Energy From Thorium Discussion Forum

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PostPosted: Jan 08, 2016 10:51 am 
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Terrestrial Energy secures funding for reactor project

So far the largest private $$$ in MSR designs.
Add two zeros and we might have a real reactor built.

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PostPosted: Jan 09, 2016 6:23 am 
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macpacheco wrote:
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Terrestrial-Energy-secures-funding-for-reactor-project-0801167.html

So far the largest private $$$ in MSR designs.
Add two zeros and we might have a real reactor built.


The UK DECC competition will add two zeros (Or about 1.5 zeros, logarithmically speaking). However, they will probably need to be at engineering design stage to have a chance.


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PostPosted: Jan 10, 2016 1:55 pm 
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By toning down the requirements, they become the likely first to build a commercial MSR. The breeders can come later.


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PostPosted: Feb 07, 2016 12:33 pm 
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Patent for the IMSR is here:-

http://www.google.com/patents/US20150036779


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PostPosted: Feb 08, 2016 2:49 am 
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So I've now pretty much read everything I could find by Terrestrial Energy and watched all the related videos of speeches etc. I must say I find them to be very impressive. What am I missing? What is the down side of their approach?


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PostPosted: Feb 08, 2016 6:41 am 
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TerjeP wrote:
What is the down side of their approach?


They don't have enough money.

I assume they are following the UK SMR competition. Say $200 million of UK Government funding - might allow them build a IMSR80.


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PostPosted: Feb 08, 2016 8:19 am 
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alexterrell wrote:
TerjeP wrote:
What is the down side of their approach?


They don't have enough money.

I assume they are following the UK SMR competition. Say $200 million of UK Government funding - might allow them build a IMSR80.


What do you mean they don't have enough money ?
They're not ready to build a reactor. No regulatory approval yet. I'm not sure they even submitted the necessary data to the CNSC yet.
They don't need hundreds of millions of $$$ until they're ready to build the first reactor, which will take many more years according to their own words.

To answer TerjeP correctly, the fact is Terrestrial is adopting the KISS principle solution. In essence building an MSR reactor is a big enough revolution in itself, so build the simplest MSR reactor they can that solves a market need, minimizing regulatory/safety/cost challenges. The Terrestrial approach clearly is the conscious option to do the good reactor instead of the great reactor.

So I'm not sure there is a down side to their approach.

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PostPosted: Feb 08, 2016 11:27 am 
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TerjeP wrote:
So I've now pretty much read everything I could find by Terrestrial Energy and watched all the related videos of speeches etc. I must say I find them to be very impressive. What am I missing? What is the down side of their approach?


The big one I see is that they abandon the potential to implement the thorium fuel cycle. Their machine is just a U-235 burner.


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PostPosted: Feb 08, 2016 4:41 pm 
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Yes they do abandon the Thorium fuel cycle. But David LeBlanc seems to have done so very consciously. He cites a few reasons. Obviously others will disagree with him. One seems to be that uranium is cheap enough and there is an established supply chain and an established regulatory framework. Breeding isn't an urgent requirement. Also he avoids the need for an enriched uranium starter (more regulatory headaches). But he is very much focused on putting the fuel in molten salt and accessing all the associated benefits.

I'm not running a nuclear start up and I don't fully appreciate the specific trade offs between materials, regulatory hurdles, costs and speed to market. But I appretiate that they all matter and that there are trade offs. David LeBlanc tells a good story and seems to have surrounded himself with commercially astute individuals. Only time will tell but looking in from the outside it looks very encouraging.

One trade off that he appears to make is between reactor size (power density) and reactor life (7 years). But the result is a 600MWth reactor that should fit on a flat bed truck (3.6 metres x 12 metres).

At the end of the day entrepreneurs will pick their technical trade offs and the market will pick the winners. Hopefully based on cost, scalability and safety. That said I do not expect the world to adopt one single design. There should be plenty of room for many players in the same way that we have many types of cars. And hopefully they are all competeing in a market that is growing rapidly. But speed to market does seem important if you don't want to miss out on venture capital.


