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  1. Let’s remind everyone that Moore’s law cannot be reproduced to the energy world. An anti-nuclear Nobel prize economist still does not get this and thinks that solar can be improved upon thru Moore’s law.

    Not going to happen.

    Paul Krugman is its name. Do not follow him.

  2. @Daniel

    Moore’s law does not apply but Atom’s Law is almost as good. We only use 0.5% of the potential energy of uranium and none of the potential energy of thorium. There are several orders of magnitude of improvement available.

  3. Since Rod and Google does not have experience in the power industry, let me explain it it. There is no need for unlimited power supplies. We only produce enough power to meet our customers demand.

    We do a very good job in the US too.

    For all of Rod’s nuclear advocacy, he seems to not be aware of the ‘incredibly creative nuclear energy industry’ that already exists.

    My father worked in the Silicon Valley from 1960 until he retired. I worked for GE nuclear operations based in San Jose for about ten years. So I am aware of the history of the nuclear industry and the Silicon Valley.

    Vallecitos boiling water reactor was the first privately owned and operated nuclear power plant to deliver significant quantities of electricity to a public utility grid starting in 1957. It is just down the road from Lawrence Livermore National Labs and over the hill from UC Berkeley famous for pioneering work in nuclear physics. Then there is Stanford Linear Accelerator which my father worked on.

    Then there was Hughes Glomar Explorer which my brother-in-law worked on which explains why he was asking me about radiation protection.

    We are in the business of making electricity for our customers. With O&M cost less $20/MWh, two orders of magnitude would be what Rod? With capacity factors at 90%, two orders of magnitude would be what Rod? Those plants designed with slide rules will last for 60 year or longer, two orders of magnitude would be what Rod?.

    Most of what Rod gripes about is the result of not understanding the industry he gripes about.

    When it comes to energy, nuclear innovation has been driven out of California. If you look closely, scam artist have taken over. GOOGLE claims about energy are just pixie dust. The party jet crowd recently abandoned the goal production of solar cheaper than coal. Maybe they found out what a good job coal does making electricity.

    1. Kit P,

      How can you talk about ‘no need for unlimited power supplies’ and Silicon Valley in the same argument ?

      Haven’t you heard that high tech firms are moving out for lack of reliable energy supplies ?

      1. Just checked and frequently check the CA ISO. There has not been a supply problem in many years.

        There are many problems that drive business out of California. First is very hard to do business in California because of regulations and the fruit cakes that regulate.

        Second it is very expensive to do business in California. I can afford a nice house where I live in Virginia. I could not afford to live in the house my dad had or the one my older sister bought the year I got out of high school. Not only that, the teachers at my kids school can afford a nice house too. My property taxes are $1000/year not $5000/year.

        Finally, power cost are high because California gets about 50% of their electricity from natural gas. For the average home owner, it is not a problem because it is a mild climate. For business that use lots of power, it is cheaper to move.

        1. @Kit
          A supply problem in California in the beginning of this decade caused prices to rise so fast that Edwards AFB to burn through a years worth of O&M budget in less than six months.

          1. @John, it was not a “supply problem”, it was fraudulent manipulation by Enron in a criminal scheme to run up prices by huge multipliers. Silicon Valley was intentionally held ransom. Check the history.

            BTW, the likes of Rush and FOX blamed the whole thing on the “liberal” government of California – during a time it was governed by a Republican.

    2. Rod is not bagging the current nuclear industry, just pointing out that there is plenty of room to improve the efficiency of using the fissile and fertile resource available. From the current 0.5% of uranium used (in the USA, France is slightly higher) a THREE order of magnitude increase would be 500%, which is still less than the amount of U238 and Thorium accessible compared to just U235

      1. Sorry John not buying your argument. I am again pointing out Rod does not understand the fundamentals of making power. Rod’s drama is based on ignorance. Rod replies to the ignorance anti-nukes and their little dramas.

        Let me explain the fundamentals. Thermal efficiency is very important for fossil plants because they use lots of fuel. Nuke plants use very little fuel but thermal efficiency for LWR is limited to how high we can operate.

        So the first place Rod is wrong is thinking that using nuclear fuel efficiently is important.

        The second place Rod is wrong is thinking that there have been no innovations in using nuclear fuel efficiently. Using ISO 14000 LCA methods I can document the changes over the 30 years that I have been in the commercial industry for Gen II reactors. Many reactors now operate on a 24 month cycle. When a fuel assembly goes into the spent fuel pool it has produced 2 or 3 times more power. A significant fraction of a LWR power reactor fissions from fertile material. LWR are breeder reactors.

        When the uranium was enriched it now uses 2 or 3 times less power. LWR fuel assemblies can be reprocessed economically. At least my company thinks so.

        I have also worked at facility that makes fuel assemblies and know each step of the process. The walls are lined with framed innovative pattens. In a matter of 10 years, they went from the second worse ‘polluter’ to a zero emissions facility. In stead of one product and many hazardous waste streams, it now produce three products and no waste.

        The main limitation of LWR is the need for high temperature process steam. Thermal efficiency is very important for producing hydrogen to make ammonia or transportation. Temperatures must be very high.

        The reason most power reactors are LWR is because they work so well. Most of us focus on what works. When people focus on why things did not move forward, it is usually means they are a college student. That is fine because lots can be learned by failure.

        1. Kit,

          I won’t knock LWRs either. They provide me a livelihood as well as you and Rod.

          I am also a booster of the LFTR concept. I see three major advantages of LFTR over conventional LWR.

          1. The nth LFTR reactor should be inherently lower in cost than a comparably sized LWR. There is no need for high pressure containment in the primary loop. Required safety systems should be less extensive/expensive because of the inherent stability and lack of excess reactivity.

          2. The ecological impact of mining thorium for LFTR is miniscule compared to equivalent production in uranium using LWR. (The exception to this is in-situ leaching which is a very ecologically attractive method of uranium mining).

          3. If the LFTR reactor operates on the Th232/U233 cycle, there is very little production of transuranics. The waste is therefore much less problematic in the long term.

          Bill

        2. @Bill Young,

          What about the corrosion issue of the salt? Is that a significant dissadvantage of salt vs. water?

      1. I read somewhere that 3rd generation nuclear power plants are fine to use through to 2050. Only around that time does it become sensible to build reprocessing plant and 4th generation power plants such as the thorium plants. Maybe that is part of what Kit p is talking about?

        Can I ask a question Kit P, let’s say there is a nuclear renaissance and 500 to 1000 new nuclear power plants are built around the world in the next 40 years. What type(s) of plants should they be in your understanding?

      2. Kit also seems to care approximately zero for future generations. That is what I see as his biggest character flaw. What we have today is all Kit thinks we’ll ever need.

        And Merry Christmas everyone.

    3. There are no coal-fired power plants in California, but the party jet crowd is completely unaware that a significant amount of power in their homes and offices is produced by coal power plants in other states, shipped here on high voltage transmission lines. They live with the myth of clean electric cars dancing like so many visions of sugar plums in their heads, not realizing that thanks to their decades-long opposition to building more nuclear plants of any kind in California, they are driving the finest coal-powered vehicles on the planet.

    4. So, you side with the “society doesn’t deserve plentiful energy”, or “global warming is not real” nonsense? I hope the dems put a ban on coal… then what!

      1. @fireofenergy

        I’m curious about why you added a comment to a post that is several years old. I hope you don’t expect that Kit P will still be following the conversation and responding.

    1. They updated this graph now with mini-graphs that show the whole day at once. Even in July and August, you can go back see that at *best* it achieved a 60% capacity for a few hours. It’s very easy now to see the whole day at a glance. An excellent tool.

    2. I wish the US states that went ballistic on solar would provide such strategic information.

      On the other hand, I can’t figure out why Germany is providing these dashboards that ultimately can be used against solar.

      Plus notice how the scale is adjusted not to show a 24 hour day, but only from 8:30 to 16:00 ?

      A trick of the trade. Did not go unnoticed here. The real entropy would really hurt their case.

  4. Understand that there are a spate of small start up companies, including Kirk’s, Flibe Energy, that is seeking to capitalize on the small but real surge of interesting in LFTR. The Weinberg in the UK has been able to make this part of the national energy discussion in the House of Lords and, I believe, in the more important House of Commons. The Chinese, as noted already, are putting real money into this project (albeit being quite squirrel about what their plans with specifics).

    LFTR is developing in parallel to other projects around Gen IV nuclear.

    My only criticism of Kirk’s presentation is his counterposition of LFTR to Gen II. While addressing the important differences, I think giving ammunition to the anti-nuclear side will only hurt our cause. Gen III is necessary for Gen IV to have a public acceptance of atomic power.

  5. FLiBe energy’s main problem is likely to be FLiBe, the material. Natural Li has about 7% Li6, a neutron poison. 99.995% pure Li7 is generally prescribed to get over this problem. Li of this purity and hence the FLiBe itself will price the business out of the market when put against coal or shale gas.
    FLiBe energy and Kirk would be better off following the Simplified Waste Digester, the molten chloride reactor. Utility firms actually pay the DOE to take away the used fuel, which they could not do as they have frittered away the money on infructuous Yucca. Processing the used fuel for transuranics and recovered uranium will be easier done than getting 99.995% pure Li7.

    1. Its amazing that the nuclear promoters continue to dupe the public with the notion that nuclear energy is a maze that contains a pathway out that leads to nirvana. There is no way out of the maze…nuclear beyond what already exists as proven in industry is a quagmire. The French didn’t throw up their hands in disgust because of sodium fires or lousy economics…they simply didn’t understand what was going on inside the reactor. Hence the complete charade of 40 years more of research. The MSR is nothing but scientific welfare. Any more Bob Gucciones out there?

      1. Hipster, regarding only your comment of an MRS being “scientific welfare “, did you watch the video at all? How could an MRS be considered scientific welfare when the money spent on its research and development is compared to what was spent on the LMFBR program?

        I’ll “hang up and listen”.

      2. @Hipster

        You sound a bit like the infamous patent examiner who proclaimed that the patent office should be closed because everything that could be invented had already been invented.

        With regard to “welfare” I believe that nuclear advocates are aiming for the wrong kind of funding if they seek federal government help. It is the most fickle and unreliable funding source available, especially when it comes to an energy source that threatens the prosperity of so much of the energy establishment. There are too many powerful political investors who will not allow any successful efforts that take away their market share.

        A much more beneficial path is to figure out ways to scale down the required investments and shorten the timelines to be within the scope of private money.

      3. You’re a silly goose. The Russian BN-600 works great and they’re building larger versions of the same. Both the prismatic and pebble bed HTGRs worked great at small scale and were derailed by side channel issues. The MSRE worked fine.

        Nuclear energy isn’t a maze. It’s a relatively direct path. It doesn’t lead to woo-woo “nirvana” but rather to a source of energy that is practically inexhaustible at levels well above today over a geological timescale.

        Why we can’t continue down that path at the present is that we stopped giving sufficient funding to applied research soon after we had “perfected” the LWR. Then, on top of that, we cut off the path for further non-LWR research by deciding that all reactors have to have the same sort of regulation as the large LWR. The root cause of that is that government, in essence, reserves the right to completely control everything nuclear.

        If, say, World War II had never happened, and peaceful nuclear energy had been born of the private sector, rather than as a byproduct of weapons programs by government weaponeers, we would have likely been able to solve our energy needs in perpetuity by now. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

        1. @Dave S

          The US government is the best government that money can buy. That phrase means that many of the decisions that the government makes that seem irrational are done to please the monied interests that invest a portion of their revenues into the political process. That tendency is only accelerating; it is not something that is new.

          You imply that the cause of the derailing is government as if someone who choses to work for the government is the kind of person who would seek to halt all progress. My long experience in government service tells me something different – the government is full of very smart professionals who really want to do a good job day after day for a 30-50 year career. However, they will generally do what they are told to do by elected officials and political appointees. Some of those elected or appointed politicians are good people, others are greedy, power hungry a–holes who will do exactly what they need to do to keep the campaign bribes coming.

          In this case, you should not ignore the role that that coal industry played in the decision to remove all government support for research into improvements in light water reactors.

          https://atomicinsights.com/2011/09/smoking-gun-part-26-coal-lobbies-versus-national-reactor-testing-station.html

        2. The BN-600 does not work great. It uses sodium as a coolant which immediately designates all the people involved in its design as insane.

          I am a huge advocate of fission. But not for utility scale electricity generation. Just radiothermal isotopes and process heat

        3. @Dipster

          Sodium’s fine provided it’s used in an environment that water is excluded from. Water at 300°C and 10-20 MPa isn’t exactly a “safe” substance to keep around your house either. Sodium does cause complications in terms of design but they can be dealt with.

          If you claim the BN-600 does not work great, please cite your sources as to how it doesn’t work.

          “I am a huge advocate of fission. But not for utility scale electricity generation. Just radiothermal isotopes and process heat”

          I don’t think you’ll get any sympathy around here for that view. Nor do I agree with you.

        4. @Hipster
          You should read NUREG-1368. It provides a preliminary safety analysis on PRISM which is a SFR. After reading that, please explain how the use of sodium is insane.

          @Kit
          You do not understand economics very well. Fuel utilization and efficiency are as important for capital recovery for nuke plants as they are for fossil plants. The difference is that in fossil plants it is about staying in business for nukes it is about maximizing profit. All of which are same aspects of the same thing.

          @all
          The desire to seek profit and to create is perhaps the most noble endeavor. The profit of which I am referring is where everyone is better off, Walras Equilibrium. It is the pursuit of this and our government’s allowing this equilibrium to develop is what electrifiedthe developed world and raised our mean life expectancy to the mid 70’s. Women’s suffrage came about from industrialization as did the end of slavery. Profit seeking and te acknowledgement of individual rights is what made this happen.

          To not seek profit, to work for the “society” is nothing but to deny the world the benefit of individual creation. It makes the individual worse off and some other group better off. Be careful about why you do what you do. It is as important as what you do.

          Read von Mises and Hayek for more on this subject. The counter to this is Marx, Habermas and others.

          My goal is to make money through the creation of new ideas that I develop. I will benefit as will everyone else. There is no nobler pursuit than realizing the full value that one can contribute. That is the only way that we are all made better off.

        5. Kit
          We are not on the same page. I referred to thermal efficiency, regarding one of your earlier comments that nukes need not worry about thermal efficiency. . So here is the example:

          I have a 1200MW(e) plant that is operating at 100% power it generates 28,800 MW-hr each day. Let’s give it a nominal efficiency of 30%. Thus it produces 3600 MW(th). We will hold this quantity fixed because of thermal hydraulic considerations, the number of incore lattice positions, and PRA considerations for DHR. This is the chief limitation and capital cost for a nuclear plant.

          An engineer comes up with an idea that adds 0.1% thermal efficiency that involves no configuration change of the primary plant. This adds 28.8 MW-hr of power going down the lines. At retail prices of electricity of $100/MW-hr this is $2,880 per day. Stated anoter way it is $946,728 per year in revenue with a capacity factor of 90%.

          So you tell me if efficient utilization of capital is not important. Those same professors in college tell me the exact same thing that you state. It is why I am very careful about what I accept at face value from them and you.

        6. @Cal Abel

          Quote: “The desire to seek profit and to create…”

          You assume a positive correlation between the two… In fact, the correlation is far on the negative side for very plain reasons: “Seeking profit” is most lucrative and easy from the position of the _status quo_ which presently, in this country, coincides with the position of financial/political power. Corruption beats creation hands down when it comes to “seeking profit”…

          Von Mises, Hayek, Marx and Habermas? – Peddlers of gold and corrupt financial systems who turn science into political buffoonery. Why would anyone look at any of them?

        7. @Sam B
          The goal of profit seeking is constrained by those around you. If you take from someone else that which is not yours, they are well within their right to not allow that to happen. In Game Theory, the effective strategy for the game described by this situation is Tit for Tat. I think this is where law comes from. Von Mises in Human Action suggests similar reasoning. So in the short run, taking from someone else will get you a bigger profit. However in the long run it will fail. This why society develops rules and regulations.

          I based on visiting other countries and studying global politics over the years that the government that exists here in the United States is the best on the planet. That being said it is far from perfect and riddled with the flaws that you describe. I assume that you are a US citizen. Fortunately for us, we do not have to accept mediocrity in our leadership we have options and a voice. That is sufficient grounds to not give up on the government, but instead to fight for it.

          I see that you have little regard for either the individualist approach or the collectivist approach. Unfortunately/fortunately, there is little/no choice between the two.

          I am interested to hear how von Mises and Hayek are buffoons. You will get no argumet from me against Marx, Habermass, or Laswell being quaks. Do you have some third form of social organization that is not contained entirely by one or the other of these two philosophical camps?

        8. @Cal Abel

          Mises, Hayek – gold is not money. Keynes talked about it briefly, it’s the easiest to understand part of his writings. Competing bank currencies isn’t money either (Hayek’s toy idea). On financial matters Schumpeter is the best… and the worst in his apologetic of the corrupt state of our financial affairs. He is very clear in one thing – the world is controlled by large financial institutions who are in the process of “transforming the world”, aka a quiet revolution. With the benefit of hindsight, we can completely dismiss Schumpeter’s claim that the aims of this revolution are purely altruistic.

          Krugman is neither Keynesian nor scientific, I don’t know why people confuse these two men, they have nothing in common. First hand knowledge of Keynes is necessary, all of his writings – he was for balanced trade and balanced budgets – iterating surplices with deficits. I know you didn’t mention Keynes, but people run to Mises when talk show hosts scare them with Keynes – using Krugman as a scarecrow. I agree that Krugman is scary but Keynes is mostly rational.

          The social and the individual cannot be separated. I don’t have an authority at hand to quote from, but it seems common sense. The individual needs the society, no way around it, the society is formed by individuals and groups – the tricky part is striking a balance _between_ the three, fundamentalism doesn’t help, either way. In other words, the solution is precisely where you see no choice.

          Patriotism is good, I’m not against it, but it’s quite imprecise and it’s not an argument in our discussion. Besides, as many other attractive ideas, it can be easily perverted.

          Quote “That is sufficient grounds to not give up on the government, but instead to fight for it.”

          I agree with that of course, I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t. The big question is HOW? What has to be changed? Game theory presupposes well defined groups, interests and rules, do you think that there is universal agreement about these? Running around and screaming with our eyes closed is the worst thing we could do.

          I do not know of any well defined form of social organization. None of the popular philosophical camps is precise enough, none can even vaguely predict the course of game. Should I remind again the number of killed in the last 200+ years, since these political camps became fashionable? In other words, all popular forms are open to corruption. Only the Founding Fathers tried to do something about it, but their efforts were pioneering and incomplete. Better than the rest, but do not take it for granted even for a second.

        9. @ Sam B

          ‘The social and the individual cannot be separated. I don’t have an authority at hand to quote from, but it seems common sense. ‘

          Adam Smith comes to mind. He stressed early on that the quality on a country’s institution makes an economy work. For him the success of government in implementing a sound macro economic environment was of paramount importance.

        10. There is also Samuelson who landed the best one ever. You cannot have political freedom if you do not have economic liberty.

        11. @Sam
          To quote Von Mises,”It is uncontested that in the sphere of human action social entities have real existence… The life of the collective is lived in the actions of the individuals constituting its body.”

          This is my fundamental critique of Keynes. His aggregation of the macro ignores the individual. It is why I do not quote him. It is also why Keynesian economics is used as a tool of the political left by such hacks as Krugmann. I don’t have a problem with macroeconomics. It is useful but only when the mathematical and epistomoligical foundation is sound. Which, unfortunately, is not the case today.

          As for the “Austrian Schools” advocation of a gold standard, I think your issue is with the use of Gold. Gold in the past had no other value than what we assigned to it and te labor it took to extract from the ground. It is no reactive and exists in nature as a pure metal. Gold now has industrial applications, which I think makes it unsuitable as a standard. I think what the AS is advocating is a calibration of currency to a common reference than just fiat. This I whole heartedly agree with. Just the reference calibration needs some work. Uranium or thorium would be satisfactory. Particularly the fissile isotopes, U-233, U-235, Pu-239, and Pu-241. This would effectively act
          As calibration to the Joule. How many dollars does it take to raise 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius?

        12. It is said that Keynes, shortly before dying, had second thoughts on some of his work.

          Notably, he was not so sure that governments should intervene in economic cycles. I still think that he was right and that fiscal policy is still necessary to adjust long term cycles.

      4. Superphenix had been, after a very long and costly development, at least working perfectly well for more than one year when it was stopped.

        Before that the incidents were annoying, but all in one, quite minor even thought they showed the control of this first of a kind reactor wasn’t totally perfect. But if it had not taken a legislative decree to restart the reactor each time it was stopped, they would never have blocked production for so long.
        Let’s quote the engineers on the security : “If we had any doubt, would we be leaving our family, wife and children, live within a 2 km radius of the reactor ?”

        So it was stopped because the green were the coalition partners of the new prime minister, and unfortunately his quality of honesty went in the way of rationality here, he just considered he had to keep the promise he had made to the green and stop the reactor immediatly as they demanded, without even checking if their criticism was actually based on facts.

      5. No, the French certainly didn’t “not understand what was going on”.
        Superphenix had been, after a very long and costly development, finally working perfectly well for more than one year when it was stopped.

        Before that the incidents were annoying, but all in one, quite minor even thought they showed the control of this first of a kind reactor wasn’t totally perfect. But if it had not taken a legislative decree to restart the reactor each time it was stopped, they would never have blocked production for so long.
        Let’s quote the engineers on the security : “If we had any doubt, would we be leaving our family, wife and children, live within a 2 km radius of the reactor ?”

        So it was stopped because the green were the coalition partners of the new prime minister, and unfortunately his quality of honesty went in the way of rationality here, he just considered he had to keep the promise he had made to the green and stop the reactor immediatly as they demanded, without even checking if their criticism was actually based on facts.

        1. Sorry for the double posting, didn’t see if my comment had gone through the first time (you can remove it if you wish Rod)

  6. Does anybody really believe desperate nations such as Japan, France, Germany, Korea, and the UK haven’t closely examined the MSR history in the past 20 years? If it was a slam dunk like Sorensen wants you to believe it is, they would have been all over it yesterday. It doesn’t add up. As for China, what don’t they do?

    1. “Does anybody really believe desperate nations such as Japan, France, Germany, Korea, and the UK haven’t closely examined the MSR history in the past 20 years?”

      They didnt. LFTR was a obscure forgotten concept most people even in the industry did not know about just a few years back. Sometimes the truth is simple.

    2. @Hipster

      Kirk and the LFTR community have unearthed a treasure trove of information about molten salt research that was not secret, but it was stored in obscure locations that were not accessible to the desperate nations that you listed.

      On the other hand, I believe there is a bitt too much industrial optimism about some of the remaining technical hurdles.

      I wish them the best of luck. The world will be a better place with more people thinking harder and competing to produce ever cheaper and cleaner power sources to enable the creativity of others.

  7. I believe those desperate nations are spending gobs of money on fusion in lieu of MSR. New fission reactors just aren’t politically correct.

    1. The political popularity of fusion springs from the same well as the popularity of CCS, wind, solar, cellulosic ethanol, and geothermal. All sound good and none have any hope of eating into the market share of the establishment energy sources.

      They are all distractions designed to keep as many people as possible from recognizing the gift of fission.

      1. At least in the U.S. fusion research is mostly geared towards maintaining the surety of the nuclear weapon stockpile.

      2. Except fusion has a potential to replace all forms of energy, whereas CCS, Wind, Solar, ethanol & geothermal cannot do anything more than INSIGNIFICANT. And REAL fast-track fusion projects such as Robert Bussard recommended get ZIP TO NIL in funding, compared to the 10’s of $billions/yr that wacky scams like CCS & Corn Ethanol that have ZERO potential to amount to a even a hill of beans.

        Personally, I’m not too optimistic about fusion over the short term, and am a strong proponent of LFTR, but clumping Fusion in with trash like ethanol, Wind & CCS is irresponsible and intellectually dishonest. You think Robert Bussard was a Wind Energy / Ethanol Scam Artist type crook? If you do, I would say you are a poor judge of people.

        http://www.askmar.com/Robert Bussard/1995-6-6 Letter to Congress.pdf

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_W._Bussard

  8. @Joris

    Based on what I know about the past and present, I would expect there to me mostly LWR and countries like France that reprocess.

    @Joel

    I am very good and making electricity with nuclear power and protecting the environment. The character flaw of all those worry about the future is they do not know how to do anything so of course they are worried.

    I suspect that a certain number of young people will make the effort to learn calculus and science. They will make electricity and protect the environment leaving time for the unwashed to dress up silly and spit on cops.

    It is my generation who demonstrated that we can build nuke faster than we needed them.

    @all

    “Yesterday Rod posted this link to view the solar energy output on a daily basis in Germany. ”

    That is wrong. What Rod posted was a ‘projected’ output. Many times that is how solar present generation figures. This assumes PV systems are properly installed and maintained. A very poor assumption.

    When a 40 year old 1200 MWe reports it is at 100% power, it is producing 1200 MWh of power.

    Here are some links to actual solar power production.
    http://www.soltrex.com/systems.cfm
    Nellis
    http://mypowerlight.com/Commercial/kiosk.aspx?id=1dd14d57-7840-4b2d-af0a-0fe0fdd5c872

    While I find solar more interesting than paper reactors that do not make electricity, solar is not a very good way to make electricity.

    1. Kit,

      There are plenty of people who are concerned about the future who know how to do plenty of useful things. I would absolutely agree that more American young people should pursue educations in math and science than have been in recent years, but I find your characterization of all people who don’t know how to do something useful as being “unwashed” and spitting on cops to be a poor generalization.

      I stick by my view that you seem to not give a rat’s behind about humanity on the whole and that you are perfectly satisfied as long as you are able to take what you consider to be a cheap hot shower inside your cheaply (from your vantage point) environment-conditioned home.

