Stable Salt Reactors have the low cost that will allow them to dominate global power generation. That means a massive expansion of nuclear energy from its current status. The ability of Stable Salt Reactors to breed new fuel from abundant cheap thorium will allow that expansion to be sustained for millennia. At Moltex Energy we do not believe that current plans to just permanently bury dangerously radioactive spent fuel would be acceptable at such a large scale for such a long time.
This is why when we look at the potential for clean power we look both at the environmental benefits of replacing fossil fuels and at the environmental challenge of waste from our nuclear fuel.
Stable Salt Reactors, like all nuclear reactors, are a source of low carbon electricity. Unlike other reactors though they are cheap enough to actually displace fossil fuels, coal and gas, from the power generation industry.
But Stable Salt Reactors differ from conventional nuclear reactors in another key way. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are rapidly becoming cost competitive. But they suffer from a serious problem, they are intermittent and may not produce power when it is needed most. Energy storage is the key to overcoming this problem and huge, but so far unsuccessful, efforts are being made to discover ways to economically store electricity.
There is however, today, a commercialised, large scale method of energy storage. This is thermal storage and was developed to complement concentrated solar power stations so they could store heat during the day and use it to make electricity at night. This technology is ideally suited to work with the Stable Salt Reactor with its high output temperature, but simply cannot work with conventional nuclear power. The result is that a 1000MW Stable Salt Reactor can store its power output for up to 8 hours, then generate electricity at 2000MW when it is most needed.
The Stable Salt Reactor is the perfect complement to renewable energy sources.
Nuclear energy has a bad environmental reputation because today it leaves behind highly radioactive waste that stays hazardous for thousands of years.
The technology to recycle that waste into new fuel for reactors has existed for half a century – but it has hardly been used. Why not?
Recycling spent nuclear fuel today is very expensive and produces plutonium capable of being made into a nuclear weapon. It is not surprising that few nations do it – indeed in the past the USA banned the practice.
Uniquely, the fast spectrum Stable Salt Reactor is able to use very impure fuel that will be cheap to produce from spent nuclear fuel and will be unattractive for illicit weapons production.
For the first time, recycling nuclear fuel will become economically viable. It will therefore happen and we will leave a legacy of wealth to our great grandchildren, not a repository of long lived radioactive waste for them to look after.