How Close is Perfect Nuclear Power? Perfect Energy?

Can we get nuclear reactors that are walkaway safe with no physical possibility of meltdown?

Can we have energy that is a hundred times safer than solar and a million times safer than coal?

Can we solve CO2 emissions and air pollution?

Can we get energy that is much cheaper and more abundant for a better and wealthier future?

I have reviewed all energy, all nuclear fusion projects, the history of nuclear power and the key aspects of nuclear fusion and advanced nuclear fission.

All current nuclear fusion projects are less capable than the first EBR-1 fission reactor from 1951. However, technological and scientific breakthroughs can happen. Advanced nuclear fission is also being developed which appear likely to start first reactor completions in 2025-2030. Nuclear fusion projects do have some promise.

Key first commercialization for a far more perfect nuclear power is possible in the 2025-2030 timeframe. The 440 Nuclear power plants are already hundreds of times cleaner than all of the fossil fuel energy and is as clean as solar and wind. Nuclear power is currently as safe as solar and wind.

However, we want energy that is even safer, cheaper and more abundant.

Without abundant energy we do not solve remaining poverty.

Perfect Nuclear Power – or perfect energy in general
More abundance
Walkaway Safe
Much Cheaper Electricity
No Nuclear Waste

Coal Power is Better than Poverty
But we can stop world war levels of illness and death

Lower Cost Energy means more economic growth

Here is the timeline that I see

2022-2030 Walkaway safe nuclear reactors. The HTR-PM pebble bed is already operating in China and is walkaway safe.
2025-2030 Nuclear Fission 5-20X More efficient with uranium
2030 First molten salt using nuclear waste as fuel
2030s Maybe nuclear fusion unless breakthroughs from Hb-11, Avalanche Energy are longshots but have possibility of earlier breakthroughs.

38 thoughts on “How Close is Perfect Nuclear Power? Perfect Energy?”

  1. Simply below grade is all that is needed for molten salt reactors. There is no risk of explosion with these. There are also sodium heat pipe reactors which have no moving parts in them. The heat pipe heats and stores energy in a small molten aluminum tank which a Sterling engine uses heat pipes to tap the heat to generate electricity. The set up will have good peaking power while the reactor will self control (negative reactivity to heat) putting more power out when heat is pulled out and shutting down when heat is not taken out. No ooerator would be needed for the reactor only an automatics shutoff and call for service. The reactor can work for 60 years or so at which a single control rod is pushed into the reactor to shut it down. The reactor than can be replaced with a new one. I think this is getting close to that perfect power source.

  2. Encapsulated Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. First functional model:2025-2030
    Small enough to power a ship: immediately
    Small enough to power a train: 2035
    Small enough to power a house: 2040
    Small enough to power a car: 2045

    The problem isn’t energy, it’s size.

  3. Nuclear plants should be located 1000 feet underground away from aquifers. Use thorium not uranium to avoid weapons development. Coal miners can be repurpose to dig holes for reactors. Underground h bomb tests sites have potential for geothermal powder since they are magma pools.

    • “Weapons developpement”
      -Good luck stealing that from a running reactor.
      -good luck stealing the fissile material…
      – good luck trying to make a function weapon from it.

    • Total replacement of uranium/plutonium fuel with thorium is not practical because the naturally occurring thorium is not ready to fission. It needs some neutron breeding to go from fertile to fissile. That would add complexity, cost, and greater diversion risk.

      Simply adding fertile thorium as some part of of the fuel mix with fissile uranium/plutonium causes production of fissile daughter isotopes from the thorium so it can add to the energy production. Meanwhile, some of that daughter material is a strong a gamma-ray source making any diversion at the reactor site more dangerous and detection more likely.

      Finally, using the thorium/uranium/etc. in small modular (transportable!) reactors is the best approach because the partially spent fuel can be removed and reprocessed for more complete use. That also greatly reduces the amount of high-level waste requiring storage. The removal and reprocessing is best done at the factory for small modular reactors all those safety concerns.

      Operation at 1000 meters below ground is an excessive precaution and would have its own risks from potential changes in groundwater level.

