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NuScale Power Awarded $226 Million To Deploy Small Nuclear Reactor Design

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the melts-down-in-your-mouth,-not-in-your-hand dept.

Power 210

New submitter ghack writes "NuScale power, a small nuclear power company in Corvallis Oregon, has won a Department of Energy grant of up to $226 million dollars to enable deployment of their small modular reactor. The units would be factory built in the United States, and their small size enables a number of potential niche applications. NuScale argues that their design includes a number of unique passive safety features: 'NuScale's 45-megawatt reactor, which can be grouped with others to form a utility-scale plant, would sit in a 5 million-gallon pool of water underground. That means it needs no pumps to inject water to cool it in an emergency - an issue ... highlighted by Japan's crippled Fukushima plant.' This was the second of two DOE small modular reactor grants; the first was awarded to Babcock and Wilcox, a stalwart in the nuclear industry."

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This gets funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45682773)

This gets funding, but the LIFTR doesnt? yeah.. seems like a great idea.

Re:This gets funding (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 8 months ago | (#45683037)

That got funded, It was a failure.

Re:This gets funding (0)

SB9876 (723368) | about 8 months ago | (#45683115)

citation needed

Re:This gets funding (0)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 8 months ago | (#45684145)

They were tried and abandon in the 1970s. They cost a lot and there were a lot of nasty byproducts that made decommissioning a site a nightmare. It's arguable however that we have better technology now and they might be worth looking at again. But LFTR's have definitely been tried, failed and abandoned. But take heart, there are about 1000 ways to build a reactor. We've plenty of designs left to try.

Re:This gets funding (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45684315)

You must have missed the past 40 something years [slashdot.org] .

FUD: If it doesn't work the first time, just keep spouting nonsense.

Re:This gets funding (3, Informative)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45683203)

The MSRE was a resounding success. We gained practical experience with a new technology: a far safer and more efficient iteration of nuclear power. We made mistakes (metal embrittlement, evolution of uranium and plution)--and we learned from them. They were costly in terms of money, but we walked away with the knowledge to do it better the next time. This is how science and engineering works.

Re:This gets funding (2, Insightful)

slew (2918) | about 8 months ago | (#45683533)

You missed a few other open issues related to decommisioning (e.g., mostly what to do with the salt).

In any case, the only efforts I know of are:
FUJI which I think died in the fund-raising stage back in 2011.
TTS [ttsinc.jp] an attempt to resurrect this.
Thor Energy [thorenergy.no]

MSRE showed that the physics worked, however, as with many things, the engineering problems remain. AFAIK, most people are attempting to figure out the salt problem. The metal problem is currently unsolved (and a much more important problem since you need the reactor to have a reasonable operating life to make the whole thing economical in the first place).

Re:This gets funding (5, Informative)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45683921)

Take your FUD somewhere else.

The metal problem was solved with Hastelloy-N [moltensalt.org] by adding various alloys (primarily 1.1% Nb) and they predicted it to have a sufficient lifetime for an operational reactor. That was in 1977.

A metallographic examination (Fig. 10) of the tensile tested specimen showed a complete absence of grain boundary cracks.

We have found that if the U(IV)/U(III) ratio in fuel salt is kept below about 60, embrittlement is essentially prevented when CrTel.266 is used as the source of tellurium.

They recorded a crack depth of 0, and very minimal cracking for other sources of Te.

The evolution of fluorine gas was solved in 1970 [moltensalt.org] by putting insulation (a reflective layer) around it.

Nevertheless it is clear that prevention of fluorine evolution from stored MSR salt will not be very difficult or expensive,

A decommissioning process [nap.edu] was developed in 1997 and the original MSRE, without the later developments, improper defueling and storage and all, was decommissioned [doe.gov] and now serves as a source of thorium for medical research at present. The original decomissioned procedure in 1969 was simply to turn it off and walk away. So we don't do that anymore. Wiki [wikipedia.org] summaries:

Cleanup of the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment was about $130 Million, for a small 8 MW(th) unit. Much of the high cost was caused by the unpleasant surprise of fluorine and uranium hexafluoride evolution from cold fuel salt in storage that ORNL did not defuel and store correctly, but this has now been taken into consideration in MSR design.

If the fluoride fuel salts are stored in solid form over many decades, radiation can cause the release of corrosive fluorine gas, and uranium hexafluoride.[94] This was due to radiolysis of the salt from remaining fission products, when colder than 100 degrees Celsius.[79] The salts should be defueled and wastes removed before extended shutdowns. Fluorine and uranium hexafluoride evolution can be prevented by storing the salts above 100 degrees Celsius.[79] Because some of the fission product fluorides have high solubility in water, fluorides are less suitable for long term storage. For longer term storage, fluoride containing wastes could go through a vitrification process to be encased in insoluble borosilicate glass suitable for long-term disposal.

