Thursday, 29 November 2012

PRISM Data from the World Nuclear Association, as of May 2012.

GE with the DOE national laboratories has been developing a modular liquid metal-cooled inherently-safe reactor - PRISM during the advanced liquid-metal fast breeder reactor (ALMR) program.  No US fast neutron reactor has so far been larger than 66 MWe and none has supplied electricity commercially.
Today's PRISM is a GE-Hitachi design for compact modular pool-type reactors with passive cooling for decay heat removal. The design is based on the EBR-II.  After 30 years of development it represents GEH's Generation IV solution to closing the fuel cycle in the USA. Each PRISM Power Block consists of two modules of 311 MWe each, operating at high temperature – over 500°C. The pool-type modules below ground level contain the complete primary system with sodium coolant. The Pu & DU fuel is metal, and obtained from used light water reactor fuel. Fuel assemblies are about 3 m long and 500 kg mass, with about 100 in each unit. However, all transuranic elements are removed together in the electrometallurgical reprocessing so that fresh fuel has minor actinides with the plutonium. Fuel stays in the reactor about six years, with one third removed every two years, and breeding ratio is 0.8. Used PRISM fuel is recycled after removal of fission products. The commercial-scale plant concept, part of a Advanced Recycling Centre, uses three power blocks (six reactor modules) to provide 1866 MWe. See also electrometallurgical section in  Processing Used Nuclear Fuel  paper.
An early application of PRISM is proposed to secure and utilise the UK's stockpile of some 100 tonnes of reactor-grade plutonium. Two PRISM units would irradiate fuel made from this plutonium (20% Pu, with DU and zirconium) for 45-90 days, bringing it to 'spent fuel standard' of radioactivity, after which is would be stored in air-cooled silos. The whole stockpile could be irradiated thus in five years, with some by-product electricity (but frequent interruptions for fuel changing) and the plant would then proceed to re-use it for about 55 years solely for 600 MWe of electricity generation, with one third of the fuel being changed every two years. The cost of the plant would be comparable to a large conventional reactor, according to GE-H, which is starting to develop a supply chain in the UK to support the proposal. No reprocessing plant (Advanced Recycling Centre) is envisaged initially, but this could be added later.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Of course China's building a Fast Breeder! But not a PRISM

China's version of PRISM is making steady progress. October 2012, it passes 'official' checks and in December, it will have been supplying 20 MW of electricity to the National Grid for 12 months. China's Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Fast neutron reactors 
China's R&D on fast neutron reactors started in 1964. A 65 MWt sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor – the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) – at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) near Beijing, started up in July 2010.1 It was built by Russia's OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, NIKIET and Kurchatov Institute. It was grid connected at 40% power (8 MWe net) in July 2011, and ramped up to full 20 MWe power in December, then passed 'official' checks in October 2012. It has negative temperature, power reactivity and sodium void coefficients. Its fuel cycle is designed to use electrometallurgical reprocessing.

" .... the forces of nature shut the reactor down .... "

Dick Lindsey: " .... being associated with some of the .... early pioneers in the nuclear business .... the attitude the designers brought with them, it was a can-do attitude and it stayed that way for all the years I worked here ...."

Dr Sackett: ".... the significance of EBR-II to the nuclear science community, was proof that reactors were safe .... that worst accident is complete loss of power to everything .... and failure of all the safety systems .... we did that at EBR-II and the reactor protected itself. It shut itself down safely .... "

Darrell Pfannenstiel: " .... we got to watch the forces of nature shut the reactor down .... we'd found a reactor that could protect itself .... "

Dr Sackett: " .... the day of the final test was one of the most exciting days of my time. To see all these colleagues, respected scientists from around the world, come and watch this event in a live reactor .... "

Darrell Pfannesteil: " .... if I [n]ever see another Pressurised Water Reactor again, it would not bother me. This is the technology to go with .... "

Dr Sackett: " .... there was a vision about EBR-II that had to do with secure energy, safe energy, clean energy .... some of the things that drove the vision of the people who started this, [it] is really compelling .... "

Dr Sackett: " .... The Integral Fast Reactor was the combination and integration of all the things we had learned from the EBR-II and the fuel cycle facility experience. It integrated all of the best of the technology that we had developed and discovered, not only here but worldwide .... "

Dick Lindsey: " .... this facility is one that virtually gives the Earth and its inhabitants an unlimited power supply .... "

Dr Sackett, talking about 4 distinct periods of testing in EBR-II's history. Period 1:
Dr Sackett: " .... One was its initial operation as a complete power plant, producing electricity, recycling fuel .... "

Period 4 included burning up transuranic elements in recycled fuel rods:
Dick Lindsey: " .... because we were burning the transuranics, .... that then would make our waste repository change[s] from a mega-thousand year problem to a thousand year, maybe at the most, and we have buildings older than that .... "

Dr Sackett: " .... used in a system like this, we already have enough uranium mined and set aside to supply the energy needs of the United States for several centuries .... "

Dr Sackett: " .... the debate in the senate initially started out as a debate over budgets and the Japanese stepped up and said 'We're willing to add another $60 million to the budgets at EBR-II. So they took away the budget argument. And then it became an argument about the political nature. If the United States terminates its work in nuclear power, the rest of the world might follow .... "

Dr Sackett: " .... when I had to go to the operating crews and tell themthat we had the order to shut EBR-II down, the reaction was not 'What is going to happen to me?' the reaction of all of the crews was 'Doesn't the Country realise what they're losing here?' .... "

Dr Sackett in tears - the integrity of this man is beyond reproach and his despair at the waste of this opportunity for the USA and the planet is visceral.

Dr Sackett: " .... I remember directing shutdown and the SCRAM and then just silence .... "

The most plausible conspiracy theory suggests it was Bill Clinton's payback to the environmentalist movement for its support.

Thanks again anti-nukes everywhere. It's only