HTR-PM – Nuclear-heated gas producing superheated steam
The first HTR-PM (High Temperature Reactor – Pebble Module), one of the more intriguing nuclear plant designs, is currently under construction on the coast of the Shidao Bay near Weihai, China.
This system uses evolutionary engineering design principles that give it a high probability of success, assuming that the developers and financial supporters maintain their steady progress. Considering the fact that the plant is a logical follow-on to a successful prototype that has been operating since 2000 and that it is being developed by long-term thinking Chinese engineering and constructors there does not appear to be much development risk. Since the project appears to have the solid backing of the Chinese government, there does not appear to be much risk of sudden funding removal.
Here is a link to an April 2014 update presentation given to the IAEA – HTR Progress in China.
It does a good job of describing the technical foundations of the plant design and the reasons why the system is considered to have a high degree of inherent safety.
In basic layout, the power plant will share a number of features with the second stage of a modern combined cycle power plant. In a combined cycle power plant, the exhaust gases from combustion turbines are directed to a heat recovery steam generator (HRSG).
Those combustion product gases enter the HRSG at a temperature somewhere close to 750 C and leave that HRSG at a temperature of about 250 C. On the other side of the HRSG heat transfer tubes, feed water enters and boils, leaving the HRSG as superheated steam with a temperature somewhere close to 565 C and a pressure of 13-15 MPa. In most cases, the steam output of two or more gas turbine/HRSG modules is combined to drive a single steam turbine train, which might include both a high pressure and a low pressure turbine.
Interestingly enough, those are the same conditions produced in the HTR-PM.
For the demonstration plant, two reactor modules, each producing 250 MWth in a large, low power-density pebble bed reactor produce high temperature gas that enters the reactor at 250 C and leaves the reactor at 750 C. That hot gas (helium in the case of the HTR-PM) is moved by a circulator (the gas equivalent of a pump) into a steam generator that has feed water coming in and steam going out. The steam conditions are 565 C and 13.2 MPa. The output of the two steam generators is combined to drive a single 210 MWe steam turbine.
As described in the literature, this demonstration configuration was chosen to gain experience with multiple modules with the full intention of eventually producing larger output power plants by using more reactor/steam generator modules connected to larger steam turbines.
There are conceptual designs for 4, 6, 8 and even 10 reactor modules all connected to a single steam turbine. The designers are sticking with smaller power output reactors. Calculations tell them that if they keep total output power less than 300 MWth they can make a testable claim of inherent safety. No conceivable event can lead to a situation where the temperature in any part of the core exceeds the 1600 C design temperature for the TRISO particle fuel.
If no accident leads to temperatures that can cause fuel damage, there is no need to devise additional safety systems or features to remove heat.
There are several evolutionary paths available based on this design advancement. One path would be to implement a phased replacement of coal fired boilers with HTR-PM reactor/steam generator modules. China has a large and rapidly growing inventory of modern steam plants that currently require burning about 3.5 billion tons of coal per year, resulting in places where the air is almost too foul to breathe.
Moving all of that coal from the source to the power plant is also a major burden on the country’s straining rail and barge transportation network. Replacing coal boilers with nuclear heat sources would eliminate the main drawbacks of the power plants while fully using the rest of the installed infrastructure of cooling water, steam plant, transmission lines, and trained operators/maintenance staffs.
Another direction available is to gradually increase the temperature capability of the pebble bed to the point where the gas is hot enough to drive a direct cycle gas turbine whose exhaust can then be directed to the steam generator for a higher efficiency, higher power output combined cycle system.
The Chinese purchased their initial TRISO fuel manufacturing capability from the Germans and their designs have a great deal in common with the HTR program being pursued in Germany up until the end of the 1980s. In that program, demonstrated gas temperatures reached 950 C with future plans of hitting 1100 or 1200 C as the manufacturing techniques improved.
As demonstrated in the German program, TRISO fuel particles do not have to be UO2, a wide variety of actinide compounds including UC, PuO2, and ThO2 have been tested and are available for future use.
One of the things that I find incredibly invigorating about nuclear technology is the almost endless horizons and options for creatively using energy dense, ultra-low emission fuel sources to create useful heat that does not require wholesale reengineering of our basic infrastructure. We can reuse a large portion of what we have already built and already learned how to effectively operate and maintain.
If you are as interested in high temperature reactors as I am, you might want to learn more about HTR-2014, The 7th International Topical Meeting on High Temperature Reactor Technology. It is being held in China in Weihai, close to the HTR-PM construction site, from October 27-31. Tours of the site will be offered as part of the conference program.
Next Big Future (April 2013) HTR-PM High Temperature Pebble-Bed Modular Status in China March 2013
This is a great series of articles you are featuring. These reactors may be a great leap forward and part of mankinds’s long march of progress into the future.
I find it interesting that they are continuing progress started by the Germans and they will be using this technology to produce continuous inexpensive clean energy.
Ironic as well as “interesting” considering the Germans’ enthusiasm for clean energy and their decision to abandon nuclear energy. Nicht wahr?
I haven’t noticed any German enthusiasm for clean energy. They seem to be enamored with vista destroying windmills, massively subsidized solar systems and some of the most amazing landscape-altering lignite mining machines imaginable.
Point taken, Rod, but from their point of view (perhaps obfuscated by a windmill or two), the solar and wind is “clean” — I’ve no idea how they rationalize the lignite mining.
For a different perspective, perhaps a few facts to consider …
Coal is not doing well in Germany. There is a glut in electricity since 2011, renewable capacity keeps increasing, and the “share of hard coal and lignite plant capacity will drop to 28 percent from 32 percent.” Clean-dark spread is down 46% since a nine-month high last October. Utilization of coal plants “fell by a fifth over the past seven years.” Low prices are cutting into earnings, and utilities are writing down the value of their plants. Lower prices ‘leave a trail of blood on our balance sheet,’ says one utility rep. “The new plants will run at current prices, but they won’t cover their costs,” says another specialist.
