The Atomic Show #142 – American Right-Sized Reactors

Tom Sanders is an advocate of building right sized reactor power systems to meet human needs. He is a leader of a team working on that technology at Sandia National Laboratory. He is also the President of the American Nuclear Society. He has been doing a lot of traveling lately, answering questions about his vision and sharing his knowledge of nuclear power.

I caught up with him this morning while he was waiting to be able to check into his hotel in Rome.

As described in the lab’s press release and during our conversation, Sandia’s definition of “right sized” reactors fall into the thermal power output range of 100 to 300 MW, which would produce an electrical power output of about 30-150 MW depending on system thermal efficiency. The cores would be long lived breeders that create a sustaining quantity of new fuel as they operate.

The coolant would be sodium, the primary coolant configuration would be a pool, and the secondary heat engine would be a supercritical CO2 closed Brayton cycle gas turbine.

Tom believes that these systems can be made simple enough to operate in remote areas; they would have no need for refueling equipment, and no need to have any access to the fissile core materials. By making these systems appropriate for export markets, Tom realized that they will also be appropriate for a number of domestic customers, particularly those who have filled out weak spots in their grid configuration through the addition of moderate sized gas turbines.

Comments are welcome.

If you like having access to thoughtful shows like The Atomic Show, and wonder how it is possible to sustain such a service, please visit and learn about the network’s patrons. You might even decide to become one yourself.

Additional reading about Sandia’s right sized reactors


About Rod Adams

One Response to “The Atomic Show #142 – American Right-Sized Reactors”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Aaron Rizzio says:

    “Italy was a pioneer of civil nuclear power and in 1946 established the first scientific body to pursue this.

    “In 1966 Enel announced an ambitious program of nuclear plant construction, aiming for 12,000 MWe by 1980. Following this, ANSALDO was set up to supply nuclear components, both local and imported.

    “In 1967 CNEN and Enel started developing an Italian version of the Candu reactor, with heavy water moderation but light water cooling, called CIRENE. In 1972 an order was placed with ANSALDO to build a 40 MWe prototype, but this was not finished until 1988 due to technical problems.

    “In 1973 Enel took a 33% share of the Super Phenix fast breeder reactor being built in France.

    “Following a referendum in November 1987, provoked by the Chernobyl accident 18 months earlier, work on the nuclear program was largely stopped. In 1988 the government resolved to halt all nuclear construction, shut the remaining reactors and decommission them from 1990. As well as the operating plants, two new nuclear BWR plants were almost complete and six locally-designed PWR plants were planned. ENEA (formerly CNEN) also closed various fuel cycle facilities, including a fuel fabrication plant at Bosco Marengo.

    “Italy’s phase out of nuclear energy following the 1987 referendum has had major costs to the whole economy. The Minister of Economic Development in October 2008 put the figure for this “terrible mistake” at some EUR 50 billion.

    “Italy today is now the only G8 country without its own nuclear power, and is the world’s largest net importer of electricity.

    “A public opinion poll in July 2008 (N=800) found that 54% supported nuclear power in Italy while 36% opposed it (compared with 82% opposition in 2007).”