Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

It is currently Dec 10, 2018 8:24 am

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 26 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
PostPosted: May 12, 2015 8:39 pm 
Offline

Joined: Oct 24, 2014 12:13 pm
Posts: 4
I was thinking about the Chicken and Egg problem that LFTRs face. A working example would be a big step. Could such a thing be built for, say, $1 million? $200K? $5 million? The two lower numbers are in the range of potential crowdfunding campaigns, not to mention angel investors, and the higher one is still in the realm of startup-scale money. What would it take to build, say, a 5KW reactor? That's something a university could do as well. What are the impediments?

I've been working in bleeding edge high tech fields all of my working life, where entire industries have been constructed in garages. Can that barebones approach be used here? (Perhaps the hardest question - is it possible to do in the US regulatory environment?)


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 12, 2015 9:48 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Jan 12, 2010 10:15 am
Posts: 42
Location: Singapore
You have to consider the most important factor, getting a hold of the starter fissile charge. That alone is probably the most difficult step since it really doesn't matter if that charge is U-235, Pu-239 or ideally U-233, they are all classified as special material.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 13, 2015 2:17 am 
Offline

Joined: Dec 07, 2008 2:53 pm
Posts: 50
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
In the United States the whole problem is the regulatory environment. The NRC which replaced the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) was tasked with promoting safety, and only safety, hence their preoccupation with requiring companies to prove that nothing can go wrong. If anything were to happen it would be the person who had OKed the reactor who would be fired. If the reactor builder never gets his reactor built it’s no skin off of the nose for the bureaucrats at the NRC.
This is a formula for failure.

_________________
Mike Swift
Although environmental groups say we must reduce CO2 to prevent global warming they can never mention the “N” word as part of the solution.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 13, 2015 9:06 am 
Offline

Joined: Apr 19, 2008 1:06 am
Posts: 2249
The smallest working reactor in the world is a 233U fueled reactor, the KAMINI at Kalpakkam in India. It is a functioning research reactor. It is a solid fueled and not an MSR or LFTR. It has a core size of 204x204x275mm.
You could have a similar sized LFTR if you have a water in tube moderator-coolant and do not insist on a breeder.For a breeder you may need additional blanket space.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KAMINI
http://www.barc.gov.in/reactor/index.html


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 13, 2015 4:59 pm 
Offline

Joined: Nov 14, 2013 7:47 pm
Posts: 576
Location: Iowa, USA
Tomswift wrote:
If the reactor builder never gets his reactor built it’s no skin off of the nose for the bureaucrats at the NRC.
This is a formula for failure.


I agree. The Department of Energy has no real incentive to solve our energy problems. The more problems that they solve the less important they become. The less important they become then less likely they can demand funds from the government. There are few people out there motivated to work themselves out of a job.

Getting closer to the topic at hand I was pondering a similar question the other day. Could a nuclear reactor be made small, light, and powerful enough to power a train? The reason the aircraft reactor experiment was cancelled was not necessarily because they thought it would not work, but because of a fear of radioactive contamination if there was ever a crash. With a train derailment in the news right now I don't think that proposing a nuclear powered train would go over very well. My back of the envelope calculations tell me that powering a train with a reactor much like what was designed in the aircraft reactor experiment might work. Safety concerns would most likely kill it.

No one could possibly estimate how much such a reactor would cost given the regulations a nuclear reactor must go through in the USA. The regulators get paid by the hour to inspect a design presented to them. They cannot tell how long it will take to do their analysis. As Tomswift pointed out they have little to no incentive to actually approve anything.

My guess is that we will get a LFTR design approved in the USA six months to a year after some other nation approves theirs. The USA doesn't lead anymore, it follows. When the USA leads we get men on the moon, when it follows it can't even put a human into low earth orbit.

