Can nuclear energy save Detroit?
Update: (August 2, 2013) – American Atomics is now claiming that there is no site in Detroit that is large enough to house the infrastructure that they are planning to build. Here is a link to their post. http://safereactor.org/post/57104636966/no-room-in-detroit
It is a pretty incredible claim for a company that currently has no facilities. Supposedly the city that was home to GM, Ford and Chrysler has nothing large enough for them.
In 1966, the Fermi I nuclear power plant, the only liquid metal cooled breeder reactor that provided commercial electricity in the United States, suffered a partial melt when an internal reactor component moved and partially blocked coolant flow.
Fermi I was repaired by 1970 and restored to operating status for a couple of years, but its performance was not good. As a one of a kind reactor, its costs were not competitive, so it was decommissioned in 1972. (In 1972, power companies could buy oil for $2 per barrel.) The partial melting of the reactor, which was located about 30 miles from Detroit, became the subject of a popular antinuclear book by John Fuller, published by Reader’s Digest titled We Almost Lost Detroit.
On Thursday, July 18, 2013, the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy, saddled with $18 billion worth of obligations with few ways of raising the funds required to pay them. The once great industrial city has suffered from several decades worth of massive exodus of both people and businesses; its population is about half of what it was 20 years ago. It is literally withering away.
On Tuesday, July 23, 2013, American Atomics, a company that almost no one has ever heard of, issued a press release offering to come to Detroit and help the city rebuild its former prosperity.
American Atomics is presenting a plan to community leaders in Detroit, Michigan, offering to locate the company’s new factory and other operations in that economically strapped city. The plan, claimed to generate between 500,000 and 1 million new jobs in Detroit over the next 10 years, includes building the world’s largest factory, as well as guaranteeing to supply Detroit with electricity at a flat rate of 2¢ per kilowatt-hour for both businesses and residences, beginning in 5 years.
Full details about the somewhat audacious plan are available at An Offer To The City Of Detroit. Interestingly enough, the technology that the company plans to develop into mass produced small nuclear power plants uses liquid metal cooling, something that has not been used in commercial nuclear plants in the United States since Fermi 1. (It has been used in a number of prototype and test reactors including the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) and the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR)).
I’ll have more about this later, but I’d like to leave you with a music video with a haunting refrain – “We almost lost Detroit – this time“. I’m sure there are at least some Atomic Insights readers who remember what the city was like when it was a booming manufacturing powerhouse. Perhaps the audacious American Atomics plan will help it recover.
PS – Audacity is not necessarily a negative word. When big changes are needed, people with audacious ideas and the drive to turn them into reality are often the only ones who can succeed.
2 year licensing with the NRC? It will take some major clout.
But hey you never know.
I hope they have looked at the NRC’s timeline and guidelines for their next-gen licensing queue: http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1215/ML12153A014.pdf
I also hope they have some powerful political and financial allies lined up. As we have seen many times before, good ideas, good technology, and good intentions alone are not enough.
Timing is close to perfect. The concept is sound.
President Clinton talks about brass. He did major harm along with Gore to the nuclear industry.
Now he Is pushing left and right for action on climate change.
Nuclear is the only solution to climate change.
No, the concept is NOT sound. The concept is ridiculous.
The collapse of Detroit has nothing to do with energy prices. The outer counties (especially Oakland county) have the same energy prices and completely different outcomes (save for isolated areas like Pontiac).
What the collapsing big city of Detroit and collapsing smaller cities like Pontiac, Flint and Ecorse have in common with each other, and different from Oakland County, isn’t energy but demographics. Southfield is becoming Detroit demographically, and also economically.
The state of Michigan has tried tax-free “enterprise zones” in Detroit. They did not work. The problem is that the working-age population of Detroit has such low social capital and such high criminality that it is nearly unemployable (48% functional illiterates, and the voters elected Board of Education members who cannot write), and the security costs of a plant in Detroit would probably sink it.
There is ONE way that I can see to avoid this: build the plant on some of the empty blocks, enclose it in fences with razor wire and camera towers, and include company housing and other amenities inside. Unfortunately, the employees could not come from Detroit, and that would sink that idea too.
