TerraPower’s Travelling Wave Reactor: why not use an IFR?

Barry Brook asks Dr George Stanford of SCGI to compare the Travelling Wave Reactor (TWR) and the IFR. George was a scientist on the IFR program, so he knows the IFR in great depth. The Terrapower TWR team is naturally secretive, so George has to make some educated guesses about the TWR parameters. Read his analysis, see what you think. My takeaway is that George sees the IFR as being nearly ready for demonstration at scale, while the TWR is probably 20 to 30 years behind. Secondly, that the TWR wastes valuable fissile material:

Fact: Every tonne of fissile invested in a non-breeding reactor is a tonne of fissile unavailable for use in a reactor type that has growth potential.

Comment: Investing fissile material in a non-breeding (break-even) reactor is like putting money under a mattress. Deliberate net burning of fissile material is analogous to throwing banknotes into a fire.

I’m not sure what the total investment in Terrapower is, but we do know that $35 million more was raised last past June.


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