I liked this comment by DaveMart from the EfT discussion section, so I decided to ask his permission to post it. Dave has graciously complied with my request.
The world needs greatly increased access to power, not a reduction
‘Looking at the alternatives conservation will be very important – but although savings can be made on North American levels of consumption, the vast majority of the world needs greatly increased access to power, not a reduction.
The obstacles to providing this by solar are non-trivial, and at minimum involve vast power grids being built and depend on breakthroughs in generation and importantly storage.
Certainly for Europe the power would have to be generated in North Africa, which is not necessarily reliable, and even there sunshine is much lower just when it is needed in the winter so you either have to vastly overbuild or convert to hydrogen or similar which entails massive losses.
Wind power also needs a huge grid, and a debatable degree of back-up.
The issue with all of these power sources is that they are low energy, and widely dispersed. Very large amounts of materials, including rare earths, would be needed to build them, and they are often most available where they are least needed.
I don’t mean to totally dismiss these power sources, as they and things like geothermal can help a lot, for instance in hot climes solar on the roof producing power right where it is needed, especially for the poor, or for the rich in air conditioning in Arizona.
It is just a tough call to see them running the whole of an industrial society, and even tougher to see them helping the world’s poor to a reasonable standard of living.
Fusion sounds like an ideal counterbalancing power source, as it is very dense and you can make it where it is needed.
The problem is that we are still a long way from being able to do it, and it is much more than a simple engineering issue to get there,
If you look at most of the proposed ways of doing so, they are truly vast structures, and hardly hold out the hope of cheap power, even if we learn to do it.
The authors here point out the disadvantages of nuclear power as it is presently generated, pointing to the cost, waste issues and proliferation concerns.
Most of the cost of nuclear plants arises from regulatory issues, their custom build, and the fact that these huge installations have almost all their cost up-front, and it may take many years to build.
Liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR) can be built in all sizes from very large, and 100MW units can fit on the back of a lorry, so that they can be factory built and road delivered.
You can link several for generation of larger amounts of power – they can be modular.
Proliferation: the US had a demo molten salt reactor in the 60′s. One of the main reasons it was killed was because it was not good enough at proliferation! It did not produce enough waste for the weapons program. Whilst we are talking about waste, not only would LFTRs produce far less and far less dangerous waste, but would be able to burn up present wastes, disposing of them without the need for Yucca mountain, so that is a multi billion gain to start with.
A 1 GWe reactor would need around 1 tonne of fuel per year, compared to 250 tonnes for a conventional reactor, and the tiny amount of waste produced decays far quicker.
They burn fuel at nearly 100% efficiency, compared to the 0.7% of conventional reactors.
That means a near infinite resource for practical purposes, and energy security.
The biggest difference between this technology and fusion is that it is a right now technology.
Of course there are engineering issues, but they are in no way on the same level as those needed for fusion, or even for the systems integration of a largely renewable economy.
The main one is dealing with corrosive salts at high temperature, in some design variants as high as 800C.
This was identified in the 60′s, and even using the technology of the era was considered very doable.
There are a number of materials, including alloys and fibres, which should cope.
If that is more difficult than expected, there are also design variants of the basic concept which would operate at lower temperatures, or even variants which use solid thorium instead of liquid and so avoid the issue altogether.
So why aren’t we doing it?
When it was being demoed it did not appeal for the production of weapons, as it is poor for this.
It did not appeal to much of the current nuclear industry, as they had a vested interest in LWR designs and made a lot of their money by the production of fuel rods, which is a cost that you avoid altogether.
It did not appeal to the miners, as the amounts needed are altogether trivial, and the coal industry would not like a technology which is likely to undercut them in cost before you consider the cost of carbon dioxide emissions or the huge wastes emitted by the coal industry, and which could even be fitted to coal stations, using all their generating equipment and throwing out the coal burn!
Supporters included Teller, and many of the founding fathers of the nuclear industry.
Here is the site for technical discussion of the technology:
‘It’s cheap, it solves the energy and global warming problems and throws in a solution of the nuclear waste issue, and the technology is right now.’
