Chemical Processing for Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactors



MON, 01/16/2015 - 4:00PM TO 5:00PM
Spring 2015 Colloquium Series

Chemical processing is required in order to efficiently use thorium as a nuclear fuel. Thorium dioxide (ThO2) is a challenging fuel in solid-fueled reactors due to its exceptional chemical stability and this has contributed to the limited use of thorium in existing light-water reactors. Thorium tetrafluoride (ThF4) is even more chemically stable than ThO2, but ThF4 dissolved in a medium of LiF-BeF2 can be used as a fluid blanket in a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) and can be chemically processed directly. Liquid fluoride fuel also removes the need for conventional fuel fabrication, which is made very challenging by the high radiation fields that accompany the recovered uranium-233 fuel product. Rapid removal of fission products gases (like xenon) and other fission products that have high neutron absorption cross-sections reduce neutron losses in the reactor that would otherwise compromise the breeding capability the proposed thorium fuel cycle.

About the Speaker:

Kirk Sorensen is a nuclear and aerospace engineer working on the development of a liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) as a source of energy and important materials.  He has a masters of science in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee and a masters of science in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.  For ten years he worked in advanced propulsion technology development at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, including a two-year assignment to the US Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command.  He joined Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, Alabama, in 2010 as their chief nuclear technologist and later started his own company, Flibe Energy.  Flibe now works under contract to Teledyne on the conceptual design of a future LFTR power station.  Kirk is also an international speaker with recent talks in Switzerland, Singapore, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Dubai, Portugal, Canada, as well as many talks across the United States.  His work has been featured in numerous magazines, books, television specials, radio and internet interviews.  He has also taught nuclear engineering as a visiting instructor at Tennessee Technological University in 2010.