MIT enters into joint nuclear research agreement with Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics

MIT enters into joint nuclear research agreement with Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) have entered into a collaborative research agreement which officially began on October 1, 2015. The two institutions will work together to advance the technologies needed to realize a new class of Fluoride-salt-cooled High-temperature Reactors (FHRs). A major step toward this collaboration was the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between the US Department of Energy (DOE), which is supporting nuclear research in this area under the Advanced Reactor Technologies Program in the Office of Nuclear Energy, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) which is funding a major program at SINAP aimed at building a 10-megawatt test reactor, and eventually a higher-power demonstration reactor. Under this new MIT-CAS agreement, the CAS is providing $2.1M to MIT for an initial series of four research activities, and potentially others to be added in the future, to address issues related to their test reactor projects.

The first activity is to study materials critical to FHR performance and safety in a radiation environment. These studies will be carried out in experiments inserted into the core of the MIT Reactor, which utilizes the unique facilities and expertise available at the MITR. Test results will provide valuable first data demonstrating proposed FHR structural materials performance under high-temperature salt coolant in a radiation environment.

The second activity is to investigate the commercial basis for salt-cooled reactors that includes nuclear open-air combined power cycles which allow production of peak electricity using heat storage, natural gas, or hydrogen. The alternative of a closed helium combined cycle with heat storage will be considered by working with the ongoing CAS efforts to develop a helium power cycle. The proposed technology is a potentially transformational energy option that provides base-load power, peak power, electricity storage, and grid stabilization services.

The third task addresses one of the major technical challenges for salt-cooled reactors, namely avoiding the release of tritium to the environment, and corrosion of internal components. Tritium is generated in the salt coolant. The goal of this activity is to provide a baseline for developing new tritium control technologies and help in designing an effluents control system including tritium control functions for the SINAP FHR projects

The fourth task addresses reactor modeling of a small-scale FHR. Modeling of FHR poses various challenges because no experimental data exist to validate a combined fuel and fluoride-salt coolant system. The goal of this joint MIT-SINAP effort is to develop and validate state-of-the-art modeling tools to support the design, licensing, and operation of the FHR.