Barry Brook at BraveNewClimate.com is beating the drums for the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR). I am ambivalent for a number of reasons, and will at least point to some. The IFR is not the only potential fast neutron reactor, and one fast neutron concept, the Liquid Chloride Fast Reactor belongs to the Molten Salt Reactor class. The offers significant safety, fuel processing and other technological advantages over the IFR, even though it has never been the subject of a serious R&D effort.
I represent the old ORNL tradition about nuclear technology. Oak Ridge scientists quickly rejected the idea of a sodium cooled reactor (1947 to 1950). Indeed Eugene Wigner who was the first post War research director at ORNL and who held the original patent on the Liquid Sodium Cooled Reactor, did not like his own invention. The original Oak Ridge air craft reactor was sodium cooled, but it was developed at K-25 rather than ORNL and the K-25 engineers who were developing the K-25 reactor project, quickly realized that the sodium cooled air craft reactor design had deep safety flaws including a positive coefficient of reactivity, and of course the insidious dangers of a liquid sodium coolant. Ed Bettis and his associates quickly bailed out on the liquid sodium cooled reactor design, and developed the Molten Salt Reactor concept. it was not by accident that the original K-25 MSR concept featured liquid fluoride salts, If K-25 chemists and engineers knew anything, they knew fluoride chemistry. Fluoride salts are, of course, quite safe compared to liquid sodium. The original MSR concept featured a negative coefficient of reactivity. Indeed if American Reactor development policy had been guided by strictly rational considerations from 1950 onward there would have been no more money spent on liquid sodium cooled reactors. As it is over 20 billion 2009 dollars has been spent on Sodium cooled fast breeder research without the development of a single American commercial Fast Breeder prototype.
By the early 1950′s my father, C.J. Barton, Sr., was exploring the chemistry for a Liquid Chloride Fast Breeder that would have been safer, and far more practical than any LMFBR design concept. Had the LCFR rather than the LMFBR been chosen as the major direction for United States Breeder fast breeder research, and been supported at the level that the Liquid Sodium Fast Breeder was to receive, I have little doubt that an American Fast Breeder Reactor would have been developed during the 1960′s. Unfortunately that was not the case, and instead over 20 billion 2009 US dollars were tossed by the United States Government down a rat hole marked Liquid Sodium Fast Breeder Reactors.
In addition to ORNL studies of the LCFR concept, a 1974 British study reached favorable conclusions about the LCFR concept, and a 1978 Swiss report indicated that the LCFR was a promising design.
In his 1982 UCLA dissertation by E. H. Ottewitte, who had participated in the Swiss study stated:
Molten salts compete favorably with liquid metals: they exhibit thermal conductivities intermediate to water and the poorer of the liquid-metal. Their specific heat capacities parallel water’s. Furthermore, an intermediate coolant of molten salt should more closely match the primary salt in physical proper-
ties, thereby reducing freezing and thermal stress problems. They will cost far less then liquid metals.
Fast molten chloride reactors have been cursorily considered before but mainly for the U/Pu fuel cycle. The ORNL MSR program showed the feasibility of fuel salt circulation. The combination of that experience and MCFR research (out-of-pile experiments and theoretical studies, so far) provide a basis for believing the
concept will work.
Chemical stability and corrosion of molten salts are fairly predictable. Low vapor pressure of the salts enhances safety and permits low pressure structural components.
Molten fuel state and cooling out-of-core simplify component design in a radiation environment. They forego complicated refueling mechanism, close tolerances associated with solid fuel, and mechanical control devices. Molten state and low vapor pressure of the salts also offer inherent safety advantages.
Some salient advantages of the MCFR concept are :
1. Simplicity : no control rods, fuel handling mechanisms, fuel elements or associated structures . Very uncluttered: should maximize test space and facilitate access thereto . Fluid fuel can be transferred remotely by pumping through pipes connecting storage and reactor .
