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  1. I am wondering about specific NRC rules needing to be changed to have process heat from a nuclear reactor.

    The security rules come to mind first.

    1. Do you have clearance to know the full extent of the security rules?

    2. Most plants have three security areas: inside the double security fences, between the double fences and the single security fence, and outside the single security fence. Would the heat storage be outside the double security fence? Do you see the heat processing factories (turbine hall, water purification, coal gasification, Fiescher-Tropes plant) to be more or less than 100 yards from the reactors?

    3. If the reactor plant has 160 security people, how do they interact with the processing plant staff?

    4. Is there any possibility that the coal industry would finance this type of plant? Any other sources of finance?

    5. Have you looked at the molten salt reactor designs? What do you think?

    6. Do you think you will have to go to some other country to develop your ideas?

    7. When you get your doctorate, what do you plan to do?

    8. Is there a small part of your plan that could be implemented in the next few years?

    9. Are you part of the small modular reactor SMR group that is advising the NRC on licensing changes? Should you be?

    10. Do SMR designs have any advantage over current reactors for process heat?

    11. Can your heat pump take LWR heat (about 300 C) and jack it up to 600 C?

    12. Have you organized your changes to NRC rules into sections? What are the sections?

    13. Is your work on the internet yet? Where or when would it be available?

    14. What about giving a TED talk covering your work? Got a good power point yet?

    Science type people have more questions that would allow the interviewee to talk more.

  2. 1. I have a TS/SCI clearance with the DOD that is still active. As for the civilian nuclear power industry, I never had access to that information. I would love gaining access to the information and creating a classified portion of my thesis.

    2. The heat storage is more than likely going to be safety grade. It would be inside a security berm/blast wall. The double fence would be on top of the blast wall. I say blast wall because the wall must be able to withstand a maximum conceivable overpressure event in the process heat yard. The fence on top of the blast wall does two things. It makes it impossible to drive a vehicle through the fence, and it makes the fence easier to monitor and protect. The chemical processes would be immediately on the other side of the wall (< 100 yards). Thus an offset would be made in security standoff distances and a more defensible security barrier. At some point the security has to meet common sense… This methodology is used to manage force protection risks in DOD. We had to safe guard our reactors too. I want to stress a point. There is no such thing as "absolute safety". There is only good enough or inadequate.

    As for the electrical system it would be divided into two tiers. The first tier would be located inside the double security fence. It would be sized to accommodate the self sustaining power output for the reactor plant plus some small margin based on PRA needs. This would be tied into a ring bus with a set of AC/AC motors that were coupled with offsite power to allow continuous shared power on the protected vital buses. Thus a loss of offsite power does not adversely effect the operating reactor. It's generator would assume full load and power the reactor which could be taken to any needed power level down to minimum self sustaining.

    Even if the reactor tripped offline the tier 1 turbine would be drawing heat from the salt storage and still be able to supply power independently of reactor criticality. The salt storage gives another benefit the capability for a stately shut down of the process heat loads in the event of a reactor trip. The operators can then manage the stored energy in the salt vaults for purposes such as decay heat removal and start up after a station black out. Thus the reactor plant can bootstrap itself, or in the event of a loss of the grid, go to a state of spinning reserve and wait for the opportunity to restore the grid.

    The tier 2 turbine would supply main line power and would be entirely under the control of a remote load dispatcher. The turbine would be best located near the switchyard. For grid stability purposes the switch yard would need to have some level of security, a big fence would do depending on NERC/FERC requirements, which I have no data on. As the switchyard is not required for reactor safety, its existence is more of convenience for the reactor.

    3. The interaction would be defined by the berm blast wall. The flow of materials into and out of the process yard is significantly more than what nuclear security teams are capable of doing without significant financial disincentive. Outages tax security teams, and here we would have 1 outages worth of mass flow rate of stuff in the first two hours of the day.

    We had three areas in DOD Force Protection. The Denied Area (DA), the Control Area (CA) and the Monitor Area (MA). These are equivalent to the double fence, single fence and outside the single fence. The reactors and everything dealing with reactor safety is inside the DA. The CA as the name suggests had access control and had less restrictive rules of engagement (ROE). The MA we watched and were aware of what was around us. We had no obligation for security in that area, if security was required it was another organization's job.

    The same mindset would work here. The DA would be behind a reinforced wall with a security standoff double fence on top. Here we blur the technical definition, but not the intent. The CA would collapse to the security/blast wall. This would put the process yard and switch yard in the MA. Thus the security requirements for those areas would be defined by the owners of those facilities. A formal structure would have to be clearly defined with mutual reporting requirements for the various security forces. Each security force would be under their own requirements. The NRC would have a partial say in the agreed upon rules and for spot checking compliance.

    The nuclear island would have a separate CA on any side that did not contain the security/blast wall with conventional standoff distances and security requirements.

    4. I hope the coal industry is interested in this, but I suspect they lack the capital to make this happen. They do however have very active and strong lobbying groups. Nuclear power is not a threat to any fossil fuel. Nuclear power is what improves our refining, utilization of existing resources.