You can substitute “manufacturing” for “energy” and get the same result. Manufacturing fled Michigan for right-to-work states because union plants produced losses year after year after year. Now that Michigan is RTW that might change, but the most-blighted area is probably not a good place to start.
Yesterday I was praising the advances of Russia in the civil nuclear market. It is really doing well with out of the box thinking.
Of course, all of the US IFR work at Argonne is a potential equalizer. This is what the America Atomics is stemming from.
The project may have been scrapped under doubtful reasons by the Clinton administration but the knowhow and people are still very well accessible.
Let the games begin.
Yesterday in a video, Jim Hansen criticized the Clinton administration and the likes of Jane Fonda for having killed the Argonne project. A few vocal ignorants that ignored science.
Funny. Listen at 6:16.
Clinton and Gore sleeping well at night ? Let’s hope so.
It’s a splendid plan, but the title and legacy of that infamous book will be a rallying cry for every green group in the country to implore the nuclear-wishy-washy administration to “invest” in massive windmill and solar and battery projects in the area instead. I think you can bet this is rolling right now. Without some hearty non-token general nuclear energy endorsement by the Prez himself to coax his massive green-Dem constituency there, Detroit is going to remain a “no-nuke green city” regardless unemployment stats. NYC threw out having a major naval station here because greens wailed over nuclear weapons and reactors, and that place would’ve been one employment boon for the whole area. FUD royally works. So does massive nuclear education — if you do it.
As a Tennessean by birth, I am a bit disappointed in myself that this is the first time I have heard about this American Atomics project, despite the fact it was only announced a few months ago. I think I am going to have to try to find out more information.
Imagine how Al Gore feels ….
Sadly, I think this one goes into the “too good to be true” file. Unless someone big with very deep pockets and a love of risk comes around, a company that claims on their website to be founded in May, with no factory, no prototype, not even a design, not much outside of “we’re gonna change the world, honest!” We just need 10 billion in funding to do it (taken right from their brochure).
I’d love to be proven wrong, I just spent an hour reading everything I can find on American Atomics being intrigued by a promise that big, and it starts to read like an IndieGoGo campaign on a grand scale. I’d bet on the NuScale, SMR, or nPower long before I’d bet on these guys.
The “our investors are so rich and powerful, we can’t tell you who they are” along with “and we can’t tell you who WE are, either…” is kind of off-putting.
With only One top notch journalist we Will know soon
Gates. Buffet. Branson.
Rod – may I suggests a podcast interview with CEO Jack Campbell and/or his chief technologist?
I *really* like the concept of “Nuclear Power 2.0”. I always hated “4th generation”.
As far as I’m concerned, a liquid metal fast breeder is as different from any light water reactor as any coal burner is from a gas turbine. We don’t put all carbon plants all under the header “combuster”, nor should we call every strong force plant “Nuclear Reactor”. They’re all different, and should have varied markets.
Our problem with FUD isn’t the FUD per-Se, it is that FUD drives an emotive and compelling story. Physics means squat. It’s about the Narrative. Our worst enemies, at least for the Baby boomers, are lines like Joni Mitchells Woodstock line “Gotta get back to the garden” or that stupid bread song “Just give me the restless power of the wind…”.
I think the narrative, the set of stories, is changing. Big thanks to you Rod, and your folks here. Keep it coming.
Who is behind American Atomics? This company, right now, looks to me like they are an all hat, no cattle ranch. How can they possibly move as fast as they promise, when they don’t have a design, a license, a working prototype, a factory. They claim to have very rich investors. Really? Who? If I was rich and investing a large share of my wealth into a project, I’d publicly boost it so people know that, yes, I back it and want it to succeed.
I hope I’m wrong, but this has scam written all over it. Too many red flags.
“I hope I’m wrong, but this has scam written all over it. Too many red flags.”
If it seems too good to be true…
Yet, it also feels so plausible from a technical point of view.
Just yesterday (after radio news story about Detroit’s problems) I was fantasizing about how Detroit would be an ideal place to set up manufacturing for machined parts needed for a large scale nuclear expansion…
And voila. The next day, this.
I hope my dreams are coming true.
Somewhere in the midst of this rural Tennessee industrial park is a company that’s going to save the city of Detroit and it’s $1 trillion in unfunded liabilities?
