Developing molten salt reactor technology
providing clean and 100% CO2 free energy
We are Seaborg Technologies, a green-tech company whose mission is to revolutionize the energy marked using state-of-the-art sustainable, safe and cheap nuclear technology.
At Seaborg we have developed a fundamentally new type of nuclear reactor based on a combination of molten salt technology and thorium. The technical explanation of our thorium-based molten salt reactors is complicated, but the conclusion is simple; our molten salt technology is inherently safe while the thorium allows the reactor to reuse old already spent nuclear fuel (nuclear waste) from conventional nuclear power plants. The combination of these two features is not only attractive from an environmental and sustainability point of view, but also enables our technology to produce green energy at an unprecedented cost – even cheaper than coal and natural gas!
We live in a world struggling trade-off between access to cheap and abundant energy, and the phasing out of fossil fuel energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and particulate pollution. All this while a substantial part of the earth’s population is playing catch-up with the developed world. The consequences of global climate change and local pollution are serious and unfortunately very real. At the COP21 climate conference in Paris in 2015, 177 nations signed a memorandum of understanding with the common goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees. Renewable energy sources get us far towards that aim, but can not power industrialized societies by themselves when wind and sun are absent. This reliable, on-demand segment of the energy market is currently filled by fossil fuels aggravating climate change. A consequence of the COP21 declaration is therefore the agreement that in 2050, carbon-free, nuclear-based energy sources will be the main single-source contributor to global energy production. To reach the emission targets agreed upon, nuclear power output must double over the next 35 years. In other words, the use of nuclear technologies to combat climate change is no longer a choice, but a necessity. Humanity can no longer afford to exclude nuclear power, and we see it as our responsibility to develop safe and sustainable nuclear solutions.
At Seaborg we are acutely aware and gravely concerned with the global climate challenges. However, we also acknowledge that a real sustainable energy revolution can not be driven by goodwill alone. For sustainable energy solutions to really win, they need not only to be green, they also need to be economically viable. By relying on physics rather than complex, engineered safety systems, our reactors will undercut the cheapest energy plants on the market. Our MSR technology is 100% C02 and particle pollution free. Moreover, it uses thorium as a catalyst to convert already spent old nuclear waste into pure CO2-free energy. In the process we thus reduce the current nuclear waste issue, while creating the thorium fuel needed to sustain the growing global energy demand for centuries. All this at a price that will be lower that even the cheapest fossil-based energy sources today. By being cheaper-than-coal and entirely carbon-free, our technology will power the deep decarbonization the planet so desperately needs.
At Seaborg Technologies we are developing molten salt reactors. Molten salt reactors – or MSRs for short - consititute a fundamentally new type of nuclear reactors, free of the challenges that plague conventional nuclear power while producing abundant, reliable, clean and carbon-free energy. So how does this work? The magic trick is the liquid fuel - the molten salt. Conventional nuclear power reactors (which include every operating nuclear power plant in the world) produce electricity from manufactured solid fuel pellets of low-enriched uranium, submerged in water which provides both cooling and moderation (slowing down) of the neutrons in the core . If this water is lost, the reactor thus runs the risk of melting down. In an MSR the molten salt itself acts as both the fuel and the coolant . In this way, should the reactor lose its cooling, it also loses its fuel and the reactor process stops automatically. In any conceivable loss-of-coolant accident scenario, the reactor will therefore simply shut itself down. So what about residual heat produced after the reactor is shut down? Simple. If the core reaches a threshold temperature, a plug of frozen salt melts at the bottom of the core and drains the warm salt to a dump tank where it cools down by itself. Entirely passive and incredibly simple. Moreover, liquid salt reactors possess another massive advantage over conventional solid fueled reactors. While it is necessary for conventional reactors to operate at very large pressures, a molten salt reactor operates at only one bar atmospheric pressure. All in all, this means that our MSR cannot explode nor melt down! This principle of safety-by physics rather than safety-by-engineering makes these reactors economically superior to conventional nuclear reactors that rely on expensive engineering solutions and redundant accident mitigation systems to minimize safety risks. Furthermore, the salt chemically binds volatile fission products, radioactive matter that can escape in the event of a very severe accident, and thus even in the most hypothetical accident scenarios, dangerous radioactive elements will never enter the biosphere. Molten salt reactors are therefore the only truly economic and safe option for reliable base-load energy production. That is why we at Seaborg firmly believe that our molten salt reactor technology represents the future of sustainable energy production.
