1. I also posted on Jesse’s questions. It is a good thing that more and more forums are talking about nuclear energy.

    I almost agree with you that the question is not a moral one wrt nuclear safety, waste, etc. To me, it is the higher safety, ease of storage of nuclear waste, etc. that give greater moral impetus to increase our use of nuclear energy. When I entered the field in the 80s, it was out of idealism to help make cleaner and safer energy (you will not believe how many thought NucE majors were crazy going into a field that appeared to be a dead end…).

  2. ?One way around this problem is to change the scale of the bet to something more manageable.?

    Only in the minds of bloggers! If you can not manage a 1000+ MWe large nuke, you are not able to manage a small nueks or even 50 MWe biomass. Bad project management is bad project management. I found in the past those organization that could not managed a large nuke could not manage building a simple SCGT peaking plant. The only difference is media attention not red ink. On the other hand world class organizations that did a good job of building large nukes also do a good job on large coal & NG plants. They also do a good with smaller projects too.

    Marketing is something else. You look for a need and then supply the best choice. I do not think small nukes are the best choice for the continental US until we run out of waste biomass, coal, and NG. One marker for need is LNG terminals and oil fired power plants. Build big nukes to prevent importing LNG and build small nukes where oil is being imported and there is not a sufficient supply of biomass.

    I do not know but it would seem that the US Navy should be making electricity with barge mounted nukes for places like Pearl Harbor, Guam, and GITMO. I would be willing to participate in a letter writing campaign aimed at Virginia senators to get NN shipyard to build them.

    Find a market where you have a clear advantage and break down the barriers.

  3. Kit you are confused. There are some excellent, well managed companies that do not have the financial resources to embark on a 10 billion project, but they can certainly take care of a project that is one tenth the size.

    I know a lot of very capable construction companies, for example, who can build terrific single family homes but who would be in over their head in building a commercial office building.

  4. In theory, these smaller projects would be easier to “fix price” and therefore finance. Your question at the Nuclear Construction Summit 2009 went straight to the heart of the issue: http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2009/10/avoiding-hurdles-by-going-small-more.html

    As I mentioned to you on a break there, I have a few thoughts in this regard at “Surety Bonds for Nuclear Energy Facility Construction Cost-Savings,” a sort-of-a-blog post here: http://www.suretyinsider.com/surety-bond-nuclear-construction.html

    These smaller projects make the ideas therein even more achievable than I had contemplated before the summit. This is certainly a worthy parallel path.

  5. Not confused at all. Bloggers make up stuff. You are blogging about fantasies. Get real if you want to venture into the commercial world.

    If you do not have the resources for a big nuke then you do not have the resources for small nuke. Show me the small nuke utility operator. All of the smaller nuke plants that I can recall are now run by bigger companies with strong nuke programs.

    An example would be the US Navy, very experienced at operating small nukes. Can you tell me why no navy bases are powered by small barge mounted nukes?

  6. “No navy bases powered by small nuclear” – for the same reasons that large plants are opposed. Powerful interests already supply them with energy and want to continue to do so. The same issues would be raised ie. unsafe operation, terrorist threat, and waste handling and storage. Why aren’t all military installations in the US powered by nuclear to save money and oil for vehicle fuel?

  7. It is unlikely that a domestic naval base would need a small reactor since the U.S. grid is not tied to a hostile nation 🙂

    However, a USAF base in a remote part of the world might be a “customer” for a 25 MW reactor that could be delivered in pieces on a C-17 Globemaster III which has a maximum payment of 171,000 lbs.

  8. Kit: I understand your proclivity towards large solutions to large problems, that from an economy of scale standpoint, it might make sense to build 2 1200 MWe units to handle a 2400 MWe load, but I think that we’re talking past each other here.

    Yes, large plants can be built, they can run GREAT – but size comes with a cost of its own. That cost comes in complexity, personnel, and also safety. There’s also a thermodynamic downside there, too, that a large plant, by itself, can never be inherently safe, as passive and active residual heat removal becomes necessary.

    With a small enough plant – one “right-sized”, you don’t have to have passive and active decay heat removal anymore, as the core can’t generate sufficient decay heat to damage itself. Inherently safe reactors – those that cannot suffer core damage – are the way to escape the NRC, as there’s no reason for major regulation of something that can’t hurt people. Plus, with a reactor designed correctly, there would be no evacuation zone or EPZ necessary.

    I would argue that the amount of NRC regulation lost and safety gained by using an inherently safe design would make inherently safe reactors completely revolutionary, as you could put them anywhere, from in large plants, say of 40-80 75 MWth modules to small plants of just 1 or 2 modules on the town outskirts.

