Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Big Small Modular Reactor news

Treats for nuclear followers: James Conca in Forbes, on Terrestrial Energy, and Rod Adams on his site with ThorCon.

Nuclear Power Turns To Salt, James Conca, Forbes:

Today, the United States Department of Energy announced that its Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee is partnering with Canadian nuclear company Terrestrial Energy Inc. (TEI) to assist with TEI’s new Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR). The engineering blueprint stage for this GenIV reactor should be reached in two years. The reactor should come online in less than ten.
Image from Forbes article
Think of it: a nuclear reactor that
- is cheaper than coal
- creates much less waste and few long-lived radioactive elements
- uses almost all of the fuel which lasts 7 years between replacement, and can be recycled easily
- is modular, from 80 MWt to 600 MWt, able to be combined and adapted to individual needs for both on and off-grid heat and power

- is small enough to allow fast and easy construction, and trucking to the site
- operates at normal pressures, removing those safety issues, and at higher temperatures making it more energetically efficient
- has the type of passive safety systems that make it walk-away safe
- does not need external water for cooling
- can load-follow rapidly to buffer the intermittency of renewables
- cannot be repurposed for military use and has strong proliferation resistance
- can last for many decades
- uses a liquid fuel
Now that is different!

It is different than nuclear operating to generate electricity on grids today, but it has some competition for new smaller scale designs.

Rod Adams writes on events at another promising small reactor company in ThorCon – Demonstrated Molten Salt Tech Packaged With Modern Construction Techniques:
The dearth of real innovation and focused direction from the established companies in the US nuclear industry in the face of rapidly expanding demand for clean energy solutions has stimulated the formation of a number of start-up companies. The leaders of these companies have backgrounds that have taught them to ask “Why not?” when faced with the standard nuclear industry response of “The NRC will never let you_____” (fill in the blank).
image from World Nuclear News report
ThorCon is a packaged nuclear power plant concept from Martingale, Inc. that is designed to wring capital costs out of nuclear plant construction. The company visionaries have recognized that the biggest hurdles to building new actinide-fueled reactors are the initial capital investment along with the excessive required construction lead time.
Instead of complaining that “the market” does not reward carefully crafted works of industrial art designed to last for sixty to one hundred years with lucrative paybacks delayed for three or four decades after final investment decisions, the ThorCon design team started with the notion that product designers must create offerings that satisfy market demands.
Today’s energy market rewards financial flexibility, predictable construction schedules, reasonably low investment, affordable operating costs, low or no emissions, and readily implemented upgrade paths. If the offered solution is one that uses actinide fission, customers will also want to clearly understand provisions for handling process leftovers, liabilities, accident prevention, consequence mitigation and regulatory barriers.
The ThorCon conceptual design has several features that will be familiar to regular Atomic Insights readers. They are similar to the choices that Terrestrial Energy has made. Both design teams point back to the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment as a demonstration that molten salt reactor technology works and addresses many of the economic obstacles inherent in conventional light water reactors.
They both have chosen to design reactor systems that are maintained by replacement instead of being designed with expected component lifetimes measured in large fractions of a century.
Keep reading Rod Adams on ThorCon at Atomic Insight and don't forget to return to Forbes to finish James Conca's piece on Terrestrial Energy

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