1. Audio quality is much better. Equalization especially is much more natural sounding and not as “ treblely” as it was in the past.

    Now you just have to get the last of the phone-in participants on Skype with good headsets!

  2. Interesting Discussion:

    I wonder about the reactor that isn’t being marketed.

    Question: As I understand it, Per Peterson’s group is modeling the characteristics of molten salt cooling using pebble bed fuel. Is anyone actually marketing this particular combination? (Actually oil and plastic balls are used.)

    Previous post on Atomic Insights shows Triso fuel to have good qualities and the world has experience with pebble bed reactors. Refueling can be done online like CANDUs. Greater burnup can be achieved. It is a fuel which can deliver the high temperatures that allow greater thermodynamic efficiencies.


    Wouldn’t this combination allow the potential of the molten salt to be less radiologically hot? This may allow a better potential for developing the high temperature pumps, valves and piping for molten salt reactors in a somewhat less “hot” environment? A future step could be to put the fuel in the salt and develop the reprocessing techniques. This seems like a fit for a Small Modular Reactor (SMR).

    Thanks for taking the time to put together this interesting talk.

      1. @ A. Cannara:

        “The Chinese are indeed making salt-cooled pebble reactor designs, with Per’s help and with ORNL’s help. Isn’t that peachy?”

        I certainly do think it is peachy. That linked video is from 2012. Per the video, they are actually supposed to get a 2 MW prototype complete by the end of this year. (2015) Schedules are usually optimistic. They have a lot of problems to solve.

        This prototype could be scaled up, problems resolved and marketed to the world as an SMR. This could be a practical solution to all those coal plants closing as mentioned in the podcast. Thanks for the link.

      2. In just a few decades I can foresee a situation in which China has reduced their CO2 emissions to sustainable levels, while the USA is still emitting like crazy because we’re powering everything with natural gas and coal covered in a fig leaf of “renewables”.

        Would China be justified in declaring war to get us to stop emitting so much CO2 into everyone’s air? At some point our failure to embrace a meaningful/effective solution becomes an existential threat to everyone else.

        1. I have no doubt that they’ll manage it absent some societal revolution.

          Their leadership has flaws, but they are engineering minded and seem to be willing to choose workable solutions to problems, rather than picking whatever is currently fashionable.

  3. Working and living at a jobsite that renders internet activity almost virtually impossible, a trip into town has me belatedly discovering the new comment policy. Sucks, Rod. Although I trust your motives, the insinuation of partisan reasoning is hard to discount. Stumbling into the site with no past experience here would definitely ease the path to assuming that the site merely preaches to the choir, and has a system of moderation designed to delegate any NE naysayers, fence sitters, or uninformed antis into the ranks of trolldom. A real shame. But I’m sure a number of your followers rejoice in their freedom to advocate sans dissenting opinion. Unfortunately, I can think of no site to fill the void your new comment policy has opened.

    Oh well. Happy sailing Rod. Adios.

    1. @poa

      The strategy does not preclude comments and vigorous discussion on selected topics and during periods when I have plenty of time. It is designed to reduce the constant demands that arise when there are too many open threads that are magnets for comment spam. Before closing off comments on old posts, it was risky to take a day or more off.

      If you review the posts that have been published since the new strategy was introduced, I think you can see that I have hosted several good discussions that have welcomed dissenters. Some posts don’t really engender much in the way of useful discussion, but the spam bots love them.

      1. Rod…not questioning your motives or intent. Merely pointing out how such a policy can be perceived by those unfamiliar with the site. And also seeking to get you thinking about how such a policy puts a grin on the faces of those here who are rabidly partisan, hiding political motives and religious bigotry behind feigned scientific concern.

        The ease with which some here are labeled as being “trolls” should concern you. When people jump off a fence, they usually opt for the side that doesn’t contain the snarling dogs.

    2. @JohnGalt

      In the meantime, Siemens-Westinghouse and GE are busy around the clock making gas turbines from 5 to 500 MW each. Several different models. Custom options available. Factory built. Constantly improving technology. And no NRC to slow you down.

      I like gas turbines. I just think their working gas should be heated with something besides combustion.


      1. @JohnGalt

        Real, built and operated, gas cooled reactors have either been for producing plutonium for weapons, parts of weapons systems themselves, or more difficult and expensive to operate than was wished.

        Perhaps. The HTR-10 and HTR-PM that is under construction has the potential for proving that the technology has more potential than it has displayed so far.

        Are you aware, by the way, that all but one of the UK’s current fleet of reactors, which have had a reasonably good operational history for such early model technology, are gas cooled?

      2. @JohnGalt

        Are you aware that the small Magnox reactor now shutdown in Japan was at Tokai Mura, where the criticality accident related to fast breeder reactors and reprocessing occurred, killing two people, irradiating hundreds, and continuing to pulse out of control for about 20 hours?

        Sure. I was aware that on the same site where some workers put too much liquid containing enriched uranium into a container that provided the geometry for a critical mass, there was once a MAGNOX gas cooled reactor.

        Is that an important fact to know or did it appear on a nuclear version of a Trivial Pursuit card?

      3. @JohnGalt

        I am not aware what capacity and availability factors equate to “reasonably good,” or how to fairly adjust for de-rating to 70% of design power for 4 of the advanced units. Are you?

