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  1. One reason I think China will pursue this nuclear revolution is that if you fraud or intend to ‘pocket’ some money illegally, the chinese government will deal with the perpetrators quickly and in a very visible and terminal way.

    The downside risk is very high in China.

    As for the Russian perpetrators, the US has published the Magnisky list. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a new ‘cyber’ way to limit those on that list to get a ‘dolce vita’ on the coast of Spain, Greece or France with money they diverted from the population.

    Those on the list will at least be under the spotlight. Rats don’t like that.

  2. The Asian mainland countries are simply do the “right thing”. From Vietnam to China to S. Korea, these countries are going to rely on low carbon, amazingly reliable atomic energy. Added to this list is also Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. They now long want to see energy enforced underdevelopment. They want to get off renewables (burning down their forests to make charcoal and burning cow dung).

    I agree with the author that LFTR will be a huge part of our future. I’ve written extensively about it on my blog on the Daily Kos and like David, the author, I do do not, I will not, counterpoise LFTR to LWR. Not now. LFTR’s success, and by ‘success’ I mean public support and confidence in LFTR is *wholly dependent* on the success of Gen III LWR roll outs in the U.S., China and S. Korea.

    1. David W,

      It is clear that the people in the 50’s already knew that it would take breeder reactors to get us to true energy independence. I got sold on the LFTR initially because of the simplicity. However, as I have see the new Gen III LWR and SMR begin to roll out I have seen that many of the advantages of LFTR are able to be integrated into smaller designs. Especially radically passively safe operations.

      For now, LWR’s in a small configuration provide most of what is needed for power production in a large number of places. A system like Hyperion’s original design – a “nuclear battery” – would work in areas that have very weak systems, transportation, distribution and political. It would be small enough and simple enough to be a reasonable investment opportunity for a co-op. Getting LFTR’s going that are simple enough to put in these remote areas would really get me pumped. With the presence of U232 protecting and identifying the U233 the chance of possibly diverting any material for weapons use is nearly nil. I hope that FLIBE gets all the investment capital it needs.

      1. I am all in favor of R&D into LFTRs, but I am afraid the development won’t be as simple as some people may currently claim. The on-line chemical reprocessing system needed to strip out the fission products, as well as to continually recycle the U-233 back into the reactor, is something quite unique in the world of nuclear engineering. Perhaps it is more of a chemical engineering problem. Either way, this is one area of the LFTR which is definitely not simple.

        Beware of what Admiral Rickover said about ‘paper reactors’, or as he often called them, ‘academic reactors’:
        http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Hyman_G._Rickover
        An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose. (7) Very little development will be required. It will use off-the-shelf components. (8) The reactor is in the study phase. It is not being built now.

        On the other hand a practical reactor can be distinguished by the following characteristics: (1) It is being built now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It requires an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to build because of its engineering development problems. (6) It is large. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated.
        —————————————————————————-

        Nevertheless, as I stated above, I think we need to look at the thorium fuel cycle. The abundance of this fuel source alone is worth a good hard look. As a first step, I would rather like to see some R&D into thorium light water breeder plants. We already know how to do LWRs, and I bet the reactor designers could come up with some core configurations with extremely long service lives. I’m thinking of the Shippingport experience, here.

        1. Pete,

          That is a great quote. I always knew when an Expat had translated something into an Asia language because I could understand it….

          I really don’t think that LFTR’s will be the right fit for remote areas. Adams Atomic Engines or the Hyperion “Nuclear Battery” would be better fits.

          I also expect there will be significant challenges and very expensive engineering fixes as LFTR is developed. But I have confidence that those are not so difficult as to be beyond solving and – as you point out – the abundance of the fuel alone suggests this is a good path.

          MSR have lots of good characteristics. They are well worth exploring. In my reading I discovered that there was a period when we were building all kinds of reactors on a testing ground. (In Idaho, I think) and would run them to failure (blow up) and then pick up the pieces and see what failed. I wish we could still do that. Computer Sims only get you so far…. Rod has argued that one acceptable path for NRC license is to present a working model and demonstrate it’s safety.

          Let’s build a few of the LFTRs and try to blow them up or make them fail. See what happens. Can we plug a tube? Can we overheat the thing? Can we swap out a ceramic core and be back up and running in a couple of days? Can we make the chemical plant so automated through physics that a 5 year old could run it? Man, these sound like fun challenges to me.

          Once you are over a blinding fear of radiation – reduced to a strong respect and carefulness – the possibilities for small reactors are just plain fun.

          1. I really don’t think that LFTR’s will be the right fit for remote areas.

            A reactor that is overtemp-proof even in a LOCA and can be kept going for a decade or two with small additions of fuel is going to have significant advantages even over pebble beds.

            1. @Engineer-Poet

              You wrote:

              A reactor that is overtemp-proof even in a LOCA and can be kept going for a decade or two with small additions of fuel is going to have significant advantages even over pebble beds.

              What makes you say that? Both the AVR and the HTR-10 have demonstrated through physical testing that a loss of coolant accident would not cause an over temperature condition. Both of them are examples of pebble bed reactors that were designed from the ground up to keep going for decades with small additions of fuel that could be added during operation with the online refueling system.

