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  1. Rod – thanks for these! As you say, it’s a treasure trove.

    The ML-1 Plant Characteristics report confirmed my initial judgement that the reactor is fueled with highly enriched uranium 235 – it’s 93% HEU. I judge that right now, regulators, non-military users, the general public, and especially anti-nuclears, won’t be willing to accept the stigma of HEU. They also won’t be particularly comfortable with the dose rates from the shut down reactor during transport. Even though the dose rates IMO wouldn’t present a hazard to the vehicle drivers, never mind anyone a kilometer distant.

    Still, It’s a great peek at the technical aspects of reactor engineering. Thanks again!

    1. @Andrew Jaremko

      Don’t forget that we’ve had more than 50 years worth of technical developments since the ML-1. It is a marker and a hint of a path not (yet) taken.

      My fascination with closed cycle gas turbines stems from a long lived desire to marry the characteristics of atomic fission (energy dense fuel, emission free heat production, essentially inexhaustible fuel sources) with the same low cost heat conversion systems that make natural gas power plants so cheap, light, simple to operate, and easy to maintain when compared to steam turbine power plants with the same power capacity.

      As Bob Hargraves repeats, nuclear energy will succeed when it is cheaper than coal.

      If someone can skillfully combine a better fuel source and a cheaper power conversion system, it would take a lot of creative hurdle erection to prevent a closed cycle gas turbine from being more expensive than a competitive coal (or natural gas) power plant.

      1. From the data I’ve seen until now, I’m not convinced natural gas power plants are really easy to maintain.

        Whilst gas is a small part of the French generation it’s definitively a disproportionate portion of the unscheduled non-usability incident registered by the French grid operator RTE https://clients.rte-france.com/lang/fr/visiteurs/vie/prod/indisponibilites.jsp
        Coal has quite a lot too, but the remaining units are near their end of life.

        1. @jmdesp

          You are probably right about the maintenance issues associated with natural gas heated Brayton cycle power plants operated as peaker units. My unprovable estimation, however, is that a closed Brayton cycle machine operating as a baseload or intermediate load follower with a clean, inert gas working fluid would have fewer maintenance problems. Many equipment failures are caused by either cyclic load stresses, repeated temperature cycles, or chemical corrosion. All of those causes are mitigated in my currently non-existent machines.

  2. Rod – how much do you know about supercritical C02 and what is your opinion of a supercritical C02 power conversion system?

    1. @Todd Neuman

      Supercritical CO2 is technically interesting. It isn’t a proven path to dramatic cost reductions by simple adaptation of machines that are already in series production.

      Nitrogen interests me because it’s enough like air to use the same turbo machinery.

  3. In the 60’s at Navy Nuclear Power School I heard about the Air Force working on one. Even with our security clearance the instructors could not tell us much about it. As I recall it was a Turbojet like propulsion system. Wouldn’t what they worked on then be applicable to the gas cooled pebble-bed reactors and wouldn’t there be info on metallurgy problems at these temperatures/pressures? From my limited knowledge of the systems, it seems like it could provide the link between your Atomic Engine and the Pebble Bed reactor needed to make a viable product.

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