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Home / Publications / Journals / Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 38 / Number 3 / Pages 376-383

Tritium Loss in Molten Flibe Systems

Glen R. Longhurst, Robert A. Anderl, R. Scott Willms

Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 38 / Number 3 / November 2000 / Pages 376-383

Technical Paper / Special Issue on Beryllium Technology for Fusion

An emerging issue relative to beryllium technology in fusion involves tritium interactions with molten beryllium-bearing salts. Innovative designs for fusion reactors, both magnetic and inertially confined, feature the molten salt mixture 2LiF•BeF2, commonly called Flibe, as a tritium breeder and coolant. Tritium is bred in the Flibe as neutrons from the plasma are absorbed by Li atoms, which then transmute to tritium and helium. Transmutation of tritium from Be also occurs. Among the issues to be resolved for such coolant systems is the potential loss of tritium from the Flibe coolant to the walls of the system, particularly through heat exchanger tubes, and from there into secondary coolants or working fluids and the environment. Effectively removing tritium from Flibe in clean-up units is also important. In quiescent or low Reynolds number flow, tritium movement through Flibe is governed by diffusion. For Flibe in turbulent flow, as in heat exchanger tubes, transport is by turbulent mixing, and the same flow conditions and structural design features that maximize heat transfer to the heat exchanger walls will enhance the transport of tritium to those same surfaces. Analyses have been performed to estimate the fractional loss of tritium through heat exchanger tubes and release rates from Flibe droplets in vacuum disengagers in molten Flibe systems. The calculations suggest unacceptably large losses of tritium through heat exchanger tubes. The gravity of the implications of these estimates calls for experimental verification to determine if tritium losses through molten Flibe heat exchangers or other Flibe systems can really be so high and whether vacuum disengagers will really work. There is also a need for better information on evolution of tritium from Flibe droplets in a vacuum. Several experiments are presently being planned to address these issues and are discussed. These include experiments to induce tritium in Flibe using spontaneous fission neutrons, experiments in flowing loops to evaluated tritium losses through heat exchanger walls, and exploration of schemes for tritium extraction from molten Flibe.

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