Corrosion from tellurium—The reactor makes small amounts of tellurium as a fission product. In the MSRE, this caused small amounts of corrosion at the grain boundaries of the special nickel alloy, Hastelloy-N used for the reactor. Metallurgical studies showed that adding 1 to 2% niobium to the Hastelloy-N alloy improves resistance to corrosion by tellurium.[24](pp81–87) One additional strategy against corrosion was to keep the fuel salt slightly reducing by maintaining the ratio of UF4/UF3 to less than 60. This was done in the MSRE by continually contacting the flowing fuel salt with a beryllium metal rod submersed in a cage inside the pump bowl. This causes a fluorine shortage in the salt, reducing tellurium to a less aggressive (elemental) form. This method is also effective in reducing corrosion in general from the fluoride salt, because the fission process produces more fluorine atoms freed from the fissioned uranium that would otherwise attack the structural metals.[92](pp3–4)

Radiation damage to nickel alloys—The standard Hastelloy N alloy, a high nickel alloy used for constructing the primary fuel salt loop, was found to be embrittled by the neutron radiation from the reactor core. This was caused by neutrons reacting with nickel to form helium. This helium gas concentrated at specific points inside the alloy. There, it caused stresses to increase. ORNL addressed this problem by adding 1–2% titanium or niobium to the Hastelloy N. This small titanium addition changed the internal structure of the alloy, so that the helium produced inside it would be finely distributed. This relieved the stress and allowed the new modified Hastelloy N to withstand considerable neutron flux. However the maximum temperature is limited to about 650 C.[65] A number of other alloys also showed promise.[66] The outer vessel wall that contains the salt can have neutronic shielding, such as boron carbide, to effectively protect it from neutron damage.

Re: This gets funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684609)

So what's wrong with just turning it off and walking away? For any reactor, I mean. De-fuel it perhaps, remove high level waste, and leave it there. An old reactor with no fuel is harmless unless you crawl inside the pressure vessel and take a nap... so why not just leave it there and weld the doors shut? What's this billion dollar "decommission" thing I keep hearing about? Do we plan for "decommissioning" highways when we build them?

Re: This gets funding (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45684715)

They turned it off and didn't defuel it or remove high level waste (the decomissioning part). They walked away for almost 40 years--from a design without any of the subsequent improvements (and still didn't kill or harm anyone!). You'd know that if you actually bothered to read the comment. And it wasn't a billion dollars--it was $130 million. About 1/10th of what you suggest. Again, if you'd bother to read the comment, you'd see that.

Re:This gets funding (4, Informative)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45683217)

Getting Thorium power off the ground is going to require at least $20B, two orders of magnitude more money than what we're talking about here.

I'm a proponent of Thorium power, but there is an absolutely massive amount of work to be done between now and industrial scale power generation.

Re:This gets funding (3, Insightful)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45683389)

Then we'd better start funding it now, rather than later. What happens when something goes wrong with these "conservative" designs that are known to have many many issues, like melting down? Can you say NIMBY all over again, just when people are starting to reconsider the promise of nuclear power?

Thorium.. (1)

ameline (771895) | about 8 months ago | (#45683519)

Canadian designed CANDU reactors support the thorium fuel cycle, and have a long and excellent safety record.

Re:Thorium.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683845)

CANDU reactors can *potentially* support a thorium fuel cycle, and have a fairly mixed operations and efficiency record.

Re:five million gallons later, who'da thunk it (4, Interesting)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 8 months ago | (#45684391)

This gets funding, but the LIFTR doesnt? yeah.. seems like a great idea.

I am not an anonymous coward and I approve this message. It seems like despite the citation of this Thing as an 'answer' to anything useful... the lesson of Fukushima was not universally learned after all.

That means it needs no pumps to inject water to cool it in an emergency - an issue ... highlighted by Japan's crippled Fukushima plant.'

All this for 45 megawatts?? And in the case of containment failure you have contaminated five million gallons of water.

The solution is to surround nuclear energy with less water, not more. None is best. Such as fissile contained in stable salts that, in case of a reactor breach, merely sit there not reacting to water or air or spreading into the environment until they can be cleaned up and recycled.