  9. @Joris,

    “What about the corrosion issue of the salt? Is that a significant dissadvantage of salt vs. water?”

    Joris,

    My reading of the literature that Kirk provides on his website indicates that, below 1200F, Hastelloy-N that is specified with somewhat lower boron content than default and with a small addition of titanium is essentially fully resistant to the service environment envisioned for MSR service.

    The reduction of the boron and spiking with titanium more addresses a grain boundary embrittlement issue with neutron bombardment rather than a corrosion issue. Hastelloy-N is the currently envisioned structural material in contact with the fuel salt in a LFTR. It does have a reduction in ductility in a neutron flux but this is not catastrophic and it can be accommodated.

    As I understand it, the biggest materials issue in a LFTR is the graphite that is used as the moderator. It doesn’t have corrosion issues but is subject to distortion in a high neutron field.

    Bill

      1. While I am a big fan of LFTRs in the long term I agree with DV8XL when he says there are several other reactors that are poised for immediate exploitation.

        Let’s get serious about the advanced designs we have like the AP1000 so we don’t have to rush into MSRs. If we hold out for the perfect reactor it will be the Chinese who have a fleet of AP1000s.

  10. From NHK World News :The art of breaking down a community:

    In areas where radiation exposure is certain to exceed 20 millisieverts, the government will ask residents to keep away.

    And in areas where exposure levels are higher than 50 millisieverts, residents will have to keep away indefinitely.

    The demarcation of the zones will be completed by late March. There are strong concerns among residents that the demarcation will further break up communities. Taking such concerns into account, the government says it will consult with local governments.

  11. When I first watched Kirk’s recent Tech Talk I was worried that it was too technical but I see that it meets a lot of the techie crowds approval so that’s a good thing. It just goes to show that advocacy needs to be approached from many different perspectives.

  12. From NHK World News. Immediate lifting of evacuation zones at Fukushima Daini Plants:

    Meanwhile, the task force on Monday also decided to lift evacuation orders for residents living within 8 kilometers of another nearby nuclear power plant, Fukushima Daini. It made the decision because it says sufficient safety measures are in place to maintain a state of cold shutdown.

  13. I would like to thank Kirk Sorensen for providing a very excellent review of the history that surrounded the decision to abandon Molten Salt Reactor development .
    It would also like to thank Atomic Insights Blog for featuring this recent Google Tech Talk and for making this information available to a broader nuclear interested audience.
    I offer the following short quotes from ORNL Laboratory Directors that may also bear on this subject.

    Question: Why wasn’t this (Thorium Molten Salt Reactors) not done?

    Comments by Dr. Alvin Weinberg – ORNL Director (1955-1973}
    1. Politically established plutonium industry –
    “Why didn’t the molten-salt system, so elegant and so well thought-out, prevail? I’ve already given the political reason: that the plutonium fast breeder arrived first and was therefore able to consolidate its political position within the AEC.”
    2. Appearance of daunting technology –
    “But there was another, more technical reason. The molten-salt technology is entirely different from the technology of any other reactor. To the inexperienced, [fluoride] technology is daunting…”
    3. Breaking existing mindset –
    “Perhaps the moral to be drawn is that a technology that differs too much from an existing technology has not one hurdle to overcome—to demonstrate its feasibility—but another even greater one—to convince influential individuals and organizations who are intellectually and emotionally attached to a different technology that they should adopt the new path”
    4. Deferred to the future –
    “It was a successful technology that was dropped because it was too different from the main lines of reactor development… I hope that in a second nuclear era, the [fluoride-reactor] technology will be resurrected.”

    ORNL Deputy Director H.G. MacPherson:
    1. Lack of technical understanding –
    “The political and technical support for the program in the United States was too thin geographically. Within the United States, only in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was the technology really understood and appreciated.”
    2. Existing bureaucracy –
    “The thorium-fueled fluoride reactor program was in competition with the plutonium fast breeder program, which got an early start and had copious government development funds being spent in many parts of the United States. When the fluoride reactor development program had progressed far enough to justify a greatly expanded program leading to commercial development, the Atomic Energy Commission could not justify the diversion of substantial funds from the plutonium breeder to a competing program.”

  14. The bottom line is that much of the R&D has already been done. A uranium fueled MSR was already running for quite some time at ORNL. With updated material/metallurgy and money, an actual *modern* proof of concept LFTR could only be a few years away, not “50” or some fusion-type we-are-almost-there deal soaking up billions.

    The first task is going to be a full scale temperature chemical/fluoridation train that can be built without NRC oversight. Then the actual reactor.

    The Chinese ARE putting in money into their own effort.

    1. But the two countries, Japan and France, that have nothing else are not jumping aboard the MSR bandwagon. And the *fission* PFBR soaked up 10’s of billions of dollars. All the newer fission designs have the same issues as fusion, that being
      no one can say with any degree of certainty if the reactors will prove to be reliable, nevermind economical. All movement forward of anything nuclear besides what is already working requires billion dollar plus experiments. Kirk Sorensen wants to sell stock and get wealthy, not build nuclear reactors.

      1. Kirk and I disagree on many things, however I do not think that he is motivated in any way by greed in this matter. Rather, he has a deep conviction that molten salt reactors fueled by thorium are the very best choice that the US can make for a Gen IV design.

      2. @Hipster – you contradict yourself. The two countries that you mention do have something else – it is called light water reactors that run on uranium and recycled plutonium. They are the two countries that have continued to build and have maintained their conventional nuclear industrial infrastructure. They can build the kinds of machines that we already know how to build. They can generally predict what those machines will cost and they usually have leaders in their governments that can be convinced not to put too many roadblocks up to slow down progress.

        I happen to believe there is nothing inherently wrong with either PWRs or BWRs any more than there is anything inherently wrong with mainframe computers or there was anything inherently wrong with Digital Equipment VAX style mini-computers. That does not mean that there are not better ways or ways that work better for certain applications than others.

        There is also NOTHING wrong with working on new technology, forming a company, building successful products, selling stock and getting wealthy. Kirk is not a flim flam banker type who wants to get wealthy through gambling with other people’s money and skimming off of the top of each transaction. He is a builder, an engineer, and a visionary who wants to make the world a better place. I know the man, know his background, and know his family. If you want to come to my site and participate in civil discussions, you are welcome to do so, but you need to recognize that you are dead wrong by implying that greed is the driver in Kirk’s efforts. It is certainly not the driver behind my own efforts to be an atomic entrepreneur.

      3. I have watched Kirk Sorenson’s videos for several years and am a big fan. Recently I have noticed a subtle change in his delivery, his appearance and his demeanor. To me it says he is increasingly addressing businessmen rather than scientists.

        I suspect this means he is getting closer to finding the backing needed to make his dream come true. I hope he gets it and becomes rich in the process. No matter how much money they make, people like Bill Gates & Steve Jobs leave the world better than they found it

  15. Current approaches to fusion, that receive large portions of the US nuclear R&D budget, will never threaten fossil fuel interests for at least 50 years.
    There is a low technical risk form of nuclear fusion called PACER Fusion that was investigated by the Los Alamos and the Lawrence Livermore National Labs that could be quickly developed and deployed that would begin to threaten the existing energy sector dominances in power generation in less than 5 years.
    (But – PACER FUSION is based on technology proven and developed by the US weapons program and involves the serial repeated explosion of small specialized thermonuclear devices only slightly larger than nuclear artillery shells in a carefully prepared artificial cavern and would produce more than 97% (and perhaps geater than 99% for a specific customized device designed expressly for this energy application) of its energy (heat and neutrons) from fusion and less than one percent of its energy from the fission initiator). PACER Fusion in its LLNL implementations was a molten salt technology and Dr. Ralph Moir, Dr. Teller’s principal nuclear designer at LLNL, spearheaded and led much of the initial research on this very practical fusion approach.

    PACER FUSION is a fusion concept that could quickly be brought up to help the US get off of dependence on foreign supplied energy and would conserve use of fissile while producing huge amount of power with significant energy gain (way more energy gain than any competing fusion concept). PACER FUSION could be ready in time to actually make a difference in replacing coal produced electricity and for defending American quality of life, American prosperity, and broadly stimulating the production of American jobs.

    http://www.osti.gov/bridge/purl.cover.jsp?purl=/6718615-nhbbsq/

    (While I think that PACER Fusion is practical, I prefer Thorium LFTR for worldwide sustainable power generation)

  16. Could anyone shed light on the final few sentences of Rod’s post:
    “After all, when it comes to energy, Atom’s Law describes the only innovation curve with any kind of similarity to the curve that Gordon Moore sketched out for the pace of improving transistor-based microprocessors.”
    What is “Atom’s Law”?
    Might someone be meaning “Adams Law”, and in this case not Rod Adams but Henry Adams who produced “A Rule of Phase Applied to History,” which proposes that the world may now be engaged in an inexorable acceleration toward a coming phase change in the relationship between technology and humanity, some time between 1921 and 2025.
    http://www.ericsteinhart.com/progress/adams-phase.pdf

    1. Robert:

      Atom’s Law is a new theory. Technology improvements in nuclear energy allow the percentage of the fissile/fertile atoms in a given mass of fuel that are ultimately fissioned to double every 10-20 years. The limit of that improvement curve for a given mass is to reach a situation where all of the atoms are fissioned before disposal.

      The amount of energy released by the process is essentially unlimited because a larger and larger input stream of material can be made available (depleted uranium, used nuclear fuel, thorium, lower grade terrestrial uranium deposits, uranium in sea water, etc).

      The curve can be fitted backwards into history; current commercial reactors have burn-up limits that are about 12-16 times as high as the earliest reactors.

      The curve should never be applied to paper reactors; only to those that are actually built and operated to produce reliable power.

      Though fuel efficiency (or fuel utilization) does not provide as immediate a payback for nuclear plants as it does for fossil plants – where the material input stream is much larger and more expensive – there are returns in lower waste production, longer cycles between refueling shutdowns, and improved output from a given size of machinery.

      Remember, fission is the new fire. We are still in the earliest stages of development, roughly analogous to having just learned how to control the heat, vent off the noxious fumes and perhaps even move it indoors.

      1. Here’s a new theory called Rick’s Law. For every 10 employees removed from in the NRC, EPA, IAEA and DOE there will be one new Nuclear Plant built.

      2. How poetic. Rod has certainly mastered the English language. Rod have you ever given thought to doing a little more research before you write such drivel?

        Nuclear is not the new fire, it is a mature industry.

        Most people forget that the end of the exponential growth curve is the mature phase where new birth is matched by death. If your goal is to produce electricity with nuclear power, having nukes last 60 years is a good thing.

        If you goal is to build new nukes as mine is, nuke plants lasting 50 years is a mixed blessing. On the plus side, amortizing the costs over 60 years makes them more affordable. On the downside, we do not need to be in a hurry in the US.

        The there is the law of diminishing returns. Now that capacity the capacity factor is about 90%, achieving a 40% improvement over the next 20 years does not signal the loss of innovation. It just shows nuclear is a mature industry.

        The number of new nuke plants we need will also be determined the law of diminishing returns. The lesson of the past is that building a few nuke plants at a time provided huge benefits to a region. When idiots like TVA and WPPSS tried to build too many at a time, the result was actually fewer than we needed. Resources got wasted on unfinished plants.

        1. Kit – I have a good friend who was already an adult when the very first self sustaining chain reaction was initiated. My mother was already alive when the neutron was first observed in a laboratory experiment.

          You have exposed your total lack of imagination and vision by calling nuclear energy mature. Sure, large light water reactors are well proven, but there are numerous energy markets that have not even been touched by the 2 million times improvement in energy density of uranium over oil – yet.

          Do you even recognize that the halt in TVA’s building plans was not due to market saturation but due to some very political moves by people like S. David Freeman and Jimmy Carter to maintain the prosperity of coal mining companies and their owners? (The decisions did very little for coal miners – tens of thousands of them lost their jobs as mining companies started using explosives to move mountains out of the way rather than digging under them.)

          I like it when you keep showing up to be an old fogey foil who is so happy with the status quo. It gives me a chance to paint a different picture of what is possible and helps to explain why we still have a lot of innovation remaining to be implemented.

        2. Kit,
          You need to lighten up. Nobody takes abstractions like “Moore’s Law” or “Atom’s Law” too seriously.

        3. Kit P,

          In the main, I agree with this, and much of your previous comments; the economics of current plant make it achingly clear that improvements in fuel utilisation will have little impact on unit output costs.

          As a rule of thumb, overall fuel cycle cost contributes under 10% of the cost of a unit of output for new build nuclear – within which, the cost of the raw uranium is well under half. Even if I were to double utilisation, that implies only a 2 1/2% reduction in unit output cost – and less if there’s significant cost involved in the additional utilisation (for example reprocessing). The UK and France have both operated (conventional) reprocessing plants at a loss for years, simply because reprocessed/extracted fuel (i.e. using recovered U238 and/or MOX) can’t compete unless the raw uranium price is well north of $100/lb.

          What makes far more difference is attacking the basic capital cost of the plant (where replicability is key) – but more important is getting down the cost of capital, and the construction risk in terms of overruns and delays.

          Even EDF has to pay about 8% for capital (except for borrowing via the French state – which may not be an available option for long). RWE and E.on have to pay 9-10% WACC. Add in a risk exposure of 10 or 15% of their balance sheet value to build a few reactors and those rates will climb, as investors seek compensation for risk.

          And recall – paying 10% for a plant that starts up three years late on what should have been a five year build increases the capital cost by perhaps 30%, even on fairly optimistic assumptions that total cost stays the same, and spending can be slowed in the latter half of the programme.

          Where I part company is the characterisation of nuclear as a “mature” industry – if we were, we’d not see investors treating individual plant builds as high-risk projects, any more than seeing another 737 rolling off the production line is for Boeing. Instead we see them treating each plant build as the financial equivalent of developing the 787.

          The ABWR/ESBWR/AP1000 seem to have the right characteristics to move the industry into that “mature” space in terms of replicability, short build times. The EPR probably hasn’t (too complex, no modularity in the build).

          I’d take a lot of persuading that launching into a whole new technological direction, with all that implies in terms of development risk and delays is a smart move, for at least the next decade or two. The industry is “drinking in the last chance saloon” in terms of finally showing an ability to deliver new plant reliably. Add to that a lack of any sign of uranium shortages in that timescale, and it’s hard to see where the payback comes from in LFTR development.

          One other small point – attractive as the idea of plants running for 60 years is, it makes surprisingly little difference to the economics, as calculations are always based on discounting of future cashflows. Even low discount rates (say 2%) mean a cashflow 60 years out is discounted to about 30% of it’s nominal value. If anything, the biggest benefit might be deferring the decomissioning cost!

          1. @Andy Dawson

            Add in a risk exposure of 10 or 15% of their balance sheet value to build a few reactors and those rates will climb, as investors seek compensation for risk.

            You have identified a factor in projected levelized cost of electricity that drives me nuts. The risk that you are trying to price for investors is completely avoidable; it is imposed by conscious decisions by human beings, not by the limitations of the technology. Building light water nuclear power plants and allowing them to operate to produce reliable electricity should be a routine evolution that results in the ability to print money. It is crazy that we have allowed vested interests to set up a system where the uncertainty of license approvals results in a need to demand a risk premium for well proven technology.

        4. Rod, in reply to

          “You have identified a factor in projected levelized cost of electricity that drives me nuts….It is crazy that we have allowed vested interests to set up a system where the uncertainty of license approvals results in a need to demand a risk premium for well proven technology.”

          If you don’t mind me saying so, that’s an overly US-centric perspective.

          It’s not regulatory problems that have driven up the cost of capital for EDF and AREVA on the back of the the Olilkuoto and Flammanville debacles; it’s good, old-fashioned fashioned construction cock-ups.

          It’s not regulatory issues that threaten the RWE-Eon projects at Wylfa and Oldbury in the UK – after all, you yourself have written in complimentary terms about the UK’s licensing system. It’s simple market uncertainty about the industry’s ability to deliver a plant on budget, and no less important on time. And that fear’s well-founded – the industry has a lousy record of constructing plant without delays and cost escalations, not solely from
          regulatory interventions.

          Apart from eanything else, most of the money doesn’t need to be raised by the company that’s constructing the plant until AFTER the basic design is approved, and ste licenses obtained. One lesson out of that is the industry’s eternal tendency to mess about with designs – which means the benefit of concepts like generic licensing are diluted. I’ve ranted on about it before, here and in other places – it’s NOT a sign of a mature industry!

          1. @Andy Dawson:

            I have never said that the nuclear construction plant industry is mature. It was approaching maturity in certain places during the 1970s and in other places during the 1980s, but in the west, the industry was decimated to the point of needing a complete rebuild during the antinuclear dash for gas and coal of the 1980-2010 period.

            I agree that the nuclear industry has too many engineers that like to redesign things just as the manufacturers and constructors start learning how to make the components and build the plants. That is a factor that has to be brought under control by some hardheaded management types who also understand technology.

            IMHO some of the “cockups” that affected the EPR were driven by previous regulatory ratcheting. The design is extraordinarily complex and difficult to build due to such features as the core catcher, the multiple independent trains, and the enormous per unit size. Some of the features look great in electronic models and when performing PRA, but they are simply hard to learn how to build and never will be very easy to construct on a reasonable schedule with reasonable per unit costs.

  17. A while ago, Rod told us that in 2005 Vice President Cheney had Gas companies in the US exempted from the Clean Water Act.

    It would seem that since 2005 Gas companies are not bound either by the 1) Safe Drinking Water Act and 2) National Environment Policy Act

    1. Daniel, you did not believe Rod? The Rod has not actually read either the NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY, May 2001 or the 2005 energy bill.

      I do not know why people think the way to advocate nuclear power is to parrot junk science gossip.

    2. @ Kit P,

      I am saying that on top and above of the Clean Water Act exemption, Cheney managed to get the Gas industry out of 2 other environment Acts.

      I am long Rod.

  18. Then Rod tells me that I lack imagination and demonstrates that his imagination by making up stuff about the history of nuclear power in the US.

    TVA started 9 large reactors before they finished the first one at a time when many companies were building the same reactors in five years. When the first plants came on line, TVA did an exceptionally bad job of operating them. This was before the time of S. David Freeman.

    I was at Rancho Seco when S. David Freeman nailed the coffin closed. S. David Freeman went on to LADWP where he crusaded to close coal plants. Rod and S. David Freeman do have one thing in common. No reason to let facts or reason to get in the way of their agenda.

    If your agenda is to make lots of electricity with nuclear power, Duke and Commonwealth Edison are examples of building 7 and 12 nuke plants over 20 years. When it comes to making electricity it is what you finish not what you start.

    @Cal

    How many times do I need to correct you before figure out I know a whole more about the economics of actually making electricity. Forget what you college professors tell you, they are not in the business of making power.

    Fuel is about 10% of the O&M budget of a nuke plant. If the cost of fuel assemblies doubled, that would result in a 5% increase. So if generating cost were $15/MWh, they would go to $16/MWh. I should also point out that nuclear fuel cost have been very stable.

    At a fossil plant fuel is about 80% of the O&M budget. If the cost of fuel doubled, that would result in a 40% increase. So if generating cost were $50/MWh, they would go to $70/MWh. I should also point out that coal fuel cost have been very stable while it is not unusual for natural gas to double over a short period of time.

    As for profits, power generation is regulated in the US. Public utility commissions allow reasonable costs to be pasted along.

    1. Fuel costs are 30% of O&M for the average nuclear plant. Specifically, in 2010 average fuel cost for commercial nuclear plants was 0.65 cents per kilowatt hour while non fuel O&M was 1.49 cents per kilowatt hour.

      http://nei.org/resourcesandstats/nuclear_statistics/costs/

      About 40-50% of the power generation in the US is produced under rate of return regulation; the rest is produced by merchant generators who sell to wholesale markets with a variety of competitive bidding schemes.

      http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/energymarkets/background/slocum_dereg.pdf

      1. Excellent research Rod and no snide remarks or stupid conclusions on the first link. Let me now take Rod to school. The fuel for nuke plants is uranium. From the same NEI infor, that is 42% of the cost is uranium. Enrichment is 31% but we can expect that to decrease as more modern enrichment capacity comes on line in the US.

        That leaves about $20 million a year for improvement when considering different fuel cycles.

        I keep harping on performance. If you look at the slide that shows performance by quartile, the top is making electricity at 1.77 cents/kwh and the bottom 2.49 cents/kwh. It is clear that some are doing a better job of getting the energy from uranium than others.

        Being generous, I will give Rod a 50% grade for finding a link that 100% supports m conclusions about fuel cost not being an important factor for nuke plants.

        As for the second link, did you bother to check the credibility of your source Rod? I did show Rod the curtsey of reading the ‘report’.

        ‘reaping record profits’

        Rod you should be skeptical of any report that does not use standard term correctly. While ‘reaping record profits’ is typical class warfare terminology. I would like to know if XYZ utility made 10% or 12% profit. Gosh you know what these clowns would be saying if they made 80% profit.

        So what does Public Citizen think about nuclear power?

        “Costly nuclear power poses unnecessary safety and environmental risks, is heavily dependent on taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies, and generates deadly radioactive waste. ”

        Well thanks Rod for the input from an anti-nuclear site.

        So how about specifics of what Rod said:

        “the rest is produced by merchant generators who sell to wholesale markets with a variety of competitive bidding schemes. ”

        Which is a highly regulated process. The PUC still approves the contract. XYZ utility makes 12% profit selling you electricity at 10 cents/kwh. ABC utility makes 12% profit selling you electricity at 16 cents/kwh.

        What deregulation does is allows XYZ utility to expand market share because it does a better job of making electricity cheaper. In particular, companies that had lower cost of running nuke plants bought nuke plants and then made a profit making and selling electricity at lower cost.

        What ticked off the anti-nukes is that this allowed nuke plants that were not competitive to become competitive in stead of close down.

        I will give Rod a -25% grade for finding an anti-nuclear link and 0% for not understand the material. At most universities, a grade of zero in an indication of failure to understand the material. Since Rod went to an academy, we will give Rod some slack because gig line is straight and he is new to the commercial power world.

      2. But what you’re missing, Rod, is that for NEW BUILD plant, not 40-year old fully amortised plant is that even O&M cost (including fuel) is a minority of the cost of a unit of output.

        So, for example, even our AGRs, with some way to go to fully recover and fund capital cost, can break even at £20/MWh – probably £15/MWh on a pure O&M and fuel basis.

        But, our new plant isn’t about to be breaking even at £15 or £20/MWh – I’ve seen few analysts argue that at anything much below £60/MWh they’ll recover their own construction and financing costs.

        It’s in that context that you have to see the contribution of fuel cost – its impact on unit cost of output for new construction.

        One last point. There’s a difference between the cost of a kilogramme of raw uranium, and the cost of a that same kilogramme once enriched and fabricated into a fuel rod – on the analyses I’ve seen 25% – 30% would be a fair estimate for the raw uranium element, even using highly efficient centrifuge-based enrichment plant like that operated by Urenco and Areva.

        1. Andy – I understand that O&M is a minor component of the total cost for a nuclear plant that is still paying back its construction loans.

          My comment was directed at correcting an assertion by Kit P that was demonstrably off by a factor of three. For a person who brags about his engineering expertise, that is a rather significant mistake.

  19. @Cal

    “regarding one of your earlier comments that nukes need not worry about thermal efficiency ”

    Of course Cal I did not say that Cal, did I? Just because something is very important at a fossil plant does not infer anything about a nuke plant. I can provide many good examples of how we ‘worry’ about maximizing out put at nukes. Anyone who has worked at one can, except Cal. Cal’s example demonstrates that he does not understand economics of the power industry or the the huge scale.

    “At retail prices of electricity of $100/MW-hr ”

    Retail price includes taxes, profits and transmission costs. The correct metric is replacement power cost. Just checked the PJM. We are at about $35/MW-hr on a mild winter day where many industries are shut down for the week. That can jump to $200/MW-hr on a cold winter night or hot summer day.

    Cal like Rod belongs to the magic wand school of logic. Cal did not state the cost of the improvement. I once proposed an efficiency improvement at a nuke plant but the payback period was too long. It was an order of magnitude lower than the payback period for PV systems that the utility was providing customers. I thought it was unethical to have one standard for the company and another for our customers but there you have it.

    Having said that, let me get back to my original point about being penny-wise and pound foolish. The cost of uranium is not an important factor when it comes to making electricity.

    I worked at US nuke plant that had a pathetic CF. Later I worked at fuel fabrication facility which was the second largest employer in the area. This nuke plant saved $5 million by buying fuel assemblies from a foreign supplier. Unrelated the city was considering building a gas fired power plant. The utility management argued against the plant because the nuke plant might close down and jobs lost.

    “So you tell me if efficient utilization of capital is not important.”

    No stupid I did not say that but first you get average CF from 50% to 95% then you worry about ‘0.1% thermal efficiency’. The plant I was talking about has the best thermal efficiency but worse operating records.

    1. Kit,

      In general, I think you take far too argumentative of a tone with Cal and Rod. You aren’t really disagreeing on much of anything, and all 3 of you are very intelligent and likely know considerably more about generating electricity and electricity markets than 99% of the population.

      The general points where your arguments/disagreements seem to stem are the following, which I see as very much interconnected:

      1. You seem to imply far too often that nuclear power, using LWRs, has already been practically perfected and whatever improvements that are possible have already been implemented. I don’t actually think you believe this, but many of your remarks here seem to almost be coming from such a position. Future generations of nuclear power plants, barring unreasonable regulations, should be capable of providing capital cost improvements in the future.

      2. Your comments sometimes also seem to imply that the current share of nuclear power in the mix of America’s primary energy use (20% of the electricity generation market) is the optimal level. I don’t actually think you believe this either, and considering the possibility of capital cost improvements, the 20% of electricity generation level is very obviously not the economically optimal market share for nuclear power in the US.

