1. “It is an issue where multi-partisan barriers to discussion should be able to be surmounted as long as people leave their preconceived mantras behind.”

    See, Rod, thats the thing.You have already defeated that “hope” by the manner in which you framed the issue. (Prior thread) You haven’t discouraged the mantras by such a framing. Instead, you’ve triggered them.

  2. Rod, thanks for pointing out this info from Down Under.

    My wife and I visited Australia in 1994 and completely fell in love with the place; my wife and I literally saying to each other as the Quantas 747 taxied for takeoff (Sydney to LA) that we did not want to leave.

    But the one thing I could not figure out was this very advanced culture/country’s opposition to Nuclear Power ensconced in Gov’t policy. Even the USA does not have such direct policy, though functionally we come close with the disproportionate over-regulation of nuclear power (compared to the essential lack of regulation of coal and oil fired power generation regarding real, documented, ongoing impacts to public health and the environment).

    I hope that the advanced culture I experienced in 1994 has survived enough to reverse the policy against nuclear power.

    One other point, from the article:

    “Nuclear researcher Richard Leaver, formerly of Flinders University, points out that no so-called fourth-generation reactors have been built and they are not expected to be available for commercial construction before 2030-40.”

    That’s like saying: therefore, lets not build and fly the 707 here in the early 1960’s until the 757 is available in the 1980’s.

    1. To complete the analogy, one might point out the 707 was designed and built upon the extensive experience of US, UK, Germany, France, and Soviet military applications of jet propulsion. There have been something like 40 Gen IV reactors built to date, ranging from early experimental devices e.g. EBR-1, EBR-II, MSRE, to mixed experiment/production such as BN-600, Phenix, Super Phenix, and Monju, to the full production BN-800 prototype expected on-line later this year or next.

      WNA lists 22 Fast-Neutron Reactors, seven or eight of which are currently in operation. These are experimental or combined experimental/commercial power designs such as BN-600 and BN-800, and does not include naval fast reactors such as used on SSN-575 and the Soviet Alfa class. Not all Gen IV designs are fast — see Generation IV Nuclear Reactors.

      So Richard Leaver (no relation) is mistaken about “no so-called fourth-generation reactors have been built.” There is extensive history, starting with EBR-I which went in operation 64 years ago.

      Neither am I certain about their “not expected to be available for commercial construction before 2030-40.” BN-600 has seen extensive commercial power production in addition to experimental duties over its 35-years and counting of operation. Similarly, Phenix ran for 30 years. Super Phenix was a frightfully full commercial design and ran for 13 years before finally(!) being shutdown in 1998 for political reasons.

      As to the specific sodium cooled metal-fuel closed-fuel-cycle via pyro-processing design envisioned at this time by the Australian nuclear energy proponents, GE-Hitachi made discrete inquiries with the US NRC five years ago into the feasibility of licensing their S-PRISM, and submitted a 500 page document in support. NRC was then starting their SMR license process and did not have the resources to consider it. Nor did they the following year. (S-PRISM is an SMR, yes. But its not a light-water SMR.)

      GE-Hitachi have been working on the S-PRISM design since the IFR days of the eighties and early nineties. I really have no idea how long it will take them to put one in production. Probably depend on committed orders, but estimates are no-doubt contained in the documents being submitted to the SA Royal Commission as part of its investigation. The RC may also seek direct testimony from GE-H.

      To be clear: S-PRISM is not the only fish in the pond. But it is a commercial design ready for license evaluation by regulatory authorities, and has been for five years. This will be expensive. What S-PRISM needs is a first committed customer. This will be hard without prior generic design assessment approval.

      1. @Ed Leaver

        Why can’t GE-Hitachi simply propose itself as the initial customer? Between the two parents, it has PLENTY of risk capital for new products. Heck, GE still finances other companies, though it is winding down or selling off the banking parts of its corporation.

        It’s only logical for all other customers to want to see a completed, operating unit with all of the bugs worked out before they commit to spending many billions because they need to produce electricity. If they have a real market demand for electricity identified sometime in the future, they cannot afford to bet on an FOAK project because of the inherently uncertain completion schedule that is driven not only by regulation but by the same kind of solvable hurdles that afflict every first of a kind project in every complex manufactured or constructed product.

        Of course, GE-Hitachi will want to carefully select the location for the FOAK unit so that once it is complete and operating, they can defray some of their manufacturing start-up costs by selling off the power (and heat?) produced by operating the plant, training operators, gaining engineering experience and gathering useful data for improved versions.

        1. @ Rod Adams
          I’m not knowledgeable about GE-Hitachi’s relationship with its parents. But I think your suggested arrangement is pretty much what GE-H has proposed to the UK government regarding their proposed “disposition” of UK’s surplus plutonium, ie that GE-H would finance construction of two S-PRISM modules in return for the plutonium stock and a future electricity price guarantee.

