Thursday, January 8, 2015

Martingale Reveals Design for Mass-Produced Nuclear Power Plants

ThorCon Nuclear Island
Entire structure is underground
Thorcon graphic used with permission

Martingale reveals a bold approach to solving the global issues of poverty, pollution, energy security, and climate. The ThorCon liquid-fuel nuclear reactor design is detailed at

ThorCon is a complete system of power generation modules, interchange maintenance, and liquid fuel service that produces energy cheaper than coal. Principal engineer Jack Devanney led a four-year skunkworks project that has created a new kind of nuclear power plant, integrating proven technologies with breakthrough approaches to manufacturing and licensing. Production can start by 2020. Today Martingale is publishing its design for cheap, reliable, CO2-free electricity at

Former MIT professor Devanney’s background in shipbuilding created respect for low-cost, high-precision, block-unit manufacturing at Korean shipyards. He saw how such prefabricated blocks could enable production of enough nuclear power plants to make a global difference, a hundred a year.

Author Robert Hargraves writes that selling so many power plants requires clear, simple economics, cheaper than coal. Coal is today’s energy choice of developing nations, now planning to build over 1400 gigawatt-size coal power plants to enable their economic development.

Lawrence Livermore Lab veteran nuclear scientist Ralph Moir says that today’s nuclear power industry is wedded to expensive solid-fuel nuclear reactors, even though the simplicity of liquid fuels was demonstrated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Moir and Devanney modernized that design for mass production. ThorCon uses uranium and thorium fuel dissolved in molten salt to create a power plant that makes electricity cheaper than coal.

Stanford engineering alums Chris Uhlik and Lars Jorgensen contributed to the design of passive safety functions that operate without mechanical or electronic controls, even with no power. The reactor is 30 meters underground. Overheating drains the fuel salt from the reactor. There are four barriers between the fuel salt and the atmosphere. ThorCon is walk-away safe.

Taking another lesson from Oak Ridge, Martingale advocates a return to staged testing of physical prototypes for new nuclear reactor designs. This made the US the world standard for nuclear designs in the 1960s. Martingale supports adoption of the same license-by-test model that has enabled US leadership in aviation and drug discovery.

Martingale is designing ThorCon in the US while targeting its first installations in forward-looking countries that support technology-neutral nuclear regulations and see the benefits of the license-by-test process. ThorCon opens up a practically limitless supply of low-cost, reliable, carbon-free power by 2020.


My contact for this announcement is Dr. Robert Hargraves, a member of the ThorCon design team. Hargraves has been a strong supporter of Vermont Yankee (I love his blog post Vernon New Hampshire about why Vernon should secede from Vermont.) He has many other posts at this blog, such as The Politics of Fear.  I also strongly encourage you to look at his website: Radiation, the Facts.

While supporting existing nuclear facilities, Hargraves has continued to work on developing the next generation of nuclear plants.  His book, THORIUM, Energy cheaper than coal, is a review of world-wide energy issues....and a proposed solution.

Discussion note.  There's a great discussion of this technology at Rod Adams Atomic Insights blog post about the ThorCon announcement. Here's the link to the post:  ThorCon --Demonstrated Molten Salt Tech Packaged with Modern Construction Techniques.   Adams himself is the inventor of the Adams Engines (tm) which can use nuclear heat sources for a gas turbine.

There are more than sixty comments on Adams' ThorCon blog post: many of the comments are from engineers and material scientists.   Much as I love to have comments on my blog, I think my readers will enjoy a better discussion by commenting on Adams blog.

1 comment:

jimwg said...

Good Article! The pain of it is such tech is a virtual secret to the mass public.

In reading Hargrave's excellent material, the wish I have is for all those who've royally stung by a smugly biased radio-phobic media to bite back and call their nuclear-slandering sources and FUD assertions on the carpet. The loss of public support for plants as VY is proportional to the FUD the media slings out there. That's why I have such peeves with the likes of NEI and ANS; they already have the resources and manpower and reputes to take on the media on their own turf but are timid as clams to fight back outside the caves of their blogs. You become your own worst enemy by being an ostrich among tigers.

James Greenidge
Queens NY