The University of Liverpool has been awarded £1.17 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to lead a collaborative project to explore a new, more sustainable and more economic nuclear technology for the UK.
The new technology is based on Molten Salt Reactors that do not require expensive solid fuel production and a highly complex fuel cycle. This makes them ideal for a disruptive solution for closed fuel cycle operation using an innovative approach to operate on spent nuclear fuel (currently declared as waste) that is capable of releasing up to a factor of 100 times more energy.
The project is the first step towards establishing a UK 'zero-power' experimental facility for reactor research which will be a low-cost, low-risk approach for more rapid development of new nuclear systems.
It will use advanced modelling and simulation tools to produce a design for the zero-power reactor experiment for molten salt reactors. It will be supported by an experimental program to determine the thermo-physical properties of the future fuel material to improve the simulation results as well as performing social science studies.
The project, which also involves the Universities of Lancaster and Manchester and several national and international industrial partners as advisors, will be led by Professor Bruno Merk who holds the Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technology at the University.
Professor Merk's research focuses on developing new and innovative technologies to transform the nuclear energy sector. His ultimate vision is to develop a new generation nuclear reactor, which uses waste of the more traditional reactors as their fuel to produce energy while solving the long-term nuclear waste problem.
Professor Merk said: "Even if the programme is small, this is the first big step for molten salt reactor technologies development in the UK. Zero-power reactors are traditionally the first step to open a new reactor development programme to test the technologies in a safe setting, while delivering validation for codes and first safety demonstrations for the regulator.
"This innovative project will make a real contribution to the molten salt reactor design. It is a move towards a UK molten salt reactor pioneering zero-power facility that will place the UK at the forefront of molten salt reactor demonstrator developments and will create a focal point for researchers from the world to come to UK."