EXPERIENCE WITH THE MOLTEN-SALT REACTOR EXPERIMENT
PAUL N. HAUBENREICH and J. R. ENGEL
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830
September 19, 1969
The MSRE is an 8-MW(th) reactor in which molten fluoride salt at 1200°F circulates through a core of graphite bars. Its purpose was to demonstrate the practicality of the key features of molten-salt power reactors. operation with 235U (33% enrichment) in the fuel salt began in June 1965, and by March 1968 nuclear operation amounted to 9000 equivalent full-power hours. The goal of demonstrating reliability had been attained-over the last 15 months of 235u operation the reactor had been critical 80% of the time. At the end of a 6-month run which climaxed this demonstration, the reactor was shut down and the 0.9 mole% uranium in the fuel was stripped very efficiently in an on-site fluorination facility. Uranium-233 was then added to the carrier salt, making the MSRE the world’s first reactor to be fueled with this fissile material.
Nuclear operation was resumed in October 1968, and over 2500 equivalent full-power hours have now been produced with 233 U. The MSRE has shown that salt handling in an operating reactor is quite practical, the salt chemistry is well behaved, there is practically no corrosion the nuclear characteristics are very close to predictions, and the system is dynamically stable. Containment of fission products has been excellent and maintenance of radioactive components has been accomplished without unreasonable delay and with very little radiation exposure.
The successful operation of the MSRE is an achievement that should strengthen confidence in the practicality of the molten-salt reactor concept.