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  1. It looks like the nuclear district heating idea is getting ready to go global:  it’s getting some serious attention in Finland.



    The model used in the Helsinki case study anticipates future annual energy use in district heating at 8 TWh, electricity at 12 TWh and 4 TWh of hydrogen for transportation fuels.

    For reference purposes, that’s an average of about 1.4 GW(e), about 900 MW(t) (average, peak will be much higher) and about 450 MW worth of hydrogen.  At 141.7 MJ/kg HHV and 43 kWh/kg required for electrolysis, it would take another ~500 MW(e) to produce the hydrogen.

    All in all, it looks like about 2.1 GW(e) would power Helsinki.  Using LWRs would require about 7 GW(t) so there would be plenty of heat left over for space heating.  Looks like 35 NuScales would do it.

  2. With Canada’s ACR-100 reactor probably just a few years away from deployment, the spent fuel from current commercial nuclear technology will suddenly become a valuable commodity. Bill Gates (an ACR-100 investor) has previously estimated that current levels of spent fuel are probably worth $100 trillion in carbon neutral electricity production.

    If existing nuclear sites in the US were allowed to increase their capacity up to 8 GWe, the excess capacity could be used for the production of renewable methanol (eMethanol). Methanol can be used in natural gas electric power plants cheaply modified to use methanol. Methanol can power marine vessels modified to use methanol. Methanol can be converted to dimethyl ether (a diesel fuel substitute). Methanol can be converted into high octane gasoline, renewable gasoline for existing vehicles. And methanol can also be converted into various types of jet fuel for military and commercial use.

    More than 50% of California’s electricity consumption is carbon neutral. But if California modified its natural gas power plants to use renewable methanol produced from out of state nuclear facilities, 85% of its electricity use would be carbon neutral.


  3. @AtomicRod

    Oklo does make strong marketing claims. I understand that you are rooting for team [of four] Oklo, but the presentation Oklo gave to the NRC in December 2019 doesn’t imply that “within the next few weeks… will submit an application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” The presentation (177 slides) is very high level – PIRT-stage content.


    Calling the foreshadowed Oklo document an “application to the USNRC” isn’t really fair, knowing that the NuScale Design Certification Document is thousands of pages in length and was prepared by an army of (my guess) 250+ engineers at a cost to exceed $1B. It would certainly change the current paradigm if Oklo’s design didn’t remain in regulatory purgatory indefinitely – need more money – need more need for such a product.

    Of course, the USNRC WILL review whatever Oklo gives them tho… at a rate of $200/man-hour. As an institution of public service, they must accommodate all comers, hear all voices, at all levels of engagement from concerned citizens to large wll-funded conglomerates. Well-funded conglomerates tend to champion realistic designs, while “startups” nearly always champion odd schemes targeting nebulous markets or remedying perceived/subjective shortcomings of status quo LWR designs.

    The micro-reactor thing is an anti-nuclear distraction at worst, or a means to employ post-docs at best. While there is quite a market for engines that deliver 1341 shaft horsepower, pragmatists must admit that there is no market for nuclear powered devices of that size. The guy living on the edge of the arctic circle in Alaska is not a market for a nuclear reactor.

    One last thing… Count how many times the phrase “Einstein oscillator” occurs in the Oklo core design patent (10 times). It is very pretentious to describe a negative power coefficient as the result of a heady concept invoking the name of Einstein. This smells a lot like TransAtomic ‘a brewing all over again. Millennial hubris.


    1. Michael

      I realize my description of Oklo’s design certification application to the NRC sounds almost fraudulent to a career nuke who knows a great deal about the way it’s always been. For many, the idea of a 500 page application reviewable in ~24 months seems like something out of a fictional novel about the way nuclear energy should be regulated.

      But I not only heard Jake describe his company’s progress in person, I heard the NRC’s Daniel Dorman describe the NRC’s side of the story about a change in regulatory approach made possible by scraping away 50 yrs worth of accumulated “guidance” in form of staff memos, Reg Guides, Regulatory Review Plans, letters and probably some other document types.

      Instead, Oklo and the NRC have worked together for more than 2 years to develop a risk-informed, performance based framework that is guided by written regulations and fundamental design criteria.

      Be skeptical. But please recognize that change is possible.