2. MSRs don’t refuel or reprocess, just add fuel and process out wastes . Continuous
processing and refueling would minimize reactor downtime . Can usefully consume all fuel forms, simplifying fuel supply while simultaneously solving other people’s
3. MSR is the safest concept of all due to very strong negative temperature coefficient. No gaseous hydrogen can possibly evolve from fuel or primary coolant . Fuel already molten and handled by system . Simple design technique makes boiling impossible. Continuous removal of fission products reduces their heat source by two orders of magnitude: consequently, natural circulation suffices for emergency cooling, thereby greatly reducing the designated evacuation area . Also, under any off-normal conditions, the liquid fuel can be channeled to a continuously cooled drain tank, in a short time.
4. Very fast neutron spectrum in an annular core engenders high neutron fluxes, driving inner and outer thermal neutron flux traps, each variable in size and neutron energy spectrum by means of molten salt composition. Elimination of fuel cladding and structural material significantly improves the neutron economy of the reactor: more neutrons are available for applications.
5 .Elimination of pressurized and pressure-evolving components inside the containment, reducing risk of containment failure.
The American energy establishment, never looked seriously at the LCFR as a viable alternative to the liquid sodium fast breeder. If it had there is a likelihood that the LCFR would fave compared favorably to all LMFBR concepts including the IFR. The question would have been if a fast breeder reactor was needed at all. The LFTR offers sustainable breeding with the advantage of operating in the thermal/epithermal neutron range. The availability of a slow neutron breeding process potentially offers an enormous scalability advantage. A limited nuclear fuel supply would pose a far more serious challenge to the scalability of the IFR or a LCFR than it would to a two-fluid LFTR with or without graphite.
IFR concepts during the 1990′s included the notion of factory constructed modular reactors. But no assessment has been yet offered on possible interaction between IFR size and safety. Safety is a far more critical issue for the IFR than for a MSR for obvious reasons. The NRC has not yet developed safety concepts for either the LFTR or the IFR, but given the implications of major safety problems such as a coolant leak or a core rupture, IFR safety requirements are likely to be far more stringent, and costly to meet. NRC safety requirements will probably include the sort of massive safety related site construction requirements that favor economies of scale.
Compared to both the LFTR and its chloride salt cousin the LCFR, the IFR would pose significant safety hazards, would be larger and probably more expensive to build in a factory setting. It would also po
se significantly more control issues, and a system of defense in depth against sodium related safety concerns is likely to add to reactor complexity and cost. The IFR would require over 10 times as much fissionable materials as a graphite moderated LFTR making the LFTR a far more attractive candidate for the role as a mass produced, widely deployed global warming fighting technology. Indeed, factor produced small LFTRs may offer significant cost advantages over all other post-carbon energy technologies.
Politicians and scientists often feed each other’s insecurities. Since the 1972 firing of Alvin Weinberg for political reasons that included his MSR advocacy and criticism of the safety of LMFBRs the American scientific community has been cowed by the orthodox dogmas of the US Department of Energy. The US government did supply limited support to the concept of a thorium fuel cycle thermal molten salt breeder from the 1950′s to 1970′s, and although that reactor concept received no more than 4% of the money wasted is such a profligate fashion by on the liquid sodium breeder reactor concept, that project proceed in an outstandingly successful fashion, and would have become the crowning success of the United States nuclear program if Washington had been willing to back it with even 25% of the money it wasted on the LMFBR concept.
Large scale production of post-carbon energy technology is a key to CO2. The post-carbon technology must must be producible in sufficiently large numbers to have a significant impact on of CO2 emissions, yet have low capital and operation costs. If capital costs foe a carbon replacement technology can be paid for our of fuel cost savings and other efficiencies, so much the chances of successful GHG mitigation will be greatly improved.
Massive deployment of post carbon energy technology would almost certainly mean reliance on commodity materials such as stainless steel, and cement. A really desirable post carbon technology would contribute those those processes which produce raw materials needed for its own production. Thus it would be highly desirable for a post carbon energy technology to contribute the heat needed to produce steel and cement, either directly or through providing heat input into a chemical process by which high temperature fuel is produced.Thus if a reactor provides the heat needed to produce hydrogen gas, and burning the hydrogen provides the heat needed to make cement, the nuclear technology may be self sustaining, in a way which renewable technologies is not.Consider the issue of a material like neodymium in LFTR generators. What might prove interesting about this pairing is the potential of the LFTR to produce neodymium. Neodymium is a fission product, and LFTRs would produce about 150 pounds of neodymium for every billion watt years of electricity they produce. This is the essence of green technology, the ability of a technology to produce the resources required to impliment the technology on a massive scale.