_________________
Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 13, 2015 10:09 pm 
Offline

Joined: Apr 19, 2008 1:06 am
Posts: 2249
Do not be pessimistic as an American. Get optimistic as a citizen of the world. The US is, in any case, a land of immigrants.
A nuclear reactor is a big power source. Keep it on ground or on a big ship. Let trains run with ground power as now. It could be nuclear as in France.
Important politicians base their career on opposing storage of used fuel. A nuclear power plant is an active thing. A thorium fuelled reactor could be made to power a train on board. Who will accept it?
The first commercial MSR may well be the Canadian Terrestrial power model. It may just produce steam to soften the tar sands for mining.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 13, 2015 11:02 pm 
Offline

Joined: Nov 14, 2013 7:47 pm
Posts: 576
Location: Iowa, USA
jagdish wrote:
The first commercial MSR may well be the Canadian Terrestrial power model. It may just produce steam to soften the tar sands for mining.


That sounds about right. Canada seems to have a much more logical system for licensing nuclear reactors.

You want to know why I'm so pessimistic about technological and economic advancement in the USA? Well, I'll tell you anyway. I was listening to the radio this morning about all the chickens lost to some disease that's spreading. The report ended with a concern by the chicken farmers about how much money they were going to get from the government to replace the chickens lost. Everyone is expecting a government handout now. It seems so rare that anyone wants to actually work for a living any more. These people expect participation trophies. Well, things don't get done by just showing up. These people will put their hand out for a government check but won't offer their hand to help others. That only works until the government has spent everyone else's money.

Someone might ask, don't you want to see those chicken farmers succeed? Yes, I do. I also want to see them succeed because they know how to run a business. A wise farmer would have purchased insurance for a situation like this, my parents did. A less wise farmer should go out of business, and go work for someone else for a while. They'd probably learn a few things too.

Mike Rowe, from "Dirty Jobs", has said a few things along the same lines. Safety is not first. If safety is first then we'd never have sent men to the moon. The mission is first, safety is second or even third. It's this safety first attitude is why the USA has not built a new nuclear reactor since I was born. It's also why NASA lost it's ability to send humans into space. I don't see a whole lot of nations in this world that put the mission first, and that number seems to keep shrinking.

_________________
Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 18, 2015 1:51 am 
Offline

Joined: Jun 26, 2014 12:55 am
Posts: 1
I know this is probably heresy on this board, but if getting the startup fissile material is the biggest hurdle, would an experimental or proof-of-concept reactor be better served by an accelerator than by nuclear material? Or would the inherent 'danger' scuttle the project anyway? Personally I think, along the line of Leblanc and Terrestrial Energy's thinking, that the most important thing is to just get some sort of MSR up and running as soon as possible to demonstrate to the world that there is in fact still a horizon on the landscape of nuclear energy technology. Granted, a particle accelerator isn't really fitting the goal of 'cheapest' or 'smallest' but if it might fit 'easiest,' then maybe it should get a shot. Don't get me wrong, I'm still dreaming of a world full of LFTRs...


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 18, 2015 6:54 pm 
Offline

Joined: Nov 14, 2013 7:47 pm
Posts: 576
Location: Iowa, USA
jameseglavin4 wrote:
I know this is probably heresy on this board, but if getting the startup fissile material is the biggest hurdle, would an experimental or proof-of-concept reactor be better served by an accelerator than by nuclear material?


I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong but I believe the issue is less about obtaining the required fissile material but more about possessing it. As you point out it's not like someone can't get fissile material. Uranium and thorium is everywhere, all one has to do is spend the time and materials to get it out of the dirt. Centrifuges that could enrich uranium likely exist in many research and development laboratories, they are used for other purposes of course but nothing keeps them from enriching uranium except the desire for the people that own and operate them to stay out of jail. As you point out a particle accelerator could be used to produce the required startup fissile material, another piece of equipment that is relatively common. Again, no one uses them to produce fissile material out of a desire to stay out of prison.

There are people in the federal government that would love to give fissile material to anyone that wants to take it off their hands, either out of a desire to be rid of the money pit that is sitting on tons of fissile material that they have no use for or, out of a desire to see people advance the nuclear sciences. There are also people in the federal government that will not allow this fissile material to go any where since someone could use it to make a weapon, contaminate air/water/land/whatever, or just make them look bad because someone might figure out how to make this stuff useful when thousands (or millions?) of federal employees that spent billions (or trillions?) of your tax dollars and got nothing to show for it.

