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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2012 2:13 pm 
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Video presentation from SINAP at UC-Berkeley, August 6, 2012

PDF of slides from video presentation


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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2012 2:21 pm 
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A quick summary of my notes as well:

Presentation was Dr Kun Chen from SINAP, the Shanghai Institute of (Nuclear) Applied Physics, a part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Dr Chen received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in the United States and worked for ~4 years at Argonne.

Ed Blandford gave the introduction. He did a great job of setting the tone about how this is a technical presentation and we are here to hear the speaker and not comments from the audience, so keep your questions to technical ones related to the presentation. This defused the anti-China sentiment we experienced in the email threads that led up to the talk. Thanks Ed.

Dr Chen projected that in 2020, China would have 70 GWe of LWR in production and 30GWe under construction. He said this would be 5% of China's electrical production. This doesn't make sense to me because 70GW/5% is 1400GW and the USA's average electrical consumption is about (year 2008, 12.79 quads/year = 428GWe. Another way to think about this is that the USA has 104 reactors producing roughly 85GWe which is ~20% of USA electricity production). Maybe he meant 5% of primary energy because I'm pretty sure China doesn't produce several times as much electricity as the USA.

He said that China considers U235 supplies to be limited, and that like India, they have few options for locally sourced Uranium. Thus fuel efficiency and Thorium utilization are important for China.

He also said that storage of SNF is a major cost for China's utilities so the reduced spent fuel volume and ~90% reduced long term radio-toxicity of a Thorium MSR would be a significant advantage.

He made the U232 anti-proliferation argument but his tone indicated to me that he didn't believe what he was saying, but rather repeating a standard line.

He said the China long term nuclear strategy is to pursue both thermal and fast neutron reactors and that long term, he expects fast neutron reactors to be very important.

The SINAP/CAS project is $350M over 5 years, 1 year complete. The project's scope is to build two small research reactors:

1. a "salt cooled MSR" (details below) and
2. a "liquid salt fueled MSR"

The project has about 400 people working on the salt-cooled reactor and 10 people doing early conceptual studies on the salt-fueled reactor. Basically this is all a salt-cooled project at this point.

Reactor details:

The salt-cooled MSR is essentially Per Peterson's PB-AHTR aka HTR-PM with an open fuel cycle using TRISO fuel with variations containing some solid Thorium.
The reactor core is 1.3m diameter x 1.3m tall
It contains 10,600 six centimeter diameter TRISO balls containing (all together 10.9 kg of U235 plus 98.1 kg of U238 (10% enriched).
The primary coolant salt is 5.7 tons of 99.95% Li7-enriched FLiBe which will be produced domestically using a mercury process. They'd like higher enriched lithium, but don't expect to get it. This is a large expense element of the project.
The secondary coolant salt is FLiNaK.
Temperatures (core, secondary output, not clear) will be 600--650C.
Construction will be Hastelloy-N and perhaps some SiC-SiC composit.
It sounds like the TRISO fuel is standard stuff purchased on the international market.
They hope to fabricate some TRISO fuel domestically containing some Thorium.
They will have control rods in the outer reflector graphite.
They will have a central 0.3m diameter hollow where they can irradiate stuff.
Initial operations are 2 MWth but they expect to be able to uprate this --- the power density is very low ~1.2 kW/liter. Perhaps 2 MWth is a special regulatory limit for research reactors in China?
Their thermal coeff is -9 pcm/K

The purpose of this project is to restore capabilities lost since the 1970's. Basically they have no young nuclear scientists and this project will produce ~300--400 new scientists familiar with doing something beyond regurgitating an established PWR design. Not quite his words, but close enough. They are developing reactor design codes for nuclear physics, thermal hydraulics, structure, etc., fuel handling machines, reactivity control, salt pumps, valves, purification, radio chemistry THOREX process, materials especially SiC-SiC composits, and safety and licensing basis. There is a lot to learn and this simple reactor with so much completed by Berkeley and ORNL is a great starting point.

The preconceptual design was done in June 2012 and reviewed in the USA in July. The "technical design" is due in 2013, construction in 2014, and operation is scheduled for 2015. They expect a roughly 15 year program of reactor prototypes 10 MW, 50MW, 300MW, and then production capability in 2030. I also heard 10MW then 100MW.