      Could you please expound on your thoughts on these 2 points?

      Thanks,
      Joel

      1. Yes, Joel I think the current fleet of 104 US nukes is pretty close to perfect and will be very difficult to improve on. We have a prefect record for not hurting anyone one with radiation. We have a perfect record for safely storing spent fuel. I think we should not be in a hurry to put it in Yucca Mountain until the fissionable material is taken out.

        I think every old +1000 MWe nuke will operate at 90% CF for 100 years. I think new +1500 MWe LWR will operate at 95% CF for 200 years because we have designed lessons learned from 40 years of operation.

        I think the optimum level for nuclear power is 70% with LWR load following. NG and coal should be saved as a feedstock for industry.

        Being really old school, I think huge reserve margins are great. The most expensive, dangerous, and, dirty MWh is the one not available when needed.

        On the other hand, since I am not from the magic wand school of power generation; my hat is off to the fine job they are doing supply old people electricity. So yes, I am not very civil to those who accuse other of being killers.

        1. Kit,

          I am glad to know that you think around 70% would be the optimal market share for nuclear power in the electricity generation sector. Please keep this in mind in the future prior to taking such an argumentative tone with Rod and Cal who would both like to do a part to close the gap from the present 20% to that more economically-optimized level of 70% (along with some nuclear energy going to other sectors beyond only electricity generation, i.e. coal-to-liquids, etc.).

          I am going to be very interested to see how the discussions go in several more years when the question of licensing beyond 60 years becomes a big topic. 100 years for the Gen II fleet could certainly be feasible.

    2. Kit,
      Thank you very much for the compliment of being a member of the “magic wand school of logic”. I take that sincerely, however, the negative context in which you place that requires comment. I will do this with a question, if not logic or reason, by what metric do you suggest that one bases their decision? Logic and reason are what gave us nuclear energy. They are the foundation of the government structures which allowed the industrial revolution to occur. By the way the use of coal was circumstantial availability and stored energy content. I also see no reason why we should stop consuming coal. Logic and reason are the only thing that prevents us from deconstructing our society, they are the fortifications that keep the barbarians at bay.

      Based on our previous discourse I assumed the decision point of implementing an engineering change was patent. Apparently I was mistaken. The value of an addition or change is done when the present value of the addition is more than the cost of the addition. Thus for a $950,000 annual savings the decision comes when the cost is less than $9.3MM, assuming 40-years at 10%. You talk about running plants for 80-years. The present worth at 10% for 80 years is $9.5MM. The cost of capital is what drives the economic life of a facility to be constrained to 40 years. If you look more at the value to the rate payer, recent work suggest using a 4% discount rate. Thus the decision to add would be at $22.7MM for 80-years. For comparison 40-years at 4% is $18.8MM.

      It is difficult to cary on a debate with you, if you keep on rehashing the same points that are already established. The only reasons that I can see for you to do this is one of two things, first you lack the mental faculty. I doubt this based on what you do. Second is that you seek to discredit through demagoguery. Your actions and disdain of logic peg you as a demagogue.

      The $100 that I quoted you was based on 2009 numbers for a monolithic LWR with an average cost of capital of 10% and 40 years of recovery under the EPAct of 2005. The actual number is $97/MW-hr. It is the average cost of electricity needed for the utility to attract sufficient capital to build the plant. I mis-spoke when I said retail cost of electricity. That is on average $130/MW-hr. You demonstrate a lack of familiarity with the cost of the reactors that you are licensing. $100 dollars is a good number to have in your back pocket for the cost of baseload power with a 90% capacity factor regardless of the heat source (e.g. coal, natural gas, LWR, etc). It represents the average cost needed to fund and operate the projects.

      You quote $35/MW-hr in the dead of winter. This is the spot market price. It represents a different decision point for the utilities. They use this to determine when they turn on various sources of generation. If the market price is above the average variable cost the utility will turn on that source. The price the utility charges the rate payer is a function of how predictable their demand is and the quantity to which they agree to purchase. This is how large consistent users of power get such low rates, and why residential users pay such high rates. The number used to base the decision of new plant construction is the average cost of electricity. If you look only at the production side, a simple way of estimating this is to take your electricity bill and subtract $30/MW-hr from the cost of electricity. Here in Georgia that comes to about $100/MW-hr. The $30/MW-hr represents the costs associated with the capital invested in the transmission infrastructure and associated O&M.

      Perhaps when you were licensed as a nuclear operator 50% capacity factor was normal. Since you left operations, we figured out how to make the reactors operate at 90% capacity factors. I am curious as to how you propose to achieve a 95% capacity factor. This would require eliminating all forced outages (2009 EFOR was 3.2%) and shortening maintenance periods by at least 26%. This is why 90% is a reasonable number to use for baseload capacity. It also is used as the expected capacity factor in many conventional chemical processes. An additional question that I have for you is, how do you plan on achieving a sustainable maintenance cycle over an 80-year plant lifetime?

      The 0.1% thermal efficiency is scalable, I also assumed that this fact was obvious. Multiply it by 10 and you get 1% and an associated increase in revenue of $9.5MM/yr. And for completeness the decision to implement a design change would be at $93MM assuming 40 years at 10% for the cost of capital. You deal with the NRC too much to keep on asking for such obvious validation. You must love reading redundant information that says the same thing over again. (pun very much intended)

      1. “It is difficult to cary on a debate with you, if you keep on rehashing the same points that are already established. The only reasons that I can see for you to do this is one of two things, first you lack the mental faculty. ”

        I am not debating with you Cal. You say stupid things and I correct you. It is only a debate in your mind.

        Some of the rest of us were discussing the relative fuel cost of LWP compared to fossil plant. We exchanged information.

        For what ever reason Cal you want to debate cost/benefit of making changes at commercial nuke plant. There is a standard format for doing that. You are not even close Cal.

        “we figured out ”

        Exactly who is we? How much commercial experience do you have Cal?

        I was never an operator at a commercial plant. I have been an engineer at many nuke plants. Based on my navy operating experience, GE hired me to be a startup test engineer. This required me to be SRO certified with a focus of initial power testing. I worked on shift in the control room from fuel load to commercial operation. At the time, the design capacity factor was 80%. The basic limitation was the need to refuel every nine month.

        “50% capacity factor was normal”

        This was only normal at poorly managed plants. My first commercial plant set a post TMI record for the time between fuel load to commercial operation. One task is balancing the main turbine. It took the utility 4 days. At the second plant it took two weeks.

        Keep in mind that a 90% capacity factors is an average for plants that were designed for an 80% capacity factors. A marketing claim one vendor makes is 95% capacity factor and a five percent improvement in reactor thermal efficiency.

        1. When is this troll going to be seen for what he is and treated accordingly?

          Clearly his own self-proclaimed expertise has shown considerable gaps, he is needlessly rude, and frankly has contributed nothing of value since he has arrived.

          I suggest, at a minimum, that he is no longer fed.

  20. “Here is a reference pointing to S. David Freeman’s role in halting the TVA nuclear building program. ”

    So Rod agrees with me that TVA was messed up before Freeman got there. Furthermore, he only had one vote as a director. At SMUD, Freeman was GM but clearly influenced the board with smooth talking lies. Freeman and Fonda are two people that I would appear suddenly in front of me least I forget my values.

    However, Rod style is to find someone to blame rather that make an effort to understand how to get a job done. Building too many power plants at the same time will sap the resources of a utility. I pointed to two utilities that were more successful at finishing new nukes. Duke is also a neighboring utility to TVA. The reason Duke stated for not finishing two units where they had started development was that the power was no longer needed. Duke now plans to put two AP1000 on the site that they started developing many years ago.

    We will build as many new nukes as we need. I suspect that no new power plants will get built in the US because the CEO of the utility likes building power plants.

    And just for the record, Freeman is long gone and TVA has its house in order. TVA is finishing nukes one at time because like everyone else they see that old coal plants need to be shut down.

    1. Kit,
      I don’t see your conclusions about TVA as completely accurate. I see no movement at all toward shutdown coal plants. In fact they are seeking, and putting in money, the oxy-moronic “Clean Coal” technology.

      I’m glad they are completing ONE nuclear plant but hardly a stellar endorsement of coal-to-nuclear. If they were you’d see them at least announce a “we are phasing out coal and replacing same with nuclear over the next 20 years…” sort of thing. Not happening, not yet.

      1. David did you bother to check? It is not my conclusion, it is TVA stated goals. TVA is in the commissioning phase of Watts Bar 2. They are now finishing Bellefonte 1 stating that it is shifting the mix away from coal. I suspect that when they get close to bringing Bellefonte 1 online, they will shift their construction focus to Bellefonte 2.

        It would appear that both Rod and David think king coal is some evil conspiracy not what fueled the industrial revolution. Times have changed and nukes are a proven part of the power mix.

        1. Kit, they *have no plans*. It’s easy to state rhetorically that they want to shift away from coal. That they “they will shift their construction focus to Bellefonte 2” is projection on your part, TVA might consider it in, what, 5 or 6 years from now?

          They might now be building more coal plants (who is?) but they are definitely for clean coal, gas turbines…many built in the last 10 year at 10 sites and make vague generalization about ‘retiring coal plants earlier’ with not MW commitment to non-carbon sources.

          In their updated 2008 report (updated last year) http://www.tva.com/environment/pdf/environmental_policy2008.pdf it’s all very vague with no strong commitments either way.

          I’m not sure why you place such faith in the TVA on this.

        2. David I have no faith in TVA. They change there minds frequently. In fact finishing Bellefonte Unit 1, is a change from 2008. The second problem is POTUS appoints the board of directors. Will Obama stack the board with anti-nukes like Carter did? Finally, TVA has lots of debt. TVA will have 7 operating nukes next year. How many do they need? Not my backyard, none of m business as a power customer. From a professional point of view, I want them build more nukes.

          TVA like many operates both coal and nuke plants. In 2008, TVA had a coal impoundment that failed. It cost more to clean up than TMI. Across the US, coal plants are under attack. TVA will either be spending lots of money on them or closing them down.

          http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/agreements/caa/tva-ffca.pdf

      2. The CEO of TVA announced not long ago that he was not pleased with nuclear’s performance in his energy portfolio.

        1. Daniel,

          The CEO got upset that Brown’s Ferry got called out on a safety violation. That does not equal a repudiation of TVA’s nuclear trajectory.

          Kit is right on the current policies. TVA has announced that they are shutting down some of their older coal plants as their nuclear fleet expands. Watts Bar 2 should finish up in about a year. They have made a formal commitment with Areva to finish Bellefonte 1 and have said they will review Bellefonte 2 after Bellefonte 1 is under construction. They have also signed a letter of intent for a couple of B&W Mpower reactors (Rod’s bread and butter).

          Bill

      3. Actually, TVA has announced plans to shut down 18 coal-fired units.

        Kit, my personal speculation about TVA’s future plans are that the mPower may end up pushing Bellefonte Unit 2 off the table.

        1. Joel do you have any basis for your speculation other than your experience reading blogs?

          What part of bigger do you folks not understand? Our customers do want power plants that produce lots of electricity. It is simple geometry.

          You know what we all say in the commercial nuke world? A reactor vessel in hand is worth two in the bush.

          Really!

          There is also a need for small distributed power plants since it an economical way to regulate the grid. The difference between real and reactive power. The Tennessee Valley is a jungle. I can put up a 50 MWe biomass plant running off of waste biomass every 25 miles.

        2. I am basing my speculation on several things:

          1. The fact that the first installation of mPower Units is likely going to be at the Clinch River site and the early licensing activities are allowing for up to 6 mPower modules, if I remember correctly.

          2. I have read through most of TVA’s IRP, and it seems that the mPower may much better suit the increments of generation increases that TVA will need.

          3. Financing mPower’s would be considerably easier for TVA than financing Gigawatt-sized units. TVA doesn’t have a whole lot of room under their $30 Billion debt ceiling to work and is already considering selling WBN2 and leasing it back as a creative means of staying under their debt ceiling. Such “creativity” would be less likely to be needed if they were incrementally adding mPower Units.

          4. The mPower’s size would likely better suit re-powering coal plants that TVA is shutting down, thus some cost savings on infrastructure could be realized by re-using some transmission infrastructure, even if no turbine-generator equipment could be re-purposed. While TVA has not announced anything close to plans of this nature, I would guess it will be considered in the future.

          5. A former co-worker let me know that their current instructions for BLN Unit 1’s design are to not necessarily take Unit 2 into account but not to completely neglect it. I’m not sure what degree of sharing of systems there is at Bellefonte, but my suspicion is that there is probably less sharing there than there is at Watts Bar and stealing margin from Unit 2 might not be too tempting. I personally hope to know much more about this issue starting in the late-spring or early summer of 2012.

          6. I have a decent level of confidence that B&W/Bechtel’s business case for the mPower will provide relatively strong competitiveness on a $/kW basis in comparison to gigawatt-sized installations. I’m sure Rod would know more about that, but he’s probably not at liberty to discuss cost matters at this time.

          7. Bigger automatically being better for nuclear power plants due to economies of scale is not a law of nature.

  21. For a more accurate version of S.David Freeman’s influence on the TVA see Chapter 8 of “Prisoners of myth: the leadership of the Tennessee Valley Authority, 1933-1990”
     By Erwin C. Hargrove

    Freeman served as the Chairman of the Board from 1978-1981. One of the reasons that he was appointed to the board was that some influential Senators wrote to President Carter claiming that the agency had an “over reliance” on nuclear energy.

    The issue was not that the service territory did not need power; the issue was that by building nuclear plants the TVA was reducing the long term demand for the coal that came from their states.

  22. Well it has started:

    A new report from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) has revealed that thorium-based nuclear energy plants – once vaunted as a clean alternative type of nuclear energy – have the same negative environmental consequences as their uranium-based cousins do.

    This was bound to happen when thorium supporters started to use the ‘cleaner than uranium’ argument. The antinuclear movement has been lying outright about uranium for decades, by what magic did anyone think they would start lying about thorium.

    There are good economic reasons why the US and other countries that don’t have large uranium reserves should research and develop a thorium fuel cycle. Claiming it takes an end run around uranium’s problems is just a fool’s game, and payment is due.

    1. And wait until the peanut gallery finds it way around the new Thorium cycle wastes like U-232 and protactinium-231.

      The new kids in town will get plenty of coverage.

    2. Sort of, maybe. While the ‘hook’ is Th by thorium advocates it’s really all about liquid fueled reactors. What is stated at energyfromthorium.com is true about the LFTR. It may not be so true about thorium generally, a problem we’ve debated a bit over there. There are no real ‘thorium’ advocates. This came up at CCNY in October during the IThEO conference I attended with Kirk and other LFTR advocates.

      Thorium is only an ‘element’ it is not an applied technology. They report you linked to doesn’t deal with the liquid fuel aspect of deploying Th reactors at all.

      At the IThEO conference there was rep there from Norway’s largest and best funded uranium fuel and thorium SOLID fuel industry. Everything around Th in Norway is about running thorium in LWRs and nothing about MSRs or LFTRs.

      So the report appears to be ‘narrow’ in it’s focus. LFTRs remain proliferation resistant in their commercial form and will remain that way. That they can be modifed to to extract pure U233 in a weapons useful form remains to be seen. That it is going to be cheaper using much cheaper R&D “piles” for Pu extraction will remain so forever, as I see it. Economics will rule and economics will dictate the continued use of H bombs based on Pu and not on U233.

      Secondly the waste issue is as stated with LFTR. No contradictions between claims and reality IMO.

    3. NRPA is a bunch of crack pots peddling junk science.

      For the record, the US does have huge uranium reserves. One of the largest in North America is just down the road from where Rod and I live in Virginia.

      My neighbor had his house tested for radon against my advice. After it exceeded EPA ‘guidelines’, he then asked me what to do. I told him to give up smoking. He said that he did that 25 years ago. I then told him to drink lots of red wine. What me worry?

      Undaunted in his quest to make his life safer, he investigated solutions. A few days later he came back all delusioned and everything. He told me it was all a big fraud. Yes, progress one neighbor at time.

      1. “NRPA is a bunch of crack pots peddling junk science.”

        Gee, do you think? Do you also think that anyone that reads these pages doesn’t know this?

        Also, while it is true that the US has undeveloped uranium still in the ground, the ore is low-grade and this might make other fuel-cycles economically competitive.

        @David Walters – MSRs and Th fuel cycles can stand on their own merits, which is why they will be developed in time. However it is naïve to believe that antinuclear forces are going to roll over and stop beating the waste and proliferation drums just because one can present a logical argument showing otherwise. This hasn’t worked for the lies that they have told about uranium, and it won’t work for thorium. I still believe it is a tactical error to emphasize the security argument for this fuel because it will get throw back in your face by people that use demagoguery, rather than logic as a debating strategy.

        1. @ DV82XL,

          Yes, after listening to Kirk closely and looking at the benefits of Light water small reactors most of the same benefits can be said of ANY small reactor. Also, I agree with you that the “safety” issue will not quiet the Anti’s. However, the Molten Salt design has good benefits. I feel that the safety issue does not have to do with how many more people we will kill – which is already at zero – but how many places a reactor can be deployed and the skill level needed to actually operate it. The passive safety features combined with the passive load following mean a LFTR can be deployed in areas that have little technical background and be effective on the basis on their design rather than the deep defense in depth and the highly skilled operators. Sort of moving from a bunch of mechanics running a steam automobile to an old person getting in a automatic. The new design spreads out the ability of people to operate the system because it is simpler to work. The simplicity of operation is the best benefit of LFTR. Of course this is a “paper reactor” 🙂 So all my conjecture is just that currently. But I would invest if I could and be willing to loose the money if it failed.

        2. @David – Then we are on the same page after all, and I agree that there are advantages in the domains you mentioned.

          Nevertheless I would rather not see LFTR (or any MSR) become a football for the Anti’s, and still believe supporters should tread carefully.

        3. I don’t disagree…this is why the success of LFTR or *any* Gen IV deployment is wholly contingent on the success-with-no-exceptions of Gen III reactors.

          By 2013/14, that is, in two years or so, many of the first Chinese Gen III plants are going to go online. You can also throw in the Finnish EPR as well. This will be critical for how the public *perceives* nuclear, IMO. And, thusly, how they will accept in more advanced designs.

          David

        4. @David Walters,

          Yes, and especially the NuScale / MPower series because we need them to take on the NRC on some basic issues regarding the small size of the reactor. Like fee per reactor / time of licensing and other technical issues that will be much easier for LFTR and Hyperion if the SMR-LWR leads the way.

          Also, the whole issue of actual risk is very important and we need to win that now – with current designs rather than wait for another new design to take over. This battle is NOT going to be won by making a safer reactor – even zero deaths did not reduce the media’s desire to capitalize on the word “radiation” through fear mongering, so, ANY Atomic reactor will face the same issue. But a push back against the safety = less philosophy is greatly needed. And can be helped – if not won – on a person to person basis. Keep preaching to the Choir and expanding influence. I find that when you mention the number of actual deaths to folks it changes their perceptions quickly – and then the next question is waste which is quickly answered by pointing out it is fuel. Finally then the “why” is answered quickly by pointing out that only Nuclear has displaced fossil fuels.

  23. “99.995% pure Li7 is generally prescribed to get over this problem. ”

    Therefore, it will not only be an economic boondoggle but an environmental one as well due to emissions and toxic waste from the enrichment process.

    Flibe Energy should be renamed Scientific Welfare Corp. MSR reactors, like Pebble Bed and the PRISM reactors DO NOT WORK AS ADVERTISED PERIOD.

    Until we get some scientists and engineers who are sober and are not technodreamers, electricity from nuclear powered plants will continue to be (as it always has been) a quagmire.

    1. Dipster,

      The cold war method of lithium isotopic enrichment (the military wanted the Li6 for use in H bombs) was an environmental mess with a lot of mercury contamination at Oak Ridge.

      The cold war method is not necessary and probably would not be tolerated in a civil factory. Lithium can be enriched in a benign ion exchange resin cascade. To my knowledge, it is not being done commercially because there is not much of a market for isotopically purified lithium.

      Bill

    2. A Quagmire? Hum, one of the oldest operating plants in the world is a gas cooled reactor in England. We currently produce 20% of our electricity from Light Water Reactors. I am not in favor of subsidies for the development of LFTR and I am not afraid to allow a company to fail. However, technodreamers would be an apt description of Thomas A. Edison, light bulb, power generation, phonograph, relay and multichannel transmission over the same line. Quite a few things have come from technodreamers.

      I agree with Rod that most of the benefits of LFTR come from the size – small – which the MPower and such also share. But the market for LFTR is in the peaking market. No spin up times and base load power costs even while peaking.

      1. David,

        A LFTR is going to be like a LWR in that it will be expensive up front and the plant operating cost will be rather independent of the output. – Pretty much fixed cost.

        Even if it is technically capable of doing it, I don’t see any nuclear plant in load following mode unless nukes have completely supplanted fossil generation (as in France).

        Bill

        1. Why not? Currently that roll is taken by expensive plants. A utility that could put a LFTR online capable of responding – without user input – to a wide range of power needs would smooth out their whole system. The cost savings would be great for the whole infrastructure with vastly improved stability.
          Run AP1000s full out and put in several LFTRs to handle the variation.

          What do you see that would limit this?

        2. David,

          Technically, a LFTR could be used for load following if it were designed that way up front. Likewise, the navy has always used LWRs as load following on their nuclear vessels.

          A LFTR, like an LWR, is pretty much a fixed cost operation. The staffing, maintenance and security costs are pretty much independent of power level. If the cost of electricity is, say, 5¢ per kwh at full power, when you operate at an average of 50% power in load following the cost of electricity becomes 10¢ per kwh. Likewise, if you operate the nuke plant at 25% average power, the cost of electricity becomes 20¢ per kwh.

          A simple gas fired turbine plant is relatively inexpensive and has low staffing requirements. Technically, it is very capable of load following. Most of the cost of generating electricity with a gas turbine is the cost of natural gas. At an average 25% usage, it is much lower in cost than a nuclear plant.

          Bill

        3. Load following itself is a ‘product’. Talk to the GT guys in your local utility and they will tell you that minimum load capability (lower is better); load following; frequency control and numerious other ancillary services have value to the ISO and can be paid, contractually, accordingly. You have to ask how a merchant or utility company can afford to by peaker units *and not run them* but for a few times a year?

          LFTR (I can’t speak to other Gen IV or SMR reactors) in “theory” (we’ll hopefully see how this plays out in real life) can react to load on the system quite quickly, faster perhaps than CGGTs or hydro. The limiting factor will be turbine temperature, not reactor/hot gas response.

        4. @ Bill Young,

          I can see no reason to NOT design all LFTRs to be load following. The physics naturally helps this and the turbines would be simpler to design. I also think your point about the cost increasing as the output decreases is clear but the point is that base load can be supplied as well as peaking in the same plant. Thus your capital costs are combined into one unit and the variation in load does NOT cost any additional input. With the cost of fuel being negligible I cannot see how the operation of a LFTR would not compete with a gas turbine and beat it – especially long term.

          Most of the power plants that need to be replaced on small coal plants. If the plants that replace them are able to load follow the small communities they are placed in will greatly benefit from a stable supply without having to purchase as much outside electricity.

        5. David/David,

          I see your point in that a LFTR could serve a market other than baseload because of the sales price differential. It will have to wait until we have a firmer number for the capital cost of a LFTR to see whether it makes economic sense.

          My personal guess, and that is all it is, is that LFTR will be lower capital than a comparable LWR but maybe only 10-15% lower. I also expect that technical staffing will probably be higher for a LFTR than a LWR because of all the ancillary chemistry processing.

          France and Canada both currently use some of their reactors in a load following mode. France has such a high percentage of their power from nukes and Canada has its peak hydro generation during mild (for Canada) spring weather.

          Bill

        6. As others have pointed out LFTR does not add a new value of load following capability. For a SFR the cost of going from baseload 90% capacity factor to a 75% capacity factor in load following is the change of $94/MW-hr to $110/MW-hr. The cost change is similar for just about any reactor. To operate in peaking, 30% capacity factor it is over $200/MW-hr.

          To go into other modes of electricity generation, a more efficient use of capital is required beyond the reactors alone. This is where energy storage comes in. The mid temperature reactors 550C-450C can use nitrate based salt storage. Higher temperatures require Li based salts to prevent chemical decomposition and cost much much more. Making the high temp reactors less suitable for load following or peaking (nitrate salts are about 100-1000 times less expensive).

          The problem with high temperatures is that you are at high temperatures. This is why we will likely never see light water reactors go away. 260C requires much less expensive materials to build. I do see thorium being used almost exclusively in LWR’s because it has thermal breeding characteristics and very low rates of actinide production.

          We have so much DU sitting around that any molten coolant reactor will likely be a fast reactor using uranium as the fuel.

        7. Cal,

          I do not follow your logic. If 260C permits enough capital savings to justify it, why are not coal/steam plants built for this temperature rather than 600C?

          Hastalloy-N is much more expensive than carbon steel but a 1″ thick high temperature nickel alloy tank should be much less expensive than a 9″ thick forged pressure vessel of carbon steel (with a 304 stainless liner).

          I had a conversation with an engineer at AECL a couple of months ago as to why the CANDUs do not use thorium based fuel. He said the Th232/U233 cycle was not feasible without fuel reprocessing. Reprocessing solid thorium is difficult because it is so chemically similar to many of the rare earth fission fragments and, if you are using thorium oxide, HF is necessary for dissolution. Low burnup of natural uranium in a single cycle is less expensive than high burnup of thorium with recycling.

          As an aside, has anyone ever considered trying to qualify ThF4 as a solid fuel? It is a completely different paradigm and reprocessing might be simpler. It may not be compatible with zircaloy, however.

