Energy fuels the future. The ultimate goal of this work is to advance Liquid Fueled Molten Salt Reactors (LFMSR) to address the world’s need for clean, inexpensive and safe energy, water and medical isotopes to treat cancer. This specific research project will build a fluid simulator on the Abilene Christian University campus in Abilene, Texas, to help advance the reactor design and allow for regulatory licensing of a future research and test reactor. Having an on-site test facility will provide unprecedented access for students and faculty to collaborate on cutting-edge research to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems: the need for clean, safe and affordable energy.
Next Research Goals
The mission of ACU’s NEXT Lab is to provide global solutions to the world’s need for energy, water and medical isotopes by advancing the technology of molten salt reactors while educating future leaders in nuclear science and engineering.
This mission provides a clear long-term goal. A Molten Salt Research Reactor (MSRR) is critical to the research, design, and development of this technology. To support the design of a MSRR, a non-nuclear molten salt test system is needed. The system would allow for testing advanced instrumentation, evaluating different salt properties, making fundamental data measurements, and testing hardware that can be used with molten salts. A flexible molten salt loop test lab in Bennett Labs on the ACU campus would advance the technical readiness level of all of these critical design considerations for a MSRR.
The following four phases present the research plans for NEXT.
Completed 2017Goal: Initiate an on-campus research program to demonstrate our understanding and abilities to safely prepare, heat, flow and study salt mixtures.
We expect to engage a variety of engineering support from within the department. As we build salt containers, heaters, loops, pumps and basic instrumentation, we will leverage local engineering expertise and engage students in the process.
2018-2020Goal: Build molten salt test loops for advanced testing.
The molten salt test loop (MSTL) first circulated molten salt in Fall 2018, providing a test bed for advanced instrumentation and a source for salt samples to monitor via chemical analysis. A larger, more advanced molten salt system is being designed that will allow for the testing of individual components that will be used in a Molten Salt Research Reactor. More than $4.5 million has been committed to fund Phase 2.
Expected to begin in 2021Goal: Build a full-sized, non-nuclear research reactor.
We will build a full-sized MSRR but not load any fuel in the core. This non-nuclear system will be heated via traditional electric heaters so the system will be an extremely safe test bed. It will provide an integrated test of our design and expedite licensing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Five-year expected durationGoal: Build a molten salt research reactor.
NEXT plans to lead a group of collaborators in the design, licensing, construction and commissioning of the first university-constructed MSRR. In March 2019 we hosted colleagues from Georgia Tech University, Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin for a workshop focusing on this goal. All participants signed a letter of intent to collaborate on the project. We began conversations with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), first on ACU’s campus and in a follow-up meetings in Washington, D.C., to formally request support from DOE for fuel, salt and licensing. Their response was enthusiastic, and they are working on a written agreement to support NEXT and assist with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of it.