Paterson's plan for CO2 emission reductions 1


  1. He engaged with a number of electricity system and power generation experts…


    I’m being facetious. Not easy being a top-drawer politician and understand technology at the same time. Much less to recognize the conventional wisdom isn’t very wise. Much less to actually do something (effective) about it. Much commendations to Mr. Paterson.

    Er, ah… does he give lessons?

  2. It sure would be sweet if the old Magnox plants could be re-used.
    Fueling them with SNF (re-formed into balls, perhaps) and using organic as a coolant might work. Another possibility would be to cool with N2 for an Adams Atomic Engine.
    Either path (if workable) certainly could be a low-cost opportunity.

    1. IIUC, the problem with the Magnox plants is erosion of the graphite moderator.  Also, production of fuel has been discontinued.  You could get uranium of any enrichment you want, but the magnesium oxide cladding is another matter.

      1. Yes, I have heard that the graphite is long in the tooth — but such erosion isn’t a show-stopper. Less than ideal moderation at points in a channel would simply reduce the heat produced in that region, but “ball” type fuel gradually passing through the channel would still be consumed uniformly.
        As for cladding: stainless steel works well in the AGR.

        1. Really, people, really, there is actually an immense bounty of Pu-239 in what the USA calls “nuclear waste” and nearly every polite person calls “spent fuel” , and is, for once-through regimes like America’s “slightly used nuclear fuel”.
          There is a far better way to use it than with moderated neutrons.
          Concentrate the fissile isotope enough to use fast neutrons, and you get almost no cases where the captured neutron doesn’t bring enough energy to split the nucleus.

          Dounreay and Phenix used uranium and plutonium oxide fuels, which have at least two disadvantages. They get hotter than metal fuel rods do, because they’re ceramic, and the heating events occur inside them. But in addition, the oxygen atoms are a slightly less powerful moderator than carbon, but they do take up some of the neutron energy.

          The USA’s IFR, which proved its inherent immunity to meltdown at the beginning of April 1986, the very month of the Chernobyl crash, can consume any plutonium you care to supply, and it has a descendant called the ARC-100 design, by the company Advanced Reactor Concepts, which includes nuclear physicist/engineers that worked on the IFR before Clinton canceled its funding.

          I believe that the reactor enclosure would fit inside a cylinder smaller than the concrete footprint of one of the 2.3 MW windmills in Ayrshire and Caithness. That’s for a machine that’s practically a 100 MW battery, requiring a recharge (of un-enriched, even depleted uranium) every twenty years. Recharging is an off-site operation, but delivery and replacement only needs equipment capable of handling a 21 ton load. The amount of “waste” fission products, after 20 yeers at 90% poduction factor, is about 1.7 tonnes.

          1. Thanks, Albert.
            While I think that most who visit this site know that fast fission (or thermal fission using Thorium) has enormous potential, it certainly is worth it to occasionally inform the few who are unaware.
            My post was directed towards implementing a concept of post-industrialism known as “bricolage” — where available materials are re-purposed to make something.

    2. There’s only one Magnox reactor still running, Wylfa on Anglesey in Wales. It’s been running since 1971 and will shut down in December 2015.

      The remaining British reactors are AGRs except for Sizewell B which is a PWR built in the 80s. The AGRs use stainless steel clad fuel. I believe the problem is the graphite moderators cracking – see Hunterston B reactor. The graphite moderator cannot be replaced.

  3. Paterson’s plan is sensible, but it’s surprising that a politician of his caliber is so tone-deaf to the politics of it. In particular, choosing the GWPF — a noted climate skeptic organization — for his roll-out will simply brand his plan as “anti-climate” in the minds of many, regardless of its merits.

    Paterson’s proposal for SMR’s is a standout for cost and efficiency, but will the public buy in? And the choice of design is critical in getting public buy-in. Calling Terrestrial Energy: another market opportunity!

    1. @Keith Pickering

      I realize that the climate change movement has labeled the GWPF as being a climate skeptic organization, but it seems to me that the organization accepts the fact that CO2 buildup in the atmosphere is having an effect that is worth avoiding. It is skeptical about some of the catastrophic scenarios and very skeptical about the proposed solution of aiming towards a less functional electricity supply system based mainly on weather dependent “renewable” energy sources.

      So am I.

      I reject the assertion that “wind, water, and sun” are sufficient and even oppose the notion that they are worthwhile supplements. That does not make me a climate change denier or even a skeptic. It just makes me pro-physics, pro-meteorology, pro-arithmetic, and pro-nuclear fission.

      1. @JohnGalt

        Are you trying to say that a kilowatt of solar panel capacity is in any way equivalent to a kilowatt of nuclear power plant capacity?

        1. @JohnGalt

          Some kilowatt-hours are more valuable than others, just like some gallons of gasoline are more valuable, some apples are more valuable, and some servings of water are more valuable.

          It all depends on when and where the kilowatt hour is delivered and on how predictable that delivery is.

      2. Let’s say solar PV costs $2000/kW

        Let’s say nuclear costs $8000/kW.

        A no brainer, right?

        Or is it?

        To match the load carrying capacity (that is actually powering the country) Britain needs about 8 kW of solar PV to match one kW of nuclear plus energy storage. So Britain needs $16000 of PV plus storage or $8000 of nuclear.

        What is the cost of storage? Large scale pumped storage, the most mature, cheapest and efficient option today, costs around $100/kWh. A week of storage would add another $16000 to the price of the PV system.