        Compared to early versions of many other technologies, the British gas cooled reactors were reasonably good performers and provided billions of kilowatt-hours of ultra low emission power with okay reliability. My standards for performance include the recognition that learning takes time and practice. Those standards also take into account external factors that provide some forgiveness for competitors who have to deal with “knee-capping” or unpredicted injuries and still manage to make a comeback – of sorts.

        The WNA provides a brief, but fairly detailed and objective history of the UK’s nuclear power industry at

    3. @JohnGalt

      I’m not sure why you participate here and put up with an “inconsistent as always” host who is motivated to tightly control “as much as can be controlled.”

      Please remember this is my house. The 1st amendment starts with “Congress shall make no law…” It does not apply to private venues where people have the right to peaceably assemble and engage in civil, respectful discussions.

    4. Brian Mays could easily provide a trend analysis of the comments since the change, …

      Well, I don’t have much hard data yet, but my general impression is that the “troll factor” has decreased considerably — with at least one notable exception. 😉

      … and could probably tell us how many comments have been deleted over the years.

      I have noted that comments have been deleted in the past, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how many. I’m merely an observer on this site, just like everyone else. I don’t have access to any privileged information. All I can say is that the number of deleted comments has been very small.

      Score them by insult rating factor too.

      No, that would seem vain, like self-promotion, almost as if I were vying for some sort of award.

  4. I had one minor audio glitch or skip that wiped out the Westinghouse answer to how many orders they needed to proceed. I would be interested in knowing that number.
    On a larger note I noticed a large concurrence with the idea that the current NRC (and its structure) is a large detriment to new innovative design approval. If you have another session like this in the future, can you get a high ranking NRC person to participate? Maybe you did ask this time and they declined.
    Specifically I would like to know if NRC also sees this as a problem, but I would like to know if they feel they are constrained by something outside their control. I’d like to hear their side of this issue. If something structurally needs changing, what would they recommend, etc.
    If they are perceived as a problem by start-ups, the are a problem, but everyone wants to know what has to change to solve this problem.
    If they don’t see NRC process as a problem it is a whole different issue to get anything changed.

    1. @mjd

      I had one minor audio glitch or skip that wiped out the Westinghouse answer to how many orders they needed to proceed. I would be interested in knowing that number.


      Thank you for the suggestion regarding getting an NRC spokesperson. I’ll try.

    2. From the podcast:
      Danny Roderick of Westinghouse was recalled as saying a year previously concerning the decision to invest in modular manufacturing facilities, “At least 30 plants in our order book for this to make sense.”

      It’s not stated how many SMRs these 30 plants would correspond to, presumably the size of the old coal plant the customer wanted replaced would dictate that. Each of their planned SMRs is “north of 225 MW” (electrical?)

  5. Hi Rod,

    Great episode, I really enjoyed listening to the progress of these SMR heavy hitters. The progress that they’ve made sounds really exciting. I was just curious though, I realize that there were a lot of companies on this episode and that having too many more would not have given enough time for everyone to speak.

    But was there any reason that other primary smr companies like General Atomics, mPower, Holtec, and Gen4 didn’t make it on the show. I know we talked about mPower over an email, but I feel as if learning about the progress of these other companies in another episode similar to this one would be something everyone who listens would enjoy. I’ve barely heard anything new on those four developers of SMR’s.

    Again great episode, I definitely plan to start donating and listening more.


  6. How do you discover something like the $6 billion dollar subsidy for wind turbines that have already been built? I realize that how to spot something like a federal subsidy is not a skill that can be taught over a comment thread, but what resources should I be directing my attention to in order to make sure that I am looking in the right place even if I don’t have the training yet to make full sense of the relevant resources?

    1. @Nathan Macher

      I’ve been following, using several different resources including Google Alerts, discussions about the status of the Production Tax Credit. I knew it had been allowed to sort of expire at the end of 2013. https://atomicinsights.com/cape-wind-pushing-deadline-to-qualify-for-780-million-taxpayer-gift/

      In mid December, I noticed articles like the following that described the extension with what I found out were deceptive comments by the wind industry.


      It turned out that the actual legislation included a retroactive provision to cover any project that began construction in 2014.


      Here are some other data sources:

      Keeping track of the PTC – http://dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=US13F

      Lucrative Investment Tax Credit in lieu of the PTC that was originally created in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis as part of the Recovery Act. That industry-favorite giveaway program is known as 1603 Program: Payments for Specified Energy Property in Lieu of Tax Credits.


      The calculation of the worth of a one year extension of the program requires comparing values from the program reports that are issued “from time to time.”

      The most recent one was published on Jan 8, 2015 http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/recovery/Documents/STATUS%20OVERVIEW.pdf

      I have not been able to find an archive of the reports on treasury.gov, but a Google search revealed this copy of a report dated October 31, 2011.


  7. Thanks Rod, that was a great podcast and a really interesting set of people you pulled together. The discussion on licencing was fascinating.

  8. First, regarding the podcast: I think the discussion from Dr. Peterson regarding the need to migrate from the deterministic model to a more performance-based (probabilistic) regulatory approach is one of the most key aspects for the future of nuclear power.

    Regarding the new commenting policy, if it frees up more of your time to be able to organize podcasts like this, it could certainly be a net positive for Atomic Insights as an overall entity. That said, it has been over a week, so I was afraid that I had missed my chance to comment on this posting. 🙂

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