Also on the horizon: “EU seen curbing coal use by quadrupling carbon price” (here). Germany is aiming for 45% contribution from renewables by 2025 (up from 27% this year). EU leaders and some utility executives “support a European Commission proposal to cut carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030.”
So why are these new coal plants getting built in Germany, then? Not that hard to explain, almost all of them (minus 2) were commissioned before a time when the nuclear phase out was announced (and electricity was in more short supply). It takes much longer than two years to commission and construct a coal plant (5 years is closer to the norm). Many of these plants have been long in the works (with numerous cancellations taking place too). Since 2007, 10 new coal power plants are under construction or are operating, 3 are in planning processes, 6 are on hold, and 20 have been cancelled. The most frequently cited reasons for cancellation: economic reasons, local resistance, political pressure, and more.
So no. Coal is not doing well in Germany. It faces similar headwinds to those in the US. And it’s unlikely to do much better in the future (especially with rising carbon prices): “the boom of coal plants is over for now” (says Vattenfall Vice President). Nobody is rationalizing lignite … they are canceling plants due to economic reasons, local resistance, political pressure, and a electricity glut due to unfavorable market rules, the rapid scaling of renewables, and an abundance of electricity in the country.
And the coal plants that are getting built as a consequence of the nuclear phase out … they simply don’t exist. Most have commission dates prior to 2011. If you think the prospects for coal are good in Germany, I’m not sure what evidence you are looking at (it certainly doesn’t seem to be that provided by utility, finance, market, and industry specialists looking closely at the matter). Many of whom are continuing to make strategic long term choices where to place their attention and capital).
Prospects for coal and lignite in Germany are quite a bit brighter than they would be if Merkel had not reversed her previously announced reversal of Schroeder’s nuclear phaseout.
As you clearly described, most of the plans for those plants were already in the works works when Merkel was elected. There was a lot of capital betting on the German government’s plan to get rid of the nukes.
There was not room in the stagnant German electricity market for nuclear, lignite, hard coal, Russian gas AND massively subsidized unreliables so the least popular technology was “voted off of the island.” The “vote” mostly took place in board rooms and in political offices, but the people have been led to believe something different.
Propaganda still works wonders in Germany.
If they were investing billions and making long term strategic choices on a policy that may or may not happen (and took a meltdown of three reactors to fully bring about) maybe they deserve to lose. That’s one heck of a gamble, and you’re telling me none of them could have envisioned an energy glut as a consequence of an energy shift that was already in the works when they decided to build these plants. Sounds dumb, dumb, dumb to me.
Perhaps a little bit like folks here who continue to bet against renewables (and stick to conventional ways of doing business in a world rapidly shifting and advancing under their feet).
Natural gas doesn’t seem to be doing too well in Germany either. In 2013, generation of electricity from natural gas is down 3.5% from a high in 2010 (for a total of 10.6% … 1/3 of which is Russian gas). Germany now has a LNG terminal in Rotterdam, and for a higher price could start receiving shipments from Norway, Qatar, and Nigeria. “Germany alternatives to russian gas [are] numerous but pricey” (suggests de spiegel). I’m not sure if this means Germany is dependent on Russian NG, or vice versa (Russia is dependent on Germany as a consumer given it’s recent isolation, and high cost of developing alternatives … such as recent long in the works deal with China). Natural gas is pretty cheap at the moment. I anticipate Russia will be eager to keep is lucrative contracts (especially those with Germany).
If they were investing billions and making long term strategic choices on a policy that may or may not happen (and took a meltdown of three reactors to fully bring about) maybe they deserve to lose.
Who said that the entities investing in coal dependent production facilities were passively waiting to see what Merkel would do? Do you really believe that she was so frightened by the meltdowns that she did a complete 180 with such speed without having received a lot of political pressure already resisting her choice to allow the nukes to keep operating beyond the time frames established in Schroeder’s phaseout plan.
My point continue to be the fact that there are numerous powerful, moneyed interests that are making bank by selling stuff to the German public that they would not have needed to buy if they had simply kept their already completed and well-maintained nuclear plants operating.
There are aways people who want to push perfectly good devices into the dustbin before they have reached the end of their useful life so that they can sell new stuff.
Some of the largest companies in the world — and in Germany — have bet on unreliables. It is a pretty interesting bet for Siemens, Alsthom, GE, Iberdrola, and Vestas. For most of those companies, they get to sell a lot of machinery that will need to be replaced. It may be replaced with upgraded wind or solar equipment, but it also may be replaced by fossil or nuclear heated equipment once people recognize the high cost of having expensive collection systems that are idle so much of the time. In any case, those equipment manufacturers win since they will likely produce whatever the chosen replacement may be.
Don’t forget forest clearcuts to feed wood-burning boilers.
The wood burning boilers in my area, around Bakersfield, burn the wood obtained by farmers eliminating orchards. Acres upon acres of almond trees, walnut, etc. eventually must be retired as they diminish in yield or the market fluxes. The companies running the generating plants actually raze the orchards at no cost to the farmer, bringing in huge machines that swallow trees whole, spitting out the shredded fuel.
Watch the numbers here POA. Specifically how the system was sold and the percent of fuel those resources make up. You are going to be surprised.
Fossil fuels contain a huge amount of energy and are consumed at a rapid pace. Other sources really have difficulty competing.
Wow, that’s sad to think about walnut trees being chopped up for fuel. Walnut is such a beautiful and strong wood. As a carpenter, POA, you are better situated than most to see the economics of using entire walnut trees for wood chips. Are the orchard owners clueless, is there some sort of state tax incentive that changes the equation, or exactly what is it that drives the decision?
