Skip to comments.NUCLEAR POWER TO THE RESCUE
Posted on 09/05/2006 7:08:34 AM PDT by thackney
A revolutionary nuclear energy technology is being designed and built in South Africa, but with suppliers and partners in many other nations, says Paul Driessen, a senior policy adviser for the Congress of Racial Equality and Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT).
The 165-megawatt Pebble Bed Modular Reactors (PBMR) are small and inexpensive enough to provide electrical power for emerging economies, individual cities or large industrial complexes. However, multiple units can be connected and operated from one control room, to meet the needs of large or growing communities.
Process heat from PBMR reactors can also be used directly to desalinate sea water, produce hydrogen from water, turn coal, oil shale and tar sands into liquid petroleum, and power refineries, chemical plants and tertiary recovery operations at mature oil fields.
The fuel comes in the form of baseball-sized graphite balls, each containing sugar-grain-sized particles of uranium encapsulated in high-temperature graphite and ceramic; this makes them easier and safer to handle than conventional fuel rods, says Pretoria-based nuclear physicist Dr. Kelvin Kemm.
It also reduces waste disposal problems and the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation; conventional fuel rod assemblies are removed long before complete burn-up, to avoid damage to their housings; but PBMR fuel balls are burnt to depletion.
Because they are cooled by helium, the modules can be sited anywhere, not just near bodies of water, and reactors cannot suffer meltdowns.
Since PBMRs can be built where needed, long, expensive power lines are unnecessary; moreover, the simple design permits rapid construction (in about 24 months), and the plants don't emit carbon dioxide.
PBMR technology could soon generate millions of jobs in research, design and construction industries -- and millions in industries that will prosper from having plentiful low-cost heat and electricity. It will help save habitats that are now being chopped into firewood -- and improve health and living standards for countless families, says Driessen.
This PDF (which I will not excerpt because it needs to be read in detail) indicates that it is more expensive that other nuclear power designs such as Gas Turbine Modular Helium Reactor (GT-MHR) (whatever that is)
A little nukie never hurt anyone.
Especially when they are small and you can string them together if you need more.
PMBR's have been debated for several years and this one in SA is a few years behind schedule. My company (Westinghouse) is heavily involved in it. IMHO, it's too small (in MWe output) to be of very much interest to the US, Europe, Japan and China. It uses gas turbines to extract energy from the hot helium and there is a limit of about 250 -300 MWe on gas turbine output, whereas steam turbines get as high as 1500 MWe. Even if they tried to operate it a a combined cycle mode with gas and steam turbines, the best they could get is about 500 MWe. Given the cost of fuel, waste disposal, and regulatory structures, you get better bang for the buck by going with the current and new light water reactors we have been building for years.
High temperature Ggs reactors are a good technology that could be more useful if they were operated in a combined cycle mode at higher outputs. A reliable demn=onstration in the 800-1000 MWe range would go a long way to getting it accepted in the US, Europe, and Japan. The Ft. St. Vrain experience makes many US utilities wary of HTGR's though.
It is my understanding that the biggest cost of a N reactor is the cost to dismantle once it is no longer useable. I favor N power but would like to see some clev er thinking done about the waste problem.
There has been some experience, in this country, and worldwide, with power reactor decommissioning. The costs vary depending on when the plant was built in the first place (newer plants have higher capital costs because of construction delays caused by intervenors). But the numbers I recall are in the range of 10-30% of the initial capital investment, adjusted for inflation, are required for decommissioning and restoration.
BTW, not many people know it, but the nuclear industry is one of the few, perhaps the only, industry that is required to set funds aside ahead of time to cover decommissioning costs. This is known as the decommissioning fund and every licensed reactor has to demonstrate on a periodic basis to the NRC that funds are available for this purpose. I don't think the same is required of other industries, like refineries, chemical plants, factories, etc. I know some mining operations that involve strip mining are required to "restore" the land, but, to be honest, most places I've seen "restored" in this manner look more like a covered-over landfill. In my town alone there are dozens of abandoned industrial sites, such are aircraft manufacturing, steel rolling mills, bearing plants, a trash-to-power generating plant, that were simply abandoned in place, with the owners walking away and letting them rot, leaving it to "someone else" to deal with the legacy. Nuclear energy generating plants are required by law to plan for their own burial, yet you'll hear anti-nuke kooks ranting all the time about how "evil" the industry is because it plans ahead to manage it's waste.
As far as "waste" goes (most of the material isn't that at all), reprocessing with full actinide recycle is the way to deal with it. We have the technology and the know-how to do it, but lack the political will.
Well thanks for the info, guess I was wrong (happy to be wrong this time!) about shutdown costs on a nuke plant. thanks again.
People don't want nukes.
Many intelligent people want to see the US use more nuclear power.
People are not that easily manipulated about nukes.
The most "clever" approach to dealing with radioactive waste is to change your way of thinking ... it's not "waste", it's a recycleable resource. Pres. Jimmy Carter banned, by executive order, the reprocessing of used reactor fuel assemblies in the US. This was one of his many acts of malfeasance in office.