      From my point of view, Oklo saw the winding, steep, tortuous trail up the mountain to an SMR DCD that NuScale blazed. (You may have seen that slide out of NuScale’s frequently presented deck.)

      Instead of meekly attempting to follow that path, Jake and Caroline followed a path similar to the one I often recommended when I saw that slide.

      They took an example from the coal mining industry and (figuratively) blew up the mountain to reveal a more direct path to their goal.

      1. From the time that JCP&L decided to build Oyster Creek till the plant delivered power to the grid was only in the neighborhood of ten years. Shipping Port had only gone on line twelve years before Oyster Creek and Indian Point went on line. Admittedly that was under the AEC, Atomic Energy Commission and not the Anti-Nuke NRC. Four Decades plus of operation for both of those plants and neither had any significant safety violations, incidents or problems.
        More people die from from a career in Accounting than from Nuclear Power. I have twenty years in the Nuclear Navy, submarines, and that was over 30 years ago. I now get emails from my various Submarine organizations informing me of a recent death. And so far none have been about the nuclear trained crew members standing watch on the Nuclear Reactor with me. The fear of Nuclear Power is unfounded and pure anti-nuke hype.

    1. It turns out to be a LWR scheme.  I went through the presentations and didn’t see where it implemented passive safety.  Despite this, it’s supposed to be sited within cities… WITHOUT a serious shield building?!

      Also, the fan-driven cooling systems would generate noise and not dissipate urban heat very well.  TBH, building a natural-draft cooling tower around and above the plant would be superior in multiple ways, from providing structural support for residential/office towers on the outside to pulling heat and criteria pollutants from ground level and exhausting them well above the altitudes of concern to the locals.  Somebody Ain’t Thinkin’.

      1. @E-P

        Did you notice the project name OPEN100? As Bret Kugelmass explained in a special episode of Titans of Nuclear that introduced the project, it is an open-source project. One of Kugelmass’s key take aways from two years worth of talking to nuclear energy experts all around the world (more than 1500 interviews) is the need to introduce successful ideas from other industries.

        He asserts – with good justification in my opinion – that the design of a power plant is analogous to a large software product. It is thus amenable to using open source concepts where all design details are made available for both use and contributory improvements from interested and skilled participants.

        Of course, the contributions have to be accepted by the “community” that is controlling the design.

        IOW, don’t just lob criticism here on Atomic Insights, as useful as that might be. Participate and share your ideas.


      2. Thanks E-P. I can see that too – and I think the video unnecessarily limits people’s thoughts by showing a downtown installation. It would take more video production work, but having the landscape changing while the construction was going on would illustrate the range of applications.

      3. Did you notice the project name OPEN100? … it is an open-source project.

        I did, but I can see problems with that.  Somebody has to be in charge, because a hundred individual tweaks on a basic design is going to make affordable NRC certification nigh-impossible.  There needs to be ONE basic design, maybe with a few variants.  That’s all the certification and training systems can handle.

        I think NuScale and possibly PRISM are the way to go.  Factory-built modules taken to the site on transporters.

        One of Kugelmass’s key take aways from two years worth of talking to nuclear energy experts all around the world (more than 1500 interviews) is the need to introduce successful ideas from other industries.

        Unless the legal regime is changed to resemble other industries, I don’t see how that’s going to change the economics.

        He asserts – with good justification in my opinion – that the design of a power plant is analogous to a large software product. It is thus amenable to using open source concepts where all design details are made available for both use and contributory improvements from interested and skilled participants.

        I couldn’t find any obvious way to join the conversation.

        Unless Kugelmass has a way to cut costs more than NuScale does (and with Sheffield Forge Works going into electron-beam welding to slash construction times and costs on the NSS unit, OPEN-100 is starting from behind), I don’t see a separate new LWR effort as being worth it.  The economies of scale will go with NuScale.  The next steps are going to be in metal-cooled or molten-salt units both for higher electric efficiency and some industrial process heat, possibly using reprocessed LWR fuel to get rid of the “what to do with the waste” question.  I think NuScale or the BWR equivalent is about the end of the line for LWRs.

  4. A good optimistic article. I liked the district heating link by Mr. Poet as well. The US has 4.29 percent of the world’s population. No reason all the innovations in nuclear technology will take place here.

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