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Nuclear – Finally, a benchmark

ORNL’s Molten Salt Reactor Experiment operated 1966-1970, successfully using U235 and U233 fluoride fuels. The historic experiment is the basis for a new molten salt reactor benchmark. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

In the 1960s, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's four-year Molten Salt Reactor Experiment tested the viability of liquid fuel reactors for commercial power generation. Results from that historic experiment recently became the basis for the first-ever molten salt reactor benchmark.

The benchmark, published in the 2019 OECD/NEA International Handbook of Evaluated Reactor Physics Experiments, fills a significant gap for the international nuclear reactor community to verify and validate computer codes for future MSR development and licensing.

ORNL’s Jeff Powers and Germina Ilas were co-principal investigators. Max Fratoni of the University of California at Berkeley led this project, with graduate student Dan Shen gathering data from hundreds of reports from the 1950s-1960s, then running models.

“This benchmark could help underpin the licensing applications for industry pursuing MSR designs,” Powers said. “If we can play even a small part in helping an advanced MSR concept come to market, that’s a pretty big win.”