I suspect that if we see a breakthrough in nuclear engineering in this country in the next twenty years it will be because someone decided it would be easier to ask forgiveness afterward than ask for permission beforehand.

I'm an idiot when it comes to nuclear engineering but I can read a blueprint. It's not like the designs for a very basic and yet fully functional MSR is hard to find. I know some people that know how to weld and machine. I know people that know how to pour concrete. I know people that know chemistry. If we had enough money and didn't care about whether or not we'd go to jail for it we could dig up some rocks, leach out the thorium and uranium, weld together a reactor vessel, put it behind a concrete wall, point a particle accelerator at it, and fire it up. How much would all of this cost? If you keep the lawyers out of it then probably a few million dollars. How long would it take? Given that highly skilled and properly motivated people have been able to construct a working nuclear reactor in less than eight months then I'd guess it might take people that haven't done it before a few years. Again, you'd have to keep the lawyers out of it.

The way I see it there are two closely related reasons why we haven't seen a MSR built in the USA for the production of power. First is the economics. It's not the size of the check that someone would have to sign, it's the risk. If I could prove to someone that billions of dollars of oil sat beneath my house I'd have people standing in line to write me a check for $50 million to start drilling for it. If I told those same people I could get the same amount of energy, also worth billions of dollars, from the thorium beneath my house no one could be bothered to sign a check for 1/10th of that $50 million. That's because we've been drilling for oil for something like 150 years, people know that there is a good chance I can come through if I show them oil. No one has done a commercial MSR before, no one wants to take that risk.

Second problem is the politics and regulation. Our government has evolved in a nation fueled by fossil fuels, it knows how to deal with that. That technology has been around for a long time. Then I get to the first problem that is money. Politics and regulation can change but it takes money. People need to be convinced that we need nuclear power but that is hard to do when the price of energy is so low. There is little money available to lobby for nuclear power since the nuclear power industry is so small, a bit of chicken and egg problem here.

I'm optimistic about the potential for nuclear power because we have a large number of people in this federation that have the skills to build a nuclear power infrastructure very quickly if properly motivated. The problem I see is that it would take something like another oil crisis, a world war, or some widespread natural disaster to set this in motion. Basically people need something more frightening than nuclear power.

That's the short path to nuclear power, but I see a longer path. What we need is enough time to pass that the powers that be that are holding up nuclear power development have to die off, go senile, or at least retire and not care anymore.

I suspect that someone reading this is thinking that global warming will drive us to nuclear power. We've been ten years from having the skies fall if we don't stop burning coal for forty years now. So many doomsday deadlines have come and gone that no one seems to care any more, if they did to begin with. It's going to take something much more immediate and close to home than global warming to see a change in nuclear regulations.

_________________
Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 20, 2015 4:39 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Nov 14, 2013 2:34 pm
Posts: 177
Location: Here and There
@ Kurt Selner:

Kurt wrote:

"I'm an idiot when it comes to nuclear engineering but I can read a blueprint. It's not like the designs for a very basic and yet fully functional MSR is hard to find. I know some people that know how to weld and machine. I know people that know how to pour concrete. I know people that know chemistry. If we had enough money and didn't care about whether or not we'd go to jail for it we could dig up some rocks, leach out the thorium and uranium, weld together a reactor vessel, put it behind a concrete wall, point a particle accelerator at it, and fire it up."

I like your can do attitude. I also wonder if maybe someone is doing just what you wrote right now in some manner. Who would be the most motivated?


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 21, 2015 8:54 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Nov 30, 2006 3:30 pm
Posts: 3898
Location: Alabama
There are no drawings for an MSR that are "ready-to-build". None of the MSBR designs, none of the LFTR concepts, and not even the MSRE design could be built today. A design that can be built has yet to be designed. So don't think you're going to head out to the machine shop and get started this weekend. It would be a lesson in humility if you tried.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 21, 2015 11:20 am 
Offline

Joined: Dec 23, 2014 2:20 pm
Posts: 9
DO YOU WANT TO BUILD ONE?