          I don’t know the details of this either, but I’d think some sort of loan guarantee would also be required if only to ensure good faith by both parties, a critical aspect of these arrangements frequently overlooked by their critics.

          As regard betting the farm on FOAK projects, I don’t think that’s what South Australia’s nuclear proponents have in mind. Ben Heard’s Zero Carbon Options mentions S-PRISM in an appendix, but otherwise seems to focus on established Canadian heavy-water designs for reasonably guaranteed near-term electricity return.

          Their idea is to finance a fairly substantial decarbonization effort (read “retire the lignite already, ‘kay?”) via charging fees to accept and dispose of lightly-used LWR fuel from the international market. Near term decarbonization effort might boot-strap off Canadian heavy-water reactors, and perhaps LWRs as well — I don’t know. But the currently preferred used-fuel disposal method is to burn it in S-PRISM reactors and generate reliable electricity. Given the many-decades time frames involved other Gen IV reactor technologies will no doubt also be considered. A long-term geologic repository would also need be sited if only as a fall-back.

          In this sense the exact time of availability of Gen-IV FNR breeder/burners is not critical to the project, though some assurance of their eventual availability no doubt will be. Given the extensive ongoing international R&D effort this seems highly likely. I think the SA proponents point is that S-PRISM is already pretty much available now, the only remaining issues are how to finance and license it. Design approval most likely would have to come from the US or UK. If the UK plutonium proposal goes forward, perhaps SA can piggy-back off that.

          Predicting the future is fraught with difficulty. Ben Heard has promised more details will be forthcoming. We’re all eager to learn of them, but of course they mustn’t be rushed.

  3. Is this proposal dead?
    I know a lot can change in 5 years. And Savannah River has been talking with other SMR designs about a proposed demo. Maybe Fluor has pulled out with a focus on NuScale SMR? If this story is correct it seems the Savannah River site bypasses some of the regulatory hurdles of a non certified design. Seems like a natural for a fast track project. Maybe DOE has no interest?

    1. @mjd

      Unfortunately, the SRS concept of enabling SMR development offended people at competing labs. They spread information to nuclear energy opponents claiming that SRS was tapping into funds that were appropriated for clean up and shouldn’t be spent on reactor development even if those developments would make clean up projects easier by using up some of the “waste” material.

      Here is a link to a bit of crowing from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (a virulently antinuclear group) http://www.taxpayer.net/media-center/article/small-modular-reactors-smr-win-the-golden-fleece-award.

      It doesn’t mention the involvement of the competing national lab as the source of information; I got that from one of my many industry associates and confirmed it with others.

      1. OK, i understand all that; and “crowing” indeed. But my original comment link discussed a project between GEH and SRNS, with SRNS being Fluor, Northrop Grumman and Honeywell for at least looking at PRISM design development. (PRISM being the original blog post subject, either in UK or Australia). It seems the fastest potential track for PRISM is Savannah River, because they already have experience and infrastructure.
        My original question was is that project dead? If so, why? Those are all private companies that can ignore the “crows.” Maybe the original story ignored an important “hook” to DOE, and that stopped it. If so, so much for Administration support of new nuke development.
        If I was Ed Leaver I’d be pushing Australia to enter the SRNS partnership instead of starting at square one. Maybe that is not possible, or maybe DOE has really killed it. I’m just scratching my head and don’t expect you to provide the answer. The fastest track for PRISM development still seems to be to do it someplace that has a head start. Australia can still use it for all the purposes Ed has suggested, but they share the development cost.

        1. @mjd

          Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) is (was?) the cleanup contractor for SRS. It is not actually a consortium of “private” companies that have their own money to invest, it is a consortium of DOE contractors.

          This article http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2015-01-11/small-modular-reactor-development-faces-slow-fading-progress-savannah-river describes a bit of the controversy about their diversion of some of their funds towards supporting SMR development and the admonition they received telling them to stop that activity.

  4. So South Australia has the raw material (Uranium Ore) but does not produce a value added product. This reminds me of seeing logs shipped from the Pacific Northwest to Japan a few years back.

    The logs could have been milled in the Pacific Northwest and the Uranium Ore could be processed in the country where it is mined.

    Despite the fear, uncertainty and doubt, nuclear reactors will be a growth industry. Much of the world does not have access to cheap natural gas as does the US. The cost of oil is very volatile and there are strong pressures to eliminate coal from being the fuel of choice. This leaves the stable choice of nuclear power. Nuclear reactors still need fuel. Fuel fabrication seems like a natural development for South Australia. Seems like this could be an industry with a strong cash flow into Australia for years to come.

    I was trying to figure out who the fuel fabricators are now and it is a bit confusing.


    Once again – Thanks for the article.

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