Radioactive parts produce warmth as they decay. Nuclear crops draw energy from this procedure, and normally stabilize the temperature with water. But all over a energy outage, H2O—which wishes pumps to go with the flow—can’t all the time save you meltdowns. Molten salt reactors, which as a substitute keep watch over warmth with melted lithium and potassium fluorides, have a fail-safe: If the electrical energy dies, a plug will soften, inflicting the salts to seep down a protection drain and solidify across the uranium, fighting overheating. After a decades-long lull in construction, international locations from China to Denmark are construction new molten salt reactors. Here’s how they paintings.
1. Reactor vessel
Uranium floats in a stabilizing bathtub of melted fluoride salts within this container. As the radioactive atoms break up aside, their fission frequently heats the vessel to at least one,300 levels Fahrenheit, the approximate temperature of magma.
2. Primary warmth exchangers
Tubes on all sides of the reactor vessel switch the warmth to intermediate pipes, which can be full of blank molten salts. The uncontaminated substance can raise power with out generating any further radioactive waste.
three. Coolant salt pumps
These pumps transfer the blank salts within the warmth exchangers clear of the radioactive reactor vessel and towards a steam generator housed in a separate construction. This limits the hazardous subject material to a unmarried, remoted location.
four. Steam generator
The searing salts warmth water into steam, which spins a turbine to supply electrical energy. In one hour, a molten salt reactor might be able to crank out 500,000 kilowatts, sufficient to energy 45 U.S. families for a whole yr.
five. Drain tank
Contaminated reactor salts and radioactive gases clear out into a waste-disposal gadget. These fabrics stay hazardous for most effective masses of years—in comparison with masses of 1000’s for normal reactors’ byproducts.
This article was once initially revealed within the January/February 2018 Power factor of Popular Science.