    Kit – you’re comparing apples to oranges here. Yes, smaller reactors that aren’t inherently safe, might not have as many compelling reasons for existing compared to large plants. (They do offer considerable simplification, reduction of costs, and scalability here, though.)

    But where small modular reactors shine is when they’re built in inherently safe configurations, because that would change the game entirely, due to rendering most NRC regulation superfluous, allowing siting nearly everywhere there’s private property…construction times could be reduced to 3 months, maybe, costs could be fixed, commercial financing offered, municipal utilities could purchase for those sizes, all that would be necessary is a railroad spur on the site to ship the reactor back out when it needed refuelling. Plus, a digital control system for the nuclear part of the plant could really bring down nuclear operations to a reasonable level for the plant owners, who would just worry about making electricity, not making their reactors work.

  9. When I mean inherent safety, I mean walk-away safety: the operator can literally insert rods, turn off all power, block all cooling ports, and walk away, and 30 days later, when someone comes back, the biggest thing they have to worry about is samarium preclusion and sending the reactor on a somewhat costly trip back to the factory to be refueled.

    This is why I find the small nitrogen/helium high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (GT-MHR, PBMR, AAE, Romanwa Nereus) and the original Hyperion hydride reactor so revolutionary (the new Hyperion reactor is very interesting, too, but I’d like to learn more prior to describing it as inherently safe) – if designed correctly, there’s no real bounding criteria or reason for regulation beyond design certification, perhaps inspection of physical barriers, and perhaps certification that the reactor is built or refueled to spec as it leaves the plant.

    If the obstacle to a nuclear renaissance is over-regulation (and that it is, as in the nuclear industry regulation drives costs ever-higher and decimates private sector agility), the answer is to produce something that no reasonable regulator could see a compelling need to regulate in depth.

  10. Navy bases in Guam and Hawaii are tied to the U.S. grid? How about the oil they burn being tied to a hostile nation? djysrv I am think that you have a problem with geography and understanding of US grid. With all due disrespect to the Air Farce (para military organization similar to the boyscouts) and the Army, do we trust them to operate nukes?

    Just for the record, municipal utilities do not have to show the NRC that biomass plants are inherently safe.

    For those of you who do not understand core physics, thermo, and regulation; “right-sized” does not include nukes.

  11. Oh my. Kit P has a sharp pencil and a short attention span.

    I said “domestic” bases thinking about San Diego and Newport News for example.

    Please be civil Kit. Anything else simply robs you of your natural charm.

  12. ?for places like Pearl Harbor, Guam, and GITMO?

    RTFQ and answer it.

    Dan if you want to explain to me why we do not build small nukes at grid connected navy bases that okay but I already know the answer. However, I am really interested in the barriers to doing it places like Pearl Harbor, Guam, and GITMO.

  13. Kit, you still don’t seem to understand: municipal utilities wouldn’t have to show the NRC anything, it would be the manufacturer’s job to show the NRC that the reactor is inherently safe once, as in a design certification, and be done with it. The manufacturer could then crank as many out as they wanted. Cookie-cutter reactors – not custom-built models. That’s the power of mass production.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I like biomass. Of all the renewables, except perhaps geothermal on a scale never before seen (e.g. you drill a hole into the mantle and run water through it), it has the most potential. But biomass has a low EROEI compared to nuclear, and I’m not looking for an energy source constrained by biology if it can be avoided.

    As for your question about naval bases, I assume that it’s because the Navy, and Naval Reactors, in particular, is in the ship business and not the electricity business, except when electricity is needed aboard a ship. They probably don’t want to get caught out of their niche.

  14. WRT – Navy building and operating land based atomic power plants – a big part of the challenge is the annual budget cycle that requires projects to be fully funded in the year that they are ordered. There are some minor exceptions to this rule, but multi-year procurements are rare. That discourages investment in any project that offers an economic payback over a long period of time.

    This is related to a similar question – why did the Navy stop building nuclear powered surface ships – outside of aircraft carriers? The initial capital investment required is a big part of the problem – many Navy budgeters have the opinion that it is easier to request annual procurements for petroleum fuel, though it can be very dicey when there is a big change in price from year to year.

    katana0182’s comment about remaining in one’s niche (also known as “swim lane” inside the Beltway) is also relevant.

  15. @Rod – do you think that there’s any chance these days that the Navy brass would be any more willing to consider non-LWRs than when you encountered difficulties trying to get support for gas-cooled reactors?

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