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 Post subject: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Dec 19, 2011 3:45 pm 
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I just received from Amazon my copy of Plentiful Energy, The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor, just published by Charles E. Till and Yoon H. Chang. It's 391 pages of pretty readable descriptions of IFR, including an appendix on electro-refining.

$25 at http://www.amazon.com/Plentiful-Energy- ... 437&sr=8-1

Bob Hargraves


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 Post subject: Re: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Dec 19, 2011 10:40 pm 
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Hi Bob,
Do you
(or anyone else here) know whether "Electrorefining" for IFR requires that its normally-metal Fuel and FP's all be converted to molten Chloride salts?

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 Post subject: Re: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Dec 20, 2011 5:10 am 
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I believe that these schemes start with metallic or oxide based fuels electrolysing them in the chloride salt bath directly, no prior conversion to halide form is required as I understand it.


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 Post subject: Re: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Dec 20, 2011 8:15 am 
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Kim, lots of discussions of chloride chemistry, but no obvious mention of "molten salt" in a quick scan. Buy the $25 book for heaven's sakes.


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 Post subject: Re: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Dec 21, 2011 12:49 pm 
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If you have better uses for the $25, there's plenty of stuff online on the IFR reprocessing scheme - eg this presentation by M. Goff, or this 2007 INL report. The basic process is analogous to electrorefining copper, but with a molten salt (Na, K chloride) rather than salt solution in water as the electrolyte. Fluorides would presumably work too, but they are higher melting and have lower solubilities for trivalent ions, so why bother unless a fluoride melt is your starting point?

For treating oxide spent fuel, a fluoride bath is needed so that you can discharge oxide to O2 at the anode.


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 Post subject: Re: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Dec 21, 2011 10:17 pm 
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My copy arrived in the mail today and I'm about 30 pages into the book. I just finished the section where they broke their arm patting themselves on the back about what a wonderful place Argonne National Labs was. Funny how I never hear my ORNL friends talk that way...

I checked the index for a mention of "thorium" or "MSR". There was no index. No mention of "MSR" or "LFTR" in the acronym list either.


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 Post subject: Re: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Jan 08, 2012 1:01 pm 
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Kirk Sorensen wrote:
I just finished the section where they broke their arm patting themselves on the back about what a wonderful place Argonne National Labs was. Funny how I never hear my ORNL friends talk that way...
Which may explain why IFRs are still being supported and MSRs are not.

The Navy's recent experience with "National Security Pay System" yielded similar results. It was SUPPOSED to reward those who did well. What it rewarded was those who could pat themselves on the back the most.

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 Post subject: Re: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Jan 08, 2012 8:58 pm 
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I'm about halfway through the book now and the fast reactor is still presented as the ONLY way to achieve a long term energy supply. Not the "best" way, not the "most developed" way, not the "most politically favorable" way. The ONLY way.

This really bothers me.


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 Post subject: Re: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Jan 12, 2012 1:38 pm 
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One of the things that struck me was how political the development environment was during IFR development. I note similar politics in Weinberg's book, about how the molten salt reactor technology R&D was ended.

At one time I felt that a US government, NASA style or Manhattan Project style project would be a way to solve our energy/climate crises, but if anything the political environment is now worse.

I'm now sympathetic to the idea than private enterprise must take the leadership role in nuclear power development, although we should encourage the government to provide much more R&D support with public domain outcomes.

But I'm still concerned that the role of agencies such as EPA and NRC is to say "no". The advantage of having government support is the invested money and political capital in a project, with some government organization anxious to say "yes".

Department of Defense? What else? NNSA?


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 Post subject: Re: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Jan 12, 2012 4:59 pm 
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Kirk Sorensen wrote:
I'm about halfway through the book now and the fast reactor is still presented as the ONLY way to achieve a long term energy supply. Not the "best" way, not the "most developed" way, not the "most politically favorable" way. The ONLY way.

This really bothers me.


This makes me wonder what Barry Brook would say. And I wonder how much input he had to this book.


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 Post subject: Re: Plentiful Energy
PostPosted: Apr 01, 2012 2:34 pm 
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Plentiful Energy, by Till and Chang

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the future of nuclear power. Especially to those who, like me, previously believed that the promising (but as yet unproven) liquid thorium reactors were our only hope for sustainable and affordable energy. IFR is now on my favorite reactors list, right alongside LFTR and DMSR.