Try this. In the mid 80's I went to "Childrens Palace" (Kids Toy Store), and asked for "A working Model of the Matthattan Project".
Several of the "Young" floor people looked, and even asked , but nobody carried it. I'm sure all the people I asked were highschool
Graduates. I happened to be in the security area of the store, (Servicing the sound system) and asked the store manager if they
carried a "Working Model of the Manhattan Progect". First came the puzzled look, then the glaring Stare, "Good God, I Hope Not!"
she replied. . . She was slightly older than myself. Aparently in highschool they no longer teach WWII history. Today they don't
teach longhand writing anymore either. In Highschool I was told "Don't take typing, you'll never use it." (1971 Graduate). My how times have changed.

OK, still want to try this at home?

Steve


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 21, 2015 5:06 pm 
Offline

Joined: Nov 14, 2013 7:47 pm
Posts: 576
Location: Iowa, USA
Kirk Sorensen wrote:
There are no drawings for an MSR that are "ready-to-build". None of the MSBR designs, none of the LFTR concepts, and not even the MSRE design could be built today. A design that can be built has yet to be designed. So don't think you're going to head out to the machine shop and get started this weekend. It would be a lesson in humility if you tried.


I'm probably a bit overconfident but perhaps I should introduce you to my family. I'll start with my youngest sister and her husband, both have a BS in Civil Engineering and are licensed professional engineers. Youngest brother has a BS in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and an MBA, his wife also an MBA, both working as project managers. Younger brother has a BS in Electrical Engineering, does design work on mixed signal integrated circuits. Older brother has BA in Architecture, worked as a professional plumber and professional welder, now does custom furniture work and general contracting, his wife has two engineering degrees and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine, she is a small animal surgeon. Older sister has a MS in Inorganic Chemistry, working in research and development, her husband is a certified welder, does design and repair on industrial radio frequency heaters and furnaces. I'm probably the dumb one of the lot with only two engineering degrees but I'm working on a masters in software engineering.

When I say I "know people that can pour concrete" I mean they know how deep and wide it has to be for a Boeing to land on it, or to hold back a river, not that they drive a cement truck for the local ready-mix. I also admit that even with the highly educated people I know that it would take a lot of money, time, and freedom from regulation to be successful. Not that we'd do anything unsafe but I know that the regulations we have now are beyond reason. In Iowa there is a problem with radon leaking into homes. In order to shorten the time of building and design it sure would be nice to be free to release radioactive gasses on the same level of that found in the typical Iowa basement. Under current regulation any detectable tritium or xenon in the air would have everything shutdown, inspections lasting months, and there would be fines, court cases, and what not, all consuming time and money. That's what I believe is holding things up, regulation. I do not believe we have a shortage of people educated, intelligent, and motivated enough to be successful in building a safe and working MSR in this federation.

Eino wrote:
I like your can do attitude. I also wonder if maybe someone is doing just what you wrote right now in some manner. Who would be the most motivated?


Iran.

I believe that while Iran is highly motivated to produce as many working nuclear reactors as they can I also believe that they would not be used to produce safe and cheap electrical power. Other nations have to deal with the UN when it comes to trade in nuclear technologies. Any nation that wishes to develop nuclear technologies would have to tread lightly if they wish to share resources with another nation. A wrong step could cause them to be shut off from vital components required for speedy development of a domestic nuclear power infrastructure. With coal and oil still relatively inexpensive there are few nations motivated economically to develop nuclear power.

One nation that has a large number of people that are highly motivated to develop nuclear power, have the knowledge base to develop the technology and pass it on to upcoming engineers and scientists, and the economic might to buy, barter, or develop on their own any technology they need, is Japan. Japan also has a large number of people that oppose nuclear power. They also live under treaties that prevent some freedoms that might be helpful in developing nuclear power. For example, I recall something about a centrifuge that Japanese university owned that was capable of enriching uranium. The centrifuge was purchased from the USA before WWII. After WWII it was ordered to be destroyed. Had that not been destroyed they might have been able to develop nuclear technologies much sooner. I do not know if such restrictions are still in place.