              The HTR-10 is even being followed up with the HTR-PM project that will connect two reactors, each producing 250 MWth with one steam turbine that produces 210 MWe. The size of the reactors is based on remaining well within the limits at which complete passive safety can be proven through testing, which is somewhere around 300 MWth for a pebble bed reactor.

              The site where that project is being built may eventually house a dozen or more reactors.

        2. I am all in favor of R&D into LFTRs, but I am afraid the development won’t be as simple as some people may currently claim. The on-line chemical reprocessing system needed to strip out the fission products, as well as to continually recycle the U-233 back into the reactor, is something quite unique in the world of nuclear engineering.

          It appears that it’s not necessary.  There are DMSR proposals which do no removal of (other than gaseous) fission products for decades.  The simple removal of xenon is claimed to do wonders for the neutron economy.

          Rickover’s claim needs to be compared to the real-life examples of the ARE and MSRE.  Both have been built, were on schedule, required little development, were on budget, were quick to build, small, light and simple.  If it’s too iffy to use on-line reprocessing at first, then design for the option of DMSR operation with the hot cells and whatnot for later installation of the reprocessing equipment once it’s been field-tested.

          1. @Engineer-Poet

            Neither the ARE nor the MSRE are examples of projects that contradict Rickover’s claim. They were both the functional equivalent of bread-boards (proof of concept prototypes) that did not produce any useful power and were not designed to provide reliable service for decades.

          2. If I understand correctly, the MSRE found metallurgical problems with tellurium corrosion at the grain boundaries in the Hastelloy-N.  This was eliminated with the addition of some titanium (?) to the alloy.  This was the kind of problem that projects like the MSRE are supposed to uncover.

            If there were any other serious issues found at the MSRE, they were either so trivial that I’ve forgotten them or they weren’t covered in the course of my reading.  The failure of one of the cooling blowers (completely non-nuclear) was covered, so I suspect the threshold for inclusion was set rather low.

            Given the depth of experience with power conversion &c, I am very skeptical that the balance-of-plant would have presented any novel difficulties.

            Pebble beds are still contained in pressure vessels, and as you’ve noted they have size limits and low power density.  They also have high waste volumes.  A molten-salt reactor can operate at atmospheric pressure, making its vessel lighter and likely much easier to ship than even an mPower.  The dump tanks of a MSR are not part of the reactor proper, so they can be arranged for better heat dissipation than a reactor vessel would allow.  The waste volume of a MSR is potentially very small.

            Maybe there’s trouble out there, waiting to appear at some size threshold for MSRs.  I’m not sure how much it matters; how many applications do we have for e.g. 20 MWt units cranking out 600°C process heat?  This is one more area where we should be trying a bunch of things, RIGHT NOW.

            1. @Engineer-Poet

              Please don’t misunderstand – I’m a fan of nearly all fission based alternatives and agree that we need to be working on multiple fronts. I just wish fission advocates would stop focusing on the wrong competitors. The market is dominated by fossil fuels. They are the competitors we need to measure ourselves against and the ones we all need to put under the critical microscope.

              You made several false statements about pebble bed reactors and expressed substantial optimism about molten salt technology based on a very brief operating history of “breadboard” quality prototypes. IMHO the molten salt experiments operated for such a short period and performed such a limited range of tasks that many potential issues never had time to develop.

              BTW – there are still unexpected issues arising in LWR technology, despite a vastly larger base of experience.

          3. I wouldn’t call the MSRE run from 1965 to 1969 “very brief”, especially given that it covered dozens of thermal cycles due to the weekdays-only schedule it ran due to budget constraints for most of the project.  There’s also plenty of experience with e.g. irradiation of materials in other types of reactors; that’s how almost all the data about TRISO fuel has been accumulated, no?

            But suppose that a reactor based on MSRE alloys and such would indeed start failing after some small multiple of the duration of the run at Oak Ridge, say, 10 years.  The question should be, would it still be economic if it had to be refurbished, say by replacement of the graphite moderator core or heat exchangers?  If so, the time to start building them is now.

            1. @Engineer-Poet

              There’s also plenty of experience with e.g. irradiation of materials in other types of reactors; that’s how almost all the data about TRISO fuel has been accumulated, no?

              No. German AVR ran for more than 20 years. Ft. St. Vrain supplied commercial power for a dozen years (with an admittedly low CF). THTR ran for 1000 days. The HTR-10 has been operating for at least 8 years. The Japanese also has a hight temp gas cooled reactor operating.

  3. “Paying taxes – which the Oil and Gas industry do at many levels – makes sure that governments want them around.”

    A few weeks ago I met a man who’s wife works for the Bureau of Land Management Colorado State Office in Denver. We were talking about gas drilling (I happen to live in an area with massive shale gas developement) and he mentioned that his wife’s office is responsible for more revenue for the state of Colorado than the state IRS. I didn’t ask for a source, but if even if it’s not true, there’s a lot of money pouring into the state and federal treasuries:

    http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Information/newsroom/2013/blm_oil_and_gas_lease0.html

    Of course, there’s plenty of uranium in the ground too.