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PostPosted: Nov 25, 2014 4:14 pm 
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NASA Contracts DOE to produce 1.5Kg Pu238 Per Year with focus at Oak Ridge for $50 million a year.

http://www.nature.com/news/nuclear-powe ... um-1.16411


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PostPosted: Nov 25, 2014 11:08 pm 
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If $50 million, in addition to current efforts, was put towards developing LFTR, after a few years they could have proto-type LFTR that that would make much more Pu238 per dollar spent than converting Np237, plus you get the power to sell.

The only question is how do you convince NASA of this? And that it is worth taking the Risk on the longer term solution.


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PostPosted: Nov 25, 2014 11:22 pm 
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try telling them.


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PostPosted: Nov 26, 2014 8:35 am 
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Ida-Russkie wrote:
try telling them.


I have. An old friend of mine runs the program but he says DOE calls all the shots when it comes to the 238Pu production method. We had a teleconference with the respective DOE parties but nothing came of it.


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PostPosted: Nov 26, 2014 12:42 pm 
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People are unsure of both the molten salt and thorium. It will take one at a time to convince them. Fortunately the molten salt is being handled by high temperature enthusiasts. Hopefully, the thorium will be tested by India. One can then combine the experiences.
Also, there is no longer any energy shortage in the North America or Europe. All the new construction is going on in Asia which needs more energy and Russia who are keen to become the world,s nuclear suppliers.


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PostPosted: Nov 26, 2014 3:13 pm 
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Kirk Sorensen wrote:
I have. An old friend of mine runs the program but he says DOE calls all the shots when it comes to the 238Pu production method. We had a teleconference with the respective DOE parties but nothing came of it.


Ok, I understand that NASA buys the Pu238 from DOE and being the vender they call the shot of how it is made and at this time DOE is the only option.

However, if a private company where to develop the capability of making Pu238 as a “bi-product”, would NASA be able to select a vender other than DOE, or are they locked in because they are another government agency?

However, even if NASA can select, sounds like the private company is on its own to develop and pay for licensing, etc.


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PostPosted: Nov 26, 2014 3:49 pm 
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michael.runyan wrote:
If $50 million, in addition to current efforts, was put towards developing LFTR, after a few years they could have proto-type LFTR that that would make much more Pu238 per dollar spent than converting Np237, plus you get the power to sell.

The only question is how do you convince NASA of this? And that it is worth taking the Risk on the longer term solution.

There is no point in throwing US$ 50 million towards a multi billion dollar problem, without the rest of the money guaranteed and the NRC committed in not making it mission impossible. Designing a new nuclear reactor type in the US today seems crazy. I hope to be proven wrong, but I've seen nothing that disproves my thesis.
I'm hoping and publicizing Terrestrial Energy cause they at least have a plan with enough public information and some corporate support plus CNSC being more reasonable with modular reactors.
LFTR is a great dream reactor, but I don't think going full LFTR makes any sense as the first step. My experience on my field of work (computing infrastructure) suggests Dr. LeBlanc KISS approach being the best bang for the buck, so I tend to think anybody that isn't going KISS too is asking for failure. There are way too many things conspiring against successfully building an MSR reactor that you must go KISS to maximize success. Single fluid burner first. Then design/engineer/certify LFTR with the profits from selling hundreds of Gen 1 MSR reactors.

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PostPosted: Nov 26, 2014 4:01 pm 
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michael.runyan wrote:
However, if a private company where to develop the capability of making Pu238 as a “bi-product”, would NASA be able to select a vender other than DOE, or are they locked in because they are another government agency?


Totally locked in to DOE as the vendor. It's even worse than that. NASA has to pay DOE tens of millions for a product that they may or may not ever receive.


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PostPosted: Nov 26, 2014 8:11 pm 
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Kirk Sorensen wrote:
Totally locked in to DOE as the vendor. It's even worse than that. NASA has to pay DOE tens of millions for a product that they may or may not ever receive.

So, DOE is the hard nut that needs cracked, which I realize is an uphill battle (like 110 degrees uphill), hard, time consuming, but not impossible.

But if the product was available, is it likely that DOE would buy it out of their own convenience?

macpacheco wrote:
There is no point in throwing US$ 50 million towards a multi billion dollar problem, without the rest of the money guaranteed and the NRC committed in not making it mission impossible. Designing a new nuclear reactor type in the US today seems crazy. I hope to be proven wrong, but I've seen nothing that disproves my thesis.

I don’t think that it needs to be a multi-billion dollar project, at least not to the point of a demonstration reactor, unless conducted as a government project. Going to a full commercial reactor may take about a billion (again assuming a lean design & manufacturing approach), but once there is a working demonstration reactor and the cost structure is better demonstrated, loans, funding, and investment is much easier. Work being done in Canada, China & India definitely HELPs give momentum and precedence.

Now I am not trying to bash government projects, but by the nature of the beast, they tend to be “design by committee”, which often ends up running more time and money. This is versus Lean Design & Manufacturing. This is best executed when guided by ONE person with a specific vision or goal and when this one person can conceptualize the entire project correctly and has the power to control the project. This gives the entire project laser like focus. Also, Lean does NOT MEAN CHEAP, it means you identify exactly what you NEED and DON’T NEED and then you do what you need to do with High Quality. IE Lean means to execute EFFICIENTLY, poor quality is not efficient. One good example of this is SpaceX, one man did with $100 million, what his detractors said would take between 1 to 2 billion dollars. IT CAN BE DONE.