“Wow, that’s sad to think about walnut trees being chopped up for fuel”
The variety of walnut that is grown for its nuts, (I believe it is the English Walnut.), is virtually useless as a lumber bearing tree. These farmers aren’t stupid, Rick. They’re in it for profit.
I presume that you are talking about nut-bearing trees that had reached the end of their productive lives and were no longer providing a crop large enough to harvest.
If the farmers were selling their trees as fuel in order to reduce the supply of walnuts available to the market so they could increase their pricing power, that is another issue altogether.
English walnut is the source of the most common form walnuts that we eat, but its wood is typically easy to work and is used for such things as furniture, cabinetry, and interior paneling. This wood is rather expensive.
The slogan of Butte County, California, might be “It’s where the nuts come from,” but don’t assume that every nut in California is from Butte County.
Some of the comments on this blog provide a case in point.
Do you have any other gear besides obnoxious overdrive?
Fact is, I’ve been doing custom woodwork all my life. Apprenticed at 14 with a small fine furniture shop in L.A. that catered to the Hollywood crowd, and have never seen English Walnut used except as a veneer, and usually on older pieces. Its expensive because of the difficulty in milling it for the purposes of creating board lumber. It tends to have irregular grain in terms of directional consistency, and board lengths tend to be rather short. Yes its pretty. But pretty doesn’t equate to useful. There are many woods with comparable color and hardness that are more suitable for furniture and cabinetry. It works well as a inlay veneer and for parquetry. Perhaps you should stick to being obnoxious in field you’re more informed about.
“Selling their trees for fuel” would be ludicrous. The cost of removing the trees would far exceed the proceeds. And the idea they would do it to ” drive up the cost of walnuts” just doesn’t equate.
Along those lines….
I cut my teeth in the Malibu/Santa Monica/Beverly Hills market. Have always done high end when living in CA. I can tell you that there is unfathomable wealth in the Bakersfield area, equal to and exceeding the wealth to be found within the entertainment industry. And, it is, delightful unpretentious wealth. There is, a reason for the term “good ‘ol boys”. These farmers and oilmen are the most gracious and unassuming clients that a craftsman could wish for. Granted, some agri-business is conducted in the manner you imply, and certainly we both are aware of how the corporate fossil fuel industry conducts itself. But on a man to man basis, doing business with these mega farmers, whose farming families date back to the original homesteaders in the area, has been a lesson in integrity. There are some areas where a handshake still means something. And in the oilfield maintenance and service industry, I can say the same. Recently I agreed to take on a Beverly Hills project as a favor to a contractor, and it reminded me how fortunate I am to have left that clientele behind when I moved to Tehachapi. These homeowners were alright. Nice folks, really. But it is the entourage that surrounds celebrity wealth that I find so detestable.
Long winded. Point being, I guess; that your cynicism may just be a bit misdirected. Sound familiar?
I think you might have misunderstood me. I have met many of the same “good ol’ boys” who have worked hard and earned their money. In some cases, they followed in their ancestors’s hard working footsteps and came from wealth, but it was wealth that came from producing valuable products and came along with integrity and RHIR lessons.
(RHIR – Rank Has Its Responsibilities. It is a corollary to RHIP – Rank Has Its Privileges.)
My use of the word “selling” was inaccurate. You did say they were giving the trees away for the cost of clearing the land.
I hope that the cleared land will be replanted with new orchards – if that is the correct word to use for a farm that grows nut-bearing trees.
You dismiss the idea that farmers might engage in restricting supply in order to obtain better prices, but even the good ol boys understand the law of supply and demand. The technique of eliminating excess supply has been a huge portion of the programs implemented by the Department of Agriculture since the 1930s and it continues to be a technique used by many different sectors of the industry.
It is also important for me to point out once again that my animosity towards the tip top of the petroleum industry and associated bankers, traders, etc. should in no way be read as animosity towards the rank and file workers, or even to dislike of the product. I think hydrocarbons are a wonderful gift that will continue to have great utility for mankind. I am just tired of having them dominate our economy and tired of the income inequality and conflict that comes along with the business of finding, extracting, refining, and marketing the product.
POA, you might want to set Hunski Hardwoods of Antelope, CA straight about English Walnut. Looks like they are trying to pull one over on the public in their representations about the usefulness of English Walnut. Or maybe they are just wrong (after all, they promote themselves as a Christian company). Anyway, this is what they have on their website:
There are 21 species in the walnut family. The varieties we sell are Claro, Bastogne, and English walnut. Claro has a complex color and often possesses an intense figure which makes it ideal for use in making musical instruments. Bastogne walnut is one of the most rare of all hardwoods. It is a cross between Claro and English walnut and is often used to make gun stocks because of its strength and hardness. English walnut is known by many different common names, including the Persian walnut, all of which refer to the species “regia”. Its wood has been used for centuries for gun stocks and furniture. The grain of the English walnut is exceptionally fine and holds an edge quite well.
Ok….I’ll bite. Where are they harvesting this walnut for milling? The answer? It’s salvage lumber.
Now why do you think large sawmill operations are not harvesting and marketing English Walnut??
On that note, why is it that I cannot simply go to a large hardwoods outlet, such as Philips in my area, and buy English walnut boards? Gee, could it be that beyond the hobbyist and the one-off furniture craftsman there is not a market that justifies wide scale harvesting and milling.
There’s lots of ways to get down the road, eh? But just because a Ferrari has wheels doesn’t mean its gonna get used to deliver groceries.
@Brian and E-P
I think when it comes to the hardwood market, I will listen to a professional practitioner. As POA has explained, just because something is pretty does not mean it is a scalable, commercial product.
I can think of a few other products that we discuss that fall into that category – roof-top solar panels and gracefully turning wind mills, for example.