          Bill

        8. @ Cal,

          Your point that $100.00 / MWH is needed to recovery capital costs is exactly what I calculated while working on a Biomass to Electric plant research project. However, once the loan is paid in 10 years, any power plant becomes a cash cow, and a Nuclear power plant even more so. In a small town I know – they had an old coal plant that was well maintained but had been idled since more power lines had been built into the city and the power from that coal plant was not needed any longer for peaking power for the factories located there. However, they kept a contract with the utility company to fire up within 6 hours on request and kept a full staff on the payroll for that purpose.

          I understand that you have a different method for molten salt storage of the heat and taking care of peaking needs. A very nice solution for a light water reactor allowing it to run full out. Your point that this type of salt is much less expensive is well taken as a capital cost for the plant. However, If the salt for a LFTR is included in the capital costs – and other capital costs are reduced – pressure vessels, concrete, land needed, etc the capital outlay might be a wash. (I have not done the calculations yet so I am pulling this out of the air.. or salt if you prefer). The point being that once the capital cost is paid – the whole operation of the plant is very profitable. Peaking power is always paid at a higher rate than base load. Yes, if the plant were only run at 50% capacity the capital cost would require a doubling of the cost of electricity generated. But that cost is ALREADY being paid out in fuel costs for peaking plants. Why burn natural gas to do something that it will not require any more fuel to do with a LFTR? Why not capture that market share within the same capital outlay?

          As I have been reading I found somewhere that about 20% of our electricity is generated as a peak load. Currently supplied by various means but not by Nuclear. If we want to move from 20% to 70% – why not take that 20%?

          Again, I am assuming that a LFTR can be built for a similar capital cost as any other plant – between $4 to $6 / watt and perhaps between $2 to $4 / watt. This would be strongly competitive with coal and if only one plant is needed for a community a lower overall capital cost with a superior load following.

          Now, I do understand that your MS storage design will give many of these benefits and perhaps, be retro fitted onto existing plants.

          A fast spectrum MS reactor will take much more start up fuel than a thermal spectrum. (I am a lay person in this discussion so if I miss-state something here it is through ignorance). So, I am not sure that the initial costs of the expensive LFTR salts will be much higher than the overall design of a MS Fast breeder.

          Lastly (as a good preacher might say) we have been talking capacity factors. The continuous online refueling of a LFTR would move us toward 95% capacity factors. Would a MS fast breeder do the same?

        9. Bill,
          In answer to your first question, heat rate-thermal efficiency and fuel costs. Light water reactors can only get so hot, mostly due to peak central temperature limits in the fuel. This caps thermal efficiency around 32%. The efficient coal plant,~ 38%, is limited predominantly by materials and emissions controls mostly NOx and scrubbing requirements.

          The comparison comes in with the cost of repaying the capital and the cost of the fuel. Nukes have relatively low fuel costs $0.65/MMBtu and coal is around $2.25/MMBtu. The capital costs is reversed coal at 2,625/kW and nukes at 4,567/kW. Rod pointed out on this blog the efforts others have gone through to make nuclear power cost more and make construction take as long as possible. When nuclear first came out per TMI the overnight costs between coal and nuclear were nearly equivalent. Post TMI everything changed and not for the better.

          The utility has to make up the money to pay its investors and it has to pay for the fuel.
          cheap fuel + expensive structure (LWR) = more expensive fuel + less expensive structure (coal)

          Estimates for the overnight costs of higher temperature reactors range from 30% to 75% higher than LWR’s. The costs of the higher temperature reactors stems form materials. LFTR is the coolant and associated structural materials. Compare a LFTR to a pool type reactor and you are looking at about the same volume of and type of materials, within a factor of 2 or so. The Economic Model Working Group has some data in there on the various reactor types. I do not know if LFTR is in there. The cost of the fuel for LFTR even using direct Th oxide introduction is not going to represent a big numerical change from the uranium fuel cycles including electro refining. So LFTR’s costs are driven by the coolant. Additionally, the cost of replacement coolant for Li that is consumed along with the tritium mitigation strategies will all cost money, so ball park the fuel and variable O&M costs of LFTR are going to be on par with that of SFR and LWR if not more expensive.

          Taking the equation from above:
          cheap fuel + expensive structure (LWR) < cheap fuel + even more expensive structure (LFTR)

          This is why LFTR, HTGR, SFR, etc will not be able to compete with LWR's for baseload power. To compete they have to allow expansion into new markets, process heat or the reduction in rolling reserve requirements, or some other such benefit. In this case, LWR's will still produce baseload but the other reactors will replace coal and NG in producing electricity because they will not just be producing electricity.

          @all,
          Economies of scale do not mean big. It means scalable. Want to do more efficiently add more capacity and manage your information like a miser manages gold, think Walmart. Smaller and more generators means more reliable power which implies less rolling reserve requirements. Big and few reactors means much more rolling reserve requirements. Rolling reserve is idle capital. Want to operate a business more efficiently minimize the idle capital. Small also achieves economies of scale in the construction technique, think Henry Ford. B&W has installing combustion turbines down to a science. I have no doubt they will apply the same techniques to building mPower, thus shorter construction timelines. Shorter construction times for the capital means more effective use of the capital. Finally the last point is obtaining capital. How many utilities can chase down $7 billion for a single construction project? What is the cost of the capital that they can get? Now, now how many utilities can chase down $700 million for a single project? What is the cost of their capital? What is going to be the market penetration in GW of the $7 billion reactor or the $700 million reactor?

          You need to smash this idea that GW size plants provide something that somebody other than a very few can actually purchase or even want to purchase. The range of 100 to 700 MW(e) is near optimal from the utility standpoint. 1GW or 1.5 GW is not.

          What is your goal? To build as many reactors as possible or to build a neat idea that looks good only to a mother?

          1. Cal – I am with you all the way up to the point where you mention B&W’s experience in installing combustion turbines. I am not familiar with that aspect of our business enterprise. We do, however, have a partner in Generation mPower with that experience.

        10. David,
          It does become a cash cow. The Congressional Budget Office built a LCOE model that shows how much of a cash cow. It is perhaps the best model out there. You over looked one thing. The utility had to build the facility with two sources of capital, debt and equity. More specifically, investor equity. Investors demand a certain rate of return, cost of capital, at a premium because of the additional risk that they assume. The financing of a project without loan guarantees is limited to 45% debt financing. This represents the amount of the project that can be liquidated in the event of bankruptcy. Debtors get paid before investors. This is why debt costs notionally at 8% and equity costs 14%.

          Technologically, I look at LFTR and SFR as being near equivalent in size and volumetric requirements of coolant for purposes of rough comparison. LFTR’s coolant is 100-1000 times more expensive and relies on a source that is not indigenous to the US for continued operation. Those are two big hurdles (cost and uncertainty) that have to be overcome otherwise it will not be competitive. Uncertainty is reduced by effectively spending money.

          As for the salt storage, the heat capacities of the two salts are nearly equivalent, so they will have the exact same volumetric requirements per MW-hr stored. The coolant for one costs $0.50/kg while the other costs $300/kg. Additionally, a secondary to primary leak in the LFTR if using un enriched or depleted Li would compromise the entire primary coolant and poison the reactor causing it to loose criticality. Now how are you going to clean that up? The only alternative that I see without getting too creative is to use enriched Li in the storage. This allows the storage to be at a higher pressure than the reactor so a leak is benign.

          The coal plant that you referred to likely was old enough so that everyone was paid off. Thus the utility running it only had to worry about fuel and O&M which is a different ball game.

          LFTR’s load following potential is not something special. Any reactor can load follow. I operated reactors that load followed as fast as we could open the throttles without breaking the main engines. The main problem with reactors and load following is oxide fuel. Get rid of pelletized oxide fuel and any reactor with a negative temperature coefficient of reactivity can load follow just as good as anyone else and far better than any coal plant could even imagine.

          The continuous refueling is a huge plus. That and the lack of many safety related systems and having to deal with the effects of water and boron will significantly reduce outage times. It may even be conceivable to design a reactor that does not have to be shutdown. Somebody mentioned on this post earlier using parallel turbines for power conversion. These could be run at a much lower CF of 90% and be taken out maintained and brought back on line. The simplicity will make it more reliable and may even make up for some of the other foibles of LFTR and FLiBe. ORNL operated a uranium fueled salt reactor as I recall, I may be out to lunch on this. It has the advantage of not having a moderator (graphite) that as it does not exist in the core does not require replacement. You could also use another suitable high temperature salt, or even back off on being at such hot temps and go with a neutronically and chemically suitable coolant that doesn’t cost so darned much. My problem with any MSR is the use of FLiBe. No FLiBe? No problem.

  24. I just can’t wait to see Germany’s reaction towards Greenpeace and Merkel when the first power outages happen.

    It is known that the Western European electrical grid has no slack and the first cold snap will be interesting. Will France shut down the transmission of nuclear power to Germany to keep themselves warm ? After all, Germany wants nothing to do with nuclear.

    As for Japan, we know what they did this summer. They let the elderlies die of heatstroke instead of turning back on the reactors. The same will happen this winter. More deaths to come.

    Those who stand by principles sometimes die of long, slow deaths.

    1. When principles are correct, moral and righteous, then long, slow deaths are preferrable to an eternity in hell. But this is obviously not one of those cases.

    2. Making a deliberate choice between starting safe nuclear reactors – in a country with more than 4 decades of experience – and letting people suffer or die from heatstroke or extreme cold is a poor choice no matter how you slice and dice it.

  25. “I have read through most of TVA’s IRP ”

    You have me there Joel. My norm is large dual unit LWR with shared infrastructure and Bellefonte fits that. If you need 2400 MWe of new capacity that is the economical way to produce it.

    I have no problem with hypothetical business models. I will remain skeptical until they are proven.

    1. Needing a step increase of 2400 MW won’t be happening anywhere anytime soon. 1200 in one pop is pretty unlikely too. If there were a gaseous diffusion plant going online in the region, that would be a different story.

      1. Joel you are demonstrating you do not know as much about making electricity as you think.. You have to read the IRP for Duke, Entergy, and other neighboring power producers. TVA is part of a larger interconnected grid.

        Consider what Bill Young wrote above,

        “A simple gas fired turbine plant is relatively inexpensive and has low staffing requirements. ”

        When a modern SSGT is running more often because of increased demand it is typically converted to CCGT. Once you have 1200 MWe of CCGT running with a capacity of 95%, you replace it with a nuke.

        The only reason to build small reactors in the continental US is R&D. Small reactors are needed in remote places with an isolated grid. Clearly they are economical compared to burning oil in DG. Of course we would be competing head to head with the Russians.

        Clearly large LWR have an economic advantage for base load power where transportation of fossil fuels is an factor.

        Fifty years ago many utilities did not have the skills to build large nuke plants but forged ahead because others made it look easy. There is nothing easy about trying to build one large nuke let alone nine at the same time.

        If the only reason to build a small reactor is your inability to get financing for a large one, maybe you should not be building and operating nukes.

        1. Hold on, Kit. The “only reason” to build SMRs is what exactly? That’s nonsense. You pointed out above (I think it was you) that distributed generation is very important. It is. PG&E had all sorts of models to show the interelationship between large “energy parks” and distributive generation for costs, mostly transmission but also lots of other ancillary issues as well.

          I’m sort of a contrarian in the LFTR community because I want to see ‘big-ass’ LFTRs of the 1800MW variety. (there is a whole other issue with regards to producing them and the belief that ‘mass production’ techniques can be used for LFTR which I don’t buy…another discussion).

          But the fact is that they don’t build a lot of +1000 MW CCGTs. There are many out there but far MORE single ~540MW and 240MW set ups. More and more 100MW (the new GE LMS100 for example) and many other SCGTs are also built. Incremental increases in generation provided by a host of LFTR and the real-almost-ready-for-prime-time SMRs from B&W and other companies provide a HUGE niche market for incremental, distributive power. You could pop one of these suckers down in a *distirbution* substation and feed right into the 24kv system in most cities and avoid the transmission costs altogether.

          Co-generation…drop a 80MW set of SMRs in an oil refinery to provide process heat and power, and cut deals with the ISO to provide peaking and other services. Drop one in a sea-side water treatment plant and use a LFTR, say a 100MW one, to process waste, desalinate saltwater and provide municipal power. One could even run the LFTR flat out 24/7 and use a bleed off valve for process heat to control load and increase desal at night during minimum load conditions. It is a HUGE endless market we’re talking about! One has to break out of the common ‘utility-think’, at least go beyond that. Markets are often created by new tech, not necessarily new tech filling a market niche.

        2. Kit, the following paragraph you posted doesn’t seem to reflect reality, but perhaps you were only speaking about when analyzing needed capacity additions (with relatively cheap gas available, maybe around $5/MBtu or less):

          “When a modern SSGT is running more often because of increased demand it is typically converted to CCGT. Once you have 1200 MWe of CCGT running with a capacity of 95%, you replace it with a nuke.”

          I don’t think a CCGT has ever been replaced by a nuke. I almost doubt that the oldest CCGT plants are even close to being old enough to be replaced.

          At a $3.50/MBtu gas price, a CCGT @ 95% CF would almost certainly beat a NEW nuke, hands down. Of course, assuming a long-term price of $3.50/MBtu would almost certainly be a mistake.

  26. A humongous and controversial Hydro project has been approved in China. 47 square kilometers of prime farmland will be flooded and 400,000 people relocated.

    This also signifies the end of many rare fish species.

    Also in Québec, a source of water has been contaminated by gas fracking. The provincial Natural Gas committee said there was no reason to worry. Note: The Gas Industry controls the provincial committee on environmental issues related to Gas Fracking.

    1. Interesting how the nuclear naysayers overlook the loss of land and displacement of people that are part of the normal development of hydroelectric dams. They of course have no problem constantly mentioning the possibility (remote, but not zero) that a reactor accident may have a similar effect-as if it has already happened. The Glen Canyon dam flooded hundreds of square miles of amazing desert canyons in Utah that are lost to us for the life of Lake Powell. All we have left of those “lost” canyons are photographs and the stories of those who explored them before they were flooded.

  27. The issues related to the control of gas fracking (gaz de schiste in French)in Québec are not so much that the Strategic Environment Assessment Committee on Shale Gas (évaluation environnementale stratégique sur les gaz de schiste)is under industry control, because it is not. It has members from all interested parties including Greenpeace. Furthermore they advised the Minister this year to suspend hydraulic fracturing until the completion of a strategic environmental assessment,who then agreed to provides for a three-year expenditure of $7,000,000 for the completion of the Assessment.

    Half the problem was that because Québec had no real gas production in the past, responsibility was divided between three ministries, always a recipe for confusion.

  28. LFTR – Building BIG
    Very Large 10 GW(t) Molten Salt Reactors are practical and have been carefully designed and modeled at UC Berkeley by Dr. Ehud Greenspan over the course of the last 10 years [1].
    There is no regulatory reduction for size (no independent Small Modular Reactor path through NRC). Building new nuclear is currently held back by regulator imposed obstacles. The cost of design certifying a small reactor is about the same as a multi-Gigawatt reactor. The trend to build smaller will just result in less nuclear being built over time as long as regulatory obstacles are the rate limiting piece in the overall nuclear manufacturing equation. We need 30 terawatts of additional power worldwide by 2050 to avoid human misery and wars over dwindling energy resources. While reactor factory construction and serial mass production scaling efficiencies could potentially benefit SMRs, so could a more aggressive program of building reactors really big (~10 gigawatt size)[1] underground in the center of major cities in the developing world. Molten Salt Reactors would scale BIG and be economical. When you build in bigger increments you get to 30 terawatts quicker[2].
    [1] – Ehud Greenspan – University of California
    PERFORMANCE OF MOLTEN SALT VERSUS SOLID FUEL REACTORS –
    [2] – Professor Richard Smalley – The Terawatt Challenge

    1. So, to get 30 TW, that would be 60,000 10 GW(t) reactors at 50% thermal efficiency. Quite a monumental task, no matter which reactor types are built out the most.

      1. Joel – 30 Terawatts by 2050 is the goal to reduce human misery and the likelihood of war with anticipated increases in human population of on the order of 2~3 billion additional beings by that date. We can plan for a world of energy abundance and peace (or a world of poverty, chronic misery, and WAR) all based on how we approach the production of energy. Wasting assets pursuing fantasy solutions (solar, wind, biogas, chicken manure, etc) will not scale and bring the energy the world needs. Nuclear energy is the style of energy that is most appropriate for the majority of locations world wide and is a technology that would efficiently scale.
        If you find my 30 Terawatt goal hard to think about I will set you a different challenge – completely getting off of dependence on coal in the US for the production of electricity. The US currently produces about 200 GW of electricity from burning coal. This could be supplied by twenty 10 GWe (HEAVY)LFTRs or something like five hundred and seventy one 350 MWe Integral Fast Reactors?
        I say it is much easier to build the twenty 10 GWe LFTRs than the 571 IFRs – but I am open to other arguments.
        If you have big ambitions (ending war and worldwide energy scarcity) the normally careful, cautious, and prudent folks at Yottawatts from Thorium website just go for the gusto and advise developing and building the 10 GWe(HEAVY)LFTR design so as to get to 200 GWe to replace US coal and 30 Terawatts to end worldwide energy scarcity sooner.

        1. What’s with these huge power plants? 10 GW LFTRs!!!

          I don’t buy the “Economy of Scale” thing when it means over centralization and high voltage distribution networks. One of the neat things about LFTRs is their scalability and small size.

          Forget the huge installations that involve difficult assembly operations “On Site”. Think of factory built units delivered on a couple of trucks or ship born systems designed to be anchored in coastal waters or rivers.

      2. A monumental task is the solar capacity of Germany. 21 GW ! In the last 7 days, it never went higher than 0.6 GW for 3 hours per day.

        The nuclear industry should borrow those magic calculators that the Germans are using to justify that business case.

        1. Daniel,
          That 21 GW name plate capacity looks pretty impressive until you apply the “Capacity Factor” which is often quoted as 11% for Germany. You caught them on a bad day when it was under 3%.

          In a similar vein you can follow the generating capacity in the UK within 30 minutes of real time. You will usually find that the power imported from France is greater than whatever is being generated by Huhne’s windmills. Here is the snapshot for the last 24 hours:
          CCGT 250863 28.2%
          OCGT 228 0.0%
          COAL 339740 38.2%
          NUCLEAR 168971 19.0%
          WIND 36914 4.1%
          PS 11418 1.3%
          NPSHYD 19133 2.2%
          FRANCE 41947 4.7%
          NEDERLAND 20657 2.3%

          The last day of 2011 was pretty good for wind but it still amounted to less than imports.

          The information is available here:
          http://www.bmreports.com/bsp/bsp_home.htm

        2. Bad day ? From where I come from, the cost of capital meter runs, day in & day out.

          The entropy associated with wind and solar kills their business case. Whoever is coughing the money for this is not held accountable for return. The numbers just don’t add up.

  29. gallopingcamel – The case can certainly be made for small modular reactor LFTRs, and I also favor building SMRs (both smLFTR and smLWRs) that are better suited to some markets. Currently, the United States is engaged in building a coast to coast Smart Grid distribution system to send GWs of wind energy generated in Montana and North Dakota to urban centers in Florida and California. 10 GWe(Heavy)LFTRs could have a place as GRID STRONGPOINTS that would ensure the stable trouble-free performance of the GRID when fed by thousands of unreliable, constantly changing, wind and solar sources mounted around the Country. The actual physical size of a (HEAVY)LFTR is not linear in scaling. A (HEAVY)LFTR is not as large as ten 1 GWe LFTRS or one hundred 100 MWe SMR LFTRs. This is particularly true if S-CO2 turbine-generator technology is developed to couple to the (HEAVY)LFTRs.

    1. Robert, you mention that the size scaling isn’t linear. I probably read what it is at some point but don’t recall. Could you remind me what the size scaling for a given reactor output would be?

      The fuel requirements would scale linearly, and I would suspect the reprocessing side of the Mega-LFTR would scale essentially linearly as well. Any light to shed there?

      1. The cost of LFTR Reactors and the impact of Power Scaling on Cost:
        It is probably not wise to low-ball cost estimates for a first LFTR prototype. Responsible estimators like Dr. Robert Hargraves have suggested figures of around or $1.8 billion dollars a year for 5 years to complete engineering research and build a 1000 MW(e) LFTR prototype with the help of an nuclear industry partner (say Flibe Energy) and thereby produce an NRC certified commercial LFTR design.
        A single region 1 GWe LFTR ORNL-4541 would certainly be least costly style of LFTR and would have the least technical risk[2] – best estimate updated to 2011 numbers is estimated given ORNL-4541 cost reports on the single region 1000 MWe Molten Salt Reactor in (2011 dollars) would be

        Reactor Power Plant – estimated total plant cost of $603.3 million (2011 dollars) for public financing

        Chem Support – Fuel-Recycle Plant – estimated total plant cost of $28.88 million (2011 dollars)
        (These updated estimates, which attempt to correct the inflation that occurred from 1971 to 2011, were prepared using an inflation multiplication factor of 5.45 derived from a calculator provided on the Federal Reserve Minneapolis Website – http://www.minneapolisfed.org/index.cfm)
        Estimates for the cost of a 2-region MSBR (ORNL-3996) need to be updated to be accurate.
        If only the costs of engineering, materials, and labor are considered, it is possible to estimate the cost of a 10 GWe (HEAVY)LFTR. While the power of a fluid fueled reactor scales with the volume of the salt in the reactor core, the cost of the LFTR scales in proportion to the area of the Hastelloy-N vessel required to contain the salt. A LFTR which is 10X the volume and power (assuming the same core power density is used throughout) would require about 4.64X the amount of materials (2″ thick Hastelloy-N, graphite moderator, cement, etc) to form the reactor and enclose the salt so the cost of a 10 GWe (HEAVY)LFTR should be approximately 4.64 times the cost of a 1 GW single fluid Molten Salt Breeder Reactor or about ($632 million X 4.64) = $2.93 billion (2011 dollars). This $2.93 billion figure includes the cost of the LFTR reactor, the cost of the LFTR chemical recycling plant, the cost of the real estate the plant is built on, and the cost of conventional steam turbine-generators. If 2 GW Brayton Cycle S-CO2 turbine-generators become available, the cost of a (HEAVY)LFTR would be lower.
        Estimates like these do not reflect the cost of current regulation (which currently directly contributes about 400% to the cost of current Light Water Reactors). The estimate provided above presumes the cost of building a LFTR (materials, engineering, labor, etc) and Atomic Energy Commission (safe) regulatory standards as they existed in 1971 – not the NRC regulatory environment of today. Any nuclear technology can be made arbitrarily expensive through harassing legal and regulatory actions.
        [1] – http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.html
        [2] – ORNL-4541 – http://www.energyfromthorium.com/pdf/ORNL-4541.pdf

      2. The cost of LFTR Reactors and the impact of Power Scaling on Cost:
        It is probably not wise to low-ball cost estimates for a first LFTR prototype. Responsible estimators like Dr. Robert Hargraves have suggested figures of around or $1.8 billion dollars a year for 5 years to complete engineering research and build a 1000 MW(e) LFTR prototype with the help of an nuclear industry partner (say Flibe Energy) and thereby produce an NRC certified commercial LFTR design.
        A single region 1 GWe LFTR ORNL-4541 would certainly be least costly style of LFTR and would have the least technical risk[2] – best estimate updated to 2011 numbers is estimated given ORNL-4541 cost reports on the single region 1000 MWe Molten Salt Reactor in (2011 dollars) would be

        Reactor Power Plant – estimated total plant cost of $603.3 million (2011 dollars) for public financing

        Chem Support – Fuel-Recycle Plant – estimated total plant cost of $28.88 million (2011 dollars)
        (These updated estimates, which attempt to correct the inflation that occurred from 1971 to 2011, were prepared using an inflation multiplication factor of 5.45 derived from a calculator provided on the Federal Reserve Minneapolis Website – http://www.minneapolisfed.org/index.cfm)
        Estimates for the cost of a 2-region MSBR (ORNL-3996) need to be updated to be accurate.
        If only the costs of engineering, materials, and labor are considered, it is possible to estimate the cost of a 10 GWe (HEAVY)LFTR. While the power of a fluid fueled reactor scales with the volume of the salt in the reactor core, the cost of the LFTR scales in proportion to the area of the Hastelloy-N vessel required to contain the salt. A LFTR which is 10X the volume and power (assuming the same core power density is used throughout) would require about 4.64X the amount of materials (2″ thick Hastelloy-N, graphite moderator, cement, etc) to form the reactor and enclose the salt so the cost of a 10 GWe (HEAVY)LFTR should be approximately 4.64 times the cost of a 1 GW single fluid Molten Salt Breeder Reactor or about ($632 million X 4.64) = $2.93 billion (2011 dollars). This $2.93 billion figure includes the cost of the LFTR reactor, the cost of the LFTR chemical recycling plant, the cost of the real estate the plant is built on, and the cost of conventional steam turbine-generators. If 2 GW Brayton Cycle S-CO2 turbine-generators become available, the cost of a (HEAVY)LFTR would be lower.
        Estimates like these do not reflect the cost of current regulation (which currently directly contributes about 400% to the cost of current Light Water Reactors). The estimate provided above presumes the cost of building a LFTR (materials, engineering, labor, etc) and Atomic Energy Commission (safe) regulatory standards as they existed in 1971 – not the NRC regulatory environment of today. Any nuclear technology can be made arbitrarily expensive through harassing legal and regulatory actions.
        [1] – world-nuclear.org/info/inf62
        [2] – ORNL-4541

        1. Folks, you can’t just scale up and down this way. There are all sorts of mitigating factors. A really serious study can only be seen after the first what-ever-the-size LFTR is deployed.

          Material quantity is not always the issue…it’s how they are assembled. If factory build SMR LFTRs can be assembled on a per-unit cost lower than than the larger, built on site LFTR then you get a cost saving. On the other hand, you may have 10x more minor metering and other BOP costs for various equipment vs 1x the cost for a large (HEAVY)LFTR (like the meme on that).

