WAMSR (Waste Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor)
What is a WAMSR?
A conventional 1,000-megawatt reactor produces about 20 metric tons (44,000 lbs.) of high-level waste a year, and that material needs to be safely stored for 100,000 to 300,000 years. The proposed 500-megawatt Transatomic WAMSR (Waste Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor) will produce only four kilograms (8.8 lbs.) of such waste a year, along with 250 kilograms (550 lbs.) of waste that has to be stored for a few hundred years.
Today’s conventional nuclear power plants are cooled by water, which boils at 100º C a temperature far below the 2,000° C at the core of a fuel pellet. Even after the reactor is shut down, it must be continuously cooled by pumping in water until the whole internal core apparatus is below 100º C. The inability to do that properly is what has caused the problems at troubled plants.
These problems can be solved by using molten salt, instead of water as the coolant, which is mixed in with the fuel. Molten salt has a boiling point higher than the operating temperature of the fuel. That way the reactor has a built-in thermostat – if it starts to heat up, the salt expands, spreading out the fuel and slowing the reactions cooling the thing off.
In the event of a power outage where cooling circulation would stop carrying away the heat, a plug at the bottom of the reactor melts and the fuel and salt mixture flows by gravity into a holding tank, where the fuel spreads out enough for the reactions to stop. The salt then cools and solidifies, encapsulating the radioactive materials.
For the anti-nuclear folks the WAMSR design offers to burn up the existing spent fuel from the world’s fleet of nuclear reactors in a design that doesn’t offer a chance for a meltdown. That should be nirvana for those alarmed about atomic energy and weapons proliferation.
For everyone else, the first offering is we would see a major cost reduction in spent fuel containment and essentially get a byproduct of free electrical energy, lots of it. The second is, the design would be factory produced, cutting build costs in a huge way and the reactors would be larger than the currently trendy Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMNRs), offering the chance to install at existing locations saving on the generation and grid connection costs.
Conventional nuclear reactors can utilize only about 3% of the potential fission energy in a given amount of uranium before it has to be removed from the reactor. The Transatomic design captures 98% of this remaining energy. A fully deployed Transatomic reactor fleet could use existing stockpiles of nuclear waste to satisfy the world’s electricity needs for 70 years, now through 2083 when about 99.2% of today’s dangerous spent fuel – would be burned away.
How does a WAMSR work?
Dr. Richard Lester and Graduate Students Mark Massie and Leslie Dewan talk about the evolution of nuclear power in the United States, and directions that the industry might take in the future. They describe new WAMSR technology that solves two of the biggest problems with nuclear power — Safety and Waste Disposal.
Transatomic Power Corporation is an American company commercializing an innovative molten salt reactor that safely burns nuclear waste to deliver vast amounts of affordable clean energy to meet the world’s needs. They are headquartered in Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA. The technical advisory board of Transatomic Power includes leading nuclear scientists and engineers with leadership experience from MIT, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Oak Ridge National Lab, Idaho National Lab, and Westinghouse. Click Here to Learn More!