Three direct cycle designs [steam indirect cycle, helium direct, supercritical CO2]were selected for further investigation: the basic design with turbine inlet temperature of 550P o PC, an advanced design with turbine inlet temperature of 650P o PC and a high-performance design with turbine inlet temperature of 700P o PC, all with the compressor outlet pressure set at 20 MPa. The basic design achieves 45.3 % thermal efficiency and reduces the cost of the power plant by ~ 18% compared to a conventional Rankine steam cycle. The capital cost of the basic design compared to a helium Brayton cycle is about the same, but the supercritical COB2B cycle operates at significantly lower temperature. The thermal efficiency of the advanced design is close to 50% and the reactor system with the direct supercritical COB2B cycle is ~ 24% less expensive than the steam indirect cycle and 7% less expensive than a helium direct Brayton cycle. It is expected in the future that high temperature materials will become available and a high performance design with turbine inlet temperatures of 700P o PC will be possible. This high performance design achieves a thermal efficiency approaching 53%, which yields additional cost savings. [Current nuclear reactors are at about 35% thermal efficiency, and some newer designs will have 40-45%]
The turbomachinery is highly compact and achieves efficiencies of more than 90%. For the 600 MWBthB/246 MWBeB power plant the turbine body is 1.2 m in diameter and
0.55 m long, which translates into an extremely high power density of 395 MWBeB/mP
3P. The compressors are even more compact as they operate close to the critical point where the density of the fluid is higher than in the turbine. The power conversion unit that houses these components and the generator is 18 m tall and 7.6 m in diameter. Its power density (MWBeB/mP 3 P) is about ~ 46% higher than that of the helium GT-MHR (Gas Turbine Modular Helium Reactor).
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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