    Where I see the capital coming from is two parts. First, the reactors and electricity conversion would be funded entirely or in part by the utility. The utility would then lease its land to tenants. The tenants would include the oil industry and the steel industry.

    The most expensive part of the whole deal is not the reactor. It is the synthetic fuel production. The only companies in the world that are liquid enough to be able to finance a project like this are the oil companies. They have the most to gain with this technology combination. It reduces their fuel delivery costs, guarantees a stream of refined petroleum at fixed costs. And it allows them to keep on using existing refineries to refine crude oil for sale in the rest of the world.

    Iron producers would also be interested, but are small potatoes compared to everyone else. They would only have a fractional share. The more likely scenario is that the tenants would have fractional ownership in the reactors. Their right of ownership is a guarantee of a share of the power.

    5. I have looked at MSR's. They would seamlessly integrate with this technology portfolio. If they did not my advisor would have a field day with me. The problem with MSR's is that they are a long ways away from commercialization.

    There is a mindset that we have in the nuclear world, that hotter is better. That is not necessarily true. I did a survey of process energy use and came up with 60% of all process heat is < 450 C. 90% is < 900 C, and only a small fraction is above 1000 C. We need only be concerned with a 80-90% solution, that is very large market indeed. This was why I came up with the temperature amplifier. We just have to get close enough. It turns out that the amplifier opens access to 80% of process heat uses with core outlet temps of 450 C amplified to 825 C. Crossing 550-600 C threshold is very difficult from a material stand point for reactors. We have such a wonderful heat source in our reactors that they can still be cheaper than anything out there even with a slight thermodynamic penalty. Why bang our heads against the wall when there is another solution?

    6. I'm an American. I defended this country for 10 years and fought in two wars. I am not going to give up on Her so easily.

    7. It depends. It will be centered around this. I just don't know how yet or with whom. Time will tell.

    8. The plan as it stands consists of repowering coal plants with nuclear heat. This can be substituted in the short term using natural gas to do the repowering or as a feed stock for Fischer-Tropsch syntheses. So a utility can start working with the oil companies and identify sites that would benefit form this. Personally I would take the plants the EPA is trying to shut down by 2015 as prime candidates.

    Oak Ridge built an amazing model for EPRI of the contiguous US. It divided the nation into 2.5 acre blocks and applied 11 siting criteria to each block. ORNL ran a preliminary test of repowering existing coal plants and under current siting restrictions 75% of all coal plants can be repowered without significant technical effort (from a siting stand point).

    I would start with the 75% solution first and pick the oldest and dirtiest plant in my service area as a prime candidate. Then conventionally repower it with NG or coal COGEN. Then I'd build the coal to liquids facility keeping in mind I'd have to site a reactor complex in the future.

    This can be done today. Everything that is needed has already demonstrated commercial viability on the scale that is needed.

    9. No, I am not on the advisory board. If asked, I would be honored to do so.

    10. Yes, they have a big advantage. They are scalable. This proves very beneficial especially under constrained capital scenarios, which just about describes everyone. Additionally SMR's tend to have simpler decay heat removal strategies and tend not to rely on offsite power.

    11. I ran numbers for a 69 bar saturated steam plant at 284 C. It got to 425 C with no heat recovery. The lack of heat recovery also killed the thermodynamic performance. The problem is that you have to get close enough, you can cascade, but the losses become more significant. 425 is good enough for refining oil or Haber-Bosch. When B&W can get mPower out the door, they don't just have to produce electricity anymore and have access to 60% of process heat used in the country.

    12. I have not gotten that far yet. Specific rules changes is beyond what I had in mind for the PhD. I wanted to address the large scale problems only due to time and financial requirements. I am still framing the PhD proposal and will look at what you suggested to provide a readily integrated frame work for the thesis.

    13. I have nothing published yet. I have a website, but I have no time to administer it so there is no content there. My resources are very limited at this point (time and money) so I have to tackle what I can.

    14. I have a very good power point that ties in with the style of TED. I used TED talks as a model for the presentation. If you know how to get on TED, I'm all ears.

    I'm on a panel at GA Tech on 17 Nov talking about the future of nuclear power. If you are in Atlanta stop on by. It will be a good time.

    Disclaimer about price controls in the talk. My idea of price controls is to make more of something cheaper than what the market is currently charging. Oh, and make as much of it as you possibly can. That is price control.

  3. Wow. Thanks for the wonderfully detailed answers.

    The idea of an electrical generator to keep the plant running plus using the stored heat to generate grid free electricity makes for attractive safety features. New idea to me.

    Idea – use some of these questions and answers on your web site in the Q&A section.

    I looked up the TED talk nomination method. You can nominate yourself when you are ready. I encourage you to do so.

    Since I am mostly interested in nuclear to reduce CO2 production, I really don’t like using coal as a feed stock to make liquid fuel. Have you read this study?

    Instead of coal as the source of carbon air is used as a source of CO2.

    Good luck in your studies.

    Rod – Really appreciate the introduction of a new voice in the nuclear world.

