The Molten Salts in Extreme Environments Energy Frontier Research Center (MSEE)
Abstract: Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) are a potentially game-changing technology that could enable cost-competitive, safe, and more sustainable commercial nuclear power generation. Proposed designs employ molten salts in the temperature range of 500 – 900 ˚C acting as coolants for solid-fueled reactors, or in other cases, where the nuclear fuel dissolved in the molten salt acts as combined coolant and fuel. Consequently, the development of reliable MSRs requires a comprehensive understanding of the physical properties and chemistry of molten salts and of their interfacial interactions with reactor materials.
The mission of the Molten Salts in Extreme Environments EFRC is to provide fundamental and predictive understanding of the bulk and interfacial chemistry of molten salts in the operating environments expected for MSRs. MSEE addresses this challenge through a coordinated experimental and theoretical effort to elucidate the atomic and molecular basis of molten salt behavior, including interactions with solutes (dissolved materials such as nuclear fuel and fission products) and interfaces, under the coupled extremes of temperature and radiation.
MSEE’s research is organized into two interrelated thrusts. The first is Molten Salt Properties and Reactivity, which aims to understand how molecular-scale interactions, structure and dynamics lead to macroscale properties. Key aims are to learn how the interactions between molten salts and solutes affect physical properties and control solubility and reactivity, and how radiation affects salt solution chemistry and solute speciation. The second thrust, Interfacial and Corrosion Processes in Molten Salt Environments, aims to understand the atomic-scale structure and dynamics at interfaces and related mechanisms of interfacial and corrosion processes between molten salts and materials, including the effects of extreme environments such as radiation and high temperature. In particular, we are advancing in-situ, synchrotron-based techniques to follow molten salt corrosion processes in in real time.
In both thrust areas, our access to cutting-edge experimental techniques and computational methods have provided new insights into the inner workings of molten salts and their effects on the materials they contact, and examples will be presented.
Bio: James F. Wishart is the Director of the Molten Salts in Extreme Environments Energy Frontier Research Center and a Senior Chemist in the Chemistry Division of Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he has worked for 33 years. He has been studying the physical chemistry and radiation chemistry of ionic liquids, and recently molten salts, for 19 years. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from MIT in 1979 and a Ph. D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Stanford University in 1985 (Advisor: Henry Taube, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1983). He is the leader of the BNL Accelerator Center for Energy Research (ACER), including the Laser-Electron Accelerator Facility (LEAF) for picosecond pulse radiolysis, which he built in the 1990s. In September 2019, he received the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal from the Polish Radiation Research Society, for his distinguished achievements in the field of radiation chemistry and long-lasting and productive cooperation with Polish scientists.