I wonder what else is hiding out there … Lost Fabergé Eggs, or Captain Kidd’s buried treasure?
Check out the top conversation going on right now on their Twitter feed re. their design. https://twitter.com/AmericanAtomics – I don’t know, that type of response sets off major alarm bells for me. Maybe I’ve just been jaded by my years on the ‘net.
They may not have a lab, a design, a factory, NRC approval, or all the other things that would make this go forward, but they certainly do have a budget: http://safereactor.org/post/50918624559/fundamentals-ten-billion-dollars
I’m not going to call it either way on whether or not this is a legitimate effort to produce this thing, but I certainly don’t give it much weight. Especially when they start lobbing around such grandiose promises as what they made regarding Detroit.
From American Atomics’ self description: “We are confronting the most confounding energy, environmental, and economic problems we face as a species and delivering a single comprehensive solution to them all. ”
I hope they include ‘political’ in that list of adjectives. If they haven’t spent a bunch of money on lobbyists tying down the political situation, the antis will tie them in knots. Reid alone seems to have the NRC under his thumb with a simple one – two take over plan. Send in one minion to do a horrible job. Send in a second minion who looks great by comparison to the first screw-up, but who is still an evil minion antithetical to the actual purpose of the organization she is running.
If they can get the governments of Detroit and MI batting for them though, that would be a coup. I suspect that the prospect of getting those two high-profile governments in their corner has more to do with this proposal than the advantages of locating in a deserted industrial city.
If the Chinese continue to buy up real estate in Detroit at this rate then perhaps they can just muscle through and finance the plant as well.
Rod – thanks for this post, as always. The proposal sounds interesting and I hope that Detroit officials at least give it a hearing. I’m sure that the city government will do all of their due diligence, and I hope that it will be done publicly so that everyone gets to see who is backing American Atomics and how all of this could work. The plan could even help Windsor, Ontario as well. Or Windsor could act as an example for the city fathers, since it’s connected to Ontario’s more than 50% nuclear grid. (See Steve Alpin’s Canadian Energy Issues site for current Ontario generation and emissions numbers.)
Could this be an anti-nuclear fraud to make pro-nuke folks and small reactor folks in particular, look like over-promising fools?
Get some fall-guys together, have them push this fraud, have them claim to be on the pro-nuclear side the whole time, then after the dusts settles, give quietly give them jobs in the bowels of DOE as a reward.
I wonder if GE and the S-Prism reactor isn’t a product to ensure that IFRs never get built. They aren’t likely to introduce a new product, such as the S-Prism that will soon be met with an array of IFR competitors, while killing existing GE revenue streams from their turbine businesses. They only have to keep their S-Prism technology ahead of any potential IFR competitor and draw NRC and political attention as the front runner for the technology. Out in front, they can easily put on the brakes on all IFR development and ensure the revenues from their turbine business continues without the market competition from the IFR technology.
As several people have noted, their website is hyperbolic indeed with almost no information at all. It looks strange. I think I will put my money on Rod and B&W.
Yes it does look strange. I’d be very careful with this and wait for something more substantial before taking it at face value.
It sounds very similar to the Toshiba 4S 50Mwe concept [PDF] http://www.iaea.org/NuclearPower/Downloadable/aris/2013/1.4S.pdf
For those truly interested in Fast Reactor technology, including the 4S, the IAEA has published a comprehensive historical overview. It discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly (including the fuel melt at Fermi-1 which, looked at scientifically rather than hysterically, wasn’t that ugly at all). Caution – it is an 800+ page download.
Not only that, but Germany has ordered that all books regarding nuclear or science be burnt in their new coal fired thermal plants.
As for Italy, they like their unemployment peaking and sustain the highest electricity prices in Europe.
May I suggest a reading of your own. Toronto is not a province.
Baby steps. Now read a book or two on the benefits of civil nuclear power and learn.
If you need direction, Rod or any of the regulars here would be more than happy to give you a few pointers.
In the meantime, you could go and see the new film Pandora’s Promise.
What happened to our new friend N. Butler? Perhaps the vociferous ness of his radiophobic spewings triggered some kind of temporal trap door, sending him back to more familiar surroundings – the Salem witch trials.
Dang, I was just getting ready to try out my Outrage Management skills on him.