  4. The picture of the 1950s-vintage behemoth looked familiar. Read further and mention was made of EBR-1. Then I remembered that’s the nuclear jet engine that sits in the parking lot outside EBR-1. My old physics prof, when an engineer at GE worked on that project before Kennedy cancelled it. They were working on a nuclear jet bomber that could loiter for months outside the borders of the USSR. If you are ever in Idaho Falls, take a trip out past INL to see the EBR-1 museum.

  5. Dear Mr. Wang,
    A nice PPT, too bad you skip many slides with a flash. Perhaps it would be better if you can let each slid stays there for a few seconds for readers to catch up, or explain each slide with some details. It is common for non-technical orinated speakers to spend too much time on introduction slides, and found himself have no time to go into details in technical slides. The net results for this is readers still cannot fully believe what you said.

  6. Poland: lets make some nuclear power plants!
    Korea: lets make some more nuclear power plants!
    France: lets make some more nuclear power plants!
    Germany: lets burn some coal!
    USA: is it time for pudding yet?

    • +1 Don’t know why we can have that basic feature in a comments section, or some character counter, and an indication of where the limit is.

  7. We need a Apollo like program. No reason we cannot overcome Fusion power technical issues, it is feasible to engineer and produce quality operational plants. Global warming is coming at us strong, and soon may change the way we live. Carbon based fuels must be eradicated ASAP. Not in 30 years, but in 7 years. We have little time left.

    • Horrendous idea. We have been pumping billions and billions into it for generations, if just 10% of that money went into molten salt reactor technology, safe and efficient molten salt reactors would everywhere.

      • That’s crazy talk, how would all of the people that depend on wasted government handouts survive?
        They’re NOT going to get jobs that require producing positive financial results, that just won’t do.

    • Don’t worry about about 7 years Corey!
      AL Gore said that by 2020 Miami would be a foot under water!!!!

  8. My thought on this is that we need to stop humoring the Greens, who are the enemies of civilization, and stop beating our heads against the fusion wall, and embrace fission.

    The fuel will not run out before the Sun goes off the main sequence.

    The waste problem is actually a result of being commanded not to solve the problem, not of it being a difficult problem.

    Fission is so easy to pull off the Victorians could have built fission reactors if they’d known how.

    Fusion by contrast requires conditions that are extremely hard to create and harder to maintain. Even if possible it will likely not be economical compared to fission.

    Devote the brain power to making fission better. We have to beat the Greens anyway, or our civilization is doomed. No point in conceding this particular battle, they’ll turn on fusion, too, if we ever get it working.

      • “Fission = waste and nightmare. Been there done that.”

        France is waste and nightmare? Finland is waste and nightmare? Korea is waste and nightmare? USA is waste and nightmare?

      • You need to do your homework. Current reactors just use 3% of the fuel. The cladding on the pellets that are in the rods threatens to pop because helium builds up under the cladding. They need the cladding because uranium will quickly corrode in the hot water.
        And even with all that “waste”, all the “waste” ever generated in the US would fit on one football field 30 feet high.
        Molten salt reactors can likely burn all the fuel, meaning 30x less waste, and it can shrink that existing pile to a trivially small pile.
        Anti-nukes talk about millions of years of radioactivity, but ignore that it was radioactive when we dug it up. How long do you have to keep water in a bottle before it is no longer wet?

        • Bingo. Well, there’s also the neutron poisons building up.

          But, yes, molten salt reactors can solve both problems, and eat up previously accumulated ‘waste’, while being able to use some thorium in the mix, too.

          Imagine if the brain power devoted to fusion had simply been used to improve fission reactors!

    • “Fission is so easy to pull off the Victorians could have built fission reactors if they’d known how.” Thats entirely true. What an interesting idea. They’d have had orphans loading and removing the reaction piles by hand next to the factory district.

  9. “Coal Power is Better than Poverty”

    What developed nations seem to perpetually forget.

      • Poverty is hunger, coldness, crime, disease and war.

        If you are a developed country facing the choice between poverty and coal you pick coal every single time.

