The NGNP Alliance recently published a thought provoking blog titled Energy Vs. Electricity and Why We Care that clearly explains the basis for their interest in using high temperature gas cooled reactors. That group of far-sighted organizations was formed in recognition that the energy market is far larger than just producing electricity.
They believe that higher temperature reactors offer a good path for enabling fission energy to serve needs in other segments of the energy market, bringing its energy density and emission free nature to applications like industrial process heat and enhanced resource recovery.
If we moved our electricity production to 100% carbon free sources, like nuclear, hydro, and renewables, we would reduce the use of carbon fuels by only 25%. Basically cutting most coal consumption and reducing natural gas by 30%. But we would still be left huge amounts of petroleum and natural gas being used for industrial and transportation purposes.
The NGNP Alliance is looking at a new kind of reactor, called a High Temperature Gas Reactor (HGTR) that can generate high temperature, high quality heat and do it with true inherent safety. That heat could replace coal, natural gas, and petroleum in many industrial processes including chemical and fertilizer manufacture and hydrogen and synthetic fuel production.
I’ve been interested in expanding atomic fission’s role in the energy market for almost as long as I can remember. My early experience in nuclear energy was in using it to propel ships around the world; electricity production was just an auxiliary task for the reactors I learned to operate.
I’ve never forgotten how the Navy’s propulsion reactors directly replaced diesel engines and large, oil burning steam turbines. That still seems to me to be a huge, untapped commercial opportunity, especially in a world that is so often made to tremble in the face of threats to continued oil abundance.
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