When you make decisions based on emotion instead of logic and reason, you get N Butler.
Anybody an idea about the investment budget and the engineering staff (how many, which expertise) that is needed before sales brings substantial money:
– to develop the reactor in few years
– to get approvals
– to develop a production line
– to build the plant
– to market the reactor.
And how much money have these guys?
So I assume Detroit/Michigan has to help in order to create a nice activity in town. If you think filthy, the entrepreneur will earn a lot thanks to the the big money involved with this help.
Regarding marketing; I have seen nothing which indicate that they have something special which will convince everybody (especially the skeptic). You did?
So how can they sell so much more???
I entered the address of American Atomics into Google maps and the actual location – 924 Myatt Industrial Drive in Madison, TN – is for a company called “Colllins Machine & Tool Co., Inc.” supposedly founded in 1971. But, for a company founded over 40 years ago, the only appreciable products shown on their site are a TV stand and a keychain/lanyard connector for iPhones and iPods. So, the website for the facility that “actually” occupies this address is very strange as well.
I also did a search on the American Atomics phone number, (615)973-6070, and found a Manta page where an alleged Mr. Jack Campbell is listed as the CEO.
Interestingly, an actual Jack Campbell served as Governor of New Mexico from 1963-1967, and after his tenure was on the Federal Atomic Safety and Licensing Board for some time. This man died in 1999 according to Wikipedia.
The picture of the children (“Nuclear Power 2.0”) on the American Atomics website is so ridiculous that it just about gives away the phony nature of this “business.”
I’ll try calling some of those numbers (unless someone beats me to it) to see what these places are really about.
Agreed. I checked out their material and my BS detectors started ringing pretty fast. I will change my opinion when I see that Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Richard Branson are publicly stating that they are pooling resources (counting their billions to pitch in!) to back this thing and have an MOU with the US Dept. of Defense to boot. That enterprise will need BILLIONS to do anything close to what they claim, and a ton of political clout in order to re-wire the NRC. Either that or use the DoD to do an end-run around NRC roadblocks, firewalls and all sundry barriers-to-entry.
Update: It appears that the founder of American Atomics, Mr. Jack Campbell, is an actual person. A Google search of “Jack Campbell American Atomics” will return his LinkedIn page, which itself has a link to his “personal website.” As you can see, this person has no actual experience in the nuclear field whatsoever. He has been “founder and CEO” of multiple companies. Quite an odd resume.
The guy’s a kook.
He’s working out of his basement (“founding” some companies, and having meetings with folks in others). Time to drop the story and move on …
I can’t help thinking that American Atomics Tritium spill in Arizona some years ago—which helped lead to its bankruptcy—has muddled its corporate mind. Just mentioning their claimed hiring rate, they’d have to hire 24 per hour to make it. You can read it previous history here:
Different company, different time, different people.
That said, the extraordinary claims made by the new AA will require extraordinary proof of credibility.
Little off-topic but, few months ago you asked:
“…what is your rationalization to the recent statements by Siemens that Energieweinde is doomed to failure? http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-04-30/siemens-says-german-energy-switch-on-track-for-failure-on-costs …
I then answered that this statement was probably generated because Siemens needed more business (need to sell new Power Plants).
Now it seems that it was a desperate attempt from their CEO (in vain) in order to survive:
Thank you for the link to the Bloomberg article about Siemens financial woes. Did you read the article?
No wonder Loescher is no longer a big fan of the EnergieWende. He and his company were “all in” and have been badly burned by the technical realities associated with attempting to power a modern industrial society with unreliable, weather dependent power sources.
Perhaps his problem was that he was an outsider to the energy business. He did not understand the winks and nods associated with the game of pretending to do alternative energy while actually making the money by supporting the energy establishment of coal, oil and gas. In contrast, GE and ABB are led by people who know how the game is supposed to be played.
There are more than 170 anti wind groups in Denmark, the mother ship of wind nightmare.
This from the CBC 3 days ago.
I have no way of validating but do not think Greenpeace is amongst the anti winds. Human health is not important. Anti nuke first. The rest does not matter.
Just read: “…do not think Greenpeace is amongst the anti winds. Human health is not important. Anti nuke first…
Puzzled, as to me this suggests that you think that wind is bad for human health???