The chemistry of LFTR may seem odd and frightening to the proponents of water reactors, but if it takes ~7.5 olympic size swimming pools to thermally stabilize a 45 megawatt reactor, the idea of chaining these to provide utility levels of hundreds of megawatts is, um, just more silly?

Micro-reactors are being suggested as a means to give little communities a little bit of energy with only a little worry. And there is a small community somewhere who hopes to be given one of these. One would look great in your neighborhood. Then another and another. Pretty soon the combined cost and overhead of little things begins to exceed the cost running wires to fewer, bigger (shared) things. But we are committed to little things now. Little things sneak up on you that way.

The most likely scenario is that this 'fortunate' community runs aground on the unforgiving shoals of 45 megawatts, cannot afford to grow even past the point where it can afford to maintain even that. And some day it is all forgotten (except the decommission cost) and CAT disels save the day [wordpress.com] . By my logic, which I invite everyone to poke holes in, micro-reactors are a trap because an insufficient ratio of watts/person is a trap.

I am completely in favor of micro reactors, but honestly believe that micro-solutions should be scaled-down versions of proven and viable mega-solutions, and not pursued with any vigor until the mega-problem is solved.

In terms of survival this is common sense, it is why some in the medical profession choose to cure diseases rather than individual patients. But there are not enough engineers tackling these 'big' problems.

Be wary of itty-bitty things that could never scale to become a big-things. Build big things that can become itty-bitty. Because molten salt fissile technology is not explosive on any scale, its minimum size is (theoretically) limited to the mass of its physical containment and the cleverness of our engineering. And our resolve to get it done.

___
Obligatory bump to Thorium Alliance [youtube.com] and my letters on energy,
To The Honorable James M. Inhofe, United States Senate [scribd.com]
To whom it may concern, Halliburton Corporate [scribd.com]

Amazing (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45682781)

Wish i could see the Koch Brothers Faces when they see this news.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45682971)

probably part of their machiavellian plan to take over all energy production....bwah hah hah haha hah!!!!

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683059)

Wish i could see the Koch Brothers Faces when they see this news.

WTF?

Tinfoil hat too tight?

Re:Amazing (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 8 months ago | (#45683297)

Considering they own 4000 miles of oil pipelines, and 3 refineries, there's nothing "tinfoil hat" about thinking they might shit themselves when new nuclear plants are being built.

Re:Amazing (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 8 months ago | (#45683449)

Hardly. Oil and NG isn't gong anywhere, and both are far cheaper than electricity for heating.

Re:Amazing (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45683481)

You'd think that they'd be right up at the forefront of this. Those that fail to adapt die. Those that adapt prosper. With LFTR, there's the opportunity to gain first-mover advantage all over again, especially with the shifting public opinion of nuclear. It won't always be such a regulatory and PR nightmare.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683961)

You really have a boner for nukes, dontcha?

Re:Amazing (4, Interesting)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45684071)

I have a boner for the long-term survival of conscious entities in the universe. You can huddle around the fire (Sol) until it goes out, or you can learn to build fires yourself. You want to save the planet, invest in science, figure out how to mine the rest of the Universe, and get us off this rock. Then you can turn the Earth into your nature preserve.

Re:Amazing (1)

lgw (121541) | about 8 months ago | (#45683863)

Oil and nuclear don't compete. Natural gas and nuclear compete, but energy needs will keep growing fast enough to keep all providers happy.

Re:Amazing (2)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 8 months ago | (#45684089)

Some of their pipelines carry both LPG and natural gas. LPG is a byproduct of crude refinement. They own coal mines. They operate businesses that manufacture industrial equipment used in power plants. So yes, they do have a stake in this.

Re:Amazing (2)

mspohr (589790) | about 8 months ago | (#45684485)

One would think that "energy needs will keep growing fast enough to keep all providers happy" but there is the greed factor where the established industries don't want any competition any time for any thing. They want the entire market to themselves. They will work to crush and destroy any competition (real or perceived). This is capitalism. I want it all to myself. Screw everyone else (and the environment while we're at it).

Re:Amazing (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683271)

I enjoy watching the insanity of the left. Especially when they focus on one person or very small group, so...how are you enjoying Soros and his attempts at fully controlling the democrat party, using various arm organization such as media matters.

Re:Amazing (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683675)

Soros? Left?
What the fuck are you smoking?

Fix the comma (1)

barlevg (2111272) | about 8 months ago | (#45682791)

There should be one between Corvallis and Oregon.