There are many other nations that could also have the right mix for developing nuclear power. I see a few requirements for a nation to develop nuclear power. They'd need sufficient economic and political stability to assure that the nuclear material won't be stolen. A few notable instances of radioactive material being lost or stolen in Mexico come to mind. The nation would need enough military might and/or distance from hostile neighbors to make sure a jealous neighbor won't try to destroy or steal any reactor built. Being on good terms with a nation that already has nuclear power would certainly help, for sharing of technology and/or keeping the less friendly neighbors away.

A big factor, in my opinion, is the political and economic motivation to develop nuclear power. Any nation that feels confident that they sit on centuries worth of cheap coal, oil, and natural gas for energy is not going to see value in anything else. Any nation that believes in developing domestic nuclear power so that more coal and oil can be sold on the market must also know that if they prove that nuclear power works then they could destroy the market for their exportable energy goods. A rather interesting Catch-22.

_________________
Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 21, 2015 10:37 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Jan 12, 2010 10:15 am
Posts: 42
Location: Singapore
Kurt Sellner wrote:
Kirk Sorensen wrote:
There are no drawings for an MSR that are "ready-to-build". None of the MSBR designs, none of the LFTR concepts, and not even the MSRE design could be built today. A design that can be built has yet to be designed. So don't think you're going to head out to the machine shop and get started this weekend. It would be a lesson in humility if you tried.


I'm probably a bit overconfident but perhaps I should introduce you to my family. I'll start with my youngest sister and her husband, both have a BS in Civil Engineering and are licensed professional engineers. Youngest brother has a BS in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and an MBA, his wife also an MBA, both working as project managers. Younger brother has a BS in Electrical Engineering, does design work on mixed signal integrated circuits. Older brother has BA in Architecture, worked as a professional plumber and professional welder, now does custom furniture work and general contracting, his wife has two engineering degrees and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine, she is a small animal surgeon. Older sister has a MS in Inorganic Chemistry, working in research and development, her husband is a certified welder, does design and repair on industrial radio frequency heaters and furnaces. I'm probably the dumb one of the lot with only two engineering degrees but I'm working on a masters in software engineering.

When I say I "know people that can pour concrete" I mean they know how deep and wide it has to be for a Boeing to land on it, or to hold back a river, not that they drive a cement truck for the local ready-mix. I also admit that even with the highly educated people I know that it would take a lot of money, time, and freedom from regulation to be successful. Not that we'd do anything unsafe but I know that the regulations we have now are beyond reason. In Iowa there is a problem with radon leaking into homes. In order to shorten the time of building and design it sure would be nice to be free to release radioactive gasses on the same level of that found in the typical Iowa basement. Under current regulation any detectable tritium or xenon in the air would have everything shutdown, inspections lasting months, and there would be fines, court cases, and what not, all consuming time and money. That's what I believe is holding things up, regulation. I do not believe we have a shortage of people educated, intelligent, and motivated enough to be successful in building a safe and working MSR in this federation.

Eino wrote:
I like your can do attitude. I also wonder if maybe someone is doing just what you wrote right now in some manner. Who would be the most motivated?


Iran.

I believe that while Iran is highly motivated to produce as many working nuclear reactors as they can I also believe that they would not be used to produce safe and cheap electrical power. Other nations have to deal with the UN when it comes to trade in nuclear technologies. Any nation that wishes to develop nuclear technologies would have to tread lightly if they wish to share resources with another nation. A wrong step could cause them to be shut off from vital components required for speedy development of a domestic nuclear power infrastructure. With coal and oil still relatively inexpensive there are few nations motivated economically to develop nuclear power.

