November 21, 2009

Latest on Four Small Nuclear Reactors

Idaho Samizdat has the latest on NuScale, Babcock & Wilcox mPower, Hyperion Power Generation and Toshiba 4S from the American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting

Hyperion Takes Steps to Speed to Market Within Four Years

Hyperion Power Generation (HPG) uranium nitride fuel burns would begin before the end of the year. He said that Los Alamos National Laboratory, from whom Hyperion has licenced some of the technology, has researched uranium nitride. It said that the Russian military has used uranium nitride fuel and the lead-bismuth coolant.

* HPG plans to rely on the supply chain for producing the first units.
* HPG is looking to find six launch customers, some of which would run a prototype, including customers based in the US and UK. Letters of intent have been signed
* in order to have operating units within four years, HPG is considering building its first pilot units in facilities that do not require approval from a nuclear regulator, such as US Department of Energy facilities, or military facilities.
* HPG has signed up TetraTec as the architect-engineer-constructor, supported by Chamberlain.

Hyperion Power Generation More Technical Details

Nuclear Engineering International:
Although the Hyperion Power Generation had originally been aiming to create a TRIGA reactor burning uranium hydride, it has decided for reasons of speed-to-market to focus on commercialising a liquid-metal-cooled fast reactor instead.

The Hyperion Power Module has a core of 24 assemblies of a metal fuel, uranium nitride, that is 20% enriched set in HT-9 cladding tubes. Flowing around the pins is liquid lead-bismuth eutectic coolant. Quartz is used as a radial reflector. A gas plenum is at one end of the 2-3m long fuel pins.

Two sets of boron carbide control rods keep the reactivity of the core under control. One set of 12 control rods advance about 0.5mm/day to moderate the reaction. A second set of 6 shutdown rods close to the centre of the reactor would automatically drop into the core in case of an accident. The centre of the core is hollow. Inside that void space marbles of boron carbide would be dropped in case of an emergency.

The hot (500 degrees C) coolant transfers its heat through an intermediate heat exchanger to another lead-bismuth loop, through another intermediate heat exchanger to a tertiary circuit with an undisclosed fluid, and then through a third heat exchanger to water (at about 200 degrees C). The reactor is not only designed to deliver electricity, but also process heat or co-generation. Hyperion Power president and CEO John 'Grizz' Deal told NEI that the configurations of the secondary and tertiary circuit would depend on the reactor's uses.

The reason why the 70MWt reactor has a relatively low electrical efficiency of 36%, or 25MWe, is because the steam loop does not run through the inside of the reactor, for simplicity and safety.

B & W mPower

* mPower small reactor, a 125 MW LWR design that is still being completed on the drawing boards in Lynchburg, VA.

* The reactor will use 5% enriched uranium in fuel rod assemblies which are similar in design to those used in 1,000 MW plants.

* At a hypothetical price of $3,000/Kw, a single unit would cost $375 million

* One of the intended uses of the mPower reactor is to “repower carbon-intensive plants where the transmission and distribution infrastructure is already in place. (coal to nuclear ? )

* First units could be received by customers by 2018 and that the reactor can can be shipped by truck and rail to a customer site and installed below grade by skilled trades without complex training.

* three years from signed contracts to operational units

Rod Adams has more info on the mPower

Nuclear Engineering International has more info on mPower

B&W boasts that when the mPower goes on the market in 2012, each 125MWe reactor would be made in a factory, cost about half a billion dollars firm fixed price, and could be built and installed, in multiples of two or four reactors, in only three years.

mPower - main data

Reactor type: Integral PWR
Power: ~125MWe, ~400MWt
Reactor coolant: <14MPa (2000psia), ~600K (620F)core outlet
Steam conditions: <7MPa (1000psia), superheated
Reactor vessel diameter: ~3.6m (12ft)
Height: ~22m (70ft)
Fuel assemblies Sixty-nine 17x17, uranium dioxide
Height: ~half of standard fuel assembly
Fuel assembly pitch: 21.5cm
Active core height: ~200cm
Core diameter (flat to flat): ~200cm
Fuel inventory: <20t
Average specific power: ~20kW/kgU
Core average fuel burnup: <40GWd/tU
Target fuel cycle length: ~5 years
Maximum enrichment: <5%
Reactivity control: Control rods
Other features: No soluble boron, air cooled condenser,spent fuel stored in containment for 60 year design life


*NuScale’s 45 MW reactor is a traditional LWR design, it doesn’t have to fabricate or test new fuels.

* NuScale has a one-third test facility at Oregon State University

*NuScale was also the first to announce a modular approach to selling its reactors to customers. The idea is that a utility could buy a six-pack or eight-pack of the 45 MW units.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Not Efficient or Strategic and has an incompetent Direction

Idaho Samizdat also details that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not currently able to certify nuclear reactors other than existing light water designs and variations of those designs. I would think that the nuclear regulatory commission should be able to figure out and license nuclear reactor designs of any type in a timely fashion. The 4-5+ years that they take to certify a designs that are variants on light water designs seems to slow.

The staff of the NRC are probably competent but the mandate of the NRC and the top people setting the direction and strategic plans are not competent. The situation at the NRC is similar to how NASA flounders about with a crappy space program. The NRC needs to be part of a larger national energy plan.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was created as an independent agency by Congress in 1974 to enable the nation to safely use radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while ensuring that people and the environment are protected.

In the 35 years since it was set up the reactor designs that have been licensed are

Advanced Boiling Water Reactor design by GE Nuclear Energy (May 1997);

System 80+ design by Westinghouse (formerly ABB-Combustion Engineering) (May 1997);

AP600 design by Westinghouse (December 1999); and

AP1000 design (pictured at left) by Westinghouse (January 2006).

Designs Under Active Review by the NRC:
AP1000 (Amendment) – Westinghouse submitted an application to amend the AP1000 design in July 2007. The rulemaking is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2010.

ESBWR - General Electric submitted certification application on Aug. 24, 2005. The staff accepted the application for review in a letter dated Dec. 1, 2005, and expects the certification process to continue through 2010.

EPR - Areva submitted Dec. 11, 2007. The staff expects the certification process to continue through 2011.

US-APWR - Mitsubishi Heavy Industries submitted Dec. 31, 2007. The staff expects the certification process to continue through 2011

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