Insight and inspiration

What a difference a year makes

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year since MoltexFLEX was launched in the UK – partly because the time has flown by so quickly, but also because the company has achieved so much during this period. Although our parent company, Moltex Energy Ltd, and our Canadian arm developing the SSR-W ‘wasteburner’ reactor have been around for longer, MoltexFLEX, which is focused on developing the FLEX reactor, is just a year old. So, on the company’s first birthday, let’s take a moment to reflect on the significant progress we’ve made in the past 12 months. 

Our achievements are considerable: in this time, we’ve won a significant government grant, refined the FLEX design to the point that it’s ready for engineering, created a fully costed development programme, and attracted significant interest from possible clients in the UK and around the globe. 

MoltexFLEX hit the ground running, with extensive press coverage of our launch in respected nuclear industry publications, national newspapers, and radio. And we’ve seen sustained media interest throughout the year, being featured in major magazines, newspapers and other outlets. Such a well-reported launch of a low-cost, low-carbon, flexible and global solution to the problems of energy security, energy poverty, and climate change should rightly be regarded as a huge success. 

Equally important has been the attention that the UK Government has given our technology. In addition to keen interest from local MPs near our Warrington base, we were honored in April to play host to then Secretary of State for Energy and Net Zero Grant Shapps, who was hugely impressed by our laboratory facilities and the innovative work we’re doing to develop the FLEX reactor. 

Our most notable win has been securing a £1.3 million grant from the Government’s Nuclear Fuel Fund to establish a commercial production pathway for our uranium fluoride fuel. It’s a victory not just for MoltexFLEX but for the entire UK nuclear sector, as it signifies the Government’s support for the development and production of advanced fuels in the UK. 

Meanwhile, our technical team, strengthened by the appointment of Head of Engineering Chris Hankinson in January, has confirmed the feasibility of the FLEX concept. Now, we’re poised to enter the engineering design phase, during which we’ll create the detailed blueprint for our first-of-a-kind unit. The FLEX design has been refined, maintaining the capital cost of the reactor and the price of energy per MWh despite a tide of rising global commodity prices – and while doing so, delivering a 50% boost in power output.   

Another key appointment this year has been Commercial Development Director Tristram Denton, who also joined us in January. Tris has been vigorously promoting the huge potential of the FLEX reactor to prospective customers and development partners in the UK and abroad. As a result of this effort, MoltexFLEX is in discussions with several potential partners who could provide a home for our prototype. Recently appointed the chair of the Nuclear Industry Association working group on ANTs (Advanced Nuclear Technologies), Tris is advocating for developers of such technologies to government and potential business partners alike.  

We achieved what we believe to be a European first by installing a rheometer inside an inerted glove box in collaboration with scientific instrument manufacturer Anton Paar. This setup allows us to measure the viscosity and density of our fluoride fuel and cooling salt, and the chloride storage salts at temperatures of up to 1,000°C. We also teamed up with the University of Manchester to win a grant from the Henry Royce Institute to investigate how the FLEX reactor’s molten coolant salt interacts with graphite.  

Albert Einstein famously demonstrated that time is relative. In reviewing the first 365 days of MoltexFLEX’s existence, it certainly seems to be. We’ve accomplished a huge amount in a relatively short period, and while we’re immensely proud of this, we’re certainly not resting on our laurels – our efforts are only going to intensify in the coming 12 months. So, while we look back on a successful year, it’s time to look forward too – with a large degree of optimism – to the even greater achievements that MoltexFLEX’s second year will bring. Happy birthday to us! 

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