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The Dutch thorium reactor that converts nuclear waste into CO2-free energy?

How are things going now with: the Dutch thorium reactor that converts nuclear waste into CO2-free energy?
By: Hidde Middelweerd
In 2022, Change Inc wrote about Thorizon. The Dutch company has been working for years on a thorium molten salt nuclear reactor, capable of converting nuclear waste into CO2-free energy. The ultimate goal of the company: to make nuclear energy circular. How are you doing?
What is the most important thing when building a nuclear reactor? Safety, of course, because a meltdown must be prevented at all times. Molten salt has therefore been seen as the holy grail for decades. After all, the stuff has already melted, which makes a meltdown impossible in principle. But molten salt is also a very corrosive material, which can damage the surrounding system over time. And that is a major problem in terms of safety.

Modular nuclear reactor
For that reason, few companies venture to develop a molten salt reactor, no matter how promising the technology may be. Thorizon does. The Dutch company has a solution for that corrosion problem: modularity. Thorizon developed cartridges for the molten salt, which can be replaced every five to ten years.

According to Sander de Groot, co-founder of Thorizon, this has several advantages: “First of all, we do not have to demonstrate the durability and safety of our cartridges for a lifespan of sixty to seventy years, because they are replaced every five to ten years. to replace. As a result, we have a much faster time to market. In addition, we can continuously improve the cartridges. If all goes well, we will present a better version of our nuclear reactor to the world every five to ten years.”
How does Thorizon's thorium molten salt nuclear reactor work?
Thorizon wants to build a nuclear reactor in which multiple cartridges can be easily placed in and out of the core of the reactor. Each cartridge contains a 'sub-critical' amount of fissile material (read: fuel for nuclear energy generation), which means that no nuclear reaction can take place in the modules themselves. But when they are positioned correctly next to each other in the reactor core, the cartridges exchange neutrons with each other and a nuclear reaction can take place. For safety reasons, this nuclear reaction only takes place at the top of the cartridges. The cartridges are equipped with a pump, so that the salt constantly circulates through the cartridges. When the pumps stop, the salt sinks and the nuclear reactor immediately stops.

Thorizon uses radioactive waste as fuel (you can read more about that later in the article), in combination with the common metal thorium. These ingredients are incorporated in the molten salt in the cartridges. The salt also serves as a coolant.
Dutch manufacturing industry
But Thorizon's nuclear reactor has more advantages. For example, a traditional nuclear reactor consists of all kinds of complex components, from reactor vessel to cooling system, that must be assembled on site. But Thorizon's cartridges are produced in a controlled, and therefore safer, environment. And because molten salt operates at low pressure, the requirements for the materials and components of the surrounding system are less strict anyway.

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The cartridges can also be produced on a volume basis, which means that the costs will probably be lower compared to a traditional nuclear reactor. “The Dutch manufacturing industry is ideally suited to produce our cartridges,” says Kiki Lauwers, CEO of Thorizon. “We have already found a party for each component that could make it.”

Nuclear waste as nuclear fuel
The nuclear reactor that Thorizon initially wants to put on the market can generate electricity with a capacity of 100 megawatts. That is enough to power approximately 250,000 households (or one large data center). In addition, the nuclear reactor can supply heat to drive processes in (for example) the chemical industry. But Thorizon sees another important task that the nuclear reactor can fulfill: recycling nuclear waste streams. De Groot: “These waste streams still contain a lot of energy that we can use.”
For the record: Thorizon can no longer use nuclear waste that has already been poured into glass and lies underground. But from 'fresh' nuclear waste, the used fuel that comes from existing nuclear reactors, Thorizon can make salt, which it adds to the salt mix in its cartridges. For example, long-lived nuclear waste is reused as fuel for Thorizon's nuclear reactor.

Nuclear waste is not completely a thing of the past, however. Thorizon reduces the volume of long-lived nuclear waste by 40 to 50 percent in this way. In addition, the nuclear waste that remains remains radioactive for several hundred years, while it is normally tens of thousands of years. “That makes the challenge a lot less great,” says De Groot. “And in the future we expect to be able to convert long-lived nuclear waste in its entirety into energy and short-lived waste.”

Arrows on France
Last year, Thorizon raised 12.5 million euros in investments to bring its thorium-molten salt nuclear reactor to the market. Since then, the company has been working hard: “We now have a team of eighteen people and are busy opening an office in France,” says Lauwers. “Nuclear technology has a lot of momentum there and President Macron has announced a major nuclear strategic program. That's where we want to be.”
Meanwhile, Thorizon is working hard on the further development of the technology. The design is specified as much as possible with the help of computer models. Experiments with a non-nuclear prototype must then provide proof of the operation and feasibility of the nuclear reactor. That prototype is not there yet, but Thorizon is working hard on it. It expects to be able to deliver a first prototype of the cartridge within three years.

Acceptance of nuclear energy
In ten years' time, Thorizon hopes to actually bring the first thorium molten salt nuclear reactor to market. The ultimate goal is a worldwide network of reactors that clean up nuclear waste and supply CO2-free energy, for which Thorizon supplies the cartridges. But we are not there yet. Lauwers: “You notice that support for nuclear energy is increasing, both in the Netherlands and worldwide, but at the same time there is still a lot of resistance. Social acceptance is and remains an important challenge.”

De Groot agrees: “Our nuclear reactor works and we can guarantee safety. The only thing that remains is to arrive at a market product as quickly and efficiently as possible. That's not the crux. The question is: will this be supported and carried? We also notice this when we talk to governments and potential partners from other sectors. The first question people ask is: is this necessary? As far as we are concerned there is no doubt about that. This is a huge source of CO2 neutral energy. And we really need that.”




Do you agree?

31 more agrees trigger social media ads

  • Saustine Lusanzu

    42 w

    Sustainable technology for the Sustainable Development

    • We Don't Have Time

      43 w

      Dear Wil Sillen Your climate love has received over 50 agrees! We have reached out to Thorizon by email and requested a response. I will keep you updated on any progress! To reach more people and increase the chance of a response, click the Share button above to share the review on your social accounts. For every new member that joins We Don't Have Time from your network, we will plant a tree and attribute it to you! /Adam, We Don't Have Time

      6
      • johnte ndeto

        43 w

        Innovative technology.

        3
        • Grace Njeri

          43 w

          @johnte_ndeto It's an exemplary tech.

        • Rashid Kamau

          43 w

          Great technology to save the planet.

          • Komu Daniel

            43 w

            Incredible.This really a good technology

            13
            • Princess

              43 w

              Impressive! This is a remarkable example of sustainable technology.

              15
              Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
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