Re:Fix the comma (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45682949)

Oh hi, you must be new here. Welcome to slashdot! You're fitting in just fine

Re:Fix the comma (3, Funny)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 8 months ago | (#45683803)

Oh hi, you must be new here. Welcome to slashdot! You're fitting in just fine

I say we put him in charge of the safety of the new reactors.

Re:Fix the comma (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 8 months ago | (#45682975)

I would like to see one of these reactors installed at one of the major tech companies between Corvallis and the nearest group of those hippies whose teeth are rotting out because they don't believe in any science whatever, evan the fluoridation that the rest of the country argued through circa 1953. It would make great backup power for a server farm, and the company could still advertise no-GMO soy in the cafeteria.

what could possibly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45682817)

go wrong

Re:what could possibly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45682853)

Europe or the Ivory Coast

Re: what could possibly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683301)

Big ass x-plosion

what if the water leaks or evaporates? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45682911)

Isn't that what is happening at Fukushima right now?

Re:what if the water leaks or evaporates? (2)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 8 months ago | (#45683015)

Isn't that what is happening at Fukushima right now?

Very little. As I understand it, smaller reactors don't have such a big heat problem as large utility scale reactors especially if the cooling fails.

Plus, even if one of these SMRs has problems, they are so much smaller that they don't cause anywhere near as much trouble as larger reactors.

Re:what if the water leaks or evaporates? (2)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about 8 months ago | (#45684665)

These have a smaller core. In the event of a catastrophic failure, there is a much smaller meltdown.

As I understand it, the whole reactor lives in a giant pool of water [nuscalepower.com] .

Also, this reactor appears to be able to self-cool without external power [nuscalepower.com] . (Core cooling is by convection, not pumped coolant.)

The Usual Suspects (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45682937)

Fluor and B&W? Not exactly groundbreaking.

This should come out of their IR&D funds.

What about accidents? (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 8 months ago | (#45682943)

Any kind of leak and you've suddenly got 5 million gallons of contaminated water.
Of course, this assumes that your containment pool doesn't leak (yea right).

Re:What about accidents? (1, Informative)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45682999)

Leaks can be detected and contained at relatively low levels and happen with "big nukes" too. And it's nowhere near the environmental risk that meltdowns are.

earth quake? (1)

schlachter (862210) | about 8 months ago | (#45683097)

and what happens if the earth splits and the water drains away?

Re:earth quake? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 8 months ago | (#45683291)

Depends on the design. But if it's anything based on the CANDU designs, no coolent is no problem. It just stops on it's own.

Re:earth quake? (1)

Antipater (2053064) | about 8 months ago | (#45683555)

But what if a Graboid eats it?

Re:earth quake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683737)

Depends on the design. But if it's anything based on the CANDU designs, no coolent is no problem. It just stops on it's own.

You don't have the first clue about what causes meltdowns.

I'm first in line when it comes to supporting nuclear power as a clean power source, but misinformed ignorants like yourself is exactly what results in

  1. false sense of safety, and
  2. shock that your ignorance is false when something happens.

Then you have the same ignorants protesting that all nuclear is evil. Or claiming that "super safe design X" or "if we just not used uranium" is the answer.

If fundamental knowledge is lacking, don't talk.

HINT HINT: All Fukushima reactors shut down safely. All had their nuclear reaction stopped. Yet, they melted. As to why I'll leave as an exercise to the reader.

CANDU is susceptible to exactly the same scenario just like almost any fission reactor on the planet, no matter what fuel it uses. There is only a handful I can think of that will not melt, and no, they have nothing to do with thorium, breeder, or passive safety (all passively safe commercial reactors melt just as well as regular ones)

Re:earth quake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683967)

The capacity for post-shutdown melting is driven by decay heat, i.e. the heat generated by radioactive decay of isotopes created from the fission of nuclear fuels. The amount of decay heat produced by an irradiated fuel load decreases with time, but relatively slowly. The only defense against excessive decay heating is (obviously) continuous cooling. This cooling may be active (e.g., forced circulation driven by pumps), passive (e.g., natural circulation driven by temperature/density differences), or a combination of the two.

CANDUs have demonstrated effective passive cooling in the real world (via thermosyphoning), in response to an unexpected loss of electric power (e.g., Pickering station during NorthEast blackout of 2003).

Re:earth quake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683733)

You stop operating the reactor and pump more water back in until you can get the leak fixed.

Re: earth quake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684237)

Crack in the World, I remember that movie!

Re:What about accidents? (2)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 8 months ago | (#45683273)

Not to mention that we're already running down our aquifers...