Ooh … am I supposed to give you a cookie? Is this what qualifies you to comment so prolifically (7% of the last 1015 comments — you’re second only to Rod) on a blog about nuclear power?
Fact is, I never claimed that walnut was anything other than high-end wood. Fact is, I was doing nothing other than sharing a couple of factual tidbits about the hardwood, all of which are accurate, in spite of your knee-jerk attempt to prove me wrong.
Perhaps you should take your own advice, but then again, if you were ever to do that, this forum would never hear from you again.
Ever since you arrived here you have been trying to lecture me, and people like me, about energy, nuclear power, science, and how to communicate about these topics. This is, of course, ridiculous. I work in these fields. You, on the other hand, seem to have a knowledge base that goes no deeper than what could be gleaned from reading a Sierra Club newsletter. Yet you still seemed surprised, Mr. Woodworker, when people like me don’t take you seriously.
The difference between you and me, PissedOffA******, is that I don’t need to point out how obnoxious you are. Your contentious and abrasive comments speak for themselves. Good day.
Though I appreciate your interest in tracking comments, participation here is never discouraged. One of my intents in publishing this blog and in actively participating in the discussion is to engage those who have serious questions and doubts about nuclear energy. They are often good people with excellent intentions who have either been mislead by focused efforts of the not-so-well-intentioned opposition or they have never spent much time thinking about nuclear energy and formed opinions in the information vacuum that the established nuclear industry has encouraged by its preference for remaining undetected.
The whole point of POA’s sharing his practical knowledge of the wood market as a professional carpenter was to point out that burning old, no longer productive, English walnut trees for fuel was not a waste or a travesty. I would expect that variety of tree to be bred and maintained for high nut production and relative ease of harvesting. It is not surprising that such trees would not provide useful lumber – I’d expect them to be relatively short with many low hanging branches.
I have clear memories of many car trips passing through tree farms with pine trees bred and maintained to provide lumber and pulp. Those trees were planted in rows, and grow straight and tall with only a little tuft of branches near the top of the tree. It should be fairly obvious, even to people who specialize in nuclear energy, why those slash pines are a profitable lumber crop, even they are not as pretty, while English walnut is a nice wood for hobbyists that are more interested in passing time than making a living.
“Ooh … am I supposed to give you a cookie?”
No. Actually, I’d prefer a lemon-berry cream slush from Sonic.
You might wanna do a bit of introspection, cowboy. You set the tone for this exchange. And you’re obsession with my posting history is somewhat bizarre. Perhaps you could try to find a more useful manner of comment? Really, I doubt the number of times I have commented is of interest to the majority of those reading this comment section.
And, uh….I guess I’m just a bit burnt out on your BS. Would it be too much to simply ask you to just ignore my comments? You’re a big boy, I think you can handle it, eh? And just think of all the time it will save you, not having to count posts and all.
First of all, I do not want any of my posts to be interpreted as questioning your background and the knowledge that you have acquired regarding wood. Still, I think that it is a crying shame that walnut trees (whether they have been grown in a forest (giving more “lumber” type wood) or in an orchard are reduced to smoke and ash.
A business idea (and, no, I’m not looking for a “cut”): consider the possibility that the walnut timber could be exported to China. Gun stocks seem to be a common item made with this sort of wood, but maybe furniture as well for some of the wood. In any event, I am sure that a Chinese manufacturer would have no qualms about presenting the product as made from “California grown Walnut.” Talk with the rich farmers with whom you have worked and respect and see if one of them wants to get into a bit of export business (America sure could use a bit of export trade). Shipping to China from the West Coast is amazingly low cost. Example: Nevada farmers have been shipping ALFALFA BALES to China!
Anyway, best of luck in all your pursuits.
I sincerely appreciate the “tone” of your comment.
I have sister who was extremely successful in the rag trade. She went from designing children’s clothing for a large label, to actually designing, manufacturing, and distributing a few different labels of her own. She sold to Target, Walmart, Mervins, etc.. Her success was enjoyed prior to the major garment manufacturing shift to Asia. When that shift occurred, I am proud to say that she had the integrity to close shop and retire.
Surely, as an attorney, you are informed enough to have knowledge of what a chinese garment manufacturing facilty is like. I really don’t imagine that a chinese furniture factory, or sawmill, would differ in its treatment of its employees. Although, in one aspect it would differ, as far as the dangerous nature of the machinery employed.
Your business idea may be viable. But it is not a business pursuit I could engage in with a clear conscience.
Besides, really, I suck at “business”. Always have. I think that side of my brain was atrophied at birth.
I share your reluctance to do business with the Chinese. I once ran a small plastic products manufacturing company that competed head on with Chinese imports. I’ve never really forgiven the actions of American marketing companies that find products they like here and take samples to China to see if they can find a cheaper source. They overlook all of the reasons that they can often get a lower price in China than from their neighbors.
“Ever since you arrived here you have been trying to lecture me, and people like me, about energy, nuclear power, science, and how to communicate about these topics.”
I wasn’t inclined to respond to this, because it is so absurd. As anyone that has read my comments will attest, (if honest), I have been more than honest about my lack of knowledge about NE, energy I general, and science. For you to offer that I have “lectured” you about these topics telegraphs a disconnect from reality on your part.
As far as lecturing you about your communication skills, on ANY topic, someone needs to, because you’re an abrasive bore. I suggest you read back through your exchanges with me, and ask yourself if you deserve the respect you seem to think, mistakenly, that you have earned.
Yes, I set a bad tone when I arrived here. At that point, I deserved what I got in return. But I apologized, some time ago, to our host. And I owe you NOTHING. You don’t know when to back off, and you’ve been a nonstop antagonist towards me, and others. And this BS about “Gee, I was just making, an innocent comment about hardwoods” is pure unadulterated crap. As demonstrated by the sentence you ended your comment with.