Windmills can’t do that. Windmill designers might choose to use neodymium in their generators, but they can never produce neodymium from the normal operation of their windmills. If neodymium has to be used in the manufacture of windmills, it has to be dug up from the earth. From the viewpoint of the production of scarce raw materials, the LFTR is simply “greener” that the windmill. From the viewpoint of Energy returned from Energy Invested the LFTR wins over the windmills hands down.From the viewpoint of carbon emissions per kWh of electricity generated, the LFTR wins over the windmill hands down.
Meier calculated that in 1998 conventional nuclear generated one GWhe for every 18 tons of CO2 emitted. Wind generated 14 tons of CO2.http://fti.neep.wisc.edu/pdf/fdm1181.pdf
Technological options played a very large role in the calculated CO2 emissions for nuclear.Were the analysis to focus on alternative nuclear technologies like the LFTR, the IFR, or the Indian FBR. the comparison between nuclear and wind would greatly favor the advanced nuclear technology.For example in American conventional reactors 3/4th of the associated CO2 emissions were from coal fired power plants that supplied electricity to uranium enrichment facilities.Thorium does not require enrichment. Hence the switch to a thorium fuel cycle produces a 75% decrease in CO2 emissions from the Uranium fuel cycle. Thorium is already mined at uranium mines, rare earth mines, and phosphate mines. Hence no added emission of CO2 would be produced in order to mine thorium. This produces a further reduction of CO2 emissions related to mining thorium. Thorium can be prepared for use in reactors using low cost, low CO2 emission fluoride chemical processes. Thus the CO2 emissions of of a LFTR would easily be 10% of those from a conventional nuclear plant ca. 1998.
Now the LFTR uses mined nuclear fuel form 200 to 300 times more efficiently than a conventional nuclear power plant. Thus the CO2 emissions of a LFTR in producing electrical energy is perhaps 0.05% of the indexed conventional nuclear power plant. This would give us a figure of about 18 pounds of CO2 per gWhe. Quite obviously the LFTR and other Generation IV breeders far outperforms the windmills as a carbon mitigation measure.
Reactors like the LFTR are highly scalable. They can be rapidly built, in large numbers and rapidly deployed. The LFTR is highly stable. Its operation does not require staff intervention, because it will shut down automatically before it over heats. Its core already molten so core melt down is not a problem, and passive safety features automatically dump the core into safe holding tanks in the event of an emergency. The IFR also has very advanced automatic safety features. Thus a requirement to hire and train a highly able, highly skilled and qualified staff, will not be an impediment to the deployment of advanced nuclear technology. Factory production, advanced labor savings technology, simple design, the use of common low cost materials all make the massive use of advanced nuclear technology a major route, and arguable the major route to CO2 mitigation during the next 40 years. What is required is a social commitment to advanced nuclear technology. Ironically India alone among nuclear capable nations has made that commitment and stands in another generation to begin reaping the reward for its courage and foresight. The United States has, in contrast, followed a nuclear policy shaped by nearsightedness and fear. Advocates of a policy informed by cowardice are welcome in the inner chambers of of the Obama administration. If our national nuclear policy does not change, if we continue to follow those who would shape our nuclear policy by appeals to cowardice, we will pay a high price. A nation of ignorant cowards cannot be great. Nor can such a country hope to successfully expect to mitigate CO2 emissions.
It seems clear that the LFTR cam be highly scalable. The potential exists to manufacture hundreds and even thousand’s of LFTRs a year on factory assembly lines. The LFTR would be smaller and less complex than an Airbus 380. The finished LFTR meed not be completed at the assembly factor. Rather the LFTR can be built in several large modules, that can be rapidly assembled like legoes at the generation site. The LFTR could be ships as perhaps a half dozen submodules, plus an assembly kit, with whatever parts are needed to connect the submodules to each other. On site assembly can be added by labor saving machines and need not require a prolonged amount of time to accomplish. Thus the entire LFTR manufacturing process need not require more than a few months from the beginning of parts manufacture, to the spinning up of the turbines to begin power delivery.
