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|User Info||Bill Still Addresses Libertarian Nation SR33; entered at 2011-12-12 10:37:44|
Actually it's not the fact that it's molten salt, although that's convenient.
It's using the primary working fluid as the carrier and dispersant for the fuel. This is what makes it "work".
The reasons are quite simple:
1. It eliminates the need for high-pressure plumbing which in turn eliminates the risk of explosive decompression of the operating environment or forced release of pressure leading to a core melt under emergency scenarios (e.g. Fukushima)
2. It disperses the heat of decay post-shutdown across the entire volume of the working fluid, thereby eliminating the need for forced cooling in that event.
3. It makes the moderator the fixed portion of the unit rather than the primary coolant, thereby making the cessation of criticality (k >= 1.0) a simple matter of draining the working fluid out of the unit. No moderator, no criticality.
4. It makes online reprocessing the favored means, which means online burn-up of reaction products becomes viable and normal. This in turn resolves most of the waste problem, never mind getting the energy out of the burnup process, which is a "freebie" from doing it this way.
5. It eliminates the fuel cladding and neutron "window" problem with conventional fuel pin design -- a problem that is "solved" by zirconium but introduces its own set of issues and leaves that zirconium as the only barrier that prevents a hellish mess. Instead, using the primary loop as an intentional carrier means you engineer for and INTEND reaction product isolation within the entire primary system rather than within the pin assembly standing alone. This in turn calls for a much smaller primary circulation system which in turn helps thermodynamic efficiency.
Highly-chemically-active salts are the best option because they are not violently reactive with the atmosphere (such as liquid sodium) and yet they ARE reactive with common elements in the environment, which is GOOD, not bad. It means that a breach will tend to self-contain within the facility and thus be able to be cleaned up, and the dispersion of the decay heat makes the "melt through the reaction vessel" scenario a non-factor.