Transatomic Power, which is am offshoot of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has updated a type of nuclear power plant that uses a molten-salt cooled reactor core. The design would run at about half the cost of a standard reactor, it would be resistant to any kind of meltdown and best of all it can run on our nuclear waste.
Transatomic Power says they can create a more cost effective nuclear reactor at about half the cost of a current reactor. The company, which is a creation out of MIT, has updated an older reactor design that uses a molten-salt type of cooling that was previously experimented with in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Oak Ridge, Tennessee model ran for approximately 6 years before it was shut down and pretty much forgotten about.
What makes the molten-salt design special is that it produces far more energy but it is much smaller and safer to run. Better yet, the model design by Transatomic runs on waste without the need of extra refining or enrichment of uranium.
One of the major reasons why nuclear reactors are so controversial is because of their potential for a meltdown such as with Chernobyl. Then there is the big question with what to do with spent fuel rods and other nuclear waste material or how to deal with natural disasters such as the Fukushima disaster that took place in March 2011.
The salt-cooled reactor from Transatomic would run about 500-megawatts of power and can be constructed for approximately one-half the cost of larger reactors today. Interestingly enough, this model would be constructed off-site inside of a factory and later relocated, which also cuts down on costs.
The design does not use water for cooling but molten salt, which boils at a much higher temperature than the fuel itself that it is mixed with. In the event that there is a problem the fuel and salt would immediately drop into a holding tank where the reaction would cease thereby thwarting any kind of meltdown or nuclear contamination to the environment.
To put the Transatomic reactor into perspective, a modern nuclear reactor produces about 20 metric tons of highly dangerous nuclear waste per year. That waste in turn must be stored away safely under ground in special containers for an estimated 100 thousand years. Transatomic’s molten-salt reactor produces as little as four kilograms of waste that only needs a few hundred years to be stored away.
Russ Wilcox who serves as Transatomic’s CEO says the company will need to come up with about 200 million dollars to produce the first running reactor. However, that cannot begin to be a reality until they can first get approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Once approval goes through, he estimates it would take approximately eight years to see it up and running.