Kinda wish the article made any attempt to explain how "put it in a pool of water" makes it supposedly automatically safe in the case of accident. Wouldn't they still need pumps to circulate the water through the reactor to absorb the heat?

Re:What about accidents? (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about 8 months ago | (#45683591)

Wouldn't they still need pumps to circulate the water through the reactor to absorb the heat?

Assuming they designed it well, the convection currents caused by the heating of the water would be sufficient to circulate the water through the reactor.

Re:What about accidents? (1)

iroll (717924) | about 8 months ago | (#45684421)

Five million gallons is absolutely nothing for a power station, even for a desert community. It's a cube less than 20 m on each side.

Much, much, much more water is already blown into the atmosphere by the cooling towers which are a necessary part of any nuclear, coal, gas, solar-thermal, or other steam turbine-driving technology.

Re:What about accidents? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 8 months ago | (#45683307)

5 million gallons may sound like a lot, but it's not event that big. 5 million gallons, equates to about 19000 cubic meters. which is a 27 meter cube of water. Or a pool the size of an american football field, at 4 meters deep. I wouldn't be hard to contain the water if the basin was built properly.

Re:What about accidents? (2)

hondo77 (324058) | about 8 months ago | (#45683701)

5 million gallons may sound like a lot, but it's not event that big. 5 million gallons, equates to...a pool the size of an american football field, at 4 meters deep.

So how big does a pool have to be before you consider it to be big?

Re:What about accidents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683797)

a 27 meter cube of water.

That doesn't sound big to you?

Re:What about accidents? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683497)

That's why you build your plant near the ocean, so noone will be able to stop you from accidentally leak that water...

Re:What about accidents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683789)

I was sure that the pumping of water into the Fukushima reactor was the problem, not the lack of pumping.

As far as I understand it, the outer casing of the reaction chamber is encased in Aluminium (why I cant remember) which when exposed to extreme temperatures caused it to melt and react with the water producing Aluminium Oxide and (lots of) Hydrogen. Assuming the the reactor chamber is made with a metal that reacts with oxygen at high temps then isn't this just creating a potentially massive bomb trapped underground? Fuck me, it scares me just thinking about it!

Should have given that $226 mil to Focus Fusion (2)

miquels (37972) | about 8 months ago | (#45682959)

http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/12/senior-fusion-researchers-give-major.html [nextbigfuture.com] In a major endorsement of the fusion energy research and development program of start-up Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP), a committee of senior fusion researchers, led by a former head of the US fusion program, has concluded that the innovative effort deserves “a much higher level of investment based on their considerable progress to date.” The report concludes that “In the committee’s view [LPP’s] approach to fusion power is worthy of a considerable expansion of effort.”

Re:Should have given that $226 mil to Focus Fusion (3, Insightful)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45683253)

This company can produce power now. Focus Fusion might be able to produce significant amounts of excess power in a 10-25 year time frame. Or maybe never.

Re:Should have given that $226 mil to Focus Fusion (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45683991)

Focus Fusion might be viable on the horizon, especially at a potential price tag of only $226 million, but you can get a Hybrid Fusion for about $22,000 MSRP.

Re:Should have given that $226 mil to Focus Fusion (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 8 months ago | (#45683345)

http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/12/senior-fusion-researchers-give-major.html [nextbigfuture.com]

In a major endorsement of the fusion energy research and development program of start-up Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP), a committee of senior fusion researchers, led by a former head of the US fusion program, has concluded that the innovative effort deserves “a much higher level of investment based on their considerable progress to date.” The report concludes that “In the committee’s view [LPP’s] approach to fusion power is worthy of a considerable expansion of effort.”

Talk to Ford - you might be able to sell 'em just on the fact that supporting "Focus Fusion" is free advertising for two of their models...

Re:Should have given that $226 mil to Focus Fusion (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45683589)

I can't find those models [fordmodels.com] , can you please give further guidance?

Re:Should have given that $226 mil to Focus Fusion (2)

Todd Palin (1402501) | about 8 months ago | (#45683663)

There would be a much quicker return on the investment if the money was invested in dispersed solar generation. Low interest loans and tax credits to homeowners would have panels on roofs in a few months, not the decades it would take to get a nuke online. Also, remember the $226 million is just a start. The cost of nuclear power is huge if it is done even halfway intelligently. Dispersed solar power is quick and cheap. For now the greatest demand on our power networks is during the hot summer afternoons, which is exactly when solar panels produce the most power. This is a perfect fit for our power needs.