  4. Martin,

    I originally had a two purposes with my work. First was to provide energy independence. Second was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    I modeled Southern Company (generation mix and capital constraints) under cap and trade and was able to show how they would be able to maintain control of the price of electricity and replace all coal generation by 2035. I aggregated the model to the US market using EIA’s AEO 2010. Using nuclear power for all non-peaking electricity and 80% of all process heat loads achieves a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. to get to 80% reduction we need fuel efficiency of vehicles and vehicle electrification.

    Coal to liquids was used as the base of the transportation fuel industry. So, with no change in the electricity distribution system, transportation fuel infrastructure, coal infrastructure we can achieve targeted CO2 reductions without compromising growth in GDP.

    HAving scrubbed CO2 from the air it is an energy intensive process and at low concentrations <2.5% the scrubbers have difficulty maintaining vacuum. Also you entrain a good bit of amine in the effluent gas, which is what gives submarines their characteristic smell. An easier method of carbon fixation is to rely on photosynthesis. The coal gasifiers can be readily used to accept biomass. It gets dried and turned into char just the same as coal…

    Also in the coal gasification and liquefaction scenario the CO2 which is a chemical byproduct is turned back into CO using a reverse water gas shift reaction. The amplifier supplies steam at ~800C to a high temperature electrolysis process to produce hydrogen to reduce the CO2.

  5. Just read the Green freedom thing. Good link, curious as to the mass flow rates for the salts. Seems that would be the major cost driver along with the heat source.

  6. Engineers are not idealists.

    I want to be against the use of coal in any form as an ideal position. Now you say we can both reduce CO2 use and oil use by converting to nuclear electricity and nuclear process heat using coal as a feed stock.

    Perhaps we could use the natural gas saved by converting to nuclear electricity to power our large trucks. No conversion to liquid would be needed. The liquid fuel for coal conversion would be used for airplanes and old cars. This seems to be a natural addition to your grand plan.

    OK. I guess I am more of an engineer than an idealist. As long as the CO2 produced goes way down I am in favor.

  7. Just curious, have you ever looked at biomass liquefaction or Fischer Tropsch biomass to liquids rather than coal to liquids (assuming for example externally produced heat, electricity and hydrogen) ?

  8. Alex,

    I have looked into biomass liquefaction. Because of the higher ash and water content, it would require a slight reconfiguration in the design. It is similar to what you would see in cofired fossil plants.

    Hydrogen is a product gas (via high temperature electrolysis) that is used in chemical processes directly on the site. Colocation would solve a lot of the problems of the “hydrogen economy” as hydrogen is a pesky gas to handle and the infrastructure would be local.

    Once one has large quantities of hydrogen available, all you need is carbon in some form to be able to make liquid fuels. That and lots of heat. Fortunately, a nuclear reactor can make lots of both.

  9. Thanks Cal

    According to this study

    particurally tab 1

    and the paragragh “biomass to liquid fuels” if I did the math correctly it takes at least (with a gasifier efficiency of 70%) about 50 kg of H2 per barrel. It’s a very large quantity, its energy content even higher than LhV of an oil barrel itself

    It’s not clear from the study which heat and electricity inputs could be (yes, there are so many uncertainties at the moment…)

  10. Mr. Abel if you read this,

    I saw your presentation in San Diego last year. Good stuff. I remember it now, thanks to this conversation with Rod. Your scheme would get coal and railroad “on board” with nuclear power.

    I also like your idea of a “nuclear island” sending the heat offsite for use as whatever. Analogy is a tractor with a power output shaft to which one can hook myriad implements.

    To both you and Rod,

    I really enjoyed the banter at the end between two CHENGs. I hope to hear more of that in the future. I’d like to hear Abel’s perspective of what happened on the _Newport News_. I’d like to hear how you dealt with your CPOs and POs and the poor new guy that had to clean out the condenser after cruising the Arabian Gulf.

    I liked your vision of cross connecting dual reactors, as I was on the _California_ (CGN-36 to be specific). It was a drill we performed often– “Cross connect steam plants aft!” Google that phrase plus “USS California” for a funny sea story.

    Looking forward to the future ‘casts to which Mr. Abel committed.

  11. Reese,

    Thank you for the feedback. Hopefully, the idea will catch on that our most effective path forward is to tweak the status quo rather than complete abandonment.

    Growing up on a farm, the PTO (Power Take-Off) was a vital to everything, transferring power to virtually anything. I had not consciously made the mental analogy. Thank you, I now have some slides to fully explain the concept.

    The tractor analogy brings new meaning to a sea story of a young smart aleck ensign, who on the 1MC announced, “The tractor is critical.”

    The California sea story is too funny. Having never had a chaplain onboard I can only imagine… Ahh the fun and hi-jinx of being stuck with a group of guys for months on end in an enclosed space never being able to get away from them.

  12. Aw, geez, you didn’t 1MC “the tractor is critical” did you? Awesome, sir. I bow and doff my watchcap with admiration.

  13. I experienced a very one way discussion that cured me of that particular brand of hubris and cemented in my mind the O5 to O1 relationship.

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