There are people who look at the Energy Information Administration projection that is some nuclear favorable energy bill passes that the US cannot make 140 more nuclear reactors and sustain current nuclear power and achieve 240% of current nuclaer power by 2050. I think the build rate and increase of nuclear power can be far more, but here is how to make 240% of current nuclear power is the easiest way which I think can be done by 2030. This is describing what can be achieved with mainstream nuclear fission technology and does not include liquid flouride thorium reactors or nuclear fusion.
Build 80 reactors, extend current reactors to 80 year operation, uprate existing and new reactors 30%. is 240% of existing power. Does not include large scale factory mass production of smaller modular reactors (China’s Pebble bed or Hyperion Power generation style)
Reactors are almost all being extended in the US to 60 years and 80 year operation is possible for many. (Research required, see idaho national lab strategic plan) Idaho National Labs has a proposal on the management and increasing build of regular reactors.
The detailed plan from Idaho National Labs (mostly current reactors. – would be better to transition to pebble bed and factory massed produced thorium and other reactors. Smaller reactors can be built in China, Russia, India and then shipped elsewhere at half the cost or less. That way a serious nuclear construction expansion in China, India, and Russia can then be exported to the USA and Euopre and other places.
The following recommendations are from the Idaho National Labs for making the most of light water reactor tech. I think there should be some work in this area as a backup plan in case new fission and fusion reactor technology takes longer to develop than expected. Plus we should make the most of legacy plants that will be with us for decades. I would definitely put more effort into deep burn factory mass produced reactors (advanced pebble bed, breeder reactors, LFTR (liquid flouride thorium reactors) and various nuclear fusion efforts (IEC fusion, Dense Plasma Focus fusion, field reversed configuration etc…)
1. Life extension of the current fleet beyond 60 years (e.g., what would it
take to extend all lives to ~80 years?); and
2. Strong, sustained expansion of ALWRs throughout this century (e.g., what
would it take to proceed uninterrupted from first new plant deployments in
~2015 to sustained build-rates approaching 10+/year?).
Achieving a build rate of 10 plants per year, which on a sustained basis equates to about 50 plants under construction at any point in time, will require substantial investment in workforce training and new or refurbished manufacturing capability.
R & D goals
1. Sustain high performance of reactor plant materials
2. Transition to state-of-the-art digital I&C
3. Advances in nuclear fuel
a. Enhance fuel reliability and performance
b. Develop high-burnup (HBU) fuel [85 Gwd/t target]
The HBU fuel program is expected to take about 10 years, and involves test and qualification of innovative fuels with uranium enrichment above 5%
4. Implement broad-spectrum workforce development
5. Implement broad-spectrum infrastructure improvements and design for sustainability
6. Address electricity infrastructure-wide problems that are NOT unique to nuclear energy but nevertheless pose unacceptable risks to current plant operations and new plant siting
a. Develop alternative cooling technologies
– Conventional ‘dry cooling’ greatly reduces the water required but incurs large (over 15%) parasitic power losses.
b. Expand high-voltage transmission infrastructure
7. Advanced fabrication, construction and inspection methods
8. Extend the application of risk management technologies and understanding of safety margins
9. Improve operational performance
10. Expand LWR technology into new missions and markets
a. Develop LWRs for application in regional markets
Annular fuel (also called dual cooled fuel) was invented at MIT but being developed in South Korea could enable uprating existing reactors by 20-50%.
Change the shape of the fuel to allow more surface area for cooling.
If most of the existing fleet of reactors were uprated using regular techniques (better turbines etc… get about 10% more power) and then get the dual cooled/annular fuel uprate and up 20-30% overall. That would be 30-40% more power even without new reactor build.
Pebble Bed and Other Modular Factory Built Reactors
More reactors of the current type and new types will be built and current reactors will have operating extensions (run for more years) and current reactors will get more uprates. Also, biofuels and desalination can use the not ideal mid level temperature steam and waste heat so that more of the thermal power can be used. (get more work out of the existing reactors).
The CEO of Cosco has said that they are seriously looking at making their large container ships nuclear powered. This would have a huge benefit for the environment as container ships use bunker fuel. I have several articles that look at the economic and environmental benefits and project details.
The US is Making Nuclear Reactors
Nuclear reactors: Browns Ferry One was substantially rebuilt 2002-2007 and Watts Bar 2 to be completed 2012.
Starting in 2002, TVA undertook to restore Unit One to operational status, spending $1.8 billion to do so. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the restart of Unit 1 on May 15, 2007 and the reactor was brought up to criticality on May 22 for the first time since March 3, 1985. During initial testing after restart, on May 24, 2007, a leaky hydraulic control pipe in the turbine hall burst, spilling about 600 gallons of non-radioactive fluid, and the newly restarted reactor was temporarily powered down. Reactor power-up and tests resumed on May 27 and the unit started supplying power to the electricity supply grid on June 2, 2007, reaching full power on June 8.
The $2.5 billion, five-year plan to finish a second reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant is on schedule and within budget. Nearly 1,850 TVA and contract employees are now working at the plant and at TVA’s headquarters here to finish the Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar by 2012. TVA estimates the Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor every year will avoid the emission of about 60 million metric tons of greenhouse emissions linked with global warming.
The second reactor at Watts Bar is the first commercial reactor in the country to seek a license since 1995 and could be the last reactor of its generation to be built. By next summer through the end of 2011, more than 2,500 workers will be employed on the project.
TVA began construction of Watts Bar in 1973, but work was suspended in 1988 when TVA’s growth in power sales declined. After mothballing the unit for 19 years, TVA’s board decided in 2007 to finish the reactor because it is projected to provide cheaper, no carbon-emitting power compared with the existing coal plants or purchased power it may help replace.
US loan guarantees for nuclear reactors are coming through- Politically more loans will be coming for nuclear. (statements from DOE Chu)
Modular Reactors Being Built Now Will Enable Faster Build
AP1000 modular reactors (300 modules or so) and Korea’s modular reactors are being built and the Korean reactors have been built and show that faster and cheaper construction is possible.
If China successfully develops its pebble bed reactor (Two 200MWe reactor modules) either cheaper or a little more expensive than their current $1500-1600/KW build cost. Then they could factory manufacture them and ship them to the US and other places. US lab has achieved 19% burnup with pebbles. Later versions of China’s pebble beds will get new designs with deeper burn and higher temp (more efficiency). Higher temperatures also means more heat can be used for industrial processes- (ie drop in replacement of coal burners).
Russia is making smaller floating reactors.
Deep burn plans for pebble bed fuel (higher enrichment – can achieve 65% burn. 13 times more efficient use of once through nuclear fuel)
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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