Factory capacity would be determined by demand for LFTR. Graphite free cores capable of servicing a LFTR system with 400 MWe, may be easily transportable, given David LeBlanc’s ingenious graphite free design. David assures me that it is possible to build graphite free LFTRs that require relatively small start up charges. If so factory manufacture of 400 MWe LFTRs would be quite plausible. The electrification of the American economy plus provision for supplying all required industrial process heat could probably be supplied by factory manufacture of three hundred 400 MWe LFTRs every year. This would be a large, but by no means impossible undertaking. Alternatively were we to prefer smaller graphite LFTRs, we could do the same job with twelve hundred 100 MWe units. Again the size of the job would by no means prove impossible.
The manufacture of 120 Billion Watts of LFTR a year is a large but manageable industrial task.. An Airbus 380, a very large and complex 21st century industrial object, costs something over $300 million dollars, and LFTR manufacture would be, if anything, simpler and lest costly that A380 manufacture. The LFTR does not require the same sort of heavy forged steel parts required by the LWR. Through factory manufacture, LFTR quality control management would be greatly simplified with improved outcomes. Thus while it would be expensive to manufacture 120 A380′s a year, it would be by no means impossible. Indeed Airbus executives would be excited by the challenge. of manufacturing several hundred A380′s a year.
Given that LFTR manufacture would be no more complex than Airbus 380 manufacture, we could assume that products might well have similar costs, so let us assume a set of LFTR submodules, plus a set up kits cost $300 million going out the factory door. Assume that each 400 MWe LFTR will require $200 million of site related costs. That will give us a total cost of $1.25 billion per GWe generating capacity over night costs. With interest this might come to $2 million, but this cost has to be balanced against LFTR related savings. For every 1 billion W years of electricity produced the LFTR will save at least $250 million in coal prices. Thus the savings on fuel costs will more than pay both principle and interest on the capital cost of the LFTR and would return to the investor a handsome profit. The debt on the LFTR would be repaid in less than 10 years, after which the huge profit from LFTR operations should be shared by owners and rate payers.
Replacement of natural gas fired generating facilities would also produce a rapid repayment schedule, and immediate profit for the investors combined with the potential of lowering ratepayers cost. Thus far from giving us a world of expensive electricity, and electrical shortages created by an idiotic negawatts approach, the LFTR promised abundant low cost electricity, and the replacement of 80% or more of current energy delivered by fossil fuels, while lowering energy costs even after capital costs and interests are paid.
No wonder the oil companies and the coal barons are desperately hoping that Energy Secretary Chu will continue to follow the Energy Department line on the LFTR. No wonder Chu tells Congress that there is a terrible cracking problem with the LFTR, a problem that ORNL scientists solved in the 1970′s. The advent of the mass produced LFTR would put paid to the fossil industry in the United States. The LFTR is extremely scalable, and can be produced in massive numbers at a low enough cost and to almost completely replace fossil fuels by 2050, and there are a whole lot of powerful folks that don’t want you to know that.
[I]t is incumbent on those in high positions to reach wise decisions, and it is reasonable and important that the public be correctly informed. It is incumbent on all of us to state the facts as forthrightly as possible. – Hyman Rickover testifying before Congress in 1953,
QUESTION FROM SENATOR SHAHEEN
Q3. Of the six Gen IV nuclear power technologies proposed by the US in 2000, DOE Idaho National Labs have been pursuing two – (1) high temperature gas-cooled reactors for hydrogen production, and (2) sodium-cooled fast reactors for waste burning. Separately, liquid-fluoride thorium reactor research is ongoing at UC Berkeley, MIT, Redstone Arsenal, and in other countries including France, Japan, and Canada.
As the Department analyzes advanced reactor designs, can you tell me if the liquid-fluoride thorium reactors are under consideration? What are the benefits of liquid-fluoride thorium reactors? What are the drawbacks or downsides of liquid-fluoride thorium reactors? How does power generated from liquid-fluoride thorium reactors compare, on a price per kilowatt hour, with power generated from the current coal generation fleet in the United States? As we confront our nation’s energy and climate challenges, what role might these types of reactors play?