The book does a good job of explaining why the IFR (Integral Fast Reactor) development should be affordable, even though previous US fast reactor efforts costs billions but still ended in program cancellation. It explains why the IFR has much improved safety performance in accident scenarios compared to other sodium cooled reactors like Clinch River Breeder Reactor and SuperPhenix (IFR’s metal fuel melts and is forced out of the core by fission product gas during a severe accident which prevents the explosions which are possible with conventional oxide fuel). And it describes the real-world fast reactor accidents at EBR-I (meltdown and several minor fires), Fermi-I (meltdown), and Monju (major sodium fire).

Not too surprisingly, Till and Chang tout the IFR’s superior waste form compared to LWRs. Unlike LWRs, IFRs can burn all of the plutonium and other trans-uranics that are present in recycled reactor fuel. And the two waste streams produced by the IFR (a ceramic form and a metal alloy) are both highly resistant to fission products leaching out. Because LWR fuel is twenty times more diluted with U238, the IFR should always be much cheaper to reprocess.

They actually talked me out of my preference for retrievable storage of LWR waste (once a handful of IFRs have been started, with their short 10 year doubling-time, no other fissile fuel source is required… ever. And of course LFTRs require so little fissile material that LEU startup will always be preferred, no matter the uranium scarcity). Just push the LWR waste down into a salt dome or hard-rock bore hole and walk away forever.

A big problem that I had with the book was that it needlessly antagonized the mainstream environment movement by singly focusing on the Fermi vision for a plutonium economy. It turns out that unlike LWRs, the IFR (and molten salt fueled reactors) is surprisingly compatible with renewables. The operating temperature facilitates thermal energy storage with large tanks of molten “solar salt”. For locations which are unsuitable for pumped-hydro (i.e. most of the world), thermal energy storage is by far the lowest cost option, and probably always will be. Lack of xenon transient effect in IFR and MSRs allows rapid throttling which helps improve grid stability with high renewable penetration. And the large dispatchable load presented by nuclear hydrogen production also would help support renewables.

The biggest shortcoming of the book is lack of a good proliferation resistant vision (the ARC-100 product whitepaper describes one fast reactor vision: http://www.arcnuclear.com/ ). A combined system with IFRs and DMSRs strikes me as very appealing (DMSR= Denatured Molten Salt Reactor, a near-breeder which runs on thorium and low-enriched uranium, has been called the most proliferation resistant reactor of all http://www.energyfromthorium.com/pdf/ORNL-TM-7207.pdf ). The IFR could be used where on-site reprocessing is desired, and the DMSR when off-site reprocessing is preferred (or when higher temperature process heat is needed). But this book makes no comparison to thorium or liquid fuel technology (and no mention of DMSR at all). They don’t even answer the question of why not use a salt as the secondary coolant to avoid the sodium fire risk.

On proliferation, they mostly just engaged in hand-waving. The IFR is not the reactor that most people would choose to export to a non-fuel cycle nation (the fuel is a dirty mix of heavy isotopes, but the breeding blanket can make weapons grade Pu). They only partially resolve my concerns about fuel diversion by sub-national groups: I was worried that the metal fuel could be re-cast into low-yield (fizzle) bombs behind light shielding by operators who didn’t mind a little radiation sickness (the zirconium content of the fuel pushes the density down 26% and the larger reactors can use fuel that’s more than 80% U238, both of which increase the critical mass, making weaponization harder; but they gave no specifics on critical mass). In fuel cycle nations, plants with integrated fuel processing are safer, since the initial fuel load can be diluted with U238 for shipment, and then concentrated in the pyro-processor over a period of weeks or months before fabrication.

Somewhat surprisingly, in the very long section on pyro-processing (which I would have called electro-chemical-refining), they make no mention of processing thorium based blanket material. It seems to me that the IFR could be a great off-site companion for a DMSR. When deployed two DMSRs per IFR, the IFR could burn all of the TRUs (trans-uranic elements) produced in the DMSRs and breed enough U233 to supply the annual make-up fuel (like the Indian nuclear vision, but with DMSRs replacing the HWRs). It could re-enrich the DMSR’s spent uranium without creating HEU or contaminating a centrifuge facility: just blend the recycle U into thorium blankets for the IFR, and then reprocess the blankets when they reach the right U233 content for the DMSR. When DMSRs are fueled with enriched mined uranium, each IFR could maybe burn TRU waste from 5-10 DMSRs, but there is a question about the high neptunium content (15% of TRU), since Np doesn’t respond well to delayed neutrons. They reported on some EBR-II testing with Np-containing fuel, but the Np was diluted 20:1 with Pu (as in LWR waste).

Overall though, it’s a great book which should go a long way to saving a great technology that could otherwise be lost due to lack of publicity.

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