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Aug14-11, 03:36 PM
PF Gold
P: 866
There is considerable discussion of the LFTR on the various forums dedicated to nuclear power.
There is no question that the concept is very attractive and has been demonstrated to work reliably on a small scale. The challenges that remain are the practical ones, which are much more difficult to solve and reduce to regulation.
The design will need to be scaled up and either made much more durable or completely rethought. Our experience with large volumes of radioactive molten salts is not huge, but it clearly indicates that everything gets eaten away, valves, pumps, heat exchangers, containers and measuring instruments. Building such a reactor may need a very different design concept, where instead of running a plant for 40 or more years with ongoing maintenance, a three or 5 year and out approach is needed. Fortunately, the very high precision part of the facility, the turbines, only see clean steam from the secondary heat exchanger, so they could serve for decades as before. In the 1950s through the 1980s, aircraft engines for example were managed for decades on the basis of a few hundred to a few thousand hours of service life, so the use briefly and throw away approach is clearly feasible. However, it seriously impacts the expected economic benefits a thorium reactor might provide.