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Cooling systems were affected last week when giant waves struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex's back-up diesel-powered generators because of the earthquake in Japan that in turn created a tsunami. Unfortunately all currently deployed reactor designs are based on a solid uranium fuel cycle and cooling systems are needed even when the reactors are shut down, because the nuclear waste products continue to generate significant heat. Had this reactor been a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), this problem of heat buildup due to nuclear waste byproducts would not have posed a similar threat.
A LFTR is a modernized Molten Salt Reactor (MSR). The first MSR, known as the “Aircraft Reactor Experiment,” was completed in 1954. It completed 100 hours of successful operation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the USA. The second MSR was an electricity power generation plant prototype, known as the “Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE).” The MSRE was judged a tremendous success, operating at full power for more than 9,000 hours over nearly five years. The MSR was ultimately ignored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy, which terminated ORNL’s molten salt reactor program in 1974. It decided to favor the solid fuel uranium-plutonium breeding reactors because with the solid fuel cycle they would be able to both generate electrical power as well as weapons-grade plutonium for nuclear bombs – the original objective of the Manhattan Project research into atomic energy.
The LFTR’s physical design will deploy the laws of nature to take care of things automatically rather than by the features and functions of machines built by men. A layman would accurately describe this as “passive safety”. The reactor is designed so that even if all electrical power is lost, and then all the workers simply walk away in the middle of some problem (imagine a massive earthquake) that the reactor will gracefully shutdown without endangering the public.
A “Two Fluid Tube-within-a-Tube” LFTR design is being proposed by TWU/GBCN under a “LFTR Supply Chain” venture involving a German-Indian consortium and will become the safest nuclear energy design in existence, with more energy density (output per pound of fuel) of any reactor in the world. The LFTR can burn up its fissile by-products as well. It is anticipated that the first production of LFTRs will be available for export to South Africa for deployment at the beginning of 2015.