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The Mu*STAR reactor is based on the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) that operated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s. Recent interest in molten-salt technology has produced considerable information on the materials involved, making it practical to design such a reactor core.
(The Mu*STAR core is considerably larger than the MSRE core was.)
Dissolving the reactor fuel in the molten salt gives many advantages:
- The fuel is also the primary coolant.
- The fuel never leaves the reactor vessel during operation.
- Operation is at 710° C, making conversion to electricity more efficient, and enabling numerous applications requiring process heat.
- Volatile fission products will be continuously removed, greatly reducing the inventory that could potentially be released in an accident.
- Operation is near atmospheric pressure, eliminating the need for an expensive high-pressure containment vessel.
- The fuel salt can also provide cooling to the spallation target.
- Any leak will immediately solidify and does not flow.
Note the fuel salt is continuously circulating, to ensure its composition is uniform and thoroughly mixed, and making it efficient to transfer heat via heat exchangers.