One nation that has a large number of people that are highly motivated to develop nuclear power, have the knowledge base to develop the technology and pass it on to upcoming engineers and scientists, and the economic might to buy, barter, or develop on their own any technology they need, is Japan. Japan also has a large number of people that oppose nuclear power. They also live under treaties that prevent some freedoms that might be helpful in developing nuclear power. For example, I recall something about a centrifuge that Japanese university owned that was capable of enriching uranium. The centrifuge was purchased from the USA before WWII. After WWII it was ordered to be destroyed. Had that not been destroyed they might have been able to develop nuclear technologies much sooner. I do not know if such restrictions are still in place.

There are many other nations that could also have the right mix for developing nuclear power. I see a few requirements for a nation to develop nuclear power. They'd need sufficient economic and political stability to assure that the nuclear material won't be stolen. A few notable instances of radioactive material being lost or stolen in Mexico come to mind. The nation would need enough military might and/or distance from hostile neighbors to make sure a jealous neighbor won't try to destroy or steal any reactor built. Being on good terms with a nation that already has nuclear power would certainly help, for sharing of technology and/or keeping the less friendly neighbors away.

A big factor, in my opinion, is the political and economic motivation to develop nuclear power. Any nation that feels confident that they sit on centuries worth of cheap coal, oil, and natural gas for energy is not going to see value in anything else. Any nation that believes in developing domestic nuclear power so that more coal and oil can be sold on the market must also know that if they prove that nuclear power works then they could destroy the market for their exportable energy goods. A rather interesting Catch-22.



Kurt, I admire your attitude, we need people who have that (as Eino stated) can do spirit. But what I think Kirk means is that there isn't an actual 'blueprint' for a 'buildable' MSR in the sense that I believe you wish to achieve.

Sure it's possible that (barring jail time as you mentioned :) you could reproduce the MSRE in its entirety assuming you aren't missing bits and bobs of the original design, but to what end? It certainly wouldn't be very useful in terms of commercial utilization, unless your intent was to demonstrate to the world that it works the way the history books said it would. But in my opinion that would be a waste of resources, I don't see why we need to rehash what greater men in the annuals of science have already proven.

If you wanted to build the MSBR concepts, sure you could, but they aren't 'buildable' in the same sense as I've mentioned earlier. Even if we assume that the fuel/moderator/core configuration was 'spot-on' in those designs, it would be a first of kind, and first of kinds have all kinds of unknown variables and unexpected glitches (which is why the dream of making a fully self-contained first-of-kind modular commercial MSR that you could stick in the ground for umpteen years without problems from the get go is a somewhat...shall we say... 'ambitious' dream). It would be a prototype of a prototype, and you don't build full power test and research reactors. You could physically slap the thing together and pray like crazy that you didn't just flush a few mil down the toilet in that at least it achieves criticality, but you also need to hope that it doesn't do unexpected stuff; e.g. have plumbing issues causing thermal overstress of certain components in the primary loop, pumps don't leak, etc. etc.

At the end of the day, to make an actual productive and working MSR, we would need to take those concept 'blueprints' shall we call them (it's not accurate I know, but just to illustrate a point) and then we need to formulate a development program around validating all the individual components of those concepts, and when we know that it will (roughly) work the way it should, then and ONLY then would we be able to make a true 'buildable' MSR blueprint. Going out, dropping a few mil on a project that may or may not work the way you want is not a very precise or advisable pathway, especially in today's nuclear paranoia (gone are the days of the garage reactor). If you could get those few mil (a feat all on its own), it would be far better placed in a carefully crafted and logical development program like the one we are doing.

Not wanting to pour cold water on anyone's fire, regulations apart (and you are quite right there) there is still much work to be done on the technical arena but you are right in believing that there are definitely people with the skills and wherewithal to make this happen, I do too. :)

My bottom line opinion is: we likely only have one shot at this, we must needs [sic] get it right.

On your later thoughts about political and economic motivations, I largely agree ;)

Cheers!