          I’ve cautioned many in the LFTR community that you may want a 1GW LFTR as opposed to 10x 100MW LFTRs depending on what the ISO and customer wants.

          The best scenario is that SM-LFTR (Small Modular-LFTR?) fills the needs for smaller grids, industrial complexes, remote locations, incremental increases and developing countries whose grids can develop around the SM-LFTR. The HEAVY-LFTR for those that need, say, several GWs planned out over a a few years. Mix and match, not compete, in this regard.

        2. David, fair comments, but I think you miss something.

          Generation III+ LWRs have already moved a huge distance in terms of factory fabrication and modularisation compared to Generation II plant (one of the valid criticisms of the EPR is that Areva failed to recognise japanese experience in this). From what i understand, an ABWR or ESBWR vessel arrives on site with pretty much the entirity of it’s reactor internals, etc. already installed, or for AP1000 heat-exchanger bundles arrive at site fully assembled, and so on.

          What drives on-site cost is the Civil works, and issues like instrumentation installation. Even areas like pipework, which used to be massive contributors to the overall workload on site are much reduced.

          As to the factory assembly itself, you have to recognise that there is a huge range in what constitutes factory production. An Airbus A380 is factory assembled, just as much as is a Nissan Maxima.

          The difference is that despite the best efforts of designers, the A380 is still very largely hand assembled; the Maxima is 90% put together busy automated machinery. You can’t really get costs down that much until you’re using large amounts of automation in the manufacture (and I’m not sure that even at optimistic numbers, there’d be enough volume in the manufacture of SMRs to really automate, or that the materials and technology lend themselves to it).

          Volume tends to be the killer – Even on smaller aircraft than the A380, where you might see production in the hundreds per year, they’re still largely hand-built.

          That’s why I suspect that economies of scale in terms of unit size will tend to dominate economies of scale in terms of manufacturing volume.

          1. @Andy – I used to run a factory that did not use any automated equipment. We were still able to achieve a lot of economies of scale by doing the same thing more frequently. People tend to be pretty good at learning a task and figuring out easier ways to achieve completion. The management trick is to figure out ways to share the benefits of improved task completion with the workers so that they happily implement those improvements for both better production and better quality.

            You do not need a lot of automation to lower the per unit cost when you move from one unit every five years to 10 units per year.

    2. Robert,
      Thanks for that. DV8XL points out that LFTRs using Brayton cycle will be expected to run at temperatures beyond the safe limits of Hastelloy N.

      In my opinion it is a mistake to introduce more than one innovation at a time. Remember the F-111 that had a titanium airframe AND swing wings? The French produced a comparable airplane (Mirage IIIG) at a fraction of the cost in money and lives.

      I would like to see small LFTRs with steam turbines as the first step along the LFTR development path. Let’s not rush things and give the technology a bad name.

      1. Camel,

        I am with you on one innovation at a time.

        Hastalloy-N is not fully qualified but it sounds like it should be ok up to 1200F. Running a steam turbine at 1200F is going to be easier than running a gas turbine and having to use unobtanium for the reactor tank.

        Bill

      2. gallopingcamel – While it would be desirable to operate a Brayton Cycle S-CO2 LFTR at higher temperature (say 800 degrees C) it is certainly possible to operate the LFTR reactor and turbine at a ORNL design temperature of 704 degrees C. At a core salt exit temperature of 704 degrees C, the Hastelloy-N exhibits good corrosion properties (particularly when you adjust the REDOX oxidation-reduction environment of the salt to be reducing). Forty years of materials studies have led to slightly better materials [1] than Hastelloy-N, and these new materials will be important to safely operate at ~800 degrees C, but the first LFTRs should be operated at the ORNL design temperature for safety and then higher temperatures tried when the materials are ready.
        [1] – Ignatiev – Materials for MSRs – http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1943693438479&l=7987d84842
        We could operate a LFTR prototype at the design temperature of 704 degrees C with Hastelloy-N used for the reactor pressure boundary while employing a Brayton Cycle S-CO2 turbine-generator safely today.

  30. David – You are right – To be safe, you always and under all circumstance have to have reliable ways to get rid of the heat. This is true of large (HEAVY)LFTRs as it is true of all other reactors including current GEN-II LWRs. While LFTR advocates sometimes extol the air-cooling advantages of high temperature reactors like LFTRs, (HEAVY)LFTRs would benefit greatly from water cooling to help keep components of manufacturable size. Even with water cooling, it would probably be necessary to build turbine halls with multiple S-CO2 turbine-generator power-blocks connected to the single (HEAVY)LFTR. The concept of a Large Modular LFTR composed of multiple 1.6 GWe LFTRs mounted together is possible and might be practical under some circumstances. While multiple turbine installations have been used successfully in other NPP designs outside the USA, it is still uncommon in the US and would have to be sold to NRC as safe.

    1. Safety is one of the big selling points for LFTRs. It has to be much easier to design a passive drain tank cooling system for small reactors than large ones.

      Have you looked at LeBlanc’s tubular geometry LFTR?

      1. gallopingcamel – The MSRE was a very small fluid fueled reactor (8 MWt) and a rather wonderful and simple approach sufficed (drain tray) worked in that case. ORNL designed several larger Molten Salt Reactors including the Molten Salt Demonstration Reactor (350 MW) which required a very carefully designed drain tank – the MSDR contained the drain salt in multiple engineered layers of active and passive cooling and a 10 GWe(HEAVY)LFTR would be much larger and would require a larger carefully designed set of drain tanks. Still, there are many features of a large LFTR that are easier to implement safely and present fewer problems than are encountered with very large LWRs. The fact that fluid fueled molten salt reactors operate at near atmospheric pressure makes large molten salt reactors much safer than the results of scaling LWR technology up into equivalent sized reactors. The LFTR operating at low pressure does not require a heavy forged reactor pressure vessel and can safely use a much smaller and less expensive containment building. Large LFTRs require less cement and steel than LWRs or Sodium Cooled Fast Reactors of equivalent power. Building LFTRs BIG is possible and practical and can more quickly be built to eliminate energy scarcity.
        [1] – Drain Tank – Engineering Details
        ORNL TM-3832 Molten Salt Demonstration Reactor
        http://www.energyfromthorium.com/pdf/ORNL-TM-3832.pdf

        I am an admirer of David LeBlanc’s tube within tube design – although for maximum breeding ratio a more conventional graphite moderated reactor with alternating fuel and blanket salt channels probably breeds better. Much of the emphasis is now not on breeding U-233 but to achieve iso-breeding which the LeBlanc tube in tube design should achieve nicely.

  31. I find it amazing that anyone can claim to talk intelligently about the history of molten salt reactors and the “whys” behind its lack of success without mentioning the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion (ANP) program and its predecessor. Where do they think that the technology came from?

    It’s like talking about why gas-cooled reactors never caught on in the US without mentioning Fort St. Vrain.

    Speaking of Fort St. Vrain, what is this I hear about Shippingport being the “only” effort in the US to breed fertile material from thorium? Perhaps Kirk isn’t aware that FSV used a uranium-thorium fuel cycle?

    This is why it is so difficult for many knowledgeable people to take the molten-salt fanatics seriously. It’s cute and all to talk about Richard Nixon (and probably gains some traction with audiences predisposed to hate Nixon), but these people seem to have their own version of history, which omits much of what actually happened.

      1. gallopingcamel – Your sources are excellent (Bonometti & Sorensen) and you have a good command of the technology.
        It is possible that you may not have read that much of the Molten Salt design efforts in France at LPSC (Grenoble). There is a truly great MSR design group there that has added somewhat to the fine pioneering work at ORNL.
        French LPSC document archive lpsc.in2p3.fr/gpr/gpr/publicationsE.htm

    1. Kirk should have at least thrown in mention of the Aircraft Propulsion Program in this particular telling of political history. With that program becoming unneeded with the development of ICBMs and with the MSR growing out of that program, it makes some sense that the MSR concept was never given a great deal of consideration as a potential option for being a power generation workhorse.

      Despite Kirk’s omission of that segment, I found the laying out of the timeline of India’s weapons program, Nixon’s administration coming to an abrupt end, the politics of killing reprocessing, the killing of reprocessing causing the need for the NWPA of 1982, and the killing of reprocessing killing a massive portion of the business case for the LMFBR program (and thus the Clinch River Breeder Reactor) to be very enlightening for a kid such as myself, born in 1984 after all those events.

      My guess is that the IFR concept grew almost directly out of the fact that the business case for the LMFBR was shot with the ban on reprocessing and being able to extract plutonium by itself. Can anyone confirm that segment of the history of reactor development programs?

      The irony of just how close the Clinch River Breeder Reactor site is to the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment continually kills me. They’re literally within 5 miles of each other.

  32. “Economies of scale do not mean big. ”

    No Cal, that is exactly what it mean. Of course, when it comes to scalable you should watch the Chinese build two 2600 MWe next to each other. That is 3200 MWe in five or six years.

    “Smaller and more generators means more reliable power which implies less rolling reserve requirements. ”

    Again that is not true. If you have a site with 2400 MWe it does not matter how many units or how the power is produced. An ice storm or tornado can take out the transmission lines.

    “How many utilities can chase down $7 billion for a single construction project? ”

    If a utility does not have the resources maybe they should stay out of the nuclear business.

    When it comes to making electricity with steam turbine/generators bigger is better.

    1. @Kit P

      Economy of scale is a phrase that can also be applied to an enterprise, not just to the size of the product. ExxonMobil and Apple have both obtained the economy of scale even though the products that they sell are rather small. In the case of ExxonMobil, they sell gallons of gasoline; Apple sells iPods, iPhones, iPads and Macintosh computers. They both sell a large quantity of their products.

      As we have discussed many times, statements that you offer as facts are merely opinions and not very educated opinions. You have some narrow amount of experience in a single field, but have stated on a number of occasions that you do not even bother to read or study fields outside of your field of experience.

      If bigger was always better in terms of turbine size, please explain to me why Brayton cycle gas turbines have been so successful in the electrical power business for so many years. They are no where near as large, on average, as steam turbines.

      Of course, I expect that anyone who works for a company that is desperately trying to market 1600 MWe nuclear power plants would continue to claim that bigger is better, even when the customers keep drifting away.

      1. Rod,

        With the lack of traction of adding a reactor at Calvert Cliffs, does Areva have any hopes of installing an EPR in the States?

        1. Kit,

          That doesn’t answer my question. Do you have anything to add regarding Andy Dawson’s comments on the EPR further up this page?

      2. Rod we are talking about producing power. While I read lots of things I refrain from saying stupid things about how many computers are sold. Producing power, a cheap commodity, and computers, an expensive consumer electronic product are different. Who knew? Not an English major. Yes they have some of the base words.

        At the moment, 99.99 % of electricity is produce by turning a generator. Wind farms are more economical with bigger machines. Nuke plants are more economical with bigger machines. It takes the same number of people to watch a big reactor as a little one. It takes a few more people to watch two bid reactors instead of one.

        These are not opinions but facts. What I read and my education level does not change that. Please do not be embarrassed Rod. You are not more educated or better read on energy issues. How about if I make some gammar tepos mistakes so you can correct them. Have a mcaho day!

        “please explain to me why Brayton cycle gas turbines have been so successful in the electrical power business for so many years.”

        You do not know Rod? SSGT are used for grid reliability. For example, a 1000 MWe steam plant wipes a bearing or blows a main transformer. Ten 100 MWe SSGR will be up and running in less than 10 minutes. Then an idle steam plant will be warmed and brought on line.

        There was a time when natural gas was so cheap that the relatively low efficiencies of SSGT did not matter. Now most have been replaced with CCGT when used of base load power.

        Transportation of fuel is not a factor of for nuke plants. Fossil, geothermal, and biomass steam plants must consider the availability of fuel when considering the size.

        So when it comes to producing power for the US grid with nukes bigger is better. Just for record, that was the trend for the commercial side of B&W before it sold out.

        1. @Kit P

          It takes the same number of people to watch a big reactor as a little one.

          BS. My entire engineering department on a submarine was 45 people including the auxiliary and the IC division. The engineering departments on carriers are far smaller than those at large commercial nuclear power plants.

          The NRC might agree with your belief about needing as many operators for small reactors as for larger ones, but then they have never been an organization that was designed to enable nuclear energy to be competitive in the market. Some of their rules are not based on task analysis or a reasonable functional allocation between operators, simplification, and automation.

          I will remind you that while I earned my undergraduate BS in English, I have an MS in Systems Technology. I ran the engineering department on a nuclear powered submarine for 40 months and I was the General Manager at a plastic product manufacturing enterprise for another three years.

          I have a little experience in the topics that I write about. I am getting a bit tired of your snide, “mine never stinks” attitude.

        2. @Kit P

          Producing power, a cheap commodity, and computers, an expensive consumer electronic product are different. Who knew? Not an English major. Yes they have some of the base words.

          Read the full comment to which you are replying. When I mentioned Apple, I mentioned a number of products that are not computers, but fall into the category of cheap commodity products. Do you realize how small and cheap some iPods are? Do you understand that a significant portion of Apple’s business is selling commodity songs or apps for less than $0.99 per unit?

          In addition, Apple was not my only example of a company that achieved scale by selling a lot of products rather than building bigger ones – ExxonMobil sells gallons of gasoline, a relatively cheap commodity product that once went for a quarter per/gal at retail.

      3. Rod, I don’t claim this. Of course it’s not always better, but smaller isn’t always better either. See my comment above.

        One starts with what is needed: what are the criteria? What is the load? How will it develop over a given time? What is the condition of the grid? What does the utility need? How can it best be filled? What are the co-generation needs? etc etc.

        I think the mistake is to counterpoise them; to “market” one vs the other. That means it works both ways. They don’t make one size airplane, right? There are markets for EVERY size airplane.

    2. “If a utility does not have the resources maybe they should stay out of the nuclear business.”

      Not if there is a viable < $700 Million option that they can make an overwhelming business case for, or if they can partner with some other firms to gain access to part of the output of a Gigawatt-sized reactor.

  33. Rod,

    If you do get a chance to speak at google, if you could, please post the date in advance..

    I’m work in the bay area, and one of the perks is that I’ve gone to a few tech talks at the googleplex and they are always fun. I also unfortunately missed the chance to go to this one (damn work schedule!)

    Anyways, here’s to hoping you get a chance.

    Ed

  34. Reading the news lately, I can’t help but notice that both Japan and Germany are pursuing nuclear undertakings abroad while killing their industries at home.

    Greenpeace thinks this is hypocritical and I have to agree.

    1. @Daniel – it is not only hypocritical, but incredibly short sighted. Interestingly enough, both countries have long histories when the population suffered mass hypnosis as a result of effectively implemented propaganda efforts by monied interests.

  35. Darned shame the LFTR did not get support on the first opportunity.

    Just remember the quip that Ron Paul borrowed from someone else:
    “No army can stop an idea whose time has come.”

  36. The reactors may be back on line sooner than we think in Japan.

    Indeed, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has decided to appoint a high-ranking official who promoted the controversial project to develop a fast-breeder nuclear reactor to its top bureaucratic post.

    The ministry is set to appoint pro nuclear deputy minister Yasutaka Moriguchi as administrative vice minister, effective on Jan. 6.

    His job will be, among other things, to deal with the Fukushima nuclear crisis in an appropriate manner.

    I put my money that he will push for safe reactors to be put back online. Enough is enough.

    1. Reading between the lines:

      Dec 23 – Russia has entered into an agreement to supply Uranium to Japan.

      Dec 29 – Japan opens new centrifuge to enrich uranium for its reactors.

  37. A message to the Union of concerned scientists and an interesting twist from Llewellyn King:

    The peace has been kept for five decades by the U.S. nuclear navy. In home waters and ports, nuclear ships and submarines sail without criticism. Even the two organizations which appear to make their livings from relentless attacks on nuclear, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, have not dared to attack the nuclear navy. They do not protest, say, the USS Enterprise, when the aircraft carrier sails into domestic ports with eight reactors at work.

    No one raises issues of waste, terrorist attacks or the consequences of military action. Those who make a living out of opposing nuclear power do not have the temerity to go after nuclear propulsion in warships. The public would not tolerate the disarmament that this would entail.

    Mister Edwin Lyman, any comments ?

  38. I just watched Kirk’s speech. The politics that he highlights are sickening. Thank you for that exposition. I learned a great deal.

    My comments from here out are more of a technical critique of LFTR.

    As a nuclear engineer his focusing on cross sections is important. However, he does not mention the impact of parasitic absorption in other materials. Because of the cross sections in the resonance region are widely varying, neutrons experience significant losses. Additionally, thermal parasitic losses are much higher. these two factors limit the tolerance for impurities in the core making satisfactory material selection difficult and also requires extremely high purity graphite to act as the moderator. Fission products also play a significant role in the poisoning of the reactor as there are many isotopes that have significant thermal and epithermal absorption cross sections.

    Fast reactors do not have those problems. All cross sections are nearly equivalent. Thus fast reactors can be more liberal with the materials used in the core as the core is less sensitive to impurity and poisoning. The lower overall cross sections also means that neutrons travel farther. This has some significant impacts on the kinetics of the reactor. EBR-II, using these physics phenomena, demonstrated inherent safety characteristics that are down right remarkable. The money we spent on fast reactors was not without justification.

    As with everything there are trade offs. Fast reactors rely on a lower number of delayed neutrons and have faster kinetic responses due to reactivity changes. Thermal reactors that are large enough fail to have a sufficient amount of leakage which causes the flux to become unstable if not monitored. All of these things can be taken into account. It’s what engineers do.

    Kirk ignores the 2,000 years worth of fuel siting in UF6 in Paducah and Piketon along with the 200 years in spent nuclear fuel. Similarly we have waste piles of Thorium, but not as much.

    Thorium is a great fertile material at thermal energies. Uranium is a great fertile material at fast energies.

    The conversion ratio for Thorium is much less than the conversion ratio for uranium in fast spectrums. This just means that it takes much longer to build up more ex-core thorium inventory to start up new reactors. Fast reactors take more material, but require significantly less time to build the needed inventory. Thus it is easier to build more fast reactors fueled with Pu than thorium reactors with U-233.

    Thorium has an advantage that its waste stream does not contain very much of anything above U-235. This limits long term repository considerations. Conversely, Integral Fast Reactors don’t have much of anything other than fission products in their waste stream. The actinide concentration for both fuel cycles is nearly equivalent.

    Thermal MSR projects are constrained by Lithium. Fast MSR reactors can use other salts that are much more inexpensive, while achieving the same benefits that he is advocating in LFTR. Which reactor will be more cost effective?

    Sodium reactors like PRISM have mature designs that are available now, as a result of all that research money that Kirk showed. If we are serious about wide scale buildout of nuclear power, managing the fissile inventory is paramount to the rate of implementation. This means that we need to start building fissile inventory or use more warheads to run reactors (this is perhaps the single largest ready source of energy we have in our country.)

    By the way, you can build a bomb out of U-233 just as easy as you can out of U-235 or much easier than out of Pu-239. Thorium reacotrs produce U-233 in very high purity, which is very easily electrochemically separated. Dope the reactor with U-238 and you now loose the advantage of the lack of actinides in the waste stream (Minor Actinides above Pu-239 don’t fission very well in thermal spectra). Again there are trade offs.

    Thorium is great, it is abundant, however it is not any more of a savior than uranium. In this regard, they have the same potential. I advocate both and both need to be understood in context of each other.

    Question for the advocates of the Heavy LFTR, how are you going to manage and monitor for the flux instability in the core? The core is so big that your leakage term will not be strong enough to provide adequate flux shaping to prevent incore flow and power oscillations. Neutron flux stability is perhaps one of the most significant advantages of a small thermal core or a moderately sized fast core.

    1. By the way, you can build a bomb out of U-233 just as easy as you can out of U-235 or much easier than out of Pu-239. Thorium reacotrs produce U-233 in very high purity, which is very easily electrochemically separated.

      I was under the impression that the U-233 is accompanied by small amounts of U-232, which has very radioactive daughter products. Also, most of the knowledge about nuclear weapons development centers around U-235 and Pu-239. A stockpile based on U-233 would need a lot more testing especially to construct modern designs. A new proliferate state isn’t likely to have a lot of opportunities for testing before the international community takes diplomatic action.

      1. John,

        There are two different schemes for removing the U-233 from a LFTR:

        In the single vessel version of a LFTR, the salt is processed to remove Pa-233. This is then held out of the neutron flux until it decays to U-233. This scheme results in a very pure stream of U-233 unless it is denatured.

        In the two vessel version of LFTR, the fertile salt blanket could be processed to remove the Pa-233 as mentioned above but an alternative method is to bubble fluorine gas thru the salt which will volatilize all of the uranium in the salt as UF6, including U-232.

        1. Bill, even if you remove Pa, you will still have U232 contamination, since there are (n,2n) reactions on all heavy metal isotopes. The concentrations are less with Pa removal though.

    2. “ thermal parasitic losses are much higher”

      Higher than what? Why?

      “Fission products also play a significant role in the poisoning of the reactor”

      That is true Cal, this is a big advantage of the MSR. Volatile fission products, including most problematic xenon and krypton, are removed as they are formed, improving controllability and breeding ratio compared to solid fuel reactors. Many other fission products plate out in cold traps and on vessel and piping walls. These advantages are available even in the simplest MSR with no on line reprocessing, just periodic cleaning, at perhaps 30 year interval.

      “EBR-II, using these physics phenomena, demonstrated inherent safety characteristics that are down right remarkable.”

      Race car museums are filled with cars that survived their time on the track. The fact that a few fast reactors have survived to retirement does not prove that fast reactors are safe. I have yet to find proof that a solid fuel fast reactor is prevented, by the laws of physics, from producing a high energy accident far worse than Chernobyl or Fukushima. I think all solid fuel fast reactors should be shutdown and de-fueled until proven absolutely safe from a high energy accident. All of the advantages of the IFR and more can be had with a fast MSR without the risk of a high energy explosion. I am working on an essay to flesh this recommendation out.

      “Thorium is a great fertile material at thermal energies. Uranium is a great fertile material at fast energies.”

      I agree, but uranium will still be cheap at 10 times today’s price. The simplest MSR without online fuel processing uses less than one fourth the uranium per kWh that Gen III plants need. To produce an 80 year lifetime supply of electricity with Gen III requires mining 60 pounds of uranium per person, 15 pounds with the simplest MSR, and 6 ounces with a breeder. Compare that with 1,200,000 pounds of coal. We can get over 99% of the environmental advantage of the breeder with a simple MSR with lower development time/cost, lower cost/kWh, higher reliability and lower risk, compared to LFTR or IFR. We can develop breeders for the long term after simple MSR’s have replaced fossil fuel plants.

      “Thermal MSR projects are constrained by Lithium. Fast MSR reactors can use other salts that are much more inexpensive, while achieving the same benefits that he is advocating in LFTR.”

      I assume you meant other salts that are LESS expensive.

      People made similar statements about zirconium when Rickover pushed reactor development for subs, but production caught up with demand and the price came down. David LeBlanc claims that non lithium salts can be used with a small neutron penalty.

      “how are you going to manage and monitor for the flux instability in the core?”

      Is there any evidence that this will be a problem in a large MSR? My understanding is that flux tilt problems are a result of the interaction between fission products and control rods with a solid core. If power becomes slightly depressed in one region, the burnout of Xe135 is suppressed in that region, allowing the concentration of Xe135 from the decay of previously produced I 135 to grow, further suppressing the power in that region.
      In an MSR the xenon concentration is very low, and the iodine is well mixed, as are the fissile atoms constantly flowing through the reactor vessel. How would long term flux/power depressions be sustained under flowing conditions? Furthermore the salt is in intimate contact with the fission products, so temperature feedback is nearly instantaneous.

      1. Sorry about the “LESS expensive.” I missed the double negative. An editor would be nice.

      2. Higher than what? Why?

        Higher than fast spectrum reactors. In general, thermal reactors are more susceptible to impurities and a higher fraction of neutrons are absorbed in non fuel components, this is because the neutrons aren’t zipping around all over creation and loiter around nuclei that readily suck them up. I do not count breeding as parasitic loss as that is what provides the fissile material to drive the reactor. In breeding, it takes two neutrons on average to induce fission. The cross sections of everything get much larger in thermal reactors. An example of this is what you alluded to with Rickover’s selection of zirconium in the clad material instead of HT-9 or some other such stainless steel alloy. It is why in the little TRIGA FLIP reactor at Wisconsin that all of the structural material was aluminum and the fine control blade (rod) was 316 SS.

        I have yet to find proof that a solid fuel fast reactor is prevented, by the laws of physics, from producing a high energy accident far worse than Chernobyl or Fukushima.

        I assume that you are referring to the sodium-water interaction. Yes, that is a hazard and is readily mitigated in existing SFR designs. If you are concerned about the safety level of the SFR read NUREG-1368. The NRC was concerned about it as well and it is not an issue at anything beyond 10^-7. If 10^-7 is not safe, then we need to shut down every operating reactor in the world. It is also eliminated in Lead and Lead-Bismuth fast reactors. It is also eliminated in sodium fast reactors if you put salt on the other side of the sodium. It allows energy storage. This is one of my research areas.

        I agree, but uranium will still be cheap at 10 times today’s price.

        Who said anything about mining any uranium. Burning depleted uranium means that you don’t have to convert it back into U3O8 and bury it. Call it a cost savings. We have more DU and SNF than we know what to do with and so much so that it is all considered waste. Thorium is in a similar but smaller role in the form of mining tails from rare earth metal extraction. Our future energy is waste today. I am not talking Gen III. I am talking uranium and thorium recycling providing the fissile material to drive thermal and fast reactors.

        I assume you meant other salts that are LESS expensive.

