These vessels utilized lead-bismuth cooled fast reactors, as opposed to the usual pressurized water reactor. As far as power on land goes, are there any significant advantages over current nuclear reactors? I get that they were ahead of their time, but when will this reactors time come?
I’ve not heard it discussed. But I have heard a lot of talk of Molten Salt reactors being the future of nuclear power. One of the big advantages is they tend to “failsafe” (as unlike water salt does not boil off in the event of the reactor over heating)
Another advantage is they have greater operating temperature, which means greater thermal efficiency. (because the equation for the maximum free energy you can extract from heat is (1 - Tc/Th)).
This means a smaller reactor could produce more energy, at the cost of less nuclear fuel. (in present reactors, it’s not really the fuel that is a significant cost, but the refueling is quite expensive)
The disadvantage of any sort of really new nuclear reactor design - many have been proposed and money spent on - is it costs a fortune (10-20 billion, 10-20 years) to build nuclear reactors according to the old, well understood designs. This cost is so enormous that basically the only way a utility company can afford one requires heavy government support and generally the cost of the resulting electricity is more expensive than doing it other ways (right now, with no carbon tax, the cheapest way is a combined cycle natural gas plant).
So yes, reactors similar to this, or using thorium and exotic setups, or a dozen other proposed ways all have significant potential to be better. But the economics don’t support them and national governments are reluctant to make the investments they would need because of the risks and negative public reactions.
Assuming you are talking about Lead-cooled or Lead-Bismuth cooled fast reactors, commonly abbreviated LFR.
LFRs are fast reactors but not breeder reactors (not meant to have a breeding blanket).
Their advantages in today’s context are: much more efficient fuel usage, much more thermally efficient, much safer, and potentially can “close the fuel cycle” meaning eliminate almost all of the radioactive waste.
No large land-based LFRs have actually been built today, but they have really enthusiastic supporters.
“Europe” has finished an LFR design: LEADER
Westinghouse also has an LFR design: Advanced Demonstration and Test Reactor Options Study (click the “Attachment_4_Westinghouse_LFR_DR” PDF link, lots of detailed info)
Those latter two links have extensive detailed info on the advantages and challenges of LFRs.