Frankly Brian, you need, to take a good look at yourself, and stop being so fast with your tongue. Seems to me you’re pretty darned full of the stuff you accuse me of overflowing with.
To be honest, I’m a bit curious about your age. Tell me, has she weaned you yet?
“I share your reluctance to do business with the Chinese
Rod….its not a “reluctance”. Its a refusal, when its possible to avoid it.
Trouble is, it has become unavoidable, due to the huge corporate outlets such as Home Depot. Competing in the trades, in any but the extreme high end market, is almost virtually impossible if one wants to use quality hardware. Outlets such as Home Depot move into an area, drive out the mom and pops, and trap the local construction industry into buying whatever Home Depot’s buyers want to stock the stores with. More often than not, it is foreign made trash. Fortunately, in cabinets and furniture hardware, the european manufacturers still offer the best products at competitive prices, but it requires utilizing specialty outlets. But it is changing. The asians are cloning the good stuff, and offering inferior versions at drastically lower prices. You only find out that one of two products that look the same are inferior when one fails prematurely. The craftsman or tradesman may know the difference, but rarely does the customer. And, unfortunately, low bid usually trumps…….well, you get the idea.
Sometimes, when buying hardware at H. Depot, I am almost convinced that the dismal quality is by design, not as a result of greed, but as an actual act of malice against our infrastructure. Seriously, when a lag bolt is of such inferior quality that light tightening snaps the head off, are we to believe its an accident of manufacturing, or just simple greed? It seems, at times, the Chinese are just laughing at us.
I was trying to be somewhat restrained in my wording. My experience in the plastic product business is similar. The competitive products looked nice, but experts could recognize that the material quality was quite variable. We attributed that to the use of “floor sweepings with plenty of colorant.”
One of our product lines was a popular assortment of pool toys that were designed to sink to the bottom for diving games. Bright colors, stood up on the bottom because only a part of the toy was heavier than water while the rest was just slightly less dense than water. We sold to many of the big retailers in the area — Florida — but could never crack into K-Mart. Found out that the corporate ownership had a specific preference for Chinese products because they were Chinese themselves. (Late 1990s.)
Wal-Mart was an excellent customer initially when it was pushing a Buy American program, but every year they wanted us to sell for 5-10 cents less than the year before. Plastic raw material prices were increasing. We hit a point where we couldn’t make any money, they picked a Chinese supplier.
R.A.: “but could never crack into K-Mart. Found out that the corporate ownership had a specific preference for Chinese products because they were Chinese themselves. (Late 1990s.)”
Interesting to find out that Kmart had (has?) Chinese ownership. They went through bankruptcy in 2001/2002. Holders of common stock found that they were treated just like unsecured creditors, rather than owners of the company — which would be fine, if the company were actually liquidated and there wasn’t enough money to pay the other creditors.
As it turned out, the real estate holdings of Kmart were worth a large fortune (old stores on valuable lots) and the company reorganized and bought Sears. If there was that much value left in the company, how can dumping one class of “owners”, the common stock holders, be justified?
It felt an awful lot like a third-world swindle… Maybe it was.
Yes, I had some Kmart stock. Learned several valuable lessons from that little debacle.
I too am enjoying this series and am heartened by the apparent forethought and determination of the Chinese. I am also somewhat ashamed of our good ol’ USA for being so short sighted and just plain stupid, collectively. It’s very frustrating.
Were the USA not an oligarchy, it might have greater collective intellligence as measured by the greater good. As measured by the good of the 0.01%, it’s doing wonderfully.
Being one that seems to have a more open mind towards “renewables”, I’m curious if you have researched small wind turbines, of the kind that services one residence. I see them scattered throughout my general area, and the homes that had them when I moved to this area, over a decade ago, are still employing them. Their permanence at these residences seems to imply satisfaction on the part of the homeowners. It seems to me, in regards to the conversation on another thread about third world access to electricity in impoverished areas, small wind turbines, where climate and wind conditions allow, may be of benefit to small communities, or individual residences. I can’t imagine they are overly expensive, particularly in lieu of alternatives, and the required infrastructure would seem to be minimal.
Yes, Wind and solar seem to scale down really well. Solar is great in fixed location applications where you’d have to swap a battery pack a couple of times a week or more. Wind is great for intermittent applications, like pumping water into a tank. Charging a large and expensive battery pack? Well I suppose so, if you need to have a large and expensive battery pack and have no grid connection. If you’re a hippie type and want to live off grid; I suppose looking at wind would be a good Idea. We don’t, however, want 7 billion hippies all wanting to live off grid.
The problem is that so many people want such techniques to be the *only* real competition for hydrocarbon combustion, not the least of which is the oil companies themselves. They keep coming back time and time again to advertising such flimsy alternatives to their own high power density products.
“We don’t, however, want 7 billion hippies all wanting to live off grid”
Beats the shi*t out of seven billion rednecks living ON grid!
“The problem is that so many people want such techniques to be the *only* real competition for hydrocarbon combustion, not the least of which is the oil companies themselves”
Seems I see that here non-stop. Nuclear energy above all else, and the so called “renewables” are simply “unreliables”. I would dearly love to see a unifying effort by both camps, instead of this adversarial my way or the highway BS that seems to be mutually entertained. I enjoy this blog, and am learning. But if there is any one thing that really turns me off about the pro NE stance here it is that underlying animosity that seems to permeate the background, at times even rearing up to the extent that it actually damages one’s ability to attach credibility to the pro-nuke argument and narrative.
