Two meetings relevant to the development of molten-salt reactors were held at EPRI in Charlotte, NC, earlier this week.

The first was the Molten-Salt Reactor Technology Working Group meeting held on Monday afternoon. Nick Smith of Southern Company serves as the working-group leader and gave opening remarks. Lou Qualls of Oak Ridge was recently appointed as a technology lead over molten-salt reactors from the DOE perspective, and he briefly spoke. I gave a short talk extolling the virtues of the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program as a mechanism to fund near-term research into this technology. Andrew Worrall of Oak Ridge gave an excellent talk on nuclear safeguards, what they are and are not, and their connection to international efforts to prevent the diversion of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. Then followed several hours of discussion about the prioritization of tasks that the community sees as falling most directly in the realm of DOE activity. There was broad agreement that the two top priorities were the improvement in knowledge of the physical properties of various salt combinations and further investigation into reactor instrumentation with a particular emphasis on the instrumentation needed to implement safeguards. One of the challenges of the work on salt properties is the fact that, with the exception of Flibe Energy, the other MSR companies decline to publicly reveal the precise nature of their salt compositions. This makes it more difficult to decide which should be analyzed and in what order.

The group was encouraged to attend the Molten-Salt Chemistry Workshop to be held at Oak Ridge on April 10-12.

The next day was the EPRI Advanced Reactor Technical Advisory Group Meeting, which was a larger group and a broader scope. There were updates from DOE leadership as to the political situation in Washington DC at present with regards to the DOE budget, and there were updates about supercritical carbon dioxide power conversion system technology and its potential relevance to advanced reactors. I hastened to point out to the speaker that Flibe Energy has baselined the sCO2 system as the power conversion system for the LFTR. J. Bistline of EPRI gave a very interesting presentation on the outlook for future electrical systems, namely which technologies that they modeled would be deployed in the future under various scenarios. The inevitable take-away was that unless capital costs for new nuclear reactors were reduced to under $4/W it would have very little visibility in future power planning. Vincent Rougier of EDF gave an overview of the history of sodium fast reactors in France and shared interesting insights that I had not previously known about that program. He indicated that interest in this technology in France is not very high at present. Advanced materials and advanced manufacturing presentations were given, with the latter describing how pressure vessels for nuclear reactors would be formed by powdered metallurgy processes and electron-beam welding of components. The meeting adjourned at the end of the working day.

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