What is the best design to make next generation nuclear reactors safer and cheaper? That’s the question everyone from Bill Gates to the Chinese government is asking. Breakthrough sat down with Peterson to discuss the prospects of different advanced nuclear technologies, how the Chinese are leading nuclear innovation, and how the US can and should continue to cooperate so as to increase the chances of widespread deployment.
Below you find snippets from the Per Peterson interview with the Breakthrough institute.
What are China’s plans for advanced molten salt nuclear reactors?
Two years ago the Chinese Academy of Sciences decided to pursue a thorium liquid-fueled molten salt reactor, but first decided to build an intermediate reactor that uses a solid fuel with salt as coolant. (The choice to build a solid fuel reactor reduces the licensing risk without heavily compromising performance.) In 2015, China will be starting the construction of the 10 MW solid-fueled thorium molten salt test reactor. By 2017 they hope to have this reactor operating. And by 2022, they hope to have commissioned a 100 MW thorium molten salt commercial prototype reactor. Alongside this effort, the Chinese will be developing a 2 MW liquid-fueled reactor that will enter the final stages of testing in 2017.
Isn’t China keeping their plans secret?
If China can stay on track to commission a 100 MW commercial scale reactor by 2022, it would be fantastic if this reactor could include substantial contribution by US industry as well. This kind of collaboration could lead to a joint venture effort that could result in more rapid and larger near-term deployment
Do you foresee a global industry for advanced nuclear power?
It is now 60 years since the US launched the first nuclear powered submarine, using a water-cooled reactor, and what is remarkable is how little the technology has changed during these six decades. For nuclear energy to make any major difference in the future, we must greatly accelerate our rate of innovation, and this will occur more rapidly if joint international efforts emerge and are successful to develop these next-generation technologies.
Per Peterson is on the Board of Advisors for Flibe Energy pursuing the LFTR technology and was on Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. He also conducts his own research on radical new designs with off-the-shelf technologies at UC Berkeley.
In his article Nuclear Freeze, Why Nuclear Power Stalled – and How to Restart It he gives a good overview of the situation and recommendations for the future.
Cheap Nuclear, UC Berkeley’s Per Peterson Pursues Radical New Design with Off-the-Shelf Technologies