"The future of energy in a carbon-constrained world, released today at an event in London, analyses the reasons behind a slowdown in nuclear energy growth and outlines measures that could be taken to arrest or reverse that trend, including moves to reduce the cost of building new nuclear capacity and creating a level playing field that would allow all low-carbon generation technologies to compete on their merits."
It wasn't very clear to me whom the study is addressed to and who are the intended beneficiaries of its advice. However, there are plenty of charts with facts and figures and comparisons. And there are plenty of recommendations, indeed the word "should" occurs 103 times. But the corresponding "if" that identifies what one is trying to achieve, is largely missing. It may just be saying to the nuclear industry, if you wanna expand, this is what you gotta do.
The intended audience is given in the Forward: "The study is designed to serve as a balanced, fact-based, and analysis-driven guide for stakeholders involved in nuclear energy. Policy makers, utilities, existing and startup energy companies, regulators, investors, and other power-sector stakeholders, can use this study to better understand the challenges and opportunities currently facing nuclear energy in the U.S. and around the world."
Unfortunately in the US and in Australia there are some formidable headwinds. Those on the left recognize the threat of climate change, but dismiss nuclear power, arguably the most important technological solution to the problem. Those on the right are sympathetic to nuclear power, but reject the threat of climate change, and are quite content to go on using cheap fossil fuels. So nuclear languishes and the Earth burns.
The key to solving this conundrum is, I believe, to be found in point four of the Executive Summary:
"(4) Decarbonization policies should create a level playing field that allow all low-carbon generation technologies to compete on their merits.
"... Incorporating CO2 emission costs into the price of electricity can more equitably recognize the value to all climate-friendly energy technologies. Nuclear generators, both existing plants and the new builds, would be among the beneficiaries of a level, competitive playing field."
The WNN article cited above has this background material on "pebble" fuel and the reactors that use it:
"The Xe-100 is a 200 MWt (75 MWe) reactor, which X-energy envisages being built as a standard 'four-pack' plant generating about 300 MWe. The plant will use "pebbles" of fuel containing TRISO particles. Each TRISO particle has a kernel of enriched uranium oxycarbide, encased in carbon and ceramic layers which prevent the release of radioactivity. The layers provide each particle with its own independent containment system, while the graphite surrounding the particles moderates the nuclear reaction. Such fuel cannot melt down."
"My visit to the heart of American startup and high-tech investing culture reminded be that we are a country that is full of human, financial, physical and technical capital. We have a well-established process for bringing the disparate ingredients of success together in a way that can produce surprisingly rapid and repeatable revolutions."
"To succeed, NuScale will have to compete with cheap natural gas. The company aims to produce electricity at a total cost, including construction and operations of $65 per megawatt-hour. That's about 20% higher than the current cost of energy from a gas-powered plant. However, Rosner says, 'The price of gas isn't going to stay low forever.' Countries also could put a price on carbon emissions, which would drive up the cost of fossil-fuel power. In fact, a September 2018 report from MIT indicated that a carbon tax could make nuclear competitive with gas."
The price of natural gas is higher everywhere in the world outside of North America. Unfortunately I cannot find a good reference to cite.
The Henry Hub price is an excellent reference for N. American prices. For anywhere else, just look to see who's buying LNG and what that's typically going for on the spot market.
Hydrogen for hydrocracking and hydrodesulfurization costs a fraction of what it does anywhere else. Natural gas is so cheap here, it pays to ship crude oil to Gulf coast refineries and export the products.
Post by David B. Benson on Apr 22, 2019 19:14:35 GMT 9.5
The Nuscale newsroom has articles on Nuscale's recent push for micro-reactors, about a 10th of the existing design. There is even a mention of a much smaller reactor in the works. I gather these are intended for off-grid applications.
Post by Roger Clifton on Jun 5, 2019 18:15:42 GMT 9.5
The Thorcon article goes further than most discussions on molten salt reactors by addressing the problems of radioactive scale and corrosion. Every four years the primary container is replaced with a refurbished container and taken back to the factory for scaling, repair and return to service. At least, that's what they say. I suspect that commercial imperatives would motivate them to put the used containers out in the junkyard and provide new ones for the replacements. However I would be interested to hear of someone successfully reworking irradiated steel.
Post by engineerpoet on Jun 5, 2019 21:32:23 GMT 9.5
I dunno. IIUC the major issue with irradiated steel is the neutron embrittlement, which is easily annealed out. Returning units to service eliminates the problem and cost of disposing of neutron-activated materials, so it might be the cheapest option.
Post by Roger Clifton on Jun 6, 2019 9:17:42 GMT 9.5
In 1946, the U.S. Navy sought to demonstrate that its ships could survive nearby nuclear blasts. An underwater blast (Operation Crossroads Baker) demonstrated that the ships could survive physically. However ships that had been washed over by the surge wave containing the fission products were judged to be too contaminated for sailors to work on them, and were eventually scuttled.
The steel of those ships was exposed to a tiny fraction of the beta and gamma radiation it would suffer in an MSR, a smaller fraction of the scale, and none of the neutron radiation. If those ships were too hazardous for humans, then the primary plumbing of a used MSR would be completely untouchable.
PS - the surge wave also contained activation products inc neutron activated Na and Cl - see later.
If those ships were too hazardous for humans, then the primary plumbing of a used MSR would be completely untouchable.
There is a rather major difference, Roger. Unlike the deck, passages and holds of a ship, the core container of a used MSR is not ever intended for humans to work inside it. It can be seriously radioactive without affecting its suitability for future use one bit.
the core container of a used MSR is not ever intended for humans to work inside it
Quite so. According to the article, every four years the core container would be removed -- along with the radioactive scale accumulated in its corners and low velocity zones, embrittled steel and corroded welds. Since no one could work in it, it would have to be discarded.
I remain curious as to the nature of the contamination on the ships in 1946.
Post by Roger Clifton on Jun 6, 2019 13:44:24 GMT 9.5
Here's one clue. Wikipedia's entry on neutron activation says, "water is relatively difficult to activate, as compared to sea salt (NaCl), in which both the sodium and chlorine ions become unstable with a single capture each. These facts were realized first-hand at the Operation Crossroads atomic test series in 1946."
It would seem that no amount of washing could reduce the activated salt film enough to recommission the ships.