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PostPosted: Nov 27, 2014 9:47 am 
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michael.runyan wrote:
But if the product was available, is it likely that DOE would buy it out of their own convenience?


It could not be done in the next decade without express DOE consent for a few simple reasons.

1. You would need DOE to give you some of their neptunium as fertile material.

2. You would need DOE to agree to take the extracted plutonium for their process.


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PostPosted: Nov 27, 2014 12:12 pm 
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michael.runyan wrote:
I don’t think that it needs to be a multi-billion dollar project, at least not to the point of a demonstration reactor, unless conducted as a government project. Going to a full commercial reactor may take about a billion (again assuming a lean design & manufacturing approach), but once there is a working demonstration reactor and the cost structure is better demonstrated, loans, funding, and investment is much easier. Work being done in Canada, China & India definitely HELPs give momentum and precedence.

Now I am not trying to bash government projects, but by the nature of the beast, they tend to be “design by committee”, which often ends up running more time and money. This is versus Lean Design & Manufacturing. This is best executed when guided by ONE person with a specific vision or goal and when this one person can conceptualize the entire project correctly and has the power to control the project. This gives the entire project laser like focus. Also, Lean does NOT MEAN CHEAP, it means you identify exactly what you NEED and DON’T NEED and then you do what you need to do with High Quality. IE Lean means to execute EFFICIENTLY, poor quality is not efficient. One good example of this is SpaceX, one man did with $100 million, what his detractors said would take between 1 to 2 billion dollars. IT CAN BE DONE.

Space launch safety requirements are hard but not insane. NRC regulation on a new type of reactor IS insane, since there is none to begin with, and it certainly will be designed even harder than water cooled regs. Just consider how expensive it would be to certify CANDU reactors for operations in the USA, even with a few dozen of them operating with a spotless safety record.
Love what SpaceX / Musk done. I wish we could do that with nuclear, but even if done under DoD could circumvent the NRC, congress could easily intervene. And then we come full circle back to the root cause of NRC insane regulation which is democratic anti nuclear pressure.
I would love to see a 50MWt (or larger) MSRE plus project to demonstrate solutions to all open issues left from the MSRE project and demonstrate reliable continuous power output an order of magnitude higher than the MSRE.
But one should not mix hope and desire with reality. Unfortunately nuclear reality today in the USA is a huge buzz kill :cry:

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PostPosted: Nov 27, 2014 12:17 pm 
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Which genius decided it was a good idea to cancel the Stirling Generator project?
That would have gone a long way to reducing the crippling shortage.


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PostPosted: Nov 29, 2014 2:16 am 
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Kirk Sorensen wrote:
michael.runyan wrote:
But if the product was available, is it likely that DOE would buy it out of their own convenience?


It could not be done in the next decade without express DOE consent for a few simple reasons.

1. You would need DOE to give you some of their neptunium as fertile material.

2. You would need DOE to agree to take the extracted plutonium for their process.

Apologies for not being clear. I was thinking more in terms of LFTR production of Pu238 from Thorium, that 1% that makes it all the way to Pu238.

Question: Could you boost Pu238 production in LFTR if you did the following?
1) Have a pure Th232 – U233 Reactor (required for any Pu238 production w/ LFTR (IE no U238 or Pu239))
2) ADDED Np237 from an External Source. To increase the Pu238 production, but not so much to kill breeding equilibrium. IE take the Approximately 8% breading gain and push it down to 0.1% - 1% gain, with the balance going to make Pu238.

Now I know that Kirk has a rule about not doing "dumb things with Neutrons, which is anything other than making U233." Would this be an exception to this rule?


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PostPosted: Nov 29, 2014 2:42 am 
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E Ireland wrote:
Which genius decided it was a good idea to cancel the Stirling Generator project?
That would have gone a long way to reducing the crippling shortage.

Agreed.

The article did indicate that the long term testing is continuing, so maybe it can be picked up later.

Maybe, they don’t like moving parts, did not really like it in the first place?
Maybe, they think they have a solid state solution that is more efficient than currently used RTGs?

Does anyone have any insight?


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PostPosted: Nov 29, 2014 4:10 am 
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E Ireland wrote:
Which genius decided it was a good idea to cancel the Stirling Generator project?
That would have gone a long way to reducing the crippling shortage.

It wasn't just someone’s decision. Stirling Energy Systems, the company that was building them went bankrupt late in 2011. The problem was much like Solyndra in that the cost per kWh could not compete with flat plate collectors. In a free market it all comes down to $/kWh.

Just looking at their system I see a lot of items that would cost more than in a simple flat plate collector system. Assume a flat plate fixed panel system with the same output as their 25 kW system required 150 250 watt panels, (15% efficient ), and a 35 kW inverter. Racks would be no more than 3 meters, (10’), high, and made from 38mm, (1-1/2”) tubing. If the inverter could be designed without the need of a cooling fan there would be no moving parts in the entire system. Compare this to a dish system 12 meters, (39.3’) in diameter mounted on a 3 meter, (10’), pole about 400 mm, (16”) in diameter. A four cylinder Stirling engine, 25 kW generator, heat exchangers, and heat rejection unit. Also needed is the equipment for a two axis servo system for tracking the sun. In short lots of big structure, and moving parts. Not the KISS principle.

With our LFTR designs we have a different problem. LFTR is much simpler than current reactors, but we have the problem of entrenched manufactures of old designs, and a stifling regulatory environment.

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