        Yes, there are many other salts out there, Salt peter (not suitable for incore use, but great for energy storage) for example goes for about $0.5/kg compared to FLiBe at $300/kg ish. ORNL had a comparison of the incore salts on a handy slide that I can’t seem to find. Beryllium gives an n-2n reaction that helps your breeding as well, which is part of the reason you don’t want to go away from FLiBe, because you want all the neutrons you can get. This reaction is not important in a uranium fast reactor so another cheaper and domestic salt can be used. My chief issue with MSR’s is the reliance on FLiBe.

        You mention the price of zirconium, which is now readily available. It is on the order of $20/lbm. 304 SS is $8.4/lbm. The difference is that with a fast spectrum other more inexpensive materials become fungible for the more expensive thermal materials. I think FLiBe is just a result of a nuclear engineer that created the best thermal reactor coolant they could think of without placing it in context of the cost and availability. Economics is typically a field that engineers disdain.

        As for the xenon spatial oscillations… The diffusion based models that are used to describe the temporal variations of xenon do not adequately take into account the time dependent nature of the neutron population, and make simplifying assumptions such as a quasi linear equilibrium conditions. To critique this is well beyond the scope of this blog. Here is the short answer. Leakage acts as a constraint on the neutron population. It forces how far the reactor is allowed to deviate from equilibrium condition in the core. Control rods act in this regard too as they act to shape local flux.

        Another thing that most engineers merely tolerate is statistics, ISyE are the exception. The reactor stability is predominantly a statistical issue. Nuclear engineers tend to look at reactors more from a deterministic standpoint than as a statistical machine. Codes like MCNP are just “really good at modeling reactors”, the statistics behind codes such as MCNP are not covered in graduate nuclear engineering programs or texts, and are just taken as a modeling technique.

        If you manage to ever build a Heavy LFTR you will run into problems of flux stability, just like in big PWR’s, that generally don’t have control rods inserted. By the way, power oscillates in “xenon free” core, just the same as if you have been at a flank bell for an entire day every day for two weeks running. Some recent work (Pyeon 2003) suggests that flux tilt is independent of energy. This suggests that it is not caused by xenon which has specific low energy resonances that make it problematic in thermal reactors. IMHO it is the delayed neutrons that cause the power oscillations as they have a significant reactivity effect and whose time dependence is ignored entirely in diffusion and transport theory. First rule of operating a reactor, never underestimate the importance of delayed neutrons.

        I have some questions for you about MSR’s:
        What is the removal efficiency of Xe, I, Pr, and Sm?
        Is the active core in turbulent or laminar flow?
        What is the method of safe shutdown? (more for my edification, I’ve never seen the drawings)
        Do you predominantly rely on flow to control reactivity?

        1. Is the active core in turbulent or laminar flow?

          That’s something that I’d like to know too.

          What is the method of safe shutdown? (more for my edification, I’ve never seen the drawings)

          Well, I assume that there would be control rods, but the usual “failsafe” method for ensuring that the reactor is shut down is an actively cooled (during normal operation) freeze-plug that melts during an accident, say a loss of power, allowing the fuel and salt to drain into tanks where it sits and cools away from the graphite moderator.

          So unlike a LWR, where the moderator goes away (through boiling) to reduce the reactivity in the worst-case scenario, the MSR requires the fuel to be removed from the moderator to reduce the reactivity.

          Strangely, I haven’t heard much about what happens if some loose object in the fuel circuit happens to plug that hole.

        2. “I assume that you are referring to the sodium-water interaction.”

          Cal, I am referring to the possibility of a high energy criticality accident, up to a few hundred tons of TNT equivalent. Here is a recent Sandia report that makes a good Rorschach Test.

          http://prod.sandia.gov/techlib/access-control.cgi/2011/114145.pdf

          Some people will claim this proves fast reactors are reasonably safe, others will say it shows that the specific designs modeled will probably survive the exact scenario modeled, but that is a very long way from proving that fast reactors are incapable of a high yield criticality in accordance with basic principles of physics. More in my essay.

          “Who said anything about mining any uranium.”

          I did Cal. The fuel cost for wind and solar power is zero, but the cost of the land and machinery needed to convert it into reliable dispatchable kWh’s is very high, as is the cost of machinery to convert depleted uranium and especially spent fuel, into kWh’s. Henry Ford did not start with the La Man’s GT40 racer. We should start with the simplest MSR and mine a little uranium for a while longer.

          “Burning depleted uranium means that you don’t have to convert it back into U3O8 and bury it.”

          That is actually a very safe and inexpensive thing to do. Future generations can dig it up if it becomes economically attractive.

          “My chief issue with MSR’s is the reliance on FLiBe.”

          Lithium has relatively high abundance in the earths crust and oceans. Lithium use has increased by a factor of 60 since WWII. The price bounces around a lot but when it goes up it eventually comes down.

          http://minerals.usgs.gov/ds/2005/140/lithium.pdf

          “Leakage acts as a constraint on the neutron population. It forces how far the reactor is allowed to deviate from equilibrium condition in the core.”

          Explain that to a bomb designer. A sphere of plutonium a few inches in diameter has very high leakage, yet it can release 20 kt in a microsecond.

          “If you manage to ever build a Heavy LFTR you will run into problems of flux stability, just like in big PWR’s,”

          Is there any evidence that this will be a problem in a large MSR?

          How would flux/power depressions be sustained in a liquid fueled reactor where the fissile and fission product atoms are well mixed on each pass through the pumps and heat exchangers?

          “What is the removal efficiency of Xe, I, Pr, and Sm?”

          Here is a report on Xe.

          http://www.energyfromthorium.com/pdf/ORNL-TM-3464.pdf

          Details on fission products.

          http://www.energyfromthorium.com/pdf/ORNL-4865.pdf

          Kirks reference library has numerous documents from ORNL with interesting and detailed documentation of their test reactor design and performance.

          http://www.energyfromthorium.com/pdf/

          “Is the active core in turbulent or laminar flow?”

          The large open fast reactor core would be laminar. Not sure about a graphite moderated core. It would depend on the specific design, channel diameter and velocity. There is data on the viscosity of various salts in the ORNL documents. You would have to pick a design and run the numbers. Salt is more viscous then water, so my guess would be laminar to conserve pumping power, but not sure.

          “What is the method of safe shutdown?”

          Control rods and, as mentioned, drain salt into critically safe passively cooled tank(s).

          “Do you predominantly rely on flow to control reactivity?”

          I think flow and control rods are used together.

        3. Every body mentions that the waste can be used as fuel later on with reprocessing.

          The french ‘vitrify’ – put into glass – certain waste products. Once ‘vitrified’, can these waste be used as fuel again or is it lost ?

        4. Bill,
          Thank you very much for the reference. I was not aware of this study. I am glad to see the interest in checking the status of the validation and verification of the codes. Mike Corradini has done a lot of work on the metals reaction and pressure response of sodium spray. This is the identified weak area in the codes. Mike had a number of programs that were working on this back in the 1990’s and he has a great deal of familiarity with the issue. The report is only about the status of the codes. Nothing more, and nothing less. It is a very good status and shows where we stand. What this shows is that the codes give us an effective understanding of how the reactors will respond in many different areas but that they require validation. This means building physical experiments and building a prototype to verify the code with empirical evidence. This fact is not a surprise. NUREG 1368 identified this in 1994. As fundamental research effectively stopped that year the status of the codes have not changed too terribly much.

          Link to NUREG 1368
          http://www.osti.gov/bridge/product.biblio.jsp?osti_id=10133164

          When we run accident scenarios you have to obey the laws of physics in being able to initiate an event. The worst case event as in with just about any reactor is the ATWS. EBR-II demonstrated the physics characteristics of this initiating event lead to elevated temperatures and eventual reactor shutdown due to expansion of the fuel.

          The in pin fuel melt probability of S-PRISM is on the order of 10^-6. The possibility of breaching the integrity of the fuel cladding is beyond 10^-9. It’s been a while since I’ve read NUREG 1368 so my numbers are within an order of magnitude.

          What I did not find in the report you cited was anything that suggested the susceptibility of the reactor to a Chernobyl explosion. Please explain the mechanics of that initiating scenario. If it is on the order of a meteorite taking out all life on the planet, then I’ll not worry about it as there are many other things that are more likely to kill me.

          The elasticity of a commodity is related to its availability. Availability means that in the known locations that it can be extracted and production increased to be able to eventually meet demand. This also requires physical access to the market. This access is controlled by politics. Think of Iran’s threats to close down the Straits of Hormuz, or if you don’t want a hypothetical the impact that the oil embargo had on the US economy and subsequently the Iranian revolution. We would become reliant economically on Argentina. Argentina does not believe in free markets it follows Peronism. Peronism is socialism. Socialists as a fundamental tenet view the markets as something to be controlled to ensure ‘fair and equitable’ distribution of wealth. Rod had on here a speech form Kristina Kirchner, listen to it. Listen to what exactly she is saying and not saying. Fair and equitable for those who control the society (what socialism becomes) means that which will enrich and secure their position. Argentina’s interests are for their own. Just think of China and the rare earth metals fiasco we’ve had for the past several years. What policy concessions have we made that contradict our societies moral values as expressed in our constitution? Be selective upon whom you rely, personally I think we should stop pissing north and south of the border and act to strengthen our relations with our near neighbors north and south.

          Waste exists and must be dealt with. That means that it has a cost and it has an intergenerational societal burden. There is much value in the ‘waste’ that we now have beyond the stored energy. There are the fission products, particularly Strontium-90 which can be used in terrestrial RTG’s and the rare earth metals that are stable and readily separated from the waste and found in much higher concentrations than in the earths crust. You advocate a reactor design that is effectively an enhanced nuclear-chemical reactor. You do so while ignoring the lessons of industrial chemical processes that the MSR was originally designed to emulate. Waste that exists does not go away. The trick is to create a market for the waste so that it has a useful purpose creating value. Everything in the nuclear waste that we have has some economic value it is such concentrated energy that we have to cool it. This takes additional energy and capital. Since we have to expend capital why not do something useful with it.

          The issue of intergenerational equity is one of grave importance and is rightly so hotly debated. I like Solow’s approach of maximizing wealth. I’d generalize it a little more, but he has the right idea. Wealth is money/energy on hand it does not carry a future burden, payment or some other form of liability. Thus to maximize wealth availability for future generations it is to minimize the liabilities that they carry. Thus the issue of finding economic purposes for our nuclear waste (DU and SNF) becomes one of intergenerational responsibility.

          Wind and solar are not “free”. The prime mover is, however, there is a great deal of capital and energy required to reduce the entropy of those sources to meet grid reliability standards, in the form of energy storage and back up power. If we don’t back them up, then we have to reduce the efficiency of our economy, which means a lower overall economic output for a given energy input. Renewables are a poor example to cite.

          let me give you an example in fluid dynamics as an analogy to explain what it is that I am talking about. First, leakage acts as a constraint on the system it constrains the allowable distribution of neutron flux within the reactor. This is like the amount of subcooling in a boiling channel. A highly sub cooled channel (P_system>> P_sat) is much more resilient to heat flux into the system in regards to establishing a CHF condition. Thus a very very large heatflux is required to establish DNB. As this margin collapses so too does the critical heat flux ratio. The the converse is true for velocity of the coolant. The stability of the flow regime within the core is vital to the predictability of the safety characteristics of the reactor. The Large MSR is constrained by sub cooling, average volumetric heating, and coolant flow rate. The small MSR has the same constraints and one additional of neutron flux density. Let’s take the channel design of the thermal MSR. Large variations and oscillations in coolant density will lead to flow instability between the channels. The effect because of subcooling of the salt is mitigated, however with the reactor able to maintain criticality in multiple configurations will lead to local power differences because of the poor coupling of the subregions of the core due to a poor MFP of the neutrons. The problem comes in when harmonics develop between the flow and power of the various regions. Prompt neutrons are born where the fission occurs delayed neutrons are born in a different part of the core. Thus the adiabatic approximation of the various phase volumes incore that is fundamental in existing reactor codes is not satisfactory because there is sufficient time for the coolant/fuel to conduct heat and relax towards a new thermal equilibrium effecting moderator density(minimal) and coolant density(significant). An analogy to the overall effect is chugging in a BWR or local power peaking in a PWR after a sufficiently large reactivity and power perturbation.

          It is for this reason that the large MSR is a poorly thought out concept as you are giving up an important constraint of the shape and stability of the flux profile under a wider range of flow and power density. Thus the large MSR will have to increase the flow or decrease the power density to achieve a more stable flux. This effects the economics of the reactor significantly.

          Laminar flow is defined by poor mixing. Additionally, you are likely going to have fuel channels through moderator blocks in order to achieve a thermal neutron flux. Thus the radial mixing whether a vat or a channel type design is negligible. This means each channel or channel volume becomes more susceptible to flow instability. Turbulent flow because of the radial mixing has generally stable velocity profiles which adds to the stability of the system.

          What is the status of the coupled neutronics, thermal-hydraulic, mass, energy and radiation transport codes that are fully time dependent? Without the codes you need to build many small and increasing in size prototypes to validate the neutronic and T-H stability of the system. This takes time and money. You are overstating the Technological Readiness Level of the MSR.

          Thank you for the answers to the questions. This is proving a productive conversation for me to learn new things. I hope sincerely that I will see MSR’s built in my lifetime. There are too many questions and not enough answers for me to be comfortable with widescale implementation when there are other more proven technology suites that are available now, notably HTGR’s and S-PRISM and with some more development AHTR, SmAHTR type reactors. If we start all out research now, MSR’s will likely be available when I retire.

          I am not interested in solving problems after I die. So I focus on solutions that are available now or in the near term, try not to belabor the past, but understand the history to affect current affairs.

          I have not had time to go through the other references that you provided, but am looking forward to reading them. Thank you for including the links.

          Daniel, in answer to your question, yes, but it is difficult.

        5. Cal,
          In regards to your question, “What is the status of the coupled neutronics, thermal-hydraulic, mass, energy and radiation transport codes that are fully time dependent?” has that been done yet for existing BWRs and PWRs? That sounds a lot like what the mission of CASL is with Watts Bar Unit 2 being observed from its initial startup as part of validating the codes. http://www.casl.gov/goals.shtml

          Regarding the rest of that paragraph:
          “Without the codes you need to build many small and increasing in size prototypes to validate the neutronic and T-H stability of the system. This takes time and money. You are overstating the Technological Readiness Level of the MSR.”

          That might be where the Chinese Thorium MSR effort may have a significant advantage under presently existing circumstances (NRC regulation and China having a committed, likely well-funded effort).

      3. There is another assumption that you are making about the supply or availability of Lithium. That is that its price is very elastic. What basis do you have to support that assumption? What geopolitical vulnerabilities threaten that assumption?

        Canada and Australia have a lot of it. Argentina has the most, and is more concerned about socialism than free markets. Lately, our politicians seem hell bent on pissing off Canada. I have a lot of Canadian friends and they hit hard when they are angry. I think it is because of the hockey but I am not so sure.

  39. However, the same is true in terms of reactor-grade plutonium, in the form of Pu240 “contamination”; in reality, the challenges of weapon production from U232 contaminated U233 and Pu240 contaminated Pu239 are pretty similar.

  40. Proliferation is, and has always been a red herring issue for nuclear power.

    First, States wishing to arm themselves with nuclear weapons have not chosen to obtain their nuclear material from their power reactors, but rather have built dedicated facilities for that purpose.

    Secondly, it is very clear that there is nothing the international community can do to stop a State from perusing a nuclear weapons program if that State wants it badly enough.

    Thirdly, there is simply no point in demanding proliferation proof domestic reactors in States that currently deploy nuclear weapons or those that have a short term breakout capability.

    This whole issue is an exercise in slamming the barn door after the horses have bolted.

    1. DV82XL,
      I agree with you whole heartedly on all your points. It is however, a political issue that is thrown in the face of nuclear power, that requires dealing with through either policy or engineering. The problem is that the goal is made intentionally vague so that engineering is not very effective. Perhaps one day we will see the light and stop the insanity.

  41. “it’s good, old-fashioned fashioned construction cock-ups. ”

    Andy, that more or less sums up cost overruns in the past at failed US plants but keep in mind inflation at the time was very high. There were also a lot of people who knew how to do it right the first time.

    “the industry has a lousy record of constructing plant without delays and cost escalations, ”

    Are you sure Andy? Is that based on studying all projects are just the ones you remember because they were such cock-ups. Let me ask you if you have more than the 15 minutes of commercial experience that Rod has when he says things like this:

    “I agree that the nuclear industry has too many engineers that like to redesign things ”

    Nuke plants used to be designed to customer specifications for good reasons. For each site is different specially from a cooling water point of view. Each customer wanted a different power output.

    Standard engineering practice is to take the current design and add any lessons learned.

    Twice I have heard how ‘complex’ a design is. That is more of an indication of lack of experience. I am not aware of anything complex or difficult to build for a ‘core catcher’.

    The bottom line is producing power. This is where people get confused with models and calculations. A big reactor that runs for 60 years will make a lot of electricity. It doe not matter to me how you do it.

    1. I am not aware of anything complex or difficult to build for a `core catcher’.

      That’s for sure. a “core catcher” is nothing more than a big slab of concrete. Of course, if you want to claim it as a safety feature, then there’s a lot of paperwork involved. That’s where the complexity comes in.

      1. Please correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t the initial 6 month delay at Olkiluto caused by difficulty in successfully pouring a big slab of concrete?

        1. Rod – Even the simplest of tasks can be screwed up. You’d think that cutting a hole in a concrete wall would be easy, wouldn’t you? Go ask Progress Energy about that.

          Just because someone managed to screw it up on the first try, doesn’t mean that there’s anything overly complex about the concept.

          1. @Brian

            Actually, having cut holes in concrete, I would never assume that it would be easy, especially when the concrete is several feet thick and reinforced by stressed rebar that is thicker than my forearm.

            If I needed to perform that evolution and I knew that there was a limited body of experts who had successfully completed the task for dozens of other customers, I would not risk a multibillion dollar asset to save a few tens of millions.

            Engineers who spend their lives in office buildings (and I acknowledge that I have spent the past 15 years inside office buildings) often think of things that involve real material, real dirt and real people as simple concepts.

            Mistakes are not uncommon, neither are material behaviors that stray from the ideal. Those are just some of the reasons why learning curves are almost inevitable if you keep performing the same task.

      2. I also thought that the complexity of the EPR was due to meeting the regulatory hurdles of Germany. Seems that regulation adds complexity for marginal safety gains. Are German safety standards better than US standards, which is the gold standard? Or should we adopt reactor safety by fiat?

        1. The way I understand it, the EPR was designed specifically to cruise through regulatory approval in France and Germany. It is essentially an upgrade of the French N4 design, with improvements determined by going point-for-point down a wishlist supplied by the regulators.

          Thus, the design is easy for the regulators to understand, but it adds additional redundancy and features to handle severe accidents. The design is also more efficient and simpler than most currently operating designs — in spite of being a much larger reactor — but most people overlook these points.

          1. @Brian:

            I guess I am being dense. Your statements below seem to contradict each other:

            (1) Thus, the design is easy for the regulators to understand, but it adds additional redundancy and features to handle severe accidents.
            (2) The design is also more efficient and simpler than most currently operating designs…

            Though redundancy can be good, it rarely improves simplicity. Features that handle severe accidents can also be beneficial, but they rarely improve efficiency.

        2. Through good engineering, a design can have more features with less complexity. Just as, through good programming, a computer application can offer more features with fewer lines of code.

          In this case, although the EPR has four independent safety trains, it contains fewer pumps, valves, and pipes than a comparable nuclear plant based on a design running in the US today.

          The efficiency is thermal efficiency. The EPR design is capable of achieving about a 35-36% efficiency, which means more electricity generated (and sold) per tonne of fuel.

          The EPR is also designed to be more efficient at earning back its capital costs. The extra redundancy leads to a higher availability (the sales brochures claim a 92% uptime), which means that the plant is earning money for a longer period each year than a typical nuclear plant.

    2. @Kit P

      Standard engineering practice is to take the current design and add any lessons learned.

      Twice I have heard how ‘complex’ a design is. That is more of an indication of lack of experience. I am not aware of anything complex or difficult to build for a ‘core catcher’.

      Kit, just how much experience do you have in actually building or manufacturing anything? Designs that seem pretty simple on paper are often quite challenging to get right in practice. Once you have finally figured out how to make or build something, all of the knowledge can be lost when the engineers in their cosy offices decide to change everything one more time.

      As you say, building difficulties are sometimes attributable to a lack of specific experience, but what you have failed to understand is the cause of the lack of experience.

      In a previous comment, you mentioned your pride in the fact that the US has 104 operating reactors. My problem with that statement is that 15 or 20 years ago we had 111 operating reactors. The nuclear contribution to the US electrical power grid reached 20% two decades ago and has not budged much since then. We have little or no building experience because previous generations of nukes priced themselves out of the market by choosing to design and build only very large, one of a kind units.

      1. Experience of the past, like Senator Domenici points out, will help the learning curve this time around.

        The Senator said that France had 2 types of reactor and hundreds of different cheeses as opposed to the US who had 2 kinds of cheese and a truckload of different nuclear designs.

        I bet you that this time around, 2 ou 3 designs will be the foundation of the next waves of reactors. Economies of scale and riding the learning curve will now be possible.

      2. Rod – Dr. Bernard Cohen in his book “Nuclear Energy Option” presents a case that the reason why the cost of nuclear escalated so rapidly in the late 1970s and 1980s was regulatory ratcheting (in the name of public safety relentlessly driving upwards obstructive but only marginally effective regulation – added cost but did not improve safety) and regulatory turbulence (the retroactive application of new NRC rulings on existing operating power plants). Dr. Cohen’s studies reveal that NRC regulation was responsible for directly raising the cost of new nuclear by 400% in the period from 1973 (the year before the passage of the legislation that created the NRC) to the late 1980s:
        “Regulatory ratcheting, quite aside from the effects of inflation, quadrupled the cost of a nuclear power plant.”
        Larger size plants did not drive up cost per MWe-hr generated, regulation did.
        For Small Modular Reactors to produce greater economies of scale of serial factory production, NRC must first issue the licenses to construct those reactors. The problem is that the NRC has not once in the last 37 years issued a license to construct a new reactor that resulted in a new reactor being built successfully. You cannot achieve economy of scale in serial production if there is no production.
        It is time to reform the radical structure of the NRC with its single point of focus on “public safety to the exclusion of any other consideration” and replace it with a balanced regulator that wisely balances and optimizes encouragement of nuclear technology and the nuclear industry as it guides the future growth of nuclear by wisely chosen restrictive regulation.

        1. @Robert

          There were many factors that drove the cost of nuclear power up; regulatory ratcheting was an important one. However, I. C. Bupp made a pretty good case in his book “Light Water” (http://books.google.com/books/about/Light_water.html?id=bFC9tEROxwAC) about the difficulties caused by building ever larger reactors. It was not just that the reactors were larger, but that each step up stretched the limitations of the available production machinery and reset the learning curves since there was little repetition of doing the same task over and over.

  42. Cal writes,
    “just like in big PWR’s, that generally don’t have control rods inserted. ”

    Which one are those? PWR use rods and boron.

    Brian Mays
    “Of course, if you want to claim it as a safety feature, ”

    ‘Severe Accident’ design features are ‘not safety related’.

    Rod states,

    “Actually, having cut holes in concrete, ”

    How many SG or RV head jobs have you worked? How many under 60 days?

    Here is a concept from stupid engineers. Make the equipment hatch big enough to fit the reactor vessel. If large components only lasts 60 years but concrete last 600 years Rod great, great, great grandchild will be asking why are we not building any new reactors.

    “I guess I am being dense. ”

    You would be less ignorant if you had more experience or maybe read a FSAR or two. First off all new reactors in the US and EU will have features for a severe accident. If you can show that hydrogen build up is not an issue except for after a severe accident, then passive hydrogen recombiners become ‘not safety related’.

    “Though redundancy can be good, it rarely improves simplicity. ”

    One of the complex thing at nuke plants is routine surveillance testing and fixing things that break. Typically a safety system must be repaired in 72 hours. What are the assumptions with 4 trains. One train is out of service because routine maintenance can be done on line. One train fails because it contains the break for the LOCA. One train fails because the diesel did not start. That leaves one train to keep the core covered.

    Twice I have had to figure out what the environmental conditions for equipment after the accident. One case was for a power uprate. As it turns out, the original calculation bounded the uprate. Someone had foresight. The second time I showed that no calculation was necessary because of redundancy.

    “Kit, just how much experience do you have in actually building or manufacturing anything? ”

    Lots, maybe you missed it but I have been around a long time. Most of it not behind a desk running computer programs. Rod you keep telling me that what I observed is wrong based your perception.

    The fact remains that we overestimated the demand for electricity. If you go back a look, many nuke were canceled before TMI, before out of control inflation. We only needed so many new nukes. Canceling power plants is just not a only a nuke thing. I can cite coal plants that sat idle for many years because they were not needed.

    I suppose it is cheaper to screw up building a little plant than a big one. However, there are sure a lot of big plants out there that show that it can be suspenseful done.

    1. Kit – I did not say “safety related.” Your pedantry is appreciated, but you misunderstood that I was not using the word safety in its precise technical meaning as understood in nuclear regulation.

    2. @Kit P

      The fact remains that we overestimated the demand for electricity. If you go back a look, many nuke were canceled before TMI, before out of control inflation. We only needed so many new nukes.

      We stopped marketing electricity and stopped driving the price ever lower. Instead of increasing the unit sales volume for their valuable product, electric utilities decided to increase revenue by increasing prices.

      I had a good friend many years ago who was a home economics major in the 1950s. When she graduated from college, she was pleasantly surprised to find that the local electric power utility company had several openings for people with her skills to teach people how to use stoves, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and other devices that consumed electricity but also made lives far more enjoyable and less burdensome.

