The trial of the Oklo microreactor is remarkable enough, in that it rebuilds the US experience base with metal-fuelled fast reactors, lost through the killing of the EBR2 project in 1994. However it also starts up a supply chain for 20% LEU fuel, also known as HALEU.
Once HALEU can be commercially ordered, trials of fast reactors such as Toshiba's 4S can resume. A future for the fuelling of fleets of fast reactors may lie ahead of us in the West. (A fleet of fast reactors is already being planned for 2050-2100 in China).
HALEU is also integral to Russia's REMIX process proposed for a closed cycle in fast or slow reactor fuel. Here the actinides U+Pu are extracted from freshly used fuel, topped up with HALEU, and returned to the same reactor to close the cycle.
HALEU is already special in that the higher separation means early removal from the cycle of a higher proportion of the easy-to-handle DU, depleted uranium. Correspondingly a reprocessing cycle using HALEU generates a smaller proportion of the more radioactive RepU, reprocessed uranium containing traces of short lived actinides.
Thanks, DBB, for the tip. The X-300 could be a game-changer. Rod Adams concludes:
"Bottom line is that GEH's X-300 is a formidable competitive entrant into the smaller reactor field. If the company fully supports the project with its considerable financial and political heft, the product could be a resounding success."
Post by Roger Clifton on May 5, 2020 12:26:46 GMT 9.5
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is inviting public comment to contribute to the assessment of a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) for advanced small nuclear reactors. The interesting thing to me is that they are specifically referring to reactors cooled by other than water – liquid sodium, liquid fluoride, etc.
"Engineers on the project will collaborate with Moltex Energy to dramatically reduce the costs of producing nuclear energy for Moltex's Stable Salt Reactor-Wasteburner (SSR-W), a design for an advanced nuclear plant that would run on nuclear waste."
The goal is to reduce the operating costs of a plant from $11 per megawatt-hour to under $2 per MWh. Knocking almost 1 cent per kWh off a plant's levelized cost of electricity--from, say, 5 cents per kWh to almost 4 cents--would be very significant.
"Study Finds Advanced Reactors Will Have Competitive Costs"
"A new study of contemporary nuclear industry cost projections, previously unavailable to the public, provides new insight into a potential path breaking cost trend for the next generation of advanced nuclear plants."
NuScale is one of the companies profiled, though the results are "anonymized'.
According to this study, three SMRs could potentially produce electricity for under $50/MWh. (The specific amounts, taken from Table 2 and Figure 3, are about $48, $42 and $36.) The GEMINA project, profiled in the two previous comments, might reduce these amounts even further.
Besides moving ahead with its boiling-water SMR, GE Hitachi is now collaborating with Bill Gates and TerraPower on a sodium fast reactor called Natrium, which is capable of storing energy in molten salt.
"Asked whether GEH anticipates any conflicts marketing Natrium as a competitor to the BWRX-300, the company noted that the two technologies 'can be optimized for different applications.'
"The BWRX-300 'is focused on achieving a cost-competitive design that is ready for rapid deployment. BWRX-300 combines new innovation with proven technology and a certified fuel design, making it ideally suited for the near-term market and solving one of the biggest challenges facing the industry -- cost,' it explained. Because 'Natrium operates at higher temperatures, it is ideally suited for applications such as hydrogen production, industrial heat applications and energy storage.' Natrium is also capable of consuming used fuel because it operates in the fast neutron spectrum.
"'We see important applications for each technology', GEH said."