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: May 22, 2015 2:58 am 
Offline

Joined: Nov 14, 2013 7:47 pm
Posts: 576
Location: Iowa, USA
bensoon wrote:
Sure it's possible that (barring jail time as you mentioned :) you could reproduce the MSRE in its entirety assuming you aren't missing bits and bobs of the original design, but to what end? It certainly wouldn't be very useful in terms of commercial utilization, unless your intent was to demonstrate to the world that it works the way the history books said it would. But in my opinion that would be a waste of resources, I don't see why we need to rehash what greater men in the annuals of science have already proven.


Yes, why? That is the question. I can think of a lot of industries that could benefit from MSRs. Think of any industry that burns coal for process heat. Think of any industry that uses large amounts of electricity. These would benefit from MSRs. Just a few examples of industries from the top of my head, aluminum, steel, ethanol, petroleum, fertilizers, and information. Because of how the aluminum and steel processing works they'd probably still consume coal for their processes but if they can get MSRs they could potentially mine the wastes for the uranium and thorium they'd need to keep the MSRs running.

Ethanol industry right now burns a lot of coal and natural gas to cook the corn for ethanol. If they can get away from fossil fuels for this then that makes ethanol even more "green", decouples it's price from that of other energy, and generally makes ethanol a more attractive energy source. As it is right now all ethanol does is convert low grade energy sources like natural gas and coal into a higher grade energy source that can compete with gasoline. Even then I'm not sure ethanol makes good economic sense but at least using MSRs for the primary energy source would mean it makes better economic sense.

Petroleum and fertilizer industries need hydrogen and heat to turn low grade energy in coal and natural gas into high grade products like jet fuel and ammonia. Right now the primary source of the heat and hydrogen they need comes from the exceedingly cheap and difficult to transport or store natural gas. If MSRs can make heat that is cheap enough then it starts to make sense to compress and transport natural gas instead of burn it. There's lots of places in the world that could use natural gas but running a pipe or compressing the fuel to put on a ship is not economical. With the high heat that MSRs provide then thermochemical hydrogen production from water becomes feasible. Fertilizer manufacturers wouldn't need natural gas any more, they'd need water which is much more plentiful.

I mentioned the information industry, they need reliable electricity and cooling for running computers. The people that deal in information right now, think Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, have the desire and resources alone to fund MSRs if they believed it would work. Just showing them it would work might be enough to have these big players in the information industry to open their wallets.

I want to get back to the hydrogen generation capability of MSRs. I don't know how to show what a big change this might mean for us. This could make hydrogen so cheap that we could see cities replace electric street lights with gas lighting. Municipal natural gas systems would switch to synthesized gas. We'd see cars and trucks switch to ammonia for fuel.

So, I see your point. It's not enough to show that MSRs work. We need to show it to be useful. I think that will come in many forms. The people at Terrestrial Energy like to show how they can make petroleum extraction cheaper. Flibe Energy will show applications like water desalination, electricity production, industrial heat, and medical isotopes. Transatomic will show how MSRs can destroy existing stocks of nuclear "waste" and use it to make electricity. I have to wonder if MSRs will find their place in creating the "hydrogen economy" that I've heard about.

This gets back to the original questions. How much will it cost? What hurdles are in the way? Who would want to build MSRs? Could a university do this? How small, or how big, can these be built? The problem is that no one knows until the first one is built. No one wants to build one until the costs are known. We're caught in a quandary here. The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Because of the high costs in a first prototype we'll probably see the first MSR come from a government project. It might be pure research from a university, or it could come from a military project. Once some basics of the design are known, such as some rough physical dimensions and power output, then that makes a lot of unknowns disappear. After some basics are known the rest can be derived. Then we'll see others try to copy it. That's why I say that the second MSR will be built in the USA six months after the first is built elsewhere, once some of the big questions are answered a lot of equations we've developed over the years have some values we can plug in. The the math can be done, simulations run to verify the results, and the designs that are sitting around can be given proper dimensions and submitted for approval by the powers that be. There will be a mad dash to be the second person to build a working MSR. No one wants to be the first mouse.

_________________
Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 26 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group