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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Experimental Molten-Salt Nuclear Reactor

Transatomic Power, a startup that’s developing a novel type of nuclear reactor, has begun a series of experiments that will either verify its design or send it back to the drawing board. The experiments were made possible by $2.5 million in new investments from Founders Fund, the venture capital firm cofounded by Peter Thiel, and two family funds. 
The reactor would be smaller and safer than a conventional nuclear unit, potentially making it far cheaper. It would use molten salt as its coolant, making it meltdown-proof and thus requiring fewer costly safety systems. Transatomic’s design could also consume nuclear waste, and it could use nuclear material that couldn’t easily be used to make a weapon.
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 Transatomic’s design is based on a reactor developed and tested in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. If a conventional reactor is damaged and its water pumps fail, as happened at Fukushima, the water coolant can evaporate, leading to a meltdown resulting in explosions and the release of radiation. Molten salt evaporates at a far higher temperature—even if a reactor is damaged and pumps fail, it won’t evaporate and will continue to cool the fuel, preventing the release of radiation. Transatomic’s design also introduces new materials that could make for an even cheaper and more compact nuclear reactor.
(H/t Instapundit)

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