have passive nuclear safety, strong negative temperature coefficient of reactivity and operate at atmospheric pressures. (i.e., since the core is not pressurized, it cannot explode)
- MSFRs can include a freeze plug at the bottom that has to be actively cooled, usually by a small electric fan. If the cooling fails, say because of a power failure, the fan stops, the plug melts, and the fuel drains to a subcritical easily cooled storage facility. This not only stops the reactor, also the storage tank can more easily shed the decay heat from the short-lived radioactive decay of irradiated nuclear fuels.
- Since the LFTR fuel is liquid, relatively small, simple equipment can continuously remove transmutation products. This immensely simplifies the reactor’s behavior, i.e. it is more predictable, thus more easily controlled and safer than a conventional LWR (light-water reactor).
There have been several TED talks on the subject. Here is one:
Prepare your questions for Dr. Fleming. I expect this to be a very informative Get Together!