Re:Should have given that $226 mil to Focus Fusion (0)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45684135)

You solve the problem of storing energy (energy density of anything out there right now sucks) and shorter lifetimes than a nuclear reactor, and we'll talk. Contrast that to a nuclear reactor where the energy is already stored, and you merely throttle the reaction. You can operate a nuclear plant in load-following mode--not so easy to do with solar/wind/etc.. A quicker ROI is not necessarily the correct way to go about choosing a technology--especially when it means quicker to fail or quicker to require replacement. You suffer from bean counter syndrome.

Cheaper than Oregon's Health Exchange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683043)

Cheap energy ftw.

In 5,4,3 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683077)

Bring out the FUD crowd where they can act like nuclear is the most dangerous thing ever, and bring up "disasters" making it seem like thousands died when in reality it was 2 to 3 people tops. Then the old standard of crying "but Chernobyl!!!!!!". Saying that is like saying a yugo is a fair representation of all cars

Re:In 5,4,3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683857)

I'm no alarmist, but you got to know that Chernobyl caused 31 immediate deaths with three months of the event and will be a contributing factor in the deaths of many more people through cancer both in the emergency crews working the event and the general public in a number of countries. So your characterization of the event as minor is a bit much.

Where I would maintain that nuclear power is as safe or safer than other forms of power generation and has less impact on the environment than even the cleanest fuel burning plant. it still is an industrial process that does have dangers.

Re: In 5,4,3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684155)

Well then, there's no need to renew the Price-Anderson nuclear industry indemnification act, is there? Surely the nuclear power has such a good safety record that insurers will be eager to offer insurance rates that are competitive. After all, the Invisible Hand of the Free Market is always right, don't you agree?

Personally, I will take the risk assessment of an actuary over that of a /. commenter, or even over that of a nuclear engineer. YMMV.

Re: In 5,4,3 (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45684199)

The problems with nuclear were largely caused by ignoring the engineers who said, "This is a really bad idea."

Re: In 5,4,3 (1)

suutar (1860506) | about 8 months ago | (#45684419)

A good actuary will tell you there's not enough performance history on these new designs to make predictions... which is why the insurers won't offer policies. They know better than to place bets without knowing the odds.

Thorium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683079)

Why not use the funds to engineer a safer and even better Thorium based reactor

Re:Thorium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683257)

Is anyone else very much in favor of thorium but also gets really really annoyed by the fan club?

Re:Thorium (2, Interesting)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45683425)

No. You know why? Because right now, the key stumbling block is not the science--it's the public.

Re:Thorium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684021)

Is anyone else very much in favor of thorium but also gets really really annoyed by the fan club?

I'm very much in favor of thorium. As to the fan club, I conform to the FidoNet guideline [fidonet.org] : "Do not be excessively annoying and do not become excessively annoyed."

Re:Thorium (3, Insightful)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45683351)

Indeed. I don't see why we're pushing a technology that we know to have serious issues with stability, even on a smaller scale. The MSRE showed that we can build a safe nuclear reactor. In over 15,000 hours of critical operation, not once did the system exceed its safety margins. There were 0 instances of control rod scrams. No matter which mistakes you point at (metal embrittlement, evolution of uranium and plutonium)--we learned from them and figured out how to overcome them. This is how science and engineering works, and at the end of the day, we have a far superior design--but no funding.

kaboom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683243)

How long until this thing goes boom?

Re:kaboom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684271)

Generally speaking, power reactors are designed NEVER to go boom in a nuclear sense.

Nuclear explosions require the fissionable material to go "Prompt Critical." This is where the chain reaction is sustainable by the collisions of "Prompt" or fast moving neutrons. Neutrons that are moving fast are much less likely to hit another atom in the right way to cause it to split so it takes a lot more fissionable material in a small area to sustain a critical reaction and explode. Power reactors do not run prompt critical for obvious reasons, in fact they require that the released neutrons to be slowed down a bit before impacting another atom. So the fuel in a power reactor is physically spread out in such a way to make going prompt critical impossible.

Remember that the whole point of using a reactor in a power plant is to supply heat. This means that you really need to spread out the fuel as much as possible so you can get coolant in contact with as much surface area as possible to collect that heat. This spreading out makes getting a reactor to super critical impossible.

This is not to say there are not reactors that can go super critical. There is a Pulsar Reactor at NCSU that can briefly go prompt critical, but the engineering of the core makes it a brief event. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_State_University_reactor_program [wikipedia.org] This reactor is decidedly NOT used for power generation and is still not going to explode even when going super critical briefly. I was told you could pull out the control rods all the way and it would just pulse. I never saw that done, but I did watch the thing operate at low power as a nuclear engineering student, eery blue glow and all.