The liquid salt fueled reactor has not even reached early pre-conceptual design stage. It is scheduled for 2017 (2 years after the salt-cooled reactor) and will rely on additional money enabled by the success of the first reactor.

Other institutions involved include:
SARI (HX, pumps, turbines) Shanghai Advanced Research Institute (?)
SIOC (salt production) Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry (?)
CIAC (thorium production) China Institute of Applied Chemistry (?)
IMR (alloy production) Institute of Metal Research (?)

The project is managed by SINAP with much of the work occurring at universities and other institutes.

They are looking for a high temperature "application" other than electricity production as the utilities there are risk adverse too and will just buy PWR until MSR has an established track record in another industry.

They have a long history of nuclear work. Their MSR pyroprocessing funding was cut in 1973. In 1995 their tritium and Lithium-7 funding was cut (no more H-bombs?).

Sometime in the late 1960s they produced 6 grams of U233 via something they call the THOREX process (ORNL-3155 but there are several processes called "THOREX"). I think THOREX just means Thorium extraction.

Overall it was an enlightening presentation. Not super encouraging for people who want to see a full LFTR with online fission product extraction, Thorium feed, and U233 fission, but great to see an economic power like China taking seriously the technology development of metals, pumps, valves, thermal hydraulics, radio chemistry, etc., which are all pre-requisites to a Thorium energy driven world.


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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2012 2:31 pm 
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chris.uhlik wrote:
Sometime in the late 1960s they produced 6 grams of U233 via something they call the THOREX process (ORNL-3155 but there are several processes called "THOREX"). I think THOREX just means Thorium extraction.


It does mean thorium extraction but THOREX is an aqueous, solvent-based extraction technique analogous to PUREX. But THOREX is significantly more challenging than PUREX because of chemical differences between thorium and uranium. THOREX is basically the reference way to chemically process thorium-dioxide-based fuels.


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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2012 2:33 pm 
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Yes, this is the right place. I didn't understand at first that the UCB work would be funded by the Chinese program.

Also, it sounds like the Chinese program is $350M / 5 years. The UCB element of that will be much, much smaller.


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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2012 3:24 pm 
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clumma wrote:
The program was abandoned in favor of PWR work by the mid 70s. Funding for nuclear work as a whole was cut to nothing in the 90s, forcing the name change from Shanghai Institute of Nuclear Research. Today, their main occupation is a synchrotron light source, much like the ALS here at LBNL. Biology and materials science are the primary applications for these machines.

It struck me how similar this story is to our own, AEC --> DOE, MSR vs LWR, etc. Chen, who has responsibility for safety on the new TMSR program, also mentioned the challenge of dealing with regulators who are only familiar with LWR technology. It's a small world.


You're right, that mimics the history of the DOE almost exactly. Disappointing.


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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2012 10:41 pm 
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Thanks for the notes
chris.uhlik wrote:
The salt-cooled MSR is essentially Per Peterson's PB-AHTR aka HTR-PM...
How do you figure that ?
I was actually expecting or hoping to see "essentially Per Peterson's PB-AHTR," but was disappointed: apparently there is no provision for testing any sort of innovative coolant flow and pebble stratification, as conceived by the Berkeley PB-AHTR group (although the graphic below is not very clear).

chris.uhlik wrote:
The liquid salt fueled reactor has not even reached early pre-conceptual design stage.... Not super encouraging for people who want to see a full LFTR with online fission product extraction, Thorium feed, and U233 fission....
Well, if you believed all the reports prior to this seminar, they're already building them :lol:


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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2012 11:20 pm 
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Fossil fuels to nuclear energy and LWR to MSR or fast reactors are revolutionary changes and the incentive for changes, with attendant risks, does not exist in the OECD countries. In the US, recent cheap gas is a further disincentive to nuclear energy and even coal. The need for more energy including the nuclear energy is felt in Asia, lead by China.
So let the Americans enjoy cheap gas and even shift to gas related jobs. Let the responsibility for the fourth generation nuclear be shouldered by numerous Asians.