        The PV option is already up to $32000/kWe to match 1 kWe of nuclear.

        And it hasn’t actually matched it yet, because PV is not there in winter just when Britain’s electrical demand is at its highest. To deal with that problem (well mostly at least) would need another 500% solar capacity. So this adds another $80000.

        We are now up to $112000 to match the actual load carrying capacity of $8000 worth of nuclear.

        Not good.

        What if we had cheaper storage, say half the price, and half the PV price, a mere $ 1/Watt?

        Then the cost would still be 56000 to match 8000 of nuclear.

        Wow. What at first appeared to be a no brainer for solar, turned out to be the exact opposite, even with great further cost reductions in solar (and we have unfairly chosen the highest cost nuclear).

      3. I’m an expatriate Scot, and I reckon that Lord Byron was right when he wrote “away, ye gay landscapes, ye gardens o’ roses” … “Give me the rocks where the snowflake reposes, if still they are sacred to freedom and love”.
        He’s referring to Scotland’s only asset that’s superior to England’s greater land fertility, the beauty of Scotland’s wild scenery.
        Windfarms, worse than the birds and bats they kill, and the electric power that most of the time they don’t deliver, are a blight on a landscape that’s valued for its wildness and freedom from obvious human occupation.

        Damn right I’m against the wind.
        The first problem with solar origin energy, whether by the day or by the year, is that there are bad days and there are bad years. How can you possibly supply an on-demand system with something that depends upon the weather?

        I love sailboats, but they were ousted most thoroghly by coal and then oil. The QE2 and the USS United States could cross the Atlantic at the speed of a gale. You cannot do that with a full-rigged ship. But I’ll bet that no variation on wind turbines can outperform Francis Chichester’s “Gypsy Moth”, or for that matter Nelson’s “Victory” or her rescuer, the Temeraire.

        As for Duke and Georgia Power, they both pollute the air with more acidic oxides, mercury vapour, and damage its infrared trasnparency with more carbon dioxide, than does my electricity supplier, Dominion. I am pleased to say that Dominion gets 48% of the energy it sells to me and its other customers, from nuclear.reactors that quite recently survived a Richter 5 earthquake, unheard of in Virginia history, unscathed.

        Note also that your electrical units are wrong. I pay eight cents per kWh. The seemingly frightfully over-budget TVA Watts Barr reactor, which can be expected to deliver 90% production capacity for 20 years, is costing about $0.04/kWh if reckned without a discount factor. I’d even justify that on the basis that energy prices will go up faster than the overall CPI.

        But if you meant $5K/kW capacity, that’s at least $20K/kW delivered, because on a totally clear day, with the panels aligned to point at the Sun’s zenith for the day, you cannot get an average better than one third of the maximum it can deliver.

    2. I think the article made clear that modified RR deep-runners were but one possibility. Just as EPR hasn’t a lock on all new large U.K. “baseload” (Yes, EPR can load follow. At their size and cost they’ll keep that to a minimum) power reactors, If U.K. adds SMR’s to the mix I doubt they’ll add just one type. Terrestrial is a possibility, PRISM another. And Nuscale. Westinghouse and GA would probably get back in the game if U.K. opened to bids. B&W is working with TAP on their Zr-hydride moderated MSR.

      But public buy-in is indeed crucial. And the “Born in the U.K.” Rolls-Royce marque does have a certain cachet. Perhaps Rod can comment in vague general terms what it would take to modify a submarine power plant for commercial operation. But, there are a *lot* ov naval reactor designs. From United States Naval Reactors

      The navies of the Russian Federation, the United States, and the United Kingdom rely on steam turbine propulsion. Those of the French and Chinese use the turbine to generate electricity for propulsion.

      The Rolls-Royce plants were developed in collaboration with USN.

      1. Just been reading a plan, via Bob Hargraves, to scale up molten salt reactors. It’s a bit down on the cost of naval construction – comparing an oil tanker to a USN ship, the San Antonio.
        ‘The VLCC is 14 times larger and 20 times cheaper.’
        Don’t know whether Rolls Royce is any more competitive. ( My brother’s been auditing naval construction costs for the Aussie government, but I try not talk about stuff like that to him.)
        Opening tenders to the Koreans, the Russians, and the Chinese, and guaranteeing to treat the planning process as though the climate wasn’t next century’s problem, might move things along.

        1. Sure. On the other hand, if for whatever reason a country wants an indigenous nuclear design and manufacture capability, its got to find some way to support it.

      2. Besides PRISM, which is built by a company that has other interests as well, there’s ARC-100, see
        Like PRISM it’s based on the IFR design, although the reprocessing is off-site.
        I could probably accommodate two at 100 MW each on my 170 acre farm, whereas it would require five to ten miles of new roadway to get in a couple of miserable 2.3 MW wind turbines..

  4. “Paterson will point out that the often touted technology of carbon capture and storage (CCS) does not exist”

    A person who has actually takien a look at reality. The idea that a few thousand tons a year of solid radioactive material (or a few hundred itf you do it properly) is an insuperable difficulty, to be avoided by capturing thousands of millons of tons of a very stable gas, and compressing it enough to bury it where earthquakes won’t turn it loose again is not merely contradictory, it sounds like a gross case on innumeracy.
    It suggests that those who contemplate it are unaware that the carbonaceous materials we burn were indeed captured and sequestered underground, but by a process that lasted at least 64 million years. Every coal seam records the catastrophic death of a vast stretch of vegetation.

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