      She ended up working for the company for 25 years before being laid off when “conservation” and “demand management” became more popular than teaching people to live better by using more power. Her company had cancelled several nuclear projects in the early 1970s and was bumping up against reserve margin limits.

      A major part of the basis for the out of control inflation of the 1970s was a dramatic leap in the cost of energy. Oil that was trading for less than $3 per barrel jumped to $12 per barrel in less than a year. It reached $40 per barrel by 1980. One of the first victims of the Arab Oil Embargo was PSEG whose refineries drastically reduced their electricity consumption. That company had several large nuclear plants on order that were going to be installed off shore by Westinghouse’s Off Shore Power Systems.

      When the load dropped, the company had to stop bleeding cash as quickly as possible, so they cancelled the nuclear plants – which were the only construction projects that they had to cancel.

      https://atomicinsights.com/1996/08/offshore-power-systems-big-plants-for-big-customer.html

      Here is a concept from stupid engineers. Make the equipment hatch big enough to fit the reactor vessel. If large components only lasts 60 years but concrete last 600 years Rod great, great, great grandchild will be asking why are we not building any new reactors.

      That is a great concept and one that I have seen in action at Flamanville. However, it is irrelevant to the job that was being discussed at Crystal River where there was no thought given to large hatches by the engineers who designed that plant and where the plant operators decided that they could save a few tens of millions by doing a job themselves without calling in the experts.

      Here is another concept from a dumb English major who can read. Remember that discussion we had long ago about vented containments and how they might eliminate the need for so much concrete in the first place? Earlier this week, I happened to read a report from a highly respected organization in the nuclear industry that held a Fukushima forum recently. Here is a quote from page 11 of their document number 11-009:

      “Filtered venting can prevent containment overpressure, reduce the challenge to the containment barrier, minimize overall radioactive releases, and potentially preclude the need for evacuation of the nearby populace.”

      As we have discussed in the past, my commercial nuclear energy experience is more limited than yours. However, each day we both gain exactly as much additional time in the industry.

      1. Rod,
        I appreciate the history lesson, as I would otherwise not have known that utilies employed home economics majors to teach people to use electric appliances. That said, it would seem that to a reasonably large extent, market saturation for many electrical devices (particularly A/C in the south) occurred sometime maybe in the 70’s, and that some slowing of demand growth rates occurred “naturally” due to market saturation rather than “unnaturally” from conservation and demand management.

        1. So I certainty in favor of the use of electricity to improve living standards but the fact remains that many power plants of all kinds were canceled because we did not need them.

          It that diminishing returns things. When a nuke plant replaced oil that had had become more expensive, it was a huge win for rate payers. Pushing an modern coal plant of line 20 years ago would have no economic benefit.

        2. Joel is correct about market saturation. I was reading a list of the percentage of ‘poor’ that have electric appliance that were only for the rich. There is also natural conservation. My new heat pump is more efficient than the old one. I did not replace because of an artificial incentive but because it would cost more to repair than replace.

    3. @Kit P

      Cal writes,
      “just like in big PWR’s, that generally don’t have control rods inserted. ”

      Which one are those? PWR use rods and boron.

      Cal was talking about the performance of reactor cores during power operations. Typically, large PWRs operate with their control rods fully withdrawn (i.e. not inserted) and control reactivity with boron.

      1. Again, which ones? Rod and Cal typically do not what they are talking about. Every commercial PWR that I know uses both control rods and boron to adjust power on a real time basis.

        Every BWR that I know of uses flow (voids) and control rods to adjust power on a real time basis

        The big difference is that a commercial PWR can not get to cold shutdown with adding boron.

        1. Kit,
          Try every ice condensed PWR built by Westinghouse. The control rods are used for reactor startup. Boron concentration is set to allow reactor criticality with the control rods partially inserted. The reactor is then brought to power and the control rods and burnable poisons slowly adjusted for full power operations.

          Burnable poisons such as Gadolinium are used to limit the required boron concentration to mitigate the negative impact that soluble poisons have on void coefficient of reactivity. The boron level is increased and the rods are fully withdrawn for power operations. The operators then control the reactivity swings over core depletion with the control rods withdrawn. In plants that have a load following capability the control rods or fine control element is left inserted to allow reactivity changes that do not require changes in boron concentration. This has two effects. First is that the longevity of the control rods is enhanced and secondly, the utilization of the fuel is enhanced leading to longer cycle lengths through more effective neutron economy.

          To quote Duderstadt and Hamilton, Nuclear Reactor Analysis (p. 554-555):
          “In light water reactors, boric acid is frequently dissolved in the coolant (to concentrations of ~2000ppm) to act as shim control. Such soluble poisons or chemical shim have several advantages. Since the poison distribution is uniform and independent of the amount of reactivity being controlled, the fuel loading can be more easily distributed to yield a uniform power distribution, such as by zone-loading patterns. Chemical shim reduces the mechanical control rod requirements quite considerably. Since such rods are expensive and occupy a sizable fraction of the core volume, the elimination of mechanical control where possible is desirable.”

          They go on, “Hence chemical shim is only of use to compensate for relatively slow reactivity changes such as those due to fuel burn up or conversion, fission product poisoning, and moderator temperature change (temperature defect).”

          Now, boron has significant O&M considerations and additional complications of reactor control. This is why mPower will not use Boron as a chemical shim. As I understand boron will only be used in cold shut down conditions as a chemical poison, but don’t quote me on this as I failed to ask this question when I had the opportunity.

          AP-1000 as I understand will use a set of fine control blades to allow the operators control of reactivity without having to adjust poison concentration. These blades are in a position that periodically alternates to provide a more even burn up across the core. (Think rod programming back in your Navy days). The boron concentrations are then periodically adjusted in larger steps to account for fission products and depletion.

          The purpose for moving entirely away from boron with mPower was to eliminate the need of the CVCS system. Instead they have a charge/discharge system and maintain a constant core water inventory, like other similar small reactors. As for reactivity control on mPower, I defer to others who know the design far better than my second hand knowledge.

        2. Cal,

          If I remember correctly, I almost think WBN and SQN are the only 2 Ice Condenser PWR sites. I might be off on that, though.

          Also, if you see this before you see your email, check your email.

  43. @Kit

    “So the first place Rod is wrong is thinking that using nuclear fuel efficiently is important.”

    Apparently using a few percent at most of the energy in a given type of fuel makes sense to Kit in the here and now. It may potentially make a great deal less sense 100, 1000 or 5000 years from now. Are supplies of fissile material infinite? Can we afford to be completely indifferent to the welfare of future generations?

    “A significant fraction of a LWR power reactor fissions from fertile material. LWR are breeder reactors.”

    Really? Tell me, how many neutrons in one of your LWRs have energies above the ~1 MeV fission threshold for U238 at any given time, hmmm? Given that only 0.7% of natural U is fissile, how much “breeding” really goes on?

    As for the copious amounts of transuranics that Kit’s PWR’s produce, no doubt he thinks everyone who worries about them is an idiot, too, along with all the rest of the people in the world except for himself and, at most, two or three others. Unfortunately, some of those idiots have sufficient clout to stop the nuclear industry in its tracks. When it comes to transuranics, Kit, you’re going to have to take the worries of all those people you consider idiots (e.g., all but you and two or three others in the world) into account whether you like it or not.

    1. I would be concerned about ‘welfare of future generations’ if their welfare was dependent on the like of Rod or Helian to ensure it. Rod or Helian like to create a drama and then lay a guilt trip on anyone more knowledgeable who rejects the drama.

      To be blunt if your argument is weak if you have to misrepresent what I say.

      About 35% of a LWR power is from fission of Pu-239 after a certain point in core life.

      “no doubt he thinks everyone who worries about them is an idiot, too, ”

      Never gave it a thought. I worry about teenage girls texting while driving and drunk drivers. With a few billion on the planet I just do not have time to worry what everyone else is worried about. So Helian if you would like to remove all doubt your intellect go ahead and give me three reasons why I should worry about ‘transuranics’.

      1. Kit,

        The point is not whether the “welfare of future generations” is up to Rod or Helian or Kit or Joel as an individual. It is that the welfare of future generations is dependent upon the present generation collectively.

        The present trajectory is not promising for those future generations in terms of having access to the levels of energy that you and I have at our disposal with the simple turn of a switch. Whether you recognize and admit it or choose to ignore it since you’re closer to the end of an average life expectancy than others of us, that is the case.

        Thus, Rod and others here recognize that actions should be taken to attempt to change the present trajectory. Rod is trying to do what he can, through his present employment and through this blog, to apply a force and cause an acceleration towards a trajectory that provide better access to energy for future generations.

        1. Joel the point is about trying to manipulate people with a guilt trip. Rod or Helian provided no evidence to support that future generations are being affected adversely.

          On the other hand I will point out that my father’s generation saved the planet from dictators and my generation has saved it from pollutions. I am rally proud of the nuke plants that will keep making electricity long after I am dead. Those plants will leave no significant burden on future while providing power for today.

          “The present trajectory is not promising …”

          Complete rubbish. There is not technical reason that every family can on the planet can not be supplied a 1000 kwh/month until the sun burns out using fission. China could be getting 20% of their power from nukes if they had followed the US leadership. Instead the corrupt communist government focused on slave labor coal.

          The only thing my age has to with is the ability to recognize BS. I do not know spending time in DC makes people thing they have some inside knowledge insight about something other than a big city that produces nothing but regulations.

          This old guy thinks the world is going in the right direction. Can we do thing better? Yes, new GEN III+ LWR are better. Can Rod or Helian do better? No a chance.

        2. Kit,

          I think you’re missing the point. I’m not seeing a guilt trip from those 2. Rod has pointed out in past postings how future generations are being adversely affected. For one simple example, Rod has pointed out the way the natural gas industry has promoted the “whopping” 90 year supply of domestic gas.

          The part of the present trajectory that isn’t promising is not due to technical reasons at all, as I’m sure Rod and many others here would agree. Once some of the domestic Gen III plants get further along, and the COL process (10CFR52) proves to be an improvement over the 2-part process (10CFR50), the trajectory will be looking better. That is still in the future though.

          China could very well be getting more than 30% of their power from nukes sooner than we will in the U.S., considering we’ve hovered around 20% for as long as we have and will only be adding about 1180-ish MW of capacity prior to 2016 or 2017.

          I think you’re reading things from a different vantage point than many reasonable people would. Considering the tone of most of your critiques of Rod, I am very surprised that you stop by here as frequently as you do. You must be gaining something from your presence, even if you would deny actually learning anything here.

          Also, since Rod is directly working on a Gen III+ (maybe ++) Reactor design, I have to dismiss your final paragraph as being intellectually inconsistent.

      2. And don’t worry about those transuranics, Kit.

        Hopefully Cal will be able to make some advances that will change our present trajectory and perhaps some of those transuranics can be fissioned in an S-PRISM reactor coupled to a coal-to-liquid fuels installation at a converted fossil plant and help produce both some electricity and some domestic oil.

      3. Since when is pointing out that it may not be wise to waste potential energy sources and unnecessarily create a lot of transuranics in the process “creating a drama” and “laying a guilt trip?”

        “To be blunt if your argument is weak if you have to misrepresent what I say. About 35% of a LWR power is from fission of Pu-239 after a certain point in core life.”

        You used the term “fertile,” not me. The last time I looked Pu-239 wasn’t on anyone’s list of fertile materials.

        “Complete rubbish. There is not technical reason that every family can on the planet can not be supplied a 1000 kwh/month until the sun burns out using fission.”

        Hmmm, let’s do a quick back-of-the envelope calculation. The population of the planet should level off at 12 billion in about 50 years, and we’ll assume one family for every four people, keeping the population level for the next 5 billion years, the usual number given for the lifespan of the sun. That makes 3 billion families using 1000 kwh/month or 1.2e4 kwh/yr, or a total of 3.6e13 kwh/yr. There are about 2.26e7 kwh/kg of U235, so if we multiply 3.6e13 times 5 billion years a divide by that number, that means it will take 7.96e15 kg of U235 to produce the necessary amount of energy.

        Now the earth’s crust is 2.7 parts per million so, since U235 is 0.7% of that, 18.9 parts per billion of U235. We will assume that it is impractical to mine uranium any deeper than the earth’s crust, which weights a total of 2.826e22 kg. If U235 is 18.9 parts per billion of that, we come up with a total of only 5.34e14 kg in the entire earth’s crust, which, alas, is well short of the 7.96e15 kg needed, and therefore not sufficient to supply the amount of energy our friend Kit specified.

        Let’s assume, being good sports, that the population will stabilize at a lower number, so that 5.34e14 kg of U235 is just barely adequate to supply the necessary energy. That, of course, begs the question of how we will economically mine every atom of U235 from the earth’s crust.

        Not to worry, we have a very long time to carry out the mining process. I suggest we supply Kit with a shovel and a pair of tweezers, and let him dig through the earth’s crust, picking out the atoms of U235 one by one. The process would be inefficient, but, after all, he would have 5 billion years to complete the job. A possible drawback of this plan is that Kit is mortal, but that problem could be solved by cloning him every 40 years or so. A suitably dignified ceremony could be devised for the passing of the shovel and tweezers from clone to clone. In a word, then, what Kit suggests may just possibly be feasible.

        1. Gosh I was wrong. I was thinking that we only needed to worry about the next billion years not 5 billion.

          I am not worried about me dying either. I think there are plenty of young smart people around that will keep making electricity.

  44. “Here is a concept from stupid engineers. Make the equipment hatch big enough to fit the reactor vessel.”

    Kit, the engineer did the analysis and found that the present day cost of punching a hole in a containment building 60 years into the future is far less than the cost of designing, building and maintaining a huge door that will remain gas tight under 70 psi steam for 60 years.

    He or she also estimated that the probability of that happening is less than 1 in 3.

  45. Bill every nuke plant I have been at has a big equipment hatch and personal airlock. I am not a civil engineer so I do not cost of making it bigger. Maintaining the leak tight is not an issue as far as I know.

    Does Bill have any reason to think it is not a good idea?

  46. Cal, thanks for the substantial response.

    “The in pin fuel melt probability of S-PRISM is on the order of 10^-6. The possibility of breaching the integrity of the fuel cladding is beyond 10^-9.”

    I do not have confidence in those numbers. There have been 8 fast neutron power reactors of more than 100 Mw thermal. One has performed well, BN 600, and one has melted fuel, Fermi.

    “What I did not find in the report you cited was anything that suggested the susceptibility of the reactor to a Chernobyl explosion. Please explain the mechanics of that initiating scenario”

    I am worried about a core containing several hundred critical mass equivalents of plutonium, melting down in a way that produces multiple criticalities, where the shock wave from a relatively low energy criticality produces a high velocity geometry change in another large irregular mass of plutonium, resulting in a high speed increase in reactivity deep into the super prompt critical range.

    Some will argue that the high neutron flux will start the chain reaction early. That is true, from a bomb design perspective this would be a fizzle, but a fizzle can be tens to hundreds of kt depending on velocity, geometry and mass involved.

    Bomb physics is focused on spherical geometry to minimize fissile requirements, but with a large mass, the assembly and disassembly rate will be slower, for a given yield, than with the minimum mass in spherical geometry.

    It is not my responsibility to prove fast reactors are dangerous. It is the proponents’ responsibility to prove they are safe under all conditions, and I am still looking for the proof.

    All the advantages of solid fuel fast reactors and more are available in fast MSR’s. The MSR is at or near its maximum reactivity configuration during normal operation, fissile atoms in an MSR cannot be separated from coolant atoms into a concentrated mass, and the core can be transferred to a neutron and thermal passive safe geometry.

    “The elasticity of a commodity is related to its availability.”

    I do not worry about lithium because;

    1… MSR’s will use a small fraction of the world supply.
    2… Lithium cost per kWh is very small; nuclear plants can out bid the battery companies.
    3… There are alternative salts.
    4… Lithium is abundant. Seawater extraction of lithium and uranium become practical if the cost goes up substantially.

    “You advocate a reactor design that is effectively an enhanced nuclear-chemical reactor. You do so while ignoring the lessons of industrial chemical processes that the MSR was originally designed to emulate.”

    What are those lessons? Processing molten salt is simpler than disassembling solid fuel, processing it and manufacturing new fuel rods.

    “The issue of intergenerational equity is one of grave importance and is rightly so hotly debated.”

    Breeder reactors convert uranium and thorium into fission products, making the earth less radioactive for most of its remaining days than it would be without humans. But future generations will benefit more from a reliable supply of cheap clean energy, and perhaps some carbon left in the ground for non energy applications.

    “Thus the issue of finding economic purposes for our nuclear waste (DU and SNF) becomes one of intergenerational responsibility.”

    Save the DU and SNF for fast breeder MSR’s, sell the fission products of value, bury the rest under the seabed. The only quibble we might have is that I think we should keep the spent fuel in dry storage until it becomes economical to process, when the fast reactors need it. Most people want to reprocess now.

    “The stability of the flow regime within the core is vital to the predictability of the safety characteristics of the reactor.”

    If an IFR experiences sodium coolant boiling the result will quickly be failed cladding, and melted fuel. If it stops there you have another Fermi, down for several years and a half billion dollar tab. If it does not stop there you could have a far worse criticality accident.

    If a fast neutron MSR experiences boiling the operator detects an increase in noise from neutron and vibration monitors. He reduces power or increases flow, the vibration goes away, and the plant runs on. With the wide temperature margins to salt boiling in an MSR, that is improbable.

    “The Large MSR is constrained by sub cooling, average volumetric heating, and coolant flow rate.”

    When water flows through a pipe in laminar flow, the velocity distribution is roughly parabolic. In a fast MSR that velocity distribution roughly matches the neutron flux profile, providing a relatively flat temperature rise across the core.

    In a graphite moderated core, flow orifices could be adjusted to provide a similar condition, but with the large temperature margins available, that is probably not necessary.

    “Large variations and oscillations in coolant density will lead to flow instability between the channels. The effect because of subcooling of the salt is mitigated,”

    Large oscillations in coolant density mean the salt is boiling which means the salt is far hotter than it should be which means the channel is plugged. The reactor will have to be shutdown for repair. Graphite has very high heat and temperature limits, and the only heat source is from the radiation absorbed in the graphite, not the enormous heat flux through solid fuel cladding. So the graphite will probably be undamaged, and of course, the ionic salt will be undamaged.

    “with the reactor able to maintain criticality in multiple configurations will lead to local power differences because of the poor coupling of the subregions of the core due to a poor MFP of the neutrons.”

    Cal, I understand that a large core is loosely connected neutronically. Mentally divide the core into small regions, each region has a not quite perfect mirror boundary condition. K eff will average about 1 but there will be small variations. In the regions where keff is greater than 1 the salt will heat up faster. Since fuel and moderator atoms are in intimate contact, the negative feedback is almost instant.

    If you hold a PA microphone too close to the speaker you get feedback due to the time delay in the system. The speaker cone moves back and forth at high speed.

    In the MSR, the negative feedback is very fast, but there is no mechanism to rapidly cool off the salt when power goes down, the salt continues to heat up at a slower rate until the surrounding salt catches up, or it gets swept out of the reactor. It is as if the speaker cone can move fast in one direction but very slowly in the other, so no squeal, and no damage.

    “An analogy to the overall effect is chugging in a BWR or local power peaking in a PWR after a sufficiently large reactivity and power perturbation.”

    Two very different things. Chugging involves the unstable collapse of steam bubbles in the suppression pool of a BWR. I see no connection to this issue.

    The slow motion power swings of a solid fuel reactor cannot happen because fuel is swept out of the core quickly and well mixed by the time it returns.

    “It is for this reason that the large MSR is a poorly thought out concept as you are giving up an important constraint of the shape and stability of the flux profile under a wider range of flow and power density. Thus the large MSR will have to increase the flow or decrease the power density to achieve a more stable flux.”

    I think you are underestimating the quality of the engineers at ORNL from 1950-1980. Read through their work and tell us if you still have the same conclusion.

    “Thus the radial mixing whether a vat or a channel type design is negligible. This means each channel or channel volume becomes more susceptible to flow instability.”

    Define flow instability. What is the exact mechanism of that instability? If salt in one channel is flowing a bit slower than in adjacent channels it becomes hotter than salt in adjacent channels, the power density becomes slightly less due to negative temperature feedback, and the salt comes out the end of the channel a bit hotter than salt from adjacent channels, no big deal.

    “Turbulent flow because of the radial mixing has generally stable velocity profiles which adds to the stability of the system.”

    Laminar flow can produce very stable velocity profiles. The real value of turbulent flow is greatly improved heat transfer from fuel cladding into the coolant, a non issue for the MSR aside from graphite cooling.

    “What is the status of the coupled neutronics, thermal-hydraulic, mass, energy and radiation transport codes that are fully time dependent? Without the codes you need to build many small and increasing in size prototypes to validate the neutronic and T-H stability of the system.”

    Sometimes it is faster cheaper and more educational to just build something and test it, as they did in the days before computers. Either way, we will end up building something and learning things the computer missed.

    Read the reports from the MSRE experiment. How much of that knowledge could be gained from a computer model, at what accuracy and confidence level?

    We have 7 billion people on a spaceship 8,000 miles in diameter. They need reliable affordable energy. If we melt down a few experimental reactors by fast tracking this technology it will be money well spent if it cuts a few years off the development time.

    This country developed two designs for nuclear weapons, and the capacity to produce them, in 3.5 years, starting with almost no knowledge of cross sections, fission products or plutonium metallurgy. Bringing MSR technology from its present state of development to commercial viability is a much easier job, technically.

    Rod, why do comments with references go into moderation when any unreferenced drive by shooting goes up instantly? I am sure there is some cautionary principal behind it, but I suspect it is like the drug war, the cure is worse than the illness. This comment has no references because of the time delay.

    1. Bill,
      From my experience, a single URL in a comment will go up instantly. If you include 2 or more URLs, it has to wait for moderation.

      “If we melt down a few experimental reactors by fast tracking this technology” ? If they’re Molten Salt Reactors, what do you mean by melt down? Other components of the design, rather than the fuel/coolant that is melted by design?

      Out of curiosity, had you read this interview on Nuclear Green yet, Bill? http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2011/11/sherrell-greene-on-ahtrs-smahtrs-and.html

      1. Joel and Brian, thanks for the suggestions.

        “what do you mean by melt down? Other components of the design,”

        Good point, that is exactly what I meant. I did read the comments by Sherrell Greene. It is amazing how many combinations of materials can be used to split uranium and thorium atoms. I would like to see them all get a fair and comprehensive evaluation.

        My first impression is that a small salt cooled reactor with TRISO particle graphite fuel and Brayton turbine could be excellent for large ships. I suspect MSR’s will have the edge for large land based power plants due to lower uranium and fuel fabrication cost, and the ability to move the fuel into a passively cooled and critically safe geometry.

        1. His wife Becky posted on his facebook on Wednesday that Charles anticipates moving to a rehab center next week and is looking forward to working 3 hours/day on regaining his strength there.

    2. why do comments with references go into moderation when any unreferenced drive by shooting goes up instantly?

      Bill – The reason is that spammers almost never post content. Their goal is to get a couple of links up on a website that is not their own with the intent of getting humans or search engines to follow the link.

      In the future, you might want to try a technique that I have used here. Post your content without links in one comment, and follow with a separate comment that contains all of your references, which you expect to get held up in moderation. Add an explanation to the end of your first comment that the references will follow as soon as they are approved by the moderator.

    3. “a fizzle can be tens to hundreds of kt depending on velocity, geometry and mass involved.”

      Should read; a fizzle can be tens to hundreds of tons TNT equivalent depending on velocity, geometry and mass involved.

  47. Bill,
    Be careful about accusations of “unreferenced drive by shooting”. Your comment of the reactor safety implications of SFR are unreferenced. I provided you with a reference that answers those questions. Additionally the reference that you provided suggested the problem with SFR is with the oxide fuel which has a high heat capacity [0.34 J/g-K] and low thermal conductivity [0.023 W/cm-K].[4] Those cores (like Fermi) have significantly higher quantities of stored energy. This is why the US abandoned oxide fuel in metal cooled reactors for what eventually became a metal ternary in the IFR. Read NUREG-1368 before posting any more tripe about SFR’s. Or provide the references that provide contradictory evidence. The SFR field has an extensive literature associated with it due to the number of prototype facilities that have been operated.

    You miss the point of the problem with Lithium. It is that the capital cost of the reactor along with the O&M are highly sensitive to the cost of lithium. It is irrelevant if it only consumes a small fraction of the world inventory. It is the comparison of the costs of building and maintaining the facilities to other fungible technologies.

    No, I have read through a portion of your references. This is why I point out the fast MSR. NaF-BeF2-UF4 represents a more sustainable coolant and only requires a reduction of UF6 stored in all of the DU that we have. Th requires a conversion of thorium oxide to thorium fluoride. Additionally, the fast reactor has a higher effective delayed neutron fraction 0.00334 [4] (note this will be reduced because half of the delayed neutron precursors decay outside of the core[1,7])compared to 0.0019 [3]of the LFTR. The small effective delayed neutron fraction adds to the instability of the system as now small flux/reactivity perturbations have a much larger impact on the operations of the reactor.[2] The marginally small temperature coefficient of reactivity (factor of 10 less than a LWR) in the core of the LFTR [7] only exasperates this flux instability. The success and the safety of the MSRE was due to the small dimensions of the core. The leakage lead directly to the flux stability regardless of these other factors. Take away the leakage and the stability of the flux becomes a more significant question.