All this to say that a power reactor cannot and will not explode in a nuclear way. Chemically, they can explode if you have a build up of hydrogen or other possible byproducts of fission and heat, but that's a totally different thing.

Re:kaboom (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 8 months ago | (#45684661)

A properly designed reactor will not go "boom" but an improperly designed, operated or fueled reactor can go pphhhhfftt. (the way Chernobyl did). You need enough delayed neutrons to make the reaction growth rate controllable and it is possible to get out of that regime and make a mess.

Nuclear power is not inherently dangerous, but it needs to be designed, built and operated by intelligent careful people. This is probably my only objection to small reactors - it seems like it will increase the chance that one of them is operated by morons.

In general though I'm very much in favor of nuclear power, large or small installations. we just need to be careful.

--- Joe Frisch

Price comparison to wind (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 8 months ago | (#45683575)

This plant is 45 MW. Assuming 90% capacity factor for nuclear vs. 25% for wind, you'd need a 160 MW wind plant for the same average output. (All of the top dozen [wikipedia.org] wind farms are at least triple that.) Assuming $2M/MW [theenergycollective.com] for wind (second source [awea.org] ), that's $320M for something equivalent to this $226M nuclear plant. I assume the nuclear plant cost includes waste disposal, although fuel, maintenance, and decommissioning costs would seemingly be lower for wind. For nuclear there is the question of pricing in possible catastrophe.

Re:Price comparison to wind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45683841)

Assuming 2 + 5 = 3, then all sorts of things are possible.

Re:Price comparison to wind (2)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 8 months ago | (#45683993)

The big advantage of wind farms is that when you decommission them, you don't have this huge stockpile of exhausted wind lying around in cooling ponds that will be hazardous for the next ten thousand years.

Re:Price comparison to wind (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45684143)

More FUD. The longer-term decay products are correspondingly less dangerous. The really dangerous stuff has very very short half-lives. Store it for a short while, let the nasty stuff decay, then continue to use it as fuel. This is FUEL. Not waste. FUEL.

Re:Price comparison to wind (2)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 8 months ago | (#45684319)

Fuel. Yes, if it's both economical and safe to reprocess. You STILL wind up with a lot of nasty stuff to store.

The biggest problem with nuclear is that people run that industry - short sighted, greedy, sometimes incompetent people. Let me know when you find a technical fix for that.

Re:Price comparison to wind (1)

weilawei (897823) | about 8 months ago | (#45684625)

You can say the same of any industry working with potentially high risk situations. The solution is to levy actual punishments on the key perpetrators. Hard jailtime. This isn't a technical problem (see an LFTR fuel cycle, instead of the existing ones), it's a social one, with social solutions.

Re:Price comparison to wind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684235)

Too bad.

If you did, you could build another wind farm and use the exhausted wind as a fuel source for it since the hazardous wind is just unspent fuel.

Re:Price comparison to wind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684311)

Yes, if only there was a technology that could use that "waste" as fuel. (Hint: Breeder Reactors do exactly this).

Apples and Oranges (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about 8 months ago | (#45684179)

And when its not windy you have a 0MW wind farm.

Re:Apples and Oranges (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 8 months ago | (#45684277)

That is the thing called "capacity factor" in my calculation.

Re:Price comparison to wind (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | about 8 months ago | (#45684197)

The biggest problem with wind is that it doesn't adjust to demand. Even in reliably windy areas, you sometimes get a calm day. At least with solar, you get peak output during peak energy demand (hot summer days, although the demand is shifted more to the late afternoon. There's a time lag as buildings and the air heat up. Peak production is 10am-4pm, peak demand Is noon-8pm). Ultimately, if you don't want to burn fossil fuels, nuclear is a very dependable strategy. Wind is fine if your alternative source can ramp up and down very quickly (natural gas). If you don't have that, nuke it.

Re:Price comparison to wind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684255)

The sad thing is that wind power's maintenance costs are higher than nuclear power's normal maintenance and fuel costs combined.

Re:Price comparison to wind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684509)

One big variable not included in wind energy calculations is land allocation. For a big wind farm like the ones in your example, that's a lot of land. A reactor of this size is orders of magnitude less in land usage. This matters, as energy markets are naturally where there are high concentrations of people, so for wind you either use up a so much land around the people itself, reducing the supply of land and thus increasing it's price, or you build it so far away that your cost goes up and your efficiency goes down due to the power lines you need to put up to get the energy to the market. A reactor like this can be built anywhere, closer to the markets they serve, and not take up a whole lot of space.