A3: The “liquid-fluoride thorium reactor,” otherwise known as a molten salt reactor (MSR), where molten salts containing fissile material circulate through the reactor core, is not part of the Office of Nuclear Energy’s research program at this time. Some potential features of a MSR include smaller reactor size relative to light water reactors due to the higher heat removal capabilities of the molten salts and the ability to simplify the fuel manufacturing process, since the fuel would be dissolved in the molten salt. One significant drawback of the MSR technology is the corrosive effect of the molten salts on the structural materials used in the reactor vessel and heat exchangers; this issue results in the need to develop advanced orrosion-resistant structural materials and enhanced reactor coolant chemistry control systems. In addition, operational practices would have to address the fact that the liquid salts solidify between temperatures of 300 C to 500 C, thereby requiring the use of special heating systems when the reactor is not operating. From a non-proliferation standpoint, thorium-fueled reactors present a unique set of challenges because they convert thorium-232 into uranium-233 which is nearly as efficient as plutonium-239 as a weapons material. A cost per kilowatt hour estimate has not been developed.
From ORNL/TM-6002 (J. R. Keiser, 1977):
As a result of these studies, we have found that Hastelloy N exposed in salt containing metal tellurides such as Li Te and Cr Te undergoes grain boundary embrittlement like that observed in the MSRE. The embrittlement is a function of the chemical activity of tellurium associated with the telluride. The degree of embrittlement can be reduced by alloying additions to the Hastelloy N. The addition of 1 to 2 % Nb significantly reduces embrittlement, but small additions of titanium or additions of up to 15% Cr do not affect embrittlement. We have found that if the U(IV)/U(III) ratio in fuel salt is kept below about 60, embrittlement is essentially prevented when CrTel.266 is used as the source of tellurium.
From ORNL/TM-6415 (1979):
The nickel-based alloy Hastelloy N, which was specifically developed for use in molten-salt systems, was used in construction of the MSRE.
The material generally performed very well, but two deficiencies became
apparent: (1) the alloy was embrittled at elevated temperatures by ex-
posure to thermal neutrons and (2) it was subject to intergranular sur-
face cracking when exposed to fuel salt containing fission products.
Recent development work indicates that solutions are available for both
these problems. Details of this work are given by McCoy; a summary of
the results follows
Irradiation experiments early in the MSR development program showed
that Hastelloy N was subject to high-temperature embrittlement by thermal
neutrons. The MSRE was designed around this limitation (stresses were
low and strain limits were not exceeded), but the development of an im-
proved alloy became a prime objective of the materials program. It was
found that a modified Hastelloy N containing 2% titanium had much im-
proved postirradiation ductility, and extensive testing of the new alloy
W ~ S under way at the close sf MSRE operations.
The second problem, intergranular surface cracking, was discovered
at the close of the MSRE operation when surface cracks were observed
after strain testing of Hastelloy K specimens that had been exposed to
fuel salt. Research since that time has shown that this phenomenon is
the result of attack by tellurium, a fission product in irradiated fuel
salt, on the grain boundaries.
As a result of research from 1974 to 1976, two likely solutions to the problem of tellurium attack have been developed. The first involves the development of an alloy that is resistant to tellurium attack but still retains the other required properties. This development has proceeded sufficiently to show that a modified Hastelloy N containing about 1% niobium has good resistance to tellurium attack and adequate resistance to thermal-neutron embrittlement at temperatures up to 650°C. It was also found that alloys containing titanium, with or without niobium, exhibited superior neutron resistance but were not resistant to tellurium attack.
The second likely solution involves the chemistry of the fuel salt.
Recent experiments indicate that intergranular attack on Hastelloy N
is much less severe when the fuel-salt oxidation potential, as measured
by the ratio of U4+ to U3+, is less than 60, the possibility that the superior titanium-modified Hastelloy N could This discovery opens up be used for MSRs through careful control of the oxidation state of the Fuel salt.
Bath of the above solutions appear promising, but extensive testing
under reactor conditions would be required before either could be used
in the design of a future MSR.