    The conversion ration of a LFTR is 1.06 [7]. Table IV of [7] is what gives me particular concern about the flux stability of the Heavy LFTR. a 500 MW(e) plant leaks 3890 neutrons for every fissile capture. The 4000 MW(e) plant leaks 960 neutrons for every fissile capture. The concept of flux stability is not captured in very many codes, proprietary BWR codes are the only exception I know of. Monte-Calro codes such as MCNP do not contain the necessary modifications to model relocation of the delayed neutron precursors from the fission site. [8] Additionally, the Monte-Carlo codes use a adapted technique of Gibbs sampling to identify the statistical equilibrium of the system.[8] The transport codes including the work of CASTL rely on an approximation of the statistical mechanical system using the Boltzmann equation. [6] The Boltzmann equation represents an approximation of the statistical mechanics that is quasi linear.[9,10] Thus the theoretical basis of existing codes is inadequate to be able to identify and accurately model the complexity of liquid fueled cores.

    The only alternative is to build scaled prototypes and to develop the code to be able to do this. My critique of your claims to build a large LFTR is on the basis of the flux instability due to low leakage. The phenomena that I cited in BWR and PWR is driven by the lack of adequate constraints of the flux leading to “bubble” formation in the flux. I don’t necessarily think that this is bad or even adverse in the LFTR. It is not an area that has had any research done other than in BWR’s and that is only from the patchwork standpoint to identify and model chugging, which is bad in BWR’s. However, we have no understanding of the physics through experimentation and theory before we can scale. Boiling in a core is an example of literal bubble formation due to a loss of stability in the phase density of the coolant. Some cores expressly prohibit this because the codes cannot model this phenomena (think very very old PWR’s). As our understanding of the dynamics increased as did our modeling we were able to identify better constraints to prevent problems. This took about 30-40 years of integrating operational experience with computational methods.

    I want to see more reactors built. I don’t particularly care what type they are. I just want more and more now and even more in the future. What I also want is to limit the number of distractions due to over excited claims and to provide guidance on the areas that need to be focused. In your case, the claims of the availability of the LFTR as a conceptual design. The problems of scaling a 7.4 MW(t) reactor to even a 300 MW(th) much less a 1500 MW(th) reactor is non-trivial. You and others are underestimating the fundamental challenges in the endeavor. My goal is to show you where you need to look to be able to resolve those issues and to place the magnitude of the problem in perspective. The references below should help to do so.

    [1] Furukawa, K., et al, “Thorium Cycle Implementation Through Plutonium Incarnation by Thorium Molten-Salt Nuclear Energy Synergetics”, Idaho National Laboratory ,https://smr.inl.gov/Document.ashx?path=DOCS%252FMSR-Int%252FFUJIMSRte_1319_13.pdf
    [2] Duderstadt, J., Hamilton, L., (1976) “Nuclear Reactor Analysis”
    [3] ORNL-5018
    [4] Hill, R. (2007), “Fast Reactor Physics and Core Designs”, Argonne National Laboratory, NRC Topical Seminar on Sodium Fast Reactors Two White Flint, Rockville, MD
    [5] Lane, J., et al., (1958), “Fluid Fueled Reactors”, Addison Wesley
    [6] Lewis, E., Miller, W., (1993), “Computational Methods of Neutron Transport”, American Nuclear Society
    [7] Perry, A., Bauman, H., (1970), “Reactor Physics and Fuel Cycle Analysis”, Nuclear Applications and Technology (8), 208-219
    [8] MCNPX User Manual, Los Alamos National Laboratory
    [9] Luzzi, R., (2002). “Predictive Statistical Mechanics”. Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    [10] Jaynes, E. T. (1986). “Predictive Statistical Mechanics”. Frontiers of Nonequilibrium Statistical Physics. G. T. Moore and M. O. Scully. New York, Plenum: 33-55.

  48. “There are a few more kicking around DC Cook, Catawba, and McGuire.”

    Cal lots of rambling going on before you answered my question. I do not need you to explain how all commercial LWR control reactivity, just the one that you actually know about. The reactor where you were a nuclear engineer or an SRO in the control room.

    So Cal, I have no experience at DC Cook, Catawba, or McGuire. When I down load FSAR for those plants, I will find that only boron is used at 100% power. Is that what you are saying or do you want to change your BS generality about commercial PWR only using boron?

    1. Kit,
      The FSAR will allow both as limiting the reactivity control methods at power severely restricts the operational flexibility of the unit and can create unforeseen reactor safety issues. Download the FSAR. The operations department operating procedures will provide specific guidance on how to accomplish reactivity control at power. The specific details will vary from site to site and utility to utility. The FSAR should be public record and the operating procedures are more than likely not.

      My original comment was, “just like in big PWR’s, that generally don’t have control rods inserted.”

      My subsequent posts on this subject have not deviated from “generally”. You are being delusory in your argument by changing the wording to “only” which is disingenuous. You are making up arguments to pick a fight.

      Please find the evidence that contradicts “generally” so that I can learn something new. Otherwise, sit down and and be quiet.

  49. You are making up arguments to pick a fight.

    For Kit, that’s a compulsive habit … or would pastime be a more appropriate term? 😉

  50. “Be careful about accusations of “unreferenced drive by shooting”… Read NUREG-1368 before posting any more tripe about SFR’s.”

    Keep it up Cal.

    I did review 1368. Here are some excerpts relating to my issue.

    “Regarding accommodation of HCDAs, there is not sufficient data to confidently predict the size of an HCDA in a metal fuel ALMR.”

    “The major contributors to core melt all lead to energetic core disassembly accidents and Release Category R4A.”

    “For the R4A no-evacuation case, prompt fatalities were shown to increase from 7 to
    124, and latent fatalities increased from 1,520 to 3,320.

    “The PRISM design has been described as passively safe. On this basis, the designers contend that core melt and sodium boiling do not have to be considered in the design”

    I wonder if GE reactor designers in the 60’s ever said “We are never going to uncover a core, so we don’t have to worry about a meltdown or hydrogen production.”

    If we were talking about a garden variety water moderated reactor with a robust containment, a generous supply of hydrogen igniters with battery backup, and an accident rated containment vent filter, I would not be worried. You can melt down any number of those without hurting anybody. But if two metric tons of plutonium (large IFR) start melting, I will be worried.

    “I want to see more reactors built. I don’t particularly care what type they are. I just want more and more now and even more in the future.”

    I do care what type they are. When the fin on an Airbus snapped off killing all aboard, people still felt safe flying on a Boeing. If an IFR blows up it sets the entire industry back 20 years or more. Billions of people are victims even though most are not irradiated. We should continue the R&D, but it is irrational to build potentially risky designs in large numbers when we know how to build safe reactors.

    PRISM is probably the most studied of all designs, and it may be the safest of all solid fuel fast reactors, but it is not proven safe enough for me. The BN-800 has no containment building, like other famous Russian reactors. Some people say India’s fast reactor is dangerous.

    Prove that an IFR can meltdown and never blow up, and I will support them, for now, I think all fast reactors should be defueled.

    Cal, I did enjoy the tag line on your webpage.

    Power Up or Melt Down: The Future of Nuclear Power

    http://libguides.gatech.edu/content.php?pid=254599&sid=2102071

    1. Bill,
      Thank you for your comments. I am having to do a good bit of reading to answer them and I appreciate their nature.

      First, prompt criticality does not a nuclear explosion make. The geometry needed to create an overpressure above a several hundred pounds of TNT is very specific. It is not something that just happens when a series of fuel elements melt. What is important are the reactivity feedback mechanisms. To illustrate the importance of this I actually took a reactor prompt critical. I watched a 1MW reactor go to 1000 MW. Of course it was designed to do this and had a very special fuel that allowed sufficient reactivity insertion after prompt criticality.

      Here is a link to a 2010 ANL report that deals specifically with Core Disruptive Accidents.
      http://www.ipd.anl.gov/anlpubs/2010/01/65912.pdf

      There is a story about Teller going head to head with Rockwell about the risks to public health about refueling submarines in-port. Teller used a conservative approximation of the core being entirely uncovered and with direct line of site of the civilian population to the core. Simplifying assumptions to say the least. Rockwell then proceeded to make specific constraints to how the refueling operation actually works. He showed Teller that Teller’s assumptions did not represent the situation.

      The Bethe-Tait model makes similar simplifying assumptions to that which Teller did (not establishing physically possible initial conditions). They involve the whole core and don’t evaluate the inherent reactivity feedback mechanisms. (section 2.3.2) Section 5.4 provides a summary of the ULOF event. What is shown in Figure 41 are the reactivity effects and balances across the core. The peak reactivity insertion for an instantaneous unprotected (ATWS) loss of flow event is $1. Their summary:
      “The results of this LOF analysis show that even in the extremely unlikely event of a nearly instantaneous LOF without scram that leads to a CDA in a metal fuel core, the inherent safety characteristics of the metal fuel core ensure a benign initiating phase sequence of events.”

      This is one of the three potential events that can lead to a CDA. The other two are unprotected transient over power (rod withdrawal), and loss of heat sink. There are multiple simultaneous initiators that have to occur with these events in order for them to occur. On top of this the additional initiator of complete loss of passive DHR through a simultaneous loss of the RVACS and ACS would have to occur to allow bulk sodium temperature to increase along with the failure of the reactor Ultimate Safe Shutdown and control rod SCRAM (operator or automatic). Pages 96 and 97 provide a good summary of how the IFR achieves mitigation of CDA’s to around 10^-9. Then there is the containment incase if 10^-9 is not safe enough. To put this in perspective, a killer asteroid hitting the earth is around 10^-8.

      The reactor vessel is rated to 500 MJ (262 lbm TNT equivalent) and using the physically impossible Bethe-Tait model (Figure 15.3) you can see the reactivity insertion rate and the work done, overpressure, on the reactor vessel. The first thing you learn about sound in submarines is that it is lazy. Applied in this situation the shockwave that is propagating through the molten coolant will then have to slow down when it hits the air loosing a good portion of the energy somewhere proportional to the ratio of the acoustic impedance between the two fluids (air and sodium). At 100 C air is 331 Pa-s/m and at 900K in sodium is 1.771 MPa-s/m. This will result in ratio between the two shockwaves Air/sodium of 2 *10^-4. So if the reactor vessel ruptures at 500 MJ the resulting shockwave in air will be 84 kJ.

      The act of going prompt critical is not a big deal if you have reactivity feedback mechanisms that are on the timescale of the reactivity insertion. This limits the total energy released in the power excursion. IF the feedback mechanisms are strong enough then you can pulse the core at will and not break anything. If they effectively don’t exist then you get Chernobyl. S-PRISM has multiple and layered feedback mechanisms that although the fuel will be slightly damaged, in pin fuel melting) the integrity of the cladding will not be breeched. If it is breeched the molten ternary-sodium mixture will have a lower melting point than the in core temperature and will be lifted out of the core using natural convection removing fuel from the most reactive (hottest) part of the core. Oxide fuels behave differently and have much more stored energy in them. However our discussion is about metal fueled reactors like the IFR.

      EBR-II demonstration project ULOF and ULOHS demonstrated the inherent safety characteristics of the IFR concept. EBR-II was unable to test the UTOP because as I understand the program was terminated.

      So the short end of it is, even though the NRC asked hard questions in the PSER because they did not have the inhouse expertise to understand the physics of the reactor (stated earlier in the PSER), how does this make a sodium fast reactor like Chernobyl? You have not provided me a convincing path that will yield a failure as you describe that results in a rate of failure (HCDA) on the order of the age of the sun.

      Be careful the assumptions that are made in the codes you use to model a nuclear reactor. A good place to start is to have the initial conditions conform to the laws of physics. I’m just saying’.

      I changed the title of my presentation to “Power Up: The Future of Nuclear Energy: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Atom.”

      By the way there is no such thing as never when it comes to physical objects. It violates the second law. You ask for zero uncertainty. That just does not exist like absolute zero does not exist as something that can be physically obtained.

      1. Cal, thanks for you response. I understand you are focused on PRISM and I will keep that in mind, but my concern covers all solid fuel fast reactors, so my comments may not all apply to PRISM.

        One of my professors in grad school was a brilliant engineer from Sandia Laboratory who was on the design team for their pulsed reactors. He arranged for us to run experiments on their fast neutron reactor, SPRII.

        https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/releases/2007/reactor.html

        Keep in mind that it has a large experimental cavity in its center and holes for 4 control rods around the perimeter. It would be much smaller if it were solid uranium alloy, and a plutonium fast pulse reactor would be smaller still. We also ran experiments on their epithermal neutron reactor.

        http://nnsa.energy.gov/blog/annular-core-research-reactor-sandia-national-laboratories-achieves-10000th-reactor-pulse-opera

        SPRII could briefly produce more thermal power than the U.S. grid. The reactivity/yield curve is near vertical in that region, so setting the rods correctly is critical, requiring multiple people to independently calculate the position, then compare answers. The epithermal reactor was more forgiving and quite beautiful to watch.

        The Chernobyl reactor had the following qualities when it exploded.

        1… It ran on thermal neutrons. Bombs run on fast neurons and can experience 1000 generations during the life of one neutron in a thermal reactor.

        2… Compared to bombs, Chernobyl experienced a very slow reactivity insertion rate as water turned to steam and was ejected.

        3… The reactor was running at low power, so there was an abundant supply of neutrons to start the power ramping up as soon as k became greater than 1.

        All three of these factors mitigate against the risk of a high yield criticality, yet Chernobyl released enough energy to make a very big mess. Now imagine a two ton plutonium core melting down. A medium energy criticality creates a high velocity shock wave that crushes a large mass of fuel rods against the opposite wall of the reactor vessel at high velocity. What will the yield be? Or, after meltdown, a medium energy criticality creates a high velocity shock wave that pushes a large pancake shaped puddle of barely subcritical plutonium into a corner of the reactor vessel creating a much thicker more reactive shape, deep in the superprompt region. What will the yield be?

        I believe scenarios like these could release orders of magnitude more energy than Chernobyl, enough to eject the entire core into the atmosphere. I am still looking for proof that this is impossible.

        I think you are making two points in your comment.

        1… The probability of a core melt is very low.

        2… If the core melts the probability of a high yield criticality is zero or very low, not sure which.

        I will address these in separate comments. Time is tight so it may be awhile.

        1. @Bill Hannahan

          You used one of my favorite rarely used nuclear terms epithermal.

          Sometimes when I get in the middle of advocates of “fast” and “thermal” reactors I want to scream – “look at the neutron absorption curve over the full spectrum”! There is a vast range of energy values between the energy at which neutrons are born and the energy at which they reach thermal equilibrium. There are numerous peaks in U-238 and Th-232 absorption coefficients over that spectrum. Fast advocates think that the road to salvation is to avoid the slowing down process all together to take advantage of one of the high absorption values for U-238. Thermal reactors based on water moderation seek to slow the neutrons with as few collisions as possible. Thorium breeder reactor advocates seek to take advantage of the high absorption coefficient at low neutron energy.

          What about taking the middle of the road path of a moderator like graphite that slows neutrons gradually, using a lot of separate collisions, keeping average energy levels higher than in a thermal reactor and taking advantage of the absorption peaks along the path from fast to slow? The key to success there is to choose a moderator and core materials that do not absorb many neutrons themselves and lead to high conversion ratios.

          Though it is possible to make the leap from burner reactors like those we have today to breeder reactors that use essentially ALL of the energy, there is also potential value in using epithermal reactors with high conversion ratios (maybe not quite one) to increase the amount of burnup that we are able to achieve with each core load.

          I know that fuel costs are not the driver in reactor economy, but fueling costs play a pretty significant role. What if, for example, we were able to double or triple the interval between refueling without changing the cost of the delivered fuel? Of course, that improvement would have to be matched with some other changes to allow increased intervals between maintenance and inspection regimes, but such a change could lead to an improvement in the economy of operating reactors and in their VALUE as a reliable power source that lasts and lasts without the need for as many of the admittedly well planned and executed outages that the fleet needs today.

          BTW – this is not just pie in the sky dreaming. The Light Water Breeder Reactor demonstrated a portion of the promise and achieved a breeding ratio of 1.03 over a five year operating history.

        2. Bill,
          Time here is tight too. I have the qualifier exam in a few months, so my ability to respond will be non existent until May. When I don’t respond that is the reason. I am unable to write a response to the flux stability because of the lack of time.

          I look forward to carrying on the conversation in the future.

          Cal Abel

  51. “The small effective delayed neutron fraction adds to the instability of the system”

    A unicycle is unstable, a SUV is stable, and a Corvette is very stable. A well designed MSR is stable.

    “A 500 MW(e) plant leaks 3890 neutrons for every fissile capture. The 4000 MW(e) plant leaks 960 neutrons for every fissile capture.”

    Not possible. A fissile capture usually leads to fission with the release of 2-4 neutrons.

    “The success and the safety of the MSRE was due to the small dimensions of the core. The leakage lead directly to the flux stability regardless of these other factors”

    I will ask for the third and last time. Define instability. What is the exact mechanism of the instability? Assume that mathematics and computers have not been invented, just explain what actually happens based on fundamental principles of nature.

    “My critique of your claims to build a large LFTR is on the basis of the flux instability due to low leakage.”

    Consider the following thought experiment. Imagine the MSRE running at a steady 5 MW. Now increase the diameter of the reactor to infinity and reduce the concentration of the fissile atoms to maintain k=1. Now increase the height of the reactor to 50 feet and reduce the concentration of the fissile atoms to maintain k=1. We have no radial leakage and negligible leakage from the discharge end.

    Imagine we are riding on an incremental volume of fuel salt approaching the core. We see a rapid increase in neutron flux and in fission rate. As we enter the core, flux, fission rate and temperature are increasing. As the fuel heats up its reactivity is decreasing. Soon the power peaks, but the fuel continues to heat up at a decreasing rate.

    In this long core, the fission rate and neutron flux drop very low at the discharge end, so very low leakage.

    Now imagine we perturb the core by injecting neutrons into a region of the core near the entrance. We double the flux in a zone about 10 feet in diameter for 30 seconds. The fuel passing through that region heats up much faster than before. The graphite also heats up, but slowly.

    When the extra neutrons are cut off, fuel in that region and downstream is warmer than it was in equilibrium, suppressing the fission rate a bit until the excess heat is carried away, and the equilibrium profile is restored.

    Fuel flowing into that zone has no memory of the neutron pulse. It may see slightly warmer graphite for a while, and that will suppress fission slightly until equilibrium graphite temperature is restored.

    Perform the same experiment in a solid fuel reactor and the fuel will have memory of the neutron pulse, in the form of xenon precursors. The xenon will show up and perhaps start an unstable oscillation.

  52. Rod pointed out a newly published book within a recent posting on the ANS Nuclear Cafe site that would appear to do a good job of picking up some of the political history of reactor development from about 1984 (my year of birth) forward, which coincides with about the timeframe where Kirk’s presentation here finishes up. I’ll probably be purchasing it soon.

    http://www.amazon.com/Plentiful-Energy-technology-scientific-non-specialists/dp/1466384603/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325749201&sr=1-1

    1. And of course, Rod had mentioned this book on his posting from this morning, which I didn’t look at before making this comment.

  53. Rod, it is amazing how many combinations of materials and configurations can be used to extract energy from uranium and plutonium atoms. I recently toured the nuclear weapons museum in Albuquerque. It is very impressive. If we invested the same level of effort in commercial nuclear power as we put into those weapons, the worlds energy problems would be solved.

    1. It is a bit crazy to think that if not for the existence of nuclear weapons and all the threats that entails, there might not be any satellites, the Internet might not exist at all yet, and countless other innovations would not have been developed along the same timelines. Also, many more people probably would have died in conventional warfare.

      An apt quote from Paul Romer from the Journal of Development Economics:
      “Once we admit that there is room for newness – that there are vastly more conceivable possibilities than realized outcomes – we must confront the fact that there is no special logic behind the world we inhabit, no particular justification for why things are the way they are. Any number of arbitrarily small perturbations along the way could have made the world as we know it turn out very differently…We are forced to admit that the world as we know it is the result of a long string of chance outcomes.”

      1. In the same vein however one cannot discount the impact the existence of nuclear weapons had on the history of technology, science, and the world in general since their appearance.

        Romer’s assertion that history is driven mainly by chance is somewhat defeatist at best and sophomoric at worst. We can change the world by our actions.

        1. That quote does lack something, as the perturbations along the way are all largely the results of people’s choices and actions.

          The main aspect of the quote that I like is that the present state of the world has not necessarily been anything close to fully optimized.

      2. By our choices which determine our actions. It is interesting that in large numbers individual choices can be tracked and managed by statistics without hampering the fact of individual choice.

        1. I’m just irritated at the phrase: “…we must confront the fact that there is no special logic behind the world we inhabit, no particular justification for why things are the way they are.”

          Statistics can track choices, however that should not imply all choices are random. In may cases there are real justifications for why things are the way they are.

  54. Rod, it is amazing how many combinations of materials and configurations can be used to extract energy from uranium and plutonium atoms. I recently toured the nuclear weapons museum in Albuquerque. It is very impressive. If we invested the same level of effort in commercial nuclear power as we put into those weapons, the worlds energy problems would be solved.

  55. Wow, barely understood most of the discussion here; but I found it fascinating.

    Its rare that you find a group of intelligent people on the internet.

    I was researching Lightbridge trying to learn more about their new fuel rods.

    Would anyone like to enlighten me on their technology?

    Thanks!
    Jim

  56. I feel that LFTR has a LOT of potential but am puzzled. Isn’t one of the biggest problems with using graphite as a neutron moderator that it has severe issues with neutron embrittlement and distending when hit with a lot of neutrons? And how good a neutron moderator are the FLiBe salts (assuming that we enrich the Lithium to be at least 99.9% Lithium-7, of course)? I’d say that Kirk Sorensen has a gift for explaining complex physics in plain-English that is on par with that of the late Richard Feynman, who was rightly nicknamed “The Great Explainer”. This reactor design has so much potential that it would be criminally negligent to abandon it. I was describing it to one friend as follows: “If the light-water reactor (regardless of whether it’s pressurized water or boiling water) is like the four-stroke reciprocating piston gasoline engine, and the heavy-water reactor is like a reciprocating piston diesel engine, then the LFTR is like the Wankel Rotary Engine. Except, unlike the Wankel, the LFTR offers BETTER fuel economy than its more conventional counterparts (although to be fair to the Wankel, there’s new developments that were never built as prototypes which could bring its fuel economy to levels exceeding piston engines, but only for use in aeronautical propulsion) Sorry, this is getting a bit tangential. Suffice to say the LFTR reminds me a lot now of something called the “Turbo-compounded Wankel Engine”.

    1. Steve,
      One possible design feature that I have seen discussed to solve the graphite issue is to have an easily replaceable “cartridge” (think of Gillette’s razor business model) for the graphite portion of the core, scheduled to be changed out periodically in a maintenance outage. The term refueling outage will not apply to a fully optimized LFTR, as thorium should be fed in online.
      -Joel

  57. I spent 9 years in the nuclear navy (surface nuclear propulsion) and 10 years as a shift engineer and shift CRS/SRO with Entergy. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of military and commercial nuclear power projects. Commercial scale liquid metal breeder (Fermi) and high temperature gas cooled reactors (Fort St. Vrain) are both examples of bold, gutsy determination to bring theoretically attractive non-standard (pwr/bwr) nuclear power production technology to life.

    My first ‘hands-on’ experience with production nuclear power was at the old D1G prototype near Ballston Spa, NY. The original plant was the prototype for the sodium-cooled Seawolf submarine design. The containment dome resembled a miniature EPCOT center, and we were told that the structure was so much different than the other GE prototypes on site (S3G and S8G) because it had to be structurally capable of dealing with a liquid sodium/water explosion. Some of the civilian GE ‘old-timers’ had some memorable stories of trying to work with liquid sodium coolant. It was highly corrosive and a lot ‘hotter’ in terms of radioactivity than the PWR designs using water for coolant. I believe a sodium/water reaction was the cause of the 1995 fire at the Monju reactor in Japan. Neither the prototype nor the core installed in the original Seawolf lasted very long.

    In general, no one I ever talked to associated with naval nuclear reactors or old commercial projects was fond of liquid metal coolant, despite all of the inherent efficiencies theoretically available. In trying to promote nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels for the last 40 years, these guys seem to think that liquid metal was just too practically problematic compared to the standard pwr and bwr designs–and the fewer challenges, the better.

    1. @Wll C

      Anyone who qualified at D1G is welcome here.

      When were you there? I was at D1G from April 1982-September 1982. It was a great time of year to be in up-state New York.

    1. It’s a stupid article. You can see a detailed rebuttal, which highlights the anti-nuclear sources used in the article, here.

      Kirk Sorenson gave Mr. Rees a “D-” for the article, but I have to disagree. I must give Mr. Rees a solid F for the article and Kirk a B+ for failing to miss an obvious mistake in the text.

      Consider this excerpt:

      The pro-thorium lobby claim a single tonne of thorium burned in a molten salt reactor (MSR) — typically a liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) — which has liquid rather than solid fuel, can produce one gigawatt of energy. A traditional pressurised water reactor (PWR) would need to burn 250 tonnes of uranium to produce the same amount of energy.

      Obviously, Mr. Rees has never taken a physics class. To demonstrate how ridiculous this paragraph is, consider what you would think of me if I had said the following:

      The Ferrari 575M is a much more energy efficient car than the Fiat 500, because with a single gallon of gasoline, the Ferrari can produce 200 mph. The Fiat can only produce 100 mph.

      You’d think that I was an idiot, wouldn’t you?

      In case you missed it, here’s the catch: “one gigawatt” is not a unit of energy. Mr. Rees apparently doesn’t understand that, and why he should be writing about energy and why anyone should listen to him just baffles me to no end.

      Instead of understanding the basics of his subject, Mr. Rees chooses to consult a bunch of professional anti-nuclear activists and then calls it a day. This is such a sorry exhibit of vacuous journalism that it is not surprising to find it reprinted in The Guardian.

  58. You guys all seem to be professionals, some more than others, but if a Thorium reactor is as good as many claim, why is it NOT BEING USED? The almighty dollar is the undisputed king and I am hearing him say that all the good things associated with Thorium based reactor is not actually true.

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