Researchers at Oxford and Lund have now conducted experiments showing that sodium hydroxide salt works best to reduce reactions in smelting furnaces. This technology is indicated as a hub for future nuclear power plants.
The tests were carried out by Seaborg, which plans to build floating nuclear power plants in Southeast Asia by 2025. The company’s co-founder, Espen Klingby, previously holds a PhD from the European Solution Source, ESS, in Lund. He contacted ESS to assist Seaborg in preparing and calculating the highly specialized data required for its licensing process.
As the ESS in London is still under construction, tests have been carried out on neutron and mune source (ISIS) in the UK, while ESS experts assist the company in calculating the results.
– In the whole world, there are only three to four teams that can do such special calculations, one of which is ESS. So this is a great example of the cyclical effects of a plant like ESS being built in Sweden, says ESS Press Spokeswoman Julia Aberg, New Technique.
Calculations show that sodium hydroxide is more suitable as an evaluator in nuclear power plants based on salt melting. In a nuclear reactor, an evaluator slows down the neutrons that cause chain reactions, thus releasing the energy needed to run turbines that can produce electricity. If the neutrons move too fast, the probability of a fission reaction decreases, which means that the reactor decreases or stops completely.
Reduces the risk of furnace accidents
Reactor-based salt smelting reactors are often isolated as a promising technology for the future because the risks of reactor accidents are greatly reduced compared to current reactors, while the remaining materials cannot be used for nuclear weapons production.
The technology itself is not new, but was developed in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Early ideas were to dissolve nuclear fuel in molten fluoride salt and have graphite as an evaluator. However, due to major technological challenges, technology has never been commercialized.
Seaborg’s variant uses sodium hydroxide as an appraiser, and unlike graphite, sodium hydroxide is not broken down by radiation over time. This means that in the meantime Seaborg assumes that the reactor can be operated for twelve years without changing the evaluator. This is three times more than salt smelting furnaces in the 1950s and 1960s could handle with graphite.
Longevity is an important factor
Longevity is a key factor in whether or not the Seaborg solution can be economically competitive. Thanks to the help of ISIS and ESS researchers, projects for floating power plants can now proceed according to plan.
– Cooperation with the experts of ISIS and ESS is strong, from which we have obtained the most accurate measurements. The analyzes have not yet been completed, but from the data we have received I can already say that this confirms our expectations regarding the excellent evaluator properties of sodium hydroxide, says Espen Klingby in a statement.