        “Acid rain”: First world problem.
        “Heating of the planet”: First world problem.
        “Enough food”: not a first world problem
        “Potable water”: not a first world problem

        Environmentalists aren’t smart enough to figure out that their elevator pitch doesn’t work on most of the countries using coal.

        • Short term thinking, I prefer to leverage technology rather than moving back to the 5th century.

          • “Short term thinking”

            When your average life expectancy is 20 years less than the developed world you don’t have time for long term thinking. I’m not Pro coal, just pointing out that affluent first world trust fund kid environmentalists who outsource energy intensive tasks (and their pollution) to “somewhere else” can’t make the case for clean power to third world countries because they don’t understand what it means to have “dirt” be the default flooring option for your home.

    • Impoverished countries rarely have fully developed their hydroelectric potential, before they stupidly start using coal for electrical generation…especially if they have coal lying around.

      Solar cookers are cheap. And small photovoltaic systems for charging phones and providing light in the evening are not very costly either.

      Mylar blankets are dirt cheap, and very effective, especially in conjunction with other blankets.

      That does not mean they don’t need to burn coal or something for warming homes, but they don’t need to use it as often as they do, especially if there is an effort to provide these alternatives.

      I’d also like to see them use charcoal instead, from dead, dry trees. And, it would be difficult, but propane would be a godsend.

      Quality and length of life also matter. People burning coal for everything, often don’t live long, maybe to 35-45. And there are several years of miserably dying.

      I also think it is possible to reduce the need to cook by cooking large amounts of rice at a facility and packaging it in sealed opaque ultraviolet light resistant bags and irradiating it, so it stays edible for years. It would also cut down on their losses by bugs and spoilage. Each bag could have enough for a meal for four. And necessary vitamins can be added, so they are not going blind or anything. Even if there are only 2 people in the household, the rice should stay good for 2 meals. I would also make the edge of the plastic bags in such a way that empty bags can be joined together endlessly in all directions. This will reduce the likelihood that they will be discarded, as you can make a tarp or a tent from the bags.

      • “I also think it is possible to reduce the need to cook by cooking large amounts of rice at a facility”

        Yeah, that’s not going to backfire in countries with no deeply rooted tradition of liberty or democracy. No way making everybody dependent on central kitchens isn’t going to turn out ugly.

        Centralization is a really bad idea in low trust societies.

        • Centralization is bad for any society, and trust societies are societies naïve to government corruption and tyranny, both of which benefit from centralization.

      • And would you like to live like that? Solar cookers, centrally cooked rice? No? But they should?

        • Sure! When the alternative is dying at 40 from toxins from coal use. Most improvements are incremental. That is reality. 1.4 billion people in India. I personally would not be squandering money on a space program, where there are people so impoverished, but somehow it makes sense to Indians…or the ones whose opinions matter.

          • You want to stop their use of coal? Build encapsulated nuclear reactors, and provide them for less than the coal costs. They’ll gladly abandon the coal for something even the same price, but less polluting.

      • All of the items you mention as “dirt cheap” are cheap because they are made with fossil fuels – coal or gas or oil. Those materials dont exist in a world without fossil fuels. With nuclear (either fission or fusion) you could make them, but not with only sticks and trees and leaves.

        Nuclear (fission and fusion, both) produce “nuclear waste”. There is no way around it. Fission produces fission products, activation products, and transuranic elements. Fusion requires the creation and containment of tritium (until someone figures out how to contain a deuterium-deuterium fusion reaction), and activation products (a lot more than fission).

        Fission products decay so that 500 years after they are generated, their radiactivity is less than that of the original fuel material that was dug out of the ground. Activation products decay in about the same time frame. Transuranic elements can be re-burned in both fission and fusion reactors to produce fission products, and heat.

        And there are a LOT of nuclear “waste” products that have useful properties, for medicine, to instrumentation, to power supplies for things like spacecraft. That is why none of the current “solutions” to the waste problem involved the irretrievable disposal of the material. The people who developed those solutions realize that someday, someone may want to retrieve it, for good use. Or maybe for bad use, but that aspect is never going to go away.

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