|How It Works
Here is the Mu*STAR Block Diagram:
The major components are:
- Superconducting-RF Proton Accelerator
Recent advances in superconducting accelerator technology have made Mu*STAR possible. It is now straightforward to construct an accelerator in the 10-20 MegaWatt range whose operation will require only a small fraction of the electricty produced.
- Reactor Core
The reactor is based on molten-salt technology that brings with it numerous 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.
- Operation is near atmospheric pressure.
- Fuel Processing Plant
The on-site facility converts the spent nuclear fuel from the LWR into the molten salt fuel of Mu*STAR. This is a radio-chemical process that avoids proliferation risks by never separating plutonium from highly radioactive fission products.
- Volaile Fission Product Processing and Storage
The volatile fission products are removed from the helium sparge gas and stored safely underground, away from the reactor.
- Heat Storage
will bridge all accelerator and reactor outages up to a few hours, ensuring high availability of electrical output to the grid.
- Turbine / Generator (Balance of Plant)
The balance of plant is conventional, but the high temperature is well-suited to modern high-efficiency Brayton-cycle turbine generators.
Note the many features that ensure a robust and safe nuclear facility:
- In any accident, turning off the acelerator causes fission to stop within one second, reducing the thermal power a hundredfold. Passive air cooling is then sufficient to handle the residual decay heat.
- The system is very robust against the release of radioactive material:
- The volatile fission products are continuously removed from the core, so the inventory available to be released in an accident is quite small.
- The fuel remains inside the reactor vessel during operation.
- The reactor vessel has no penetrations below the liquid level, making it highly robust against fuel leaks during an earthquake.
- If a leak does occur, the fuel salt solidifies immediately and does not flow.
- The fuel salt is chemically robust and does not react with or dissolve in water.
- The secondary cooling connects the reactor core to the heat storage. In case of a long outage this can be used to maintain the fuel salt above its freezing temperature for many hours.
- In case of a very long outage, tertiary passive air cooling is sufficient to handle the residual decay heat, while supplemental electrical heaters keep the salt molten. (Should external power fail, the fuel salt is automatically drained into the lower storage tank and permitted to solidify; external power is then required to melt the salt before restarting the system.)
- Mu*STAR is a radical new design in which the root-cause components of all major reactor accidents are simply not present (water, steam, fuel rods, zirconium cladding, criticality excursions, spent fuel pools, and high-pressure vessels).
We will construct it underground:
We expect to place it on-site next to an existing or decommissioned light water reactor:
The radio-toxic lifetime of the ultimate waste has been reduced from the LWR's ~100,000 years to a much more manageable few hundred years. This makes it feasible to bury the waste on site, avoiding all transport of highly radioactive waste, and bypassing the political impasse of Yucca Mountain.