Crisis and opportunities for new nuclear power

There was a study of advanced nuclear reactors costs by the Energy Options Network.

Energy Options Network looked at

Elysium Industries MSR
General Electric SFR
Moltex Energy MSR
NuScale Power APWR
Terrestrial Energy MSR Canada
ThorCon Power MSR
Transatomic Power MSR
X-energy

Two of the companies had construction costs of about $2100 per KW and operating costs of $14-20 per MWH. Those costs are about three times less than conventional nuclear power.

Conventional nuclear power is having trouble competing with low-cost natural gas and increasingly competitive solar and wind.

There are three main drivers for new nuclear power
* the need for existing commercial nuclear operators and possibly some coal plants to have an option for replacing conventional nuclear power plants
* the need for Asian countries (China, India, Indonesia, South Korea and others) to have a lot of new clean energy to match their economic growth
* the need for the US military to have a strong commercial nuclear industry to support and integrate with military nuclear needs

The United States military cannot let commercial US nuclear power fade away.

Military nuclear power and systems depend upon a strong commercial nuclear power industry.

Most of the companies studied by Energy Options Network look like solid commercial energy options.

The ThorCon molten salt reactor has the potential to be built at ship construction yards. This could scale to 100 gigawatts per year. This is the most interesting option for the US military.

30 thoughts on “Crisis and opportunities for new nuclear power”

  1. As Scaryjello pointed out, military nuclear doesn’t rely on civilian, it’s the other way round – half the reactor operators are ex-navy. ( They might get some tritium to keep warheads current, but other sources would work. )

    Reply
  2. As Scaryjello pointed out military nuclear doesn’t rely on civilian it’s the other way round – half the reactor operators are ex-navy. ( They might get some tritium to keep warheads current but other sources would work. )

    Reply
  3. I hate to agree with that. Safety is not in the design; it is in people (and processes) as you state. All the gen 3/4 designs have a passive safety case where they depressurize and reflood under gravity (ESBWR, AP1000) or shut down with an extremely high over temperature (MSR, GTMHR, LMFR). Actually using those “passive” backups would be considered a grave failure – if the plants survived these accuations, they would likely be decommissioned anyway at great capital cost. It wouldn’t be considered a success to learn that the ap1000 core flood tanks work as designed – at best it would be “well at least the core did not melt when we lost that plant”.

    Reply
  4. Shellenberger has an article in the latest Forbes. Google /if-radical-innovation-makes-nuclear-power-expensive-why-do-we-think-it-will-make-nuclear-cheap It discusses the likelihood of the success of novel reactors. His reasoning is sound. The probability of commercial success is minimal. It’s relatively easy to make something experimental but scaling to commercial and meeting realistic safety standards is very hard. The $/MWh estimates are optimistic at best. They assume successful volume production, optimistic financing and 95% capacity factor. Current fossil fuel plants average 50% but could theoretically be 95%. Why will nuclear be any different? Imagine if nuclear had been successful in the 70s and proliferated around the world. Syria and Iraq would undoubtedly have had reactors for ISIS to play with. Safety is not in the design, its in the people and what they do. Look at the continuing unsolved mess in Fukushima.

    Reply
  5. I hate to agree with that. Safety is not in the design; it is in people (and processes) as you state. All the gen 3/4 designs have a passive safety case where they depressurize and reflood under gravity (ESBWR AP1000) or shut down with an extremely high over temperature (MSR GTMHR LMFR). Actually using those passive”” backups would be considered a grave failure – if the plants survived these accuations”””” they would likely be decommissioned anyway at great capital cost. It wouldn’t be considered a success to learn that the ap1000 core flood tanks work as designed – at best it would be “”””well at least the core did not melt when we lost that plant””””.”””

    Reply
  6. Shellenberger has an article in the latest Forbes. Google /if-radical-innovation-makes-nuclear-power-expensive-why-do-we-think-it-will-make-nuclear-cheap It discusses the likelihood of the success of novel reactors. His reasoning is sound. The probability of commercial success is minimal. It’s relatively easy to make something experimental but scaling to commercial and meeting realistic safety standards is very hard. The $/MWh estimates are optimistic at best. They assume successful volume production optimistic financing and 95{22800fc54956079738b58e74e4dcd846757aa319aad70fcf90c97a58f3119a12} capacity factor. Current fossil fuel plants average 50{22800fc54956079738b58e74e4dcd846757aa319aad70fcf90c97a58f3119a12} but could theoretically be 95{22800fc54956079738b58e74e4dcd846757aa319aad70fcf90c97a58f3119a12}. Why will nuclear be any different? Imagine if nuclear had been successful in the 70s and proliferated around the world. Syria and Iraq would undoubtedly have had reactors for ISIS to play with. Safety is not in the design its in the people and what they do. Look at the continuing unsolved mess in Fukushima.

    Reply
  7. For nuclear power to survive it has to be much cheaper than any alternative. So it must be engineered as such. I am thinking a molten salt reactor with a two chambered container with a temperature activated plug as a safety device. The controlled mechanism would be temperature. Either CO2 or Helium would be the working fluid. The container would be Roman concrete lined with a ceramic or a metal alloy. The reactor must be inherently safe, simple and cheap.