Read the medical literature on noise emitted by turbines installed too close to houses.
Sleep disorder, fatigue, depression
Actually since in Chernobyl radiations have proven to be much more a concern for man than for wild life, it’s not even than they consider animal health better than the human one.
“…his problem was that he was an outsider to the energy business….
I think his statement regarding the Energiewende was a last desperate try to improve his situation. But here nobody believed his words, which were hardly published anyway.
To my opinion, he fully misjudged the response to his statement too.
It probably alienated him from the mainstream in Germany…
Strategically he was right. Siemens need to do that turn if they want to stay a major player in the German electricity generation market, as delivering power plants is almost over. And almost all other EU countries will follow Germany.
Only the atomic powers and Finland/Sweden not.
(Finland/Sweden; little wind and sun)
You are right that the turn towards renewable hurts Siemens a lot.
Problem is that it is a quite different market with different rules.
Regarding wind it is dominated by a.o. Vestas (Denmark)
Regarding solar it is dominated by China production and USA for the development towards high yield panels.
So that type of turn asks a lot of investment during a long time in order to make it a success (he needed probably major take-overs).
And he did not take (or had not) that time/investment…
Bas, you just remembered me how a president at an energy company struggling in the wind market said this about offshore wind almost 2 years ago :
“It’s a bit like buying an old crappy car. It’s starts cheap, but spends most of the time in the workshop costing you a fortune, so you didn’t drive much, and your cost per driven mile is staggeringly high. It’s the same with the cost of energy when you look at capital expense and operating costs with overall production.”
Now, can you guess who he was working for ?
Though not very relevant, just a short remark.
I read and thought they sold their solar division ~2years ago.
So I was very amazed to read at Bloomberg: “In June, Siemens said it will close its solar power unit following losses of at least 784 million euros since 2011.”
Either this is a mistake of Bloomberg, or
they sold only part of their solar activities 2years ago, or
the deal that was in the news ~2 years ago, was in the signed Letter of Intent stage and was blown-off later. E.g. after the due diligence investigation (when bad numbers show up, the buying party can decide to stop).
American Atomics is claiming that they explored the possibility, but that Detroit had no suitable site to house what AA has planned. You may want to append this posting, Rod.
@Joel – thanks for the tip. I have posted an update. It is quite a remarkable claim.
Basic Google searches of the CEO of American Atomics return claims of unethical activity dating back to the early 2000s where he supposedly resold Apple/Mac accessories under different company names.
There is even a youtube video of him asking people to invest in a product line of tiny tripods for iPhones.
Also, the press release (“An Offer to the City of Detroit”) in your original post on this story mentions the name of American Atomics’ “Chief Reactor Engineer.” A search on this person finds that he is indeed a nuclear engineering PhD, but with majority experience in academia and very little in the actual industry.
It is a bit curious how a PhD student from California is now partnered with someone working out of a nondescript industrial facility (which is the same address for two other companies) with zero nuclear experience and an alleged shady past to revolutionize not only the nuclear power industry, but the power generation industry, in half a decade.
But hey, you never know. Maybe they’ll surprise all of us.
No room in Detroit ? That is hilarious …
Hi Daniel. Actually not. We need a 1,600 acre contiguous tract (2.5 square miles) with main line rail access. Dan Gilbert’s team performed a thorough search and could come up with nothing above a 432 acre parcel inside the Detroit city limits, and it was well away from where rail service right of way could be routed to the site without enormous disruption to (occupied) intervening residential neighborhoods.
This is Jack Campbell, the guy crazy enough to attempt the seemingly impossible task of actually bringing a cheap fast reactor based power plant into existence, at the only scale where it can be made at the needed cost, as well as have the needed impact.
I appreciate the skepticism based on my history of involvement in hundreds of wildly varying consumer products projects over the last couple of decades. One Twitter commenter asked how the experience of having a factory in China put a piece of plastic on a string translates into solving the world’s energy problems and creating 500,000 jobs in Detroit. Given the engineering challenge of designing a metal-plastic device with 100% reliability in holding an iPhone in place, and never damage the iPhone, and never fail over a multi-year lifetime, and that can be built in 10’s of thousands quantities at a target cost of about $2 each — well, that’s actually a terrific example of the sort of economization process that has never been brought to bear on the SMR idea. Everybody is trying to leverage concept designs from the DoE labs, and somehow think they can eventually manufacture them at some competitive cost. Nobody has taken a blank sheet approach to engineering one from the ground up specifically for the mass production process.