I can drive about forty miles and be right in the heart of the Standard Oil pumping field in Oildale. It is a blight on the eyes, bare of anything except wells, wires, pipes, and dust. Or, I can drive ten miles in the opposite direction and be surrounded by huge spinning turbines, the hillsides still sporting oaks, poppies, grassland, grazing, and even a herd of wild horses whose numbers are undiminished and seemingly unharmed by the intrusion of these towers and turbines. It doesn’t take a genius to guess which direction I’d rather take on a Sunday drive. I’d love to see fossil fuel use diminished, BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE. If windfarms are contributing to that end, great. The technology is bound to evolve. If SAFE nuclear can contribute to the end, equally great. (Even better if you can plant the facility out of sight, out of mind, and our hillsides don’t have to be covered with turbines OR oil wells). But if the pro nuke community thinks it can grow the use of the nuclear technology by constantly degrading, insulting, and attacking the so called “greens”, it seems to me they are utilizing a self defeating strategy. For instance, where I live, that “strategy” will alienate an entire community, for windfarms have become a major economic force in our area in terms of jobs and the resulting contributions to the local economy.
Even better if you can plant the facility out of sight, out of mind, and our hillsides don’t have to be covered with turbines OR oil wells.
That’s a submariner mantra – remain undetected. Guess which power source enables us to successfully abide by that strategically advantageous motto?
Yes, I have. They are generally exposed to far less intense winds than the industrial variety (a 20-meter tower if they’re lucky, compared to the standard 80 meter and coming 100 meter towers), so they generate a great deal less electricity per unit of rotor area even if they are located in the same territory. If you put one up at 60 feet you’d expect a square foot of rotor to generate maybe half the energy of something with a hub at 80 meters.
This is not to say I think they’re totally useless. I’ve got one I’m slowly refurbishing. I hope to learn quite a bit from it.
I’ve never lived in a neighborhood that would allow any homeowner to erect a 20 meter tower. For those who don’t think in meters remember that the platform used for Olympic high diving competitions is 10 meters tall.
I have a neighbor with a wind turbine. It’s on a tower that’s probably 2-3 meters tall and has a blade radius of perhaps 1.5 m.
I’ll leave calculation of the max power from that device as homework. Here is a useful reference.
One more observation – similar wind turbines are common boat accessories found in many marinas. They generally do a decent job of keeping batteries charged enough to operate anchor lights and a moderately powered communications suite.
But you don’t give the same weight to virulent RE animosity toward NE, and rabid RE advocates’ utter disregard for the reliability of the grid in general.
Now imagine the same landscape minus the towers and turbines, with the addition of some raptors and bats that probably ran afoul of the spinning blades. Off somewhere, out of sight unless you go looking or are somewhere like the flatlands of Oklahoma, is a concrete building cranking out as much power as 700 of the spinning turbines working their hardest. If it doesn’t have a cooling tower, it isn’t even visible for more than a couple of miles.
Perhaps the community would reconsider if it had to bear the burden of the problems that their profit center generates for everyone else, like an increasingly unstable grid.
“Now imagine the same landscape minus the towers and turbines, with the addition of some raptors and bats that probably ran afoul of the spinning blades”
I’ve mentioned this before. But in all honesty the bird of prey population in this area is astoundingly robust. More so than any area I’ve ever lived. So too is the bat population. Frankly, I honestly believe this argument against windfarms is somewhat contrived, much like you consider some of the arguments against NE. Of course, I do not doubt there are some bird casualties. But I don’t believe the numbers rationalize an anti wind farm argument. Further, if you reread my comment, you will note that I do, in fact, envision hillsides devoid of turbines or oil wells, if in fact NE could safely fulfill such a fantasy. But it is a fantasy, is it not? So, in the meantime, I’ll support a hillside sporting towers and turbines over the nightmare of an active oilfield with its absolute destruction of the environment upon which it sits.
The problem is that you’ve let the greenwashers tell you that it’s “either/or”, either wind towers or oil wells, when RE’s need for backup FF means it’s really “both/and”.
The nuclear plant will operate all day and all night. It’s just the thing for charging your electric car overnight. It can eliminate the need for the oil wells. Meanwhile, wind needs backup and that backup is mostly coming from natural gas. NG wells produce almost as much of a moonscape as oil wells.
“The problem is that you’ve let the greenwashers tell you that it’s “either/or”, either wind towers or oil wells, when RE’s need for backup FF means it’s really “both/and”.
Actually, EP, I haven’t let anyone tell me anything, in the manner you imply. Really, prior to Fukushima, my interest in energy issues was non-existent. Frankly, my exposure to the issue of energy consists mainly of what I have been exposed to here. I took it for granted that NE was unsafe, and that wind power was some sort of modern marvel. This perception was the product of disinterest and casual media exposure. I don’t think my perception is unique amongst my fellows, as most americans are undoubtedly as disinterested as I was, as long as the lights come on when they hit the switch.
…casual media exposure. I don’t think my perception is unique amongst my fellows, as most americans are undoubtedly as disinterested as I was, as long as the lights come on when they hit the switch.
That casual media exposure is part of the greenwashing campaign that EP was describing. A substantial number of the casual exposures you had to visions of wind turbines, solar panels and biofuels were probably paid for by petroleum companies. I don’t know if you are a sports fan or if you watch much American football, but I am. It is one of the few things that will attract me to sit in front of a television set. I have not kept a comprehensive record of the ads, but every once in while I will jot down notes during a particular game. I once counted more than a dozen ads during a three hour game in which one of the major petroleum companies was telling viewers about its research or development of alternative energy sources.
E.P. “Were the USA not an oligarchy, it might have greater collective intellligence as measured by the greater good. As measured by the good of the 0.01%, it’s doing wonderfully.”
Good point. Saddening, but a good point.
Another recent development in advanced reactors, the BN800 fast sodium reactor at Beloyarsk is due to reach criticality in the next few days. Be interesting to see if China reinstates their order for 2 BN800 units, assuming that startup goes well.
Sorry, I am off-topic a bit, but the BN800 started up today.