The downside to nuclear is it's generally not efficient when scaling to demand peaks; generally nuclear is only cost efficient when operating at 90% capacity or more. Wind is a bit more scale-able to the peaks and troughs in the demand curve.

More Corporate Pork (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | about 8 months ago | (#45683717)

Sounds like this is just big enough to power a huge data center or corporate campus. So this is probably not a plant for the average citizen, but one to make power cheaper for corporate users. No surprise. It helps Google get cheap power, while we keep paying for coal and gas.

Re:More Corporate Pork (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 8 months ago | (#45683931)

You don't use just one of them.

45MW is about the same as a GE LM6000 natural gas turbine. You stick three, or four, or a dozen of those together to make a single plant of worthwhile size. You'd use these mini-nukes in the same manner.

Re:More Corporate Pork (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684063)

Sounds like this is just big enough to power a huge data center or corporate campus. So this is probably not a plant for the average citizen, but one to make power cheaper for corporate users. No surprise. It helps Google get cheap power, while we keep paying for coal and gas.

It's perfect for powering my Ultimate Doomsday Prepper Bunkers.

Re:More Corporate Pork (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684583)

Not really. There are a few big issues with nuclear power from a cost perspective. One is the upfront cost; stick building a facility usually costs in the billions of dollars. The other is capacity; generally nuclear doesn't scale well, and is only really cost efficient at 90% or higher capacity, which doesn't map well to the typical demand curve for power in a given day. Also, the demand in different regions can be variable; New York or LA does not require the same power needs as say Buffalo or Austin, so they need different sizes of utilities but again scaling the design is somewhat tricky.

A smaller reactor like this helps to address those issues. A reactor this size can be built in a factory and transported via rail to the jobsite; the factory production allows for greater cost efficiency in manufacture and reduced up front cost. A smaller power market can choose to buy only a few reactors and establish a plant, whereas a larger power market can buy more, so you help out on the design scaling issue. There's also some greater ability to scale capacity; you can run say 2 or 3 reactors during the spring or so, then turn on 6 or 7 during the summer when people run A/Cs, etc, giving you a little more flexibility to adapt to demand.

Pebble Bed (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45683795)

....what ever happened to these?

China gets one running and... ...then nothing? A few people stopped funding theirs?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble-bed_reactor [wikipedia.org]

Re:Pebble Bed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45684281)

Solid fuel is only partially consumed and results in an enduring mess, while the pebbles make further recycling impractical. In theory those pebbles will remain intact over the millennia, but that requires a very expensive and exacting manufacturing process. Conventional reactors produce more spent fuel, but at least it is readily recycled.

Liquid fluoride thorium reactors can completely consume the fuel and only short-lived fission products remain. No cladding or pebble waste is produced, and no fuel fabrication is required.

A comment on size (2)

sallgeud (12337) | about 8 months ago | (#45683885)

5 million gallons of water is approximately the size of one football field x 12 feet deep... or 360' x 160' x 12' ... or if you prefer cubed... about 87.4' cubed of water

Small containment vessel (1)

Animats (122034) | about 8 months ago | (#45684287)

Here's a description without the hype. [nrc.gov] This has a small containment vessel, only slightly larger than the reactor pressure vessel. It's a vacuum bottle setup - there's normally a vacuum between the pressure vessel and the containment, as insulation. In an emergency, the reactor vents into the containment vacuum, which allows more heat conduction to the outside. The outside water pool is just a big heat sink.

Most containment vessels are much bigger than the reactor vessel. One of the problems with the reactors at Fukushima was that the containment wasn't big enough to contain the overpressure produced in a hydrogen explosion. Presumably there's some justification for the small containment vessel in this new design.

Re:Small containment vessel (1)

suutar (1860506) | about 8 months ago | (#45684493)

The reason containment vessels are so large in current reactors is that they're using high-pressure high-temperature water to move the heat around. High temperature because that's the only way to move the heat efficiently, and high pressure to keep it from becoming steam. But if there's a breach, there goes the pressure, and now you have X liters of water turning into 1500X cubic meters of steam (1 liter is 55 moles, and each mole becomes about 22.7 cubic meters of vapor). So you need a lot of room for the steam to expand into. If you're using something that doesn't vaporize at the working temperature (molten salt, for example) then you don't need that much expansion room.

Re:Small containment vessel (1)

suutar (1860506) | about 8 months ago | (#45684575)

Sorry, units error. 1500X liters of steam, or 1.5 cubic meters.
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