from the bill-just-wants-a-vat-of-molten-salt dept.
TerraPower, the Gates-chaired nuclear power company, has garnered the most attention for pursuing traveling wave reactor tech, which runs entirely on spent uranium and would rarely need to be refueled. But Terrapower just quietly announced that it’s going to start seriously exploring thorium power, too.
A traveling-wave reactor (TWR) is a type of fourth-generation nuclear reactor that nuclear engineers anticipate can convert fertile material into usable fuel through nuclear transmutation in tandem with the burnup of fissile material. TWRs differ from other kinds of fast-neutron and breeder reactors in their ability to utilize fuel efficiently without uranium enrichment or reprocessing, instead directly using depleted uranium, natural uranium, thorium, spent fuel removed from light water reactors, or some combination of these materials. The name refers to the fact that fission does not occur throughout the entire TWR core, but remains confined to a boundary zone that slowly advances through the core over time. TWRs could theoretically run, self-sustained, for decades without refueling or removing any spent fuel from the reactor.