At Seaborg, we are proud to showcase our CUBE (Compact Used fuel BurnEr) reactor concept. Packed with great ideas and solid engineering solutions, it is the culmination of years work from the Seaborg team. Our design combines the best of established MSR technologies with ground-breaking innovations in reactor core materials. Some of our unmatched features include,
unparalleled non-proliferation profile,
excellent waste-burning abilities using thorium as catalyst,
ultra-compact form factor, five times smaller than competing MSRs,
and a fully modularized core optimized for mass production.
Adding to this, the CUBE reactor has a long list of additional benefits including exceptional high thermal efficiency, a wide range of fuel options, excellent load power following capabilities (compatibility with variable renewables), a host of process heat applications and so on. Our unique use of thorium not only enables waste burning in a thermal spectrum reactor, but also greatly improves the sustainability of nuclear power. The waste-salt remaining at the end of the reactor lifetime can be used to fuel new reactors operating directly on a closed thorium fuel cycle – and thus supply carbon-free energy to a rapidly developing global population for centuries to come! The CUBE reactor therefore truly makes nuclear sustainable!
In July 2015 the Seaborg Technologies reactor design was internationally validated in an extensive engineering assessment study as one of six competing MSR designs, and was deemed fit for further development by the study, Energy Process Development (EPD) Ltd. You can find the EPD report here (external link).
In August 2016 our reactor design was included and analyzed in the IAEA technical publication “Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments” (external link).
For technical information, engineering and details on the neutronics we refer to our whitepaper.
- DOWNLOAD WHITEPAPER
One of the hallmarks of the Seaborg CUBE reactor is the harnessing of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) using thorium as a catalyst. For this reason, we also refer to the CUBE as a waste burner. But what does that really mean? Current conventional reactors use less than 5 percent of the energy available in uranium fuel rods. The waste consists mostly of depleted uranium, together with fission products and transuranic elements. The fission products are the lighter nuclei that result from splitting the atoms and they are typically characterized by a short half-life. Affordable and robust handling of fission products is manageable as the storage period required to reduce the radioactivity to safe levels is relatively short, on the order of 300 years. The transuranics elements, however, are created from neutrons converting uranium into heavier elements, such as plutonium. These generally have long half-lives, and constitute the reason why SNF today must be kept and isolated in storage for hundreds of thousands of years. Using the thorium cycle, our reactor converts these transuranic elements into green energy and short-lived fission products. By doing this we eliminate the need for expensive long-term storage of SNF.
The ever-growing global stockpiles of radioactive ‘waste’ already available are already a highly compelling reason for deploying our reactor design. By using the SNF from conventional reactors, the use of the readily available stockpiles greatly reduces the cumbersome and costly task of maintaining the storage of nuclear waste, along with providing affordable, carbon-free energy. What about thorium mining? Our innovative use of SNF together with thorium, which is about four times as abundant as uranium, greatly alleviates the pressure on the dwindling reserves of uranium still remaining. Moreover, since our reactors require less mined fuel and runs on SNF the mining footprint will be greatly reduced compared to other green technologies including conventional nuclear. Finally, thorium is found in abundance all out the world which is an attractive feature from a geopolitical point of view.
There is no such thing as a free lunch. Even though the CUBE is a waste-burner it will still leave some radioactive bi-products behind. However, the amount of remaining waste is vastly reduced and, just as important, it has a half-life much shorter than what we put into it. In fact, the characteristic half-life is reduced from several hundreds of thousands of years down to 20-30 years. This makes the handling of the waste much more practical, affordable, and environmentally-friendly than for conventional reactors, since no long-term storage is needed.
At Seaborg Technologies we recognize the extreme importance of non-proliferation (i.e. the (non)-ability to extract weapon-grade elements from the reactor). Therefore, one of our key design choices has been to design our reactors entirely proliferation-proof. That explains our decision to make the Seaborg CUBE a single-salt, thermal-spectrum molten salt reactor, as this is the only way to guarantee that no weapons-grade materials are present by itself in the reactor at any point in time. Furthermore, our molten salt chemistry system cannot be used nor modified to separate or extract weapon-usable material from the reactor. This unique Seaborg approach opens new and untapped markets inaccessible to other designs that can not deliver the necessary non-proliferation profile required to bring about a worldwide energy revolution.