Also from From ORNL/TM-6415 (1979)
SPECIAL DEVELOPMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DMSR
Recent reexamination of the MSR concept with special attention to
antiproliferation considerations has led to the identification of two
preliminary design concepts for MSRs that appear to have substantially
less proliferation sensitivity without incurring unacceptable performance penalties. tor) has been applied to both of these concepts because each would be fueled initially with 235U enriched to no more than 20% and would be operated throughout its lifetime with denatured uranium. The designation DMSR (for denatured molten-salt reactor) has been applied to both of these concepts because each would be fueled initially with 235U enriched to no more than 20% and would be operated throughout its lifetime with denatured uranium.
The simpler of these DMSR concepts6 would completely eliminate on-line chemical processing of the fuel salt for removal of fission products. (Stripping of gaseous fission products would be retained, and batch-wise treatment to control oxide contamination probably would be required.) This reactor would require rautine additions of denatured 235U fuel, but would not require replacement or removal of the in-plant inventory except at the end of the 30-year plant lifetime. Adding an on-line chemical processing facility to the 30-year9 once-through reactor provides the second DMSR design concept. With this addition, the conversion ratio of the reactor would reach 1.0 (i.e., break-even breeding) so that fuel additions could be elim
inated and a given fuel charge could be used in-definitely by transferring it to a new reactor plant: at the decomissioning of the old unit.
The required chemical processing facility for a DMSR, shown as a preliminary conceptual flowsheet in Pig. S.1, would be derived largely from the MSBR but would contain some significant differences. In particular, isolation and segregation of protactinium would be avoided, provisions would be made to retain and use the plutonium produced from 238U and a special step would be added for removal of fission-product zirconium. Thus, the development of on-line chemical processing for a DMSR would require essentially all the technology development identified for the
MSBR with additions to accommodate these differences. However, since the DMSR offers a no-processing option, a large fraction of the reprocessing development, along with its associated materials development, could be deferred or even eliminated to reduce the cost (but probably not the time) for developing the first DMSRs. To provide an overall perspective, this development plan includes costs and schedules for developing the reprocessing capability in parallel with the reactor. Such deferral might be expected
In his recent essay, “New” Nuclear Reactors, Same Old Story, Amory Lovins quoted from testimony which Hyman Rickover gave to Congress in 1953 on “real” and “academic” reactors. Lovins stated:
No new kind of reactor is likely to be much, if at all, cheaper than today’s LWRs, which remain grossly uncompetitive and are getting more so despite five decades of maturation. “New reactors” are precisely the “paper reactors” Admiral Rickover described in 1953:
But in fact in 1953 Rickover described the mistaken concepts about reactors by poorly informed, self styled experts, who seek by posing as authorities on issues about which they know nothing, to mislead decision makers and the public. Alexander De Volpi a retired nuclear scientist who spent his career ant Argonne National Laboratory researching nuclear weapons control and proliferation issues recently observed about Lovins:
when it comes to his renderings on nuclear-reactor life-extensions, subsidies, capacities, performance, underfilled expectations, unauthorized Chinese reactors — and so on, all without caveats —Lovins’ strident anti-nuclear messages come off as a stalking horses for an evangelical agenda.
In short, Lovins’ latest publication, “The Nuclear Illusion,” lacking the fundamentals of a scientific discourse, would be better titled, “The Nuclear Illusionist.”
Here then are Rickovers 1953 words to Congress.
ideas in reports and orally to those who will listen. Since they are unaware of the real but hidden difficulties of their plans, they speak of with great facility and confidence. Those involved with practical reactors, humbled by their experience, speak less and worry more.
Yet it is incumbent on those in high positions to reach wise decisions, and it is reasonable and important that the public be correctly informed. It is incumbent on all of us to state the facts as forthrightly as possible. Although it is impossible to have reactor ideas labeled as “practical” or “academic” by the authors, it is worthwhile for both the authors and the audience to bear in mind this distinction and to be guided thereby.
Thus if we are to follow Dr. De Volpi’s line of reasoning, it is Amory Lovins himself, who is expressing what can best be described as “academic” views on reactors.