And, the article claims they will have the BN1200 prototype done by 2020. That is the machine intended for serial production, 60-year life, etc.
Excellent news, hope the commissioning goes well. Now the PFBR in Kalpakkam is next.
Do you know how the CEFR in china is doing? Things went rather quiet about it after commissioning.
Doesn’t get much notice, but the Indians have research programs in a wide variety of nuclear technologies … High-T gas reactors, fast sodium reactors, advanced heavy-water reactors (these are part of a complicated 3-stage program to use thorium), thorium molten salt reactors, etc.
You wonder if any are going to finally get to the finish line, but there is a lot of activity on new designs.
Glad to see my days at Ft St Vrain are not the last for the HTGR 😉
Is it true that they tore that reactor down just when things (especially the water seals) had gotten worked out?
There were several issues that finally doomed FSV. The core design was innovative, but water lubricated bearings and problems with the PCRV (liner cracks) were just too numerous with fossil fuel prices low. If China can build and operate HTR-PM reliably, the HTGR may get its time in the sun.
On thing about the conference Rod notes is that since it’s located near the new HTR under construction is that the attendees are likely to get a tour of the place!
Per Peterson at Berkley is researching advanced nuclear technologies, including HTRs. He is concerned that nuclear technology research has not kept pace with other technologies in the USA. In the May June issue of Foreign Affairs Journal he suggests that the slow response time by the NRC for approval of advanced technologies discourages the industry and investors from pushing ahead with new technology. He also recognizes that cheaper more abundant natural gas is a factor.
Actually Farrington Daniels invented the pebble bed reactor concept, and in the late 1940’s it was being developed in Oak Ridge, but Alvin Weinberg told Rickover about his invention, the light water reactor, and Rickover sold the Navy on it. Pebble bed trsearch resources were shifted to light water reactor development. When the time came to shift ORNL resources back to the Pebble Bed concept, Oak Ridge reactor developers, were looking at a Eugene Wigner concept, the Molten Salt reactor.
Today, Interest at ORNL seems tto be focused on a Molten salt-pebble bed hibrid concept, the LS-VHTR
As the Wikipedia explains:
“The LS-VHTR has many attractive features, including: the ability to work at high temperatures (the boiling point of most molten salts being considered are > 1,400°C), low-pressure operation, high power density, better electric conversion efficiency than a helium-cooled VHTR operating at similar conditions, passive safety systems, and better retention of fission products in case an accident occurred.”
I wonder if all the new coal plants in China are designed for a future “snap in” of a HTGR without any major redesign or refurbishment. I haven’t seen any “press” that this was the case, but I suspect it might be so.
The blog text above implied the Coal is being transported, rather than siting the plants at the coal fields and laying electrical lines for the energy transport. That to me would imply that they might be looking to convert all these new coal plants to HTGRs. Anyone know?
Or maybe sunshine panels
It’s worth noting that the main utility investor in the HTR-PM project is China Huaneng Group (currently mostly an operator of thermal plant), rather than one of the established nuclear operators. While they might not initially be going down the plant conversion route (it doesn’t make much sense while such a large amount of new capacity is being built – far easier just to build a new nuclear plant rather than a coal one), it’s certainly reasonable to think that the big coal plant operators will diversify into cleaner generation.
As for the transmission and siting issue, ultra high voltage transmission (eg. 1000kV HVDC, 800kV HVAC) can be competitive with coal transport over long distances, but China’s ‘supergrid’ is still a work in (very rapid) progress. At more ‘normal’ AC voltages (~400kV), a coal train wins every time over long distances.
I was told once it’s cheaper to ship coal by wire.
Great River Energy has a similar line.
Power producers find that they pay more for the shipping of the coal from places like Wyoming than the cost of the coal itself.
China may not have the regulatory hurdles of other countries. It may be easier for them to design small modular high temperature reactors to replace dirty polluting coal steam boilers. This would enable them to re-utilize existing steam turbines.
Some smaller coal plants in the US have been repowered with a gas turbine. The exhaust from the gas turbine is used to make steam for the old coal plant turbines. It seems that the same thing could be done with a HTGR.
Some smaller coal plants in the US have been repowered with a gas turbine. The exhaust from the gas turbine is used to make steam for the old coal plant turbines. It seems that the same thing could be done with a HTGR.
That is exactly what I was talking about in the following section of the original post:
I think the blog ‘ The Capacity Factor’ had an article about how the cost of taking coal by train from Wyoming’s Powder Basin to power stations as far away as Georgia was less than it would cost to take the power across the continent on high voltage lines. China has the same geography problem – most of their coal is well inland, in the north west, and most of their population is near the east coast. So far they have used the same solution – half of the rail traffic in both countries is carrying coal. China has four times the population, their energy consumption per head is climbing inexorably, and coal generates over eighty percent of the power, compared to about forty percent in the US.
It would cost a great amount to build a high voltage line from Wyoming to Georgia. I’d guess there is a break off point where it is cheaper to ship the coal than to build the transmission line. The mine mouth plants supplying power from the Dakotas into Minnesota are long, but much less than the distance to Georgia.
Thinking a little bit further, one can imagine that it would be a great cost to build transmission lines from the great plains (Dakotas) to the great cities of the East. Renewable advocates offer this as an alternative to polluting sources of energy. (or nukes) Apparently, you can’t afford to build the line from a big power plant that will produce power 80 – 90 percent of the time, It is cheaper to ship the coal. How can it then be affordable to build that power line for wind generation that will produce power 40-50 percent of the time?
On another thread you say….
“Small, simple, safe nuclear generators are the power equivalent of cellular phones for the developing world”
I realize this is a bit off topic for this thread, but can you give me an idea as to what is “small”? I really don’t understand what you guys are talking about in regards to scale, because of not having any background of knowledge to draw from. Would one of these “small” reactors be transportable by truck? Could it be considered “portable”? You made the statement, above, while addressing third world access to power. EL countered that economics in poor third world areas do not have the resources to fund and acquire nuclear energy. It seems to me he is correct, unless these “small” reactors of which you speak are truly portable, and require minimal infrastructure.
