OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – As EM crews work to ensure the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) remains safe until its decommissioning, they are also collaborating with academic and industry professionals interested in developing new molten salt reactors for nuclear power production.
MSRE only operated from 1965 until 1969, but it earned an enduring legacy as an innovative technology concept. The reactor is shut down, but certain systems within the reactor building continue to operate to keep it safe and stable.
“It’s rewarding that our federal and contactor employees with UCOR are able to use their in-depth knowledge to enhance safety and help others find new ways to address the complexities associated with this technology,” said Bill McMillan, ORNL portfolio federal project director with DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of EM (OREM). UCOR is OREM’s cleanup contractor.
Recently, a team from Vanderbilt University met with Tommy Morgan, UCOR’s project manager for ORNL nuclear facilities, to tour MSRE. The team explored molten salt reactor system designs and operational issues experienced at the facility. Other institutions, such as Ohio State University, are exploring technologies and requirements associated with MSRE.
Molten salt reactor development has also drawn companies in the nuclear industry to Oak Ridge. A partnership between Southern Company and TerraPower is set to build a molten chloride salt test loop to support licensing for a future reactor. Members of that partnership plan to work with the MSRE team to explore MSRE lessons learned about molten salt reactor system design.
The institutional knowledge at MSRE continues to benefit researchers. UCOR and UT-Battelle, ORNL’s management and operations contractor, is collaborating on issues associated with MSRE and its technology.
UT-Battelle experts in the ORNL Materials Science and Corrosion Department have participated in MSRE engineering evaluations and routinely consult with personnel on operational issues.
Interest in molten salt reactors extends beyond the U.S. An Ontario Power Generation (OPG) team spent several days with UCOR personnel exploring MSRE lessons learned regarding unique waste challenges EM has experienced at MSRE, as Canada considers developing small modular reactors.
EM is also conducting a $4.7 million project at MSRE slated for completion in April 2020. The project, expected to result in cost savings of nearly $25 million, is minimizing maintenance costs, reducing risk of injury and radiation exposure to personnel, providing reliable electric service, and upgrading key equipment.