    Reply
  8. Comments keep getting deleted here… “the need for the US military to have a strong commercial nuclear industry to support and integrate with military nuclear needs” – that is inverted. Navy nuke operators “retire” to the commercial nuclear industry; they are the majority of licensed operators.

    Reply
  9. For nuclear power to survive it has to be much cheaper than any alternative. So it must be engineered as such. I am thinking a molten salt reactor with a two chambered container with a temperature activated plug as a safety device. The controlled mechanism would be temperature. Either CO2 or Helium would be the working fluid. The container would be Roman concrete lined with a ceramic or a metal alloy. The reactor must be inherently safe simple and cheap.

    Reply
  10. Comments keep getting deleted here… the need for the US military to have a strong commercial nuclear industry to support and integrate with military nuclear needs”” – that is inverted. Navy nuke operators “”””retire”””” to the commercial nuclear industry; they are the majority of licensed operators.”””

    Reply
  11. For that it needs to be high temperature and high capacity, I think. Besides being a breeder. (Working with natural unenriched uranium also helps.) But having a gas as a coolant is quite a problem for safety. The most promising concept in this regard is the dual fluid reactor in my eyes. Too bad it went nowhere.

    Reply
  12. I guess that is the author’s shorthand for Sodium Fast Reactor. You can find a lot of public information regarding it, including a long safety analysis report on the NRC’s web page search (ADAMS) – it is called PRISM and it is an evolution of the EBR II reactor and it has been “on the shelf” for decades.

    Reply
  13. For that it needs to be high temperature and high capacity I think. Besides being a breeder. (Working with natural unenriched uranium also helps.) But having a gas as a coolant is quite a problem for safety.The most promising concept in this regard is the dual fluid reactor in my eyes. Too bad it went nowhere.

    Reply
  14. I guess that is the author’s shorthand for Sodium Fast Reactor. You can find a lot of public information regarding it including a long safety analysis report on the NRC’s web page search (ADAMS) – it is called PRISM and it is an evolution of the EBR II reactor and it has been on the shelf”” for decades.”””

    Reply
  15. For that it needs to be high temperature and high capacity, I think. Besides being a breeder. (Working with natural unenriched uranium also helps.) But having a gas as a coolant is quite a problem for safety.

    The most promising concept in this regard is the dual fluid reactor in my eyes. Too bad it went nowhere.

    Reply
  16. I guess that is the author’s shorthand for Sodium Fast Reactor. You can find a lot of public information regarding it, including a long safety analysis report on the NRC’s web page search (ADAMS) – it is called PRISM and it is an evolution of the EBR II reactor and it has been “on the shelf” for decades.

    Reply
  17. For nuclear power to survive it has to be much cheaper than any alternative. So it must be engineered as such. I am thinking a molten salt reactor with a two chambered container with a temperature activated plug as a safety device. The controlled mechanism would be temperature. Either CO2 or Helium would be the working fluid. The container would be Roman concrete lined with a ceramic or a metal alloy. The reactor must be inherently safe, simple and cheap.

    Reply
  18. Comments keep getting deleted here…

    “the need for the US military to have a strong commercial nuclear industry to support and integrate with military nuclear needs” – that is inverted. Navy nuke operators “retire” to the commercial nuclear industry; they are the majority of licensed operators.

    Reply
  19. I hate to agree with that. Safety is not in the design; it is in people (and processes) as you state. All the gen 3/4 designs have a passive safety case where they depressurize and reflood under gravity (ESBWR, AP1000) or shut down with an extremely high over temperature (MSR, GTMHR, LMFR). Actually using those “passive” backups would be considered a grave failure – if the plants survived these accuations, they would likely be decommissioned anyway at great capital cost. It wouldn’t be considered a success to learn that the ap1000 core flood tanks work as designed – at best it would be “well at least the core did not melt when we lost that plant”.

    Reply
  20. Shellenberger has an article in the latest Forbes. Google /if-radical-innovation-makes-nuclear-power-expensive-why-do-we-think-it-will-make-nuclear-cheap It discusses the likelihood of the success of novel reactors. His reasoning is sound. The probability of commercial success is minimal. It’s relatively easy to make something experimental but scaling to commercial and meeting realistic safety standards is very hard. The $/MWh estimates are optimistic at best. They assume successful volume production, optimistic financing and 95% capacity factor. Current fossil fuel plants average 50% but could theoretically be 95%. Why will nuclear be any different?

    Imagine if nuclear had been successful in the 70s and proliferated around the world. Syria and Iraq would undoubtedly have had reactors for ISIS to play with. Safety is not in the design, its in the people and what they do. Look at the continuing unsolved mess in Fukushima.

    Reply
  21. As Scaryjello pointed out, military nuclear doesn’t rely on civilian, it’s the other way round – half the reactor operators are ex-navy. ( They might get some tritium to keep warheads current, but other sources would work. )

    Reply

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