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PostPosted: Aug 08, 2012 2:00 pm 
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jagdish wrote:
Fossil fuels to nuclear energy and LWR to MSR or fast reactors are revolutionary changes and the incentive for changes, with attendant risks, does not exist in the OECD countries. In the US, recent cheap gas is a further disincentive to nuclear energy and even coal. The need for more energy including the nuclear energy is felt in Asia, lead by China.
So let the Americans enjoy cheap gas and even shift to gas related jobs. Let the responsibility for the fourth generation nuclear be shouldered by numerous Asians.


I really doubt that cheap gas is anything more than a short-term disincentive for nuclear/coal in the US. I fully expect continued growth in domestic supply, keeping costs down, but there would be an enormous opportunity cost in keeping that gas for domestic consumption. In all likelihood the US will move to an export model for our gas (and other fossil fuel resources), selling to countries with very limited resources and/or cultural aversion to nuclear/fossil fuel extraction (e.g. Japan, Germany, Singapore). If the US doesn't move to a much greater focus on nuclear that will mean more expensive retail prices for electricity.


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PostPosted: Aug 08, 2012 3:56 pm 
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iain wrote:
Yes, this is the right place. I didn't understand at first that the UCB work would be funded by the Chinese program.

Also, it sounds like the Chinese program is $350M / 5 years. The UCB element of that will be much, much smaller.


I do not know the source of funding for the UCB work but I would guess it is the US government rather than the Chinese and very much smaller than the Chinese effort.


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PostPosted: Aug 10, 2012 4:13 pm 
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Whoa whoa whoa whoa...

Did anyone catch this in Kun Chen's presentation at UCB?

Apparently the Chinese first started work on nuclear power plants in the 1960s, and their first work was on MSRs, not LWRs! They must have run into some problems that proved difficult, because they stopped in the 1990s. ORNL probably solved those problems in their own work, but it wasn't easily accessible until recently...

Edit: I see that Chris noticed this actually...but still I think it merits underlining.


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PostPosted: Aug 10, 2012 11:37 pm 
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From the nextbigfuture:-
http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/08/thoriu ... .html#more
The Chinese have fewer procedural hurdles and could even meet the dates given. If the thorium burners take two decades, the used fuel burners could be made in one or under.


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PostPosted: Aug 11, 2012 7:45 pm 
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The Chinese plans are primarily to build Dr. Peterson's salt cooled pebble reactor. But they do have the charter to investigate both salt cooled and salt fueled reactors. What features should be incorporated into the salt cooled reactor to allow it to be upgraded to a salt fueled one?
1) provision for He sparge (connection for gas injection, connection for gas removal, space for off-gas holding
2) provision to extract a side stream of salt for testing ideas for noble metal extraction (cool, slow moving flow through Hastalloy wool is one idea that comes to mind).
3) extra radiation monitors around the HX.
4) provision for instrumentation to monitor salt chemistry (in particular UF4/UF3 ratio).
5) provision to add fertile/fissile and balancing material (Be metal?)


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PostPosted: Aug 11, 2012 8:34 pm 
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Lars wrote:
The Chinese plans are primarily to build Dr. Peterson's salt cooled pebble reactor.

I don't see the similarity -- other than pebble fuel & cooling salt: The CAS concept doesn't appear to use UCB's fancy cross-flow and driver/blanket stratification scheme.

Please explain.


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PostPosted: Aug 12, 2012 11:34 pm 
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DaveMart wrote:
http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/08/thorium-fueled-molten-salt-reactor.html#more

2MW molten salt cooled reactor by 2015
2MW MSR fuel by 2017

They seem to be building salt cooled reactors first.


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PostPosted: Aug 21, 2012 10:47 pm 
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Lars wrote:
... What features should be incorporated into the salt cooled reactor to allow it to be upgraded to a salt fueled one? ...

It seems to me that one of the most important salt cooled reactor features that leads to a salt fueled design is the use of buffer salt.

The use of cheap buffer salt crept into the FHR designs at least by 2005, to provide extra thermal mass to provide very gentle response to transients. In modern salt cooled designs, the salt is considered expensive stuff (because of the isotopically enriched lithium), so they minimize the quantity of it, as one would do with a salt fueled design.

The use of large amounts of buffer salt also improves the energy efficiency when a passive, always-on, shutdown cooling system is used. This is because the buffer absorbs several hours worth of shutdown heat, so the cooling system doesn't need to remove as much heat (1% of full power at 2.2 hours, 0.5% at 22 hours).

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