Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nuclear Technology That Even the Nuclear Skeptics Should Like – Or At Least Seriously Consider

A pair of posts noting the attributes, and new uses, of the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR)

Nuclear Technology That Even the Nuclear Skeptics Should Like – Or At Least Seriously Consider | NGNP Alliance Blog:
A group of far-sighted companies, including AREVA, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, Entergy, Graftech International Ltd., Mersen, Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada, SGL Group, Technology Insights, Toyo Tanso Co. Ltd., and Westinghouse are pursuing the development of a true next-generation nuclear technology referred to as the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) for the past few years. Without too much technical detail, HTGRs are helium-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors with robust ceramic-coated fuel that operate at temperatures at or above 750 Degrees Celsius (1400 Fahrenheit) where conventional light water reactors operate at temperatures less than half that. In short:
  1. The design is intrinsically safe. It requires neither active or passive systems nor operator interventions to remain safe, thereby allowing co-location near major industrial facilities. 
  1. High temperature output that allow direct substitution for fossil fuel use in industrial process heat applications. 
  1. Much higher efficiency leading to lower energy cost, making it competitive with natural gas in many places of the world today without any price for carbon. 
Because HTGRs have been built and safely operated in the past and because there are current operational demonstrations in Japan and China, we can say with certainty that the HTGR is the only technology on the relatively near-term horizon capable of displacing the use of fossil fuel for electricity AND high temperature process heat while emitting zero carbon. They are not a long term science project.
Read the entire article at the NGNP Alliance Blog:
Steve Aplin has a new post at his Canadian Energy Issues blog that foresees HTGR's combining with coal and water to manufacture the liquid fuels of the future.

The Nanticoke Energy Centre: Ontario’s hub of clean electricity, motor vehicle fuel, and high value chemicals

...turn Nanticoke into a clean energy centre, which produces low-carbon electricity, zero-carbon hydrogen, low carbon motor vehicle fuel, and low-carbon chemicals. This would involve the following three things.
Graphic from source article
  1. Convert the eight generators at the plant to fire using the oxy-fuel process. This burns coal in the presence of pure oxygen (not air, which is mostly nitrogen), resulting in a concentrated stream of CO2, which is then far more easily and cheaply captured than current CO2-capture processes, which must separate dilute CO2 from nitrogen. 
  1. Make hydrogen by splitting Lake Erie water using the energy from a high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactor, such as Areva’s ANTARES, which is similar to the HTGR that is the technological basis for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant. Water-splitting produces both hydrogen and oxygen; the oxygen would be used in step 1, above. 
  1. Use the captured CO2 and manufactured hydrogen to make carbon monoxide (CO). On its own, CO is an extremely valuable precursor chemical; when mixed with hydrogen to form a synthesis gas, it is the carbonaceous raw material for the manufacture of Fischer Tropsch fuel, including gasoline and diesel. 
The foregoing would represent the biggest, most ambitious, and most innovative application of the Three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle—the world has ever seen. Ontario would become the centre of a new fuel manufacturing industry, one that is tied not to the world price of petroleum but to the price of coal and water.

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