This report summarizes the results of a 3-year Integrated Research Project (IRP) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy to address major technical challenges in the development of the Fluoride-salt-cooled High-temperature Reactor (FHR). The IRP universities included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California at Berkeley (UCB), the University of Wisconsin (UW), and the University of New Mexico (UNM). The FHR is a new reactor concept less than 20 years old that combines (1) a clean fluoride salt coolant, (2) the graphite-matrix coated-particle fuel originally developed for High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors and (3) passive decay heat removal systems from sodium fast reactors. The base-line design is a pebble-bed FHR that delivers heat between 600 to 700°C with a 7Li2BeF4 (flibe) salt coolant to the power cycle or industrial users.
The Executive Summary describes what was accomplished and summarizes major conclusions. The main report contains stand-alone sections in each major area of work. Highlights are summarized below. Tritium. The coolant salt produces tritium necessitating understanding and control of tritium. Experimental work included measuring hydrogen uptake on carbon, tritium uptake during irradiation of graphite in 700°C salt and the permeability of tritium through metals with and without coatings. An FHR systems model was developed to predict tritium behavior and enable design of tritium control systems. The leading candidate for tritium removal from the flibe salt is carbon bed outside the reactor core.
Thermal hydraulics and Neutronics. A 10-meter high FHR integral effects test facility, using Dowtherm A®, has been built and used to simulate the integral response of a representative FHR to improve understanding of FHR thermal hydraulics and validate thermal hydraulics codes used for the FHR. Neutronic analysis included code-to-code benchmarking, Multiphysics modeling, uncertainty analysis for nuclear data uncertainties and shielding analysis. Twisted-tube heat exchangers were examined that may provide significant cost reductions because of their improved heat-transfer performance with liquid salts. The impacts on safety and design caused by uncertainties in physical properties of the salt were assessed with recommendations on where added physical property measurements are needed. Work began on understanding radiative heat transfer that becomes important in salt systems at higher temperatures.
Materials. Static corrosion tests were conducted on graphite and materials in 700°C salt—both in the UW laboratory and in the MIT reactor. In addition to static corrosion testing, a circulating salt corrosion loop was built and is operating. Methods to measure salt properties including redox were developed. The presence of carbon increases corrosion. With good redox control, the evidence indicates stainless steel can be used as a material of construction.
Benchmarking. An additional series of workshops where held to enable benchmarking and comparison of results between different investigators.
Commercialization. The FHR delivers higher average-temperature (~650°C) heat to the power cycle or industry than other reactors. This enables power cycles with lower-cost heat storage for variable electricity to the grid while the reactor operates at base-load—providing a major competitive advantage by maximizing revenue from electricity sales. In October 2016, a new startup company named Kairos Power was formed, and opened its first office in Jack London Square, Oakland, California, in January 2017. Kairos Power exists largely due to the work that was accomplished by this IRP and the previous DOE-funded FHR IRP that performed research on FHR technology from 2012 to 2015. In September 2018, as this IRP is concluding, Kairos Power was staffed at 60 full time employees, working to develop technology derived from this IRP. Many of these employees worked with the IRP before joining Kairos Power (https://kairospower.com). Other students and researchers from this IRP have joined other startup companies, including the Terrapower Molten Chloride Fast Reactor and the Terrestrial Energy development efforts.