I thought that needed explored. And, the result is this venture, a broad group of pending financial backers who are waiting until we can can complete a full sweep of third party validated cost confirmations — essentially proving the numbers we’ve come up with leading to sub-3¢ per KWh power, and a growing team of technical and science folks coming aboard to help out.
Think about it: If we’re right, and we can actually apply consumer products mass production processes and methods that result in making this small power plant cheap enough to profitably sell power at 3¢, what is the impact on the world? What is the likelihood of funding it at any amount required? What is the likelihood of rallying enough high level investor, business, environmental, and government sector support to push it through licensing at an unheard-of pace?
If we have actually figured out how to build it and sell it and support it cheap enough to deliver 3¢ electricity, then what is unreasonable about any of the expectations in our business planning?
Right now, we’re behind the scenes working our butts off with our suppliers to pull together that documented cost verification.
We know how to do it. We’re working to prove out the costs so we can move to the next level of investments and operations.
To one commenter: Dr. Staffan Qvist was recommended to us as the most remarkable young Ph.D. nuclear engineering graduate anyone at Argonne, Lawrence Livermore, and other labs had ever seen in their careers — that it would be a coup if our company could recruit him. We agreed, as having a brilliant young innovator on board fits the entire approach we’re taking.
So, in a nutshell — yes, I’ve spent the past 12 years hustling my butt off as a project developer and product designer/entrepreneur across a wide set of consumer products, many of which were pointless and even silly. But, they paid the bills. And, along the way, as an extremely internet-active guy, I’ve picked up my share of web-baiters and online criticisms, as well. Lots of stuff out there to beat me up with, if you choose to do so. Understood.
Am I the ideal candidate anyone would choose to lead a next generation fast reactor manufacturing venture? LOL… No way, and I’m the first to admit it.
But… I’m the guy standing here with the skills and the willingness and the commitment to do it. And, I’m fortunate that a fast growing group of folks across many disparate sectors are recognizing the value here and are lining up to help as we grow it forward.
If you believe in the value of a fast reactor based global energy economy, then give this venture the cautious early support it needs to make it out of the starting gates.
You might just be surprised by just how well a bunch of old toaster oven and phone gadget guys can do when they set their minds to fixing the economics of fast reactor manufacturing.
We just might actually deliver that clean 3¢ electricity.
Thank you for joining the fray here.
For the rest of you, please do not attempt to run Jack off with accusations or disrespectful peppering. I am pretty sure he is willing to address issues, but be aware that he might have to draw lines around proprietary or “trade secret” information.
Thanks, Rod, and quite true. I am leading a very small team of some-paid, some-volunteer folks all rallied around this admittedly hyperbolic business plan. A huge effort is ongoing behind the scenes to recruit some quite luminary figures onto the masthead of the company. Frankly, everybody wants to see the evidence that we can achieve the incredible (preposterous?) low cost manufacturing we are claiming before making any public commitments — either for investments or for people joining our team.
So… we are full-time on validating our costs. I am in my car or on airplanes most days going to visit key materials, process, or components suppliers, and pulling everybody into the process that will lead to a draft design that can actually be cost-quoted.
When we get that third-party verification of our costs, and it all adds up to verify our claim of “3 cent electricity,” then our funding comes along and a quite impressive group of highly known folks will pop up on our roster.
Until then, I can discuss high level generalities, but must be extremely careful about many specifics. A lot about just what we’ve figured out at the design and manufacture level to save so much cost simply cannot be discussed at all.
As for accusations or disrespectful peppering… LOL… not only can I handle it, I likely deserve anything anybody throws at me — or more. I am ultra open about being the absolute last guy anybody would choose for this job, and make no pretense otherwise. But I always add this: I’m the guy standing here crazy enough and with the skills and willingness to actually do it. 🙂
“If we’re right, and we can actually apply consumer products mass production processes and methods that result in making this small power plant cheap enough to profitably sell power at 3¢…” Hello, irresistible force.
