Universities Collaborate to Design Advanced Molten Salt Reactor
Denrie Caila Perez posted on August 18, 2020 |
This advanced molten salt reactor is expected to usher in new nuclear energy professionals.
A new molten salt reactor will be built in the state of Texas through a collaboration of four universities. (Photo courtesy of Sean McDeavitt of Texas A&M.)
A new molten salt reactor will be built in the state of Texas through a collaboration of four universities. (Photo courtesy of Sean McDeavitt of Texas A&M.)

After its official announcement in spring 2019, a consortium of universities will be designing and creating the first university-based molten salt research reactor. Located in the state of Texas, this advanced research reactor is the product of a collaboration between Abilene Christian University, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Texas at Austin, and Texas A&M University. 

One hopes that the consortium will take lessons from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, California, where an experimental molten salt reactor suffered a partial meltdown in 1959 that may have been the biggest nuclear disaster in the U.S.  

Members of Texas A&M University College of Engineering expressed that this new project aims to nurture the next generation of nuclear engineering professionals as the energy industry advances while advocating for safer practices—hence the decision to work with molten salt.

“Over the next several decades, the energy environment must undergo a transformation to a minimal carbon future if greenhouse gasses are to be sufficiently limited,” said Michael Natassi, head of Texas A&M’s Nuclear Engineering Department. “Molten salt reactors fit perfectly into this future because of their innate safety as well as their ability to consume spent nuclear fuel from conventional nuclear reactors. Additionally, this project will help educate a new cohort of engineers who are equipped to work with advanced reactors.”

Texas A&M in particular will be playing a significant role in the project, with faculty members and research groups involved in design, thermal management, and fuel characterization efforts.

“We are excited to be part of the consortium. This is going to be the first advanced reactor to be built in the 21st century in the U.S. and the first to be built as a university research reactor. It will enable the nuclear engineering community, as well as serve the strategic role of workforce development supporting advanced reactors,” said engineering faculty member Pavel Tsvetkov.

Natura Resources, LLC is sponsoring the consortium, shelling out a total of $30.5 million toward the reactor. Texas A&M was personally awarded $3.5 million over the next three years for its role in the project.

For more information, visit the Texas A&M website.

For more news and stories, check out our analysis on whether nuclear power is a solution for climate change here.


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