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.
How many MW of commercial (not research) pebble-bed plant are expected to be built over the next decade?
"cooled by helium..."
Maybe that helium reserve is going to come in handy afterall.
cool, wonder what the down side is?
The simple fact it is nuclear energy will doom it's implementation in the U.S. The average citizen doesn't understand the advances in reactor design and fundamental shifts a pebble bed reactor has with respect to efficientcy and safety. The envirowackos will use that ignorance against the better interests of this country and continue their massive no nuclear power for any reason at any time attitude. Even if the go ahead was given, it would be tied up in state and federal courts for decades before the first shovelful of dirt is turned in the construction.
1. Since they are inherently safe, there may not be a need for a containment structure to contain the results of an accident. This may make these reactors more attractive as a terrorist target. Solution: require a missle shield.
2. There will be a greater volume of radioactive waste (not more radioactivity), simply because of the size of the pebble. Offsetting aspects of a PBMR include the ability to use non-enriched uranium, and the used pebbles are inherently safer to handle...and some argue are safe enough to dispose of as is.
One size fits all nuclear reactor please. Just like Southwest Airlines only flys 737. If there is a problem in one, look at this problem for all.
1st, these are just designs. None has ever been built. 2nd, fuel handling is extremely complex. 3rd, it's gas cooled and past experience with gas cooled reactors has not been encouraging from a reliability standpoint. There are just too many unknowns at this point to start jumping up and down.
All that said, I'd like to see research continue and see if these can be commercially viable, but I wouldn't dump all of my eggs in that basket right now. We know that light water reactors work well and we need to start building more of them now.
What is the Toshiba unit they were going to install at Galena?
Being "cooled by helium" has zip to do with the ability to sited near or away from water. ANY nuke reactor can be sited near or away from water---all that changes is the cooling tower design.
Westinghouse tried this back in the early 1970's. Killed by the anti-nuke hysteria.
Whatever happened to that Mitsubishi or Toshiba nuke plant that was a self contained unit using it's own shielding (liquid lead) as the heat transformation mechanism? We need about 100 of those here now (50MW output)
That is a different type of reactor.
Nuclear Power for Galena, Alaska
As a former reactor operator, I'm not impressed with that suggestion. One control room means that the control signal wiring from multiple reactors will merge. The Browns Ferry fire of 1975 showed the idiocy of that idea.
For new reactors there should be only one control room per reactor and the number of shared vital systems should be minimized (though obviously isolatable cross connects should be allowed).
I am very pro-nuclear, and any honest GW endorsing environmentalist should be too. The fact that they have NOT rushed headlong into supporting new Nukes and nuke technology pretty much exposes the Greens as Luddites..
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.