Meet immovable object:
LOL… Yes, it certainly looked that way to us initially, as well. However, the NRC is a legislatively created government entity, and its mission is quite simple: Protect people from radiation.
Our role is to present the NRC with an advanced reactor design that is so perniciously designed in every tiny detail to radically exceed even their historical penchant for risk avoidance, and do so within the framework of a completely politically and socially supported venture, that they are motivated to see it happen.
The NRC is not our enemy. All of us want and demand the safest possible nuclear power provision that modern methods can produce. Our intent is to give it to them.
But… to do so several years from now, once we have our factory, fuel plant, and supply chain 80% done, and have our first 1,000 units pre-sold with paid deposits… and are perhaps a year away from launching mass production.
Our view is that there is currently no licensing process for advanced fuel cycle fast spectrum reactors at the NRC. Thus, there is no “licensing process” for us to begin at this time. Other companies see it differently, and are attempting to get their products licensed as light water reactors, when they are not light water reactors.
If the NRC enacts a licensing process specific to advanced fuel cycle fast spectrum reactors, we will apply. Or, if that’s not done in time for our launch, we’ll apply for licensure by specific exception(s) about a year from the start of production, as above.
Rod himself characterized this approach as a Kobayashi Maru licensing strategy — and we have run with that description, as it is so incredibly apt.
I certainly don’t want to seem to harass you, and in fact I think many of us appreciate your appearance here and wish you luck in this bold initiative.
But that said, there are many experienced reactor vendors with deep-pocketed partners already in the queue for NRC approval, and who have been working for years (at $278/regulator-hour) to bring them up to speed, on far less radical designs. What makes you think you can jump to the head of the line for expedited approval? Why would NRC grant a specific exemption on a radical and new design they haven’t had time to review?
Or why would the investors, having plunked down enough deposits to complete 80% of a plant & fuel factory and supply chain, be willing to wait 5, 10, (or other unknown period) of years to start seeing returns?
Regulatory scheduling uncertainty was one of the factors that led to the early demise of two fully built and paid for plants in Southern California.
These are the folks already in line. Although most of them are just PWR variants, I don’t think any have a firm timeline for design approval: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/advanced.html
3¢ electricity. 5 years. That’s the crux of our NRC strategy. No project of any particular importance has made its way to the NRC… same pricing and general performance as always… nothing breakthrough with any urgent market demand… no compelling reason to hurry.
We’re bringing the mother of all compelling reasons to hurry, and the high level support to make it happen.
That’s our plan. 5 years from now we’ll know if it was a good plan or not.
And I’ll add that ours is the opposite of a radical design. We are using the same Mark IV fuel from the EBR-II program that has had over 11,000 fuel pins irradiated, in a sodium-metal configuration that is as familiar to reactor guys the world over as is a Chevy small block to car guys. We have lowered the temperature to under where any materials issues have ever been reported, and have adopted bulkhead and wall sections in our heat exchanger designs some multiple beyond the previously identified safest minimum dimensions — and so forth.
In other words, we have intentionally gone to the safest possible specification within the well known world of historically demonstrated and proven sodium-metal reactor construction — with every detail and decision. We call it “Soviet bloc engineering,” where subtlety doesn’t exist and each design decision is answered with a crude, blunt force solution that is obviously, ridiculously beyond what’s needed.
It’s heavy, bulky, crude, and preposterously over-engineered toward safety in all respects. The HOPE 40 will be a monumental testament to the idea of “over engineered and over built.”
No credible reactor expert can possibly call into question the historical basis upon which we have implemented every single design choice, given the about 400 worldwide reactor-years of operating experience with sodium reactors, and our obvious over-indulgence of every possible safety slant, and 10’s of thousands of pages of corroborating research, test, and operational reports we are accumulating to back up each and every niggling choice we make — all of it from USA government funded programs.
In all ways, this is the first and only new reactor that has been designed from scratch, “specifically for NRC licensing.”
The real question I have is why anyone would want to save Detroit. They sucessfully sucked the lifeblood out of the staggering huge auto industry, so why would anyone think their own cute little company would wind up any different once it got big enough? I’m not sure they’ve imprisoned enough city officials to make a real difference yet.
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