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PostPosted: Feb 08, 2016 5:11 pm 
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For those who want to listen to David LeBlanc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgTgV3Kq49U


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PostPosted: Feb 08, 2016 5:22 pm 
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I am not sure about the 7 year core life thing. It saves capital cost in return for ongoing costs and regulatory headaches relating to opening the containment repeatedly over the core life.
Personally I would prefer to move in the opposite direction - towards a whole life core with graphite rated for 60 years

Sure it would be big - but it is still compact compared to existing reactor containments, and the graphite can also improve accident transients by presenting a huge thermal mass to the decay heat. Hence my reactor concept which had buffer a pool the size of the Superphénix pool full of several thousand tonnes of buffer salt.


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PostPosted: Feb 08, 2016 5:30 pm 
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TerjeP wrote:
Also he avoids the need for an enriched uranium starter (more regulatory headaches).


No, the IMSR most definitely starts on and continues to consume enriched uranium.

TerjeP wrote:
But speed to market does seem important if you don't want to miss out on venture capital.


It is very much debatable whether venture capital has the foresight and the fortitude to fund a new nuclear reactor. We have no existence-proof to point towards.


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PostPosted: Feb 08, 2016 8:56 pm 
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Of course, the larger question (which we won't get an answer to) is how much of their company did they have to sell to raise that 10 million? They've got a lot of (executive) mouths to feed at TEI, and the valuation they fetched in their Series A has everything to do with their potential longevity.

If they sold 10% of their company to raise that money, then there's a lot more to sell but a high valuation like that risks a future down-round if they haven't made enough progress before they need money again.

If they sold 90% of their company for the money then they're dead already; out of equity.

If they're smart they sold about 30%, leaving them room to grow and stave off a future down-round. But who knows, and there's no chance they'll tell.

TEI's business strategy appears to be based on selling power in remote Arctic areas where they are in direct competition against diesel-powered generators. For that business to look as attractive as possible, they'll need petroleum to be expensive. But with the recent fall in oil prices that business strategy is in real jeopardy.

Which takes one back to the real question, how much of their company did they sell to the vulture capitalists to get the $10M?


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PostPosted: Feb 08, 2016 10:39 pm 
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Kirk if you bet the future will have some carbon tax, then even at low oil prices, cheap MSR burners are still ultra competitive.
If in the future carbon is taxed worldwide, then all large sea shipping will have to go nuclear. And all existing PWR/BWR are useless for ships. It will require a modular reactor, and there are no water cooled modular reactors ready to install.
I hope the Liberals will continue to rule in Canada, but without being anti nuclear. I read Canada's Green Party have some strong criticism of the Liberal party nuclear policies which suggests they might be somewhat pro nuclear.
In places where the labour/liberal party wasn't forced to ally with the greens, they are usually modestly pro nuclear.

Finally the critical aspect isn't support Thorium or not. Its if your reactor is a breeder/iso breeder or at least 90+% converter.
IMSR is neither.
Transatomic is an iso breeder running on spent nuclear fuel. If it works, it will be a long term solution.
Matter of fact I think transatomic will be a better solution for the next millenia if it does its job, since it will eat up all existing spent nuclear fuel. And in order to eat up all SNF it will need to be mass adopted to replace 80% of all coal, natural gas and existing nuclear.

Even a "simple" LEU DMSR burner would be a massive step forward. Almost 3x the energy extraction from each ton of mined Uranium. Convert Canada's CANDU fleet to breed as much plutonium as possible to burn on the IMSR. This would make the whole cycle perhaps extract 10x the current PWR/BWR burnup.

Right now we need more nuclear, and that requires cheap nuclear. The cheaper/simpler the better.

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PostPosted: Feb 09, 2016 6:29 am 
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I am not sure about the 7 year core life thing. It saves capital cost in return for ongoing costs and regulatory headaches relating to opening the containment repeatedly over the core life.


Not sure about this. Why would you be opening the containment repeatedly over the seven year life of the core? Other than for adding more fuel to the salt I can't see any reason to do so and even then I don't see why it would entail much of an opening. And I presume any reactor that requires fuel to be added requires some form of access past the containment so how is it unique in a regulatory sense?


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