The official, nuclear establishment line of demarkation between small and medium sized reactors is 300 MWe. The line between medium and large is about 700 MWe.
My personal goal is moving the line for small reactors down to something close to the NASA sized reactors which were about the size of a kitchen trash can.
The small modular reactor that I worked on as a member of the B&W mPower,sup>TM would produce 180 MWe per individual reactor. The reactor coolant system was integrated into a single assembly with the core at the bottom, the control rod drive mechanisms above that, then the steam generator, then the pressurizer. It was a nice design, but was hardly small except in comparison to a conventional nuclear reactor – the assembly was about 90 feet tall.
Because that reactor was a water cooled reactor, it required a number of tanks and piping systems to support the basic system. It is designed for passive safety and can survive a complete site blackout, but it requires some large storage systems for both water and DC electricity (batteries.)
The Adams Engine, which is partially described in this post — https://atomicinsights.com/fission-elegant-way-heat-gas/ — is intended to be capable of shrinking down to neighborhood power plant size by taking advantage of the large combustion turbine production infrastructure along with a reactor design that shares identical small fuel elements with a wide variety of reactor power sizes.
One more thing – one of the most immediate ways that nuclear energy can help developing nations is to dramatically increase the supply of energy in developed nations. That will drive down the prices of simpler to use hydrocarbons and make them more readily available to developing nations to use while they are learning more about heat engines, electricity, and infrastructure development.
I think you’re expecting too much of “developing nations”. People who cut off the body parts of albinos for their magical properties are not the sort who can understand thermodynamics. If you give them a turn-key black box that generates electricity and hot water, they may break it apart for ITS magical properties.
And you have watched too much television that gives a biased view of the vast majority of the people and places on this wonderful planet.
I stopped watching television as a habit more than 40 years ago.
Here’s one that is supposed to be truck sized.
This may be another one that looks good on paper or on the computer, with a differing reality.
I’m still waiting for the baseball sized generator that hangs on a belt, a la Asimov’s “Foundation” stories. 🙂
Those were written in an era when there was vast optimism regarding the uses of fission.
We already have the hand-held Atomo bulb, only it’s a LED powered by a lithium battery.
Why was helium chosen for the conducting gas? I would have thought that Argon would be easier to handle due to its larger size giving it less of a tendency to leak.
In a neutron flux, argon gets activated to Ar-41, which would create substantial levels of radiation in the coolant piping that would require dense shielding to allow entry for maintenance. The half life is fairly short at 1.8 hours, so it takes about 18 hours to fully decay.
Ar-41 has a beta decay. I didn’t think that was a very penetrating radiation.
Granted I don’t want to sit under it, but I didn’t think it required the level of shielding that gamma of fast neutrons do.
Neon was my suggestion, but any noble gas is going to have a ratio of specific heats that throws any system tuned for air off its optimum operating conditions.
99.16% of Ar-41 decays include both a 1.1 Mev beta and a 1.2 Mev gamma.
It is quite definitely a gamma source.
Thanks for clearing me up on that. Information on the design choices for these systems isn’t always easy to find.
You’re right. Finding the information is often an excavation challenge; there were so many papers written during the dead tree era, and so many publication houses that still maintain copyrights even for papers that the author paid to submit for publication. Many of the data bases are only available at a reasonable cost to researchers who have a relationship with a university library with all of its journal subscriptions. Otherwise, individual paper access can cost $25-$50 per paper, even if the document is only a dozen or so pages and even if it is only useful for a few numbers or paragraphs.
Fortunately, when I caught the bug that eventually led to Adams Engines and Atomic Insights, I had access to an excellent library and was able to gather a pretty good collection of photocopies of useful papers for personal use.
After making my previous comment, I decided to try a few searches and found the following extremely interesting design proposal from the University of Michigan dated 1955.
The part that is most aligned with answering your question is the attached American Turbine Corporation document titled Design Study of a 60 MW Closed Cycle Gas Turbine Nuclear Power Plant.
Notice the discussion about the choice of helium over air, the comparison with nitrogen, and the primary driving force of heat transfer surfaces. Then think about the reduced importance of heat transfer devices in a simple cycle gas turbine that does not have any reheaters or recuperators.
I also did not like the notion of using pressure changes to vary power level. That looks good on paper, but having operated and maintained several large, high pressure gas systems as a submarine engineer officer, I recognized some limitations related to charging and discharging cycles, corrosion, rate of pressure changes, and size of required containers. I was also familiar with throttle valve controls. Those ideas formed the basis for my patent.
“I stopped watching television as a habit more than 40 years ago.”
Egads. That’s your problem, you missed out on Bevis and Butthead, Jerry Springer, and Sean Hannity. I suggest that you do 40 Hail Marys and watch an episode of Huckabee. It won’t cure you, but at least you can say you tried.
“I had access just to an excellent library and was able to gather a pretty good collection of photocopies of useful papers for personal use.”
Gosh Rod, doesn’t that make you a “Troll”?
Uh…..just kidding, of course. But perhaps it caused a bit of reflection in another commenter’s mind. Then again, probably not.
While you are focusing on gas cooled reactors in China do not miss out on limited success of Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors in the UK. They are going retrograde on PWR’s. Lead-based cooling is a Russian skill which has very little exposure outside.
Lead or salt cooling could have promoted fast reactors whose progress has been hesitant due to sodium fires.
Then there is a croos-breed of salt cooled pebble bed reactor!
Perhaps a water cooled fast MSR may be an economic design for a waste(used LWR fuel)-burner.
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