Note: The article below appears to be in error regarding Elon Musk’s involvement in Transatomics. It appears that Musk is not directly involved in providing funds to the company. We only wish he were. The article title has been edited to correct the error.
Today, their start-up, Transatomic Power, is poised to build a new, even better molten salt reactor. Their reactor will burn up to 96 percent of its fuel, compared with only four percent used by light-water reactors, and generate 75 times the electricity per ton of uranium. It’s virtually accident-proof and can run on the spent fuel of other reactors. With nearly 80,000 tons of raSo far, Transatomic has obtained $6 million in funding, including $2 million from venture capital firm Founders Fund (backers of Spotify, Airbnb, and SpaceX). Dewan and Massie have used some of this seed money to set up a lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where, for the next three years, they will test materials for their future reactor under the extreme conditions created by nuclear fission. dioactive waste in the U.S. (and with 2,000 tons added every year), it could turn something toxic into something useful. “That’s what sets Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie apart,” says Richard Lester, head of the nuclear science and engineering department at MIT. “Their design addresses radioactive waste, which is huge.”
… In molten salt reactors, uranium salt serves as the fuel. When heated above 500°C, the fuel salt changes from a solid to liquid state. It flows past zirconium hydride, which slows its neutrons and induces fission, generating heat. Because there are no rods to trap krypton and xenon, they are continuously off-gassed. “You basically simmer the reactor like a Crock-Pot for decades,” Dewan says. “That’s how we achieve a 96 percent burn rate. We’re able to leave the uranium in and constantly remove the poisons that would otherwise shut it down.” The fuel salt flows through a loop with a drain that’s blocked by a freeze plug, a chunk of electrically cooled frozen salt. If the reactor loses electricity, the plug melts, and the fuel drains into a tank where it cools and solidifies. __Popsci
Bill Gates is another billionaire who is investing in newer, more efficient, safer, and cleaner nuclear reactors:
Gates’ solution: nuclear power. In 2010, Mr. Gates joined a group of investors putting $35 million into cutting-edge nuclear tech firm TerraPower, which he now chairs. TerraPower aims to develop a wholly new class of nuclear power generator that’s 50 times more efficient than current-generation reactors, eliminates the need to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, and could be ready for deployment in less than 10 years. Reuters reports that the project will cost “billions,” but the promise of 50-times improvement in efficiency suggests this could still be a bargain in comparison to current nuclear technology — which the EIA says is already cheaper than offshore wind power, solar thermal, or solar photovoltaic. __ Rich Smith
TerraPower’s traveling wave reactor (TWR) is a Generation IV, liquid sodium-cooled fast reactor based on existing fast reactor technologies. Innovations in metallic fuel, cladding materials and engineering allow TWRs to utilize depleted uranium as their primary fuel. These innovations greatly simplify the nuclear fuel cycle by eliminating or reducing the need for enrichment, reprocessing, and waste storage and disposal. Fissile fuel is both produced and then consumed in-reactor, greatly improving the fuel efficiency of the TWR and resource availability for the reactor. __
Both Terrapower and Transatomic use reactor technology that is capable of utilising “waste fuel” and should eventually be capable of using other, less expensive nuclear fuels such as depleted uranium or thorium.
Advanced Nuclear Reactors
Small Nuclear Power Reactors
New Funding for Small Fusion:
When a famous billionaire such as Elon Musk commits to a loser technology such as grid-linked big solar energy, it makes him look either corrupt or unintelligent. But when the same billionaire pushes private space flight
and advanced nuclear energy [See note at top of page. Elon is only “half redeemed.”], he redeems himself to a significant extent, and looks brilliant and prescient. Musk’s electric cars and advanced battery technology are neutral technologies, being compatible with all forms of generated power.
The economics of big solar and big wind are so bad, that they can only survive by massive government mandates, ideology-based grants, undeserved tax breaks, and other corrupt machinations. Tacking on expensive battery-storage to a failed and ruinously expensive method of creating poor quality energy, is no solution.
The image above compares installed (blue) and operating (red) costs for power generation from CLEAN COAL, NATURAL GAS ($12), 3G NUCLEAR, CONVENTIONAL COAL, NATURAL GAS ($4), and TRANSATOMIC MSR left to right, respectively.
Source: http://festkoerper-kernphysik.de/Weissbach_EROI_preprint.pdf via Forbes (Conca)
Notice that the addition of energy storage tends to reduce the energy value of the investment, rather than increasing it.
Energy density is crucial for effective generation of large amounts of high quality power, using a small geographical footprint. Safe, clean, efficient, and affordable nuclear beats all others, hands down.
Efficient, safe, clean, affordable nuclear fission reactors can power ever-advancing human abundance for tens of thousands of years. By that time, clever humans should have perfected even better, safer, cleaner, more efficient, and more affordable forms of high quality scalable power.
Big wind and big solar are economic, energy, and environmental disasters on a grand and corrupt scale. No wonder US President Obama likes them. The smart, far-seeing money that is dedicated to an abundant and expansive human future, on the other hand, is on newer-gen. nuclear.