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The Molten Salt Reactor Adventure

H. G. MacPherson

Nuclear Science and Engineering

Volume 90 / Number 4 / August 1985 / Pages 374-380


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A personal history of the development of molten salt reactors in the United States is presented. The initial goal was an aircraft propulsion reactor, and a molten fluoride-fueled Aircraft Reactor Experiment was operated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1954. In 1956, the objective shifted to civilian nuclear power, and reactor concepts were developed using a circulating UF4-ThF4 fuel, graphite moderator, and Hastelloy N pressure boundary. The program culminated in the successful operation of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment in 1965 to 1969. By then the Atomic Energy Commission's goals had shifted to breeder development; the molten salt program supported on-site reprocessing development and study of various reactor arrangements that had potential to breed. Some commercial and foreign interest contributed to the program which, however, was terminated by the government in 1976. The current status of the technology and prospects for revived interest are summarized.

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