Oak Ridge National Lab helping Chinese develop new type of nuclear reactor

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) met last week with a Chinese group to advance the state of a new type of nuclear reactor.

ORNL met with representatives of the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP), who described their plans to build the first salt-cooled test reactor. The two organizations will work on the project to increase understanding of fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors (FHRs), a new type of salt-cooled reactor that features low-pressure liquid fluoride salt cooling and solid coated particle fuel.

A great deal of work needs to be done before FHRs are practical, but the technology may one day produce large amounts of both electrical and thermal carbon-free energy.

SINAP is spearheading the Chinese effort to develop FHRs to supply process heat and electricity to China's growing economy, especially in areas with limited water. ORNL has vast experience with advanced reactors and design, building and operating the only molten salt reactor ever constructed – the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment.

The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between ORNL and SINAP was approved by the Department of Energy. The estimated $5 million in annual funding of the project is being paid entirely by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and is expected to last 10 years.