Flurry of activity for newest MSR design by Canadian David LeBlanc

David LeBlanc has given us some of the most intriguing and innovative ideas related to Molten Salt Reactor design. His company Terrestrial Energy Inc. formed officially in December 2012 in Ottawa. The website TerrestrialEnergyInc.com was launched this month and already articles are being posted about what David LeBlanc has been up to with his team.

David has been a speaker at some of the Thorium Energy Alliance Conferences and it was the last conference that he stated “Come for the Thorium. Stay for the Molten Salt Reactor.” At that time in May 2012, he let us know he had something in the works but was not ready to announce his plans. The reactor concepts he discussed were emphasizing the need for simple design and the minimum amount of R & D. His IMSR Integral Molten Salt Reactor is a design that borrows ideas from other related designs. I’m sure he will speak more at this years conference at the end of May

In Mark Halper’s recent post at the Weinberg Foundation Blog

“… Dr. LeBlanc is an MSR expert who in January wrote a guest blog here in which he pointed out among other things that it would be in the best interest of the MSR industry to keep designs as simple as possible in order to stand a chance of commercializing within a reasonable time frame. …”

The recent post by Sherrell R. Greene explains his concept of the SmAHTR and how some of the same inspiration from the SmAHTR and earlier designs also inspired his colleague David LeBlanc.

“… While retaining many of the general system architectural and component features we specified in SmAHTR, David has discarded SmAHTR’s solid graphite fuel and reverted to a liquid fluoride salt fuel. Since I haven’t seen any design details at this point, I’m withholding judgement regarding the engineering viability of the concept. But from the overall philosophical perspective, David’s concept appears to be the most innovative and fresh MSR approach I’ve seen since the heyday of MSR development in the 1960′s and early 1970′s. …”

Most notable is the tiny size of the IMSR. The planned fuel for now is Uranium 238. U238 is proliferation safe. Note: Terra Power’s Travelling Wave Reactor also chose this strategy to use U238. Also there is no turbine which is part of the reason for its smaller size. IMSRvsSnAHTRvsBeetle2_thumb

As Greene points out:

“Though we did not know it when we first began work on the SmAHTR concept, we subsequently learned our Russian colleagues at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow had developed and published in 2002 a concept for a very small, < 20 MWt, integral, liquid salt-cooled concept they called MARS. SmAHTR and MARS share some design similarities but have some significant design differences as well.

The basic design requirements for SmAHTR were: 125 MWt power, ~700 ºC core outlet temperature, and an integral system topology (no coolant loops). Additionally, the reactor had to be transportable over public roads with common heavy-transport multi-axle semi-tractor-trailors. The system also had to be extremely safe and easily refueled and maintained. The inherent safety attributes of the system are a result of its very low (~ atmospheric) operating pressure, forgiving nuclear dynamics, large thermal margins, and the use of a coolant that doesn’t chemically react with air or water in highly energetic modes …”

The future suddenly looks much brighter than it has been since the Fukushima event. MSRs are making a comeback and now three variety’s have emerged in North America. FLIBE has LFTR, Transatomic has the WAMSR and Terrestrial Energy Inc. has the IMSR. It is is a breakthrough approach that may trigger copycats after word gets out. David LeBlanc’s devotion to keeping the challenges to a minimum are what makes his design a very good contender to be online in 6 or 7 years.

2 Comments

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  • keith Woodward
    February 17, 2014 - 11:49 am | Permalink

    This is truly great news, These are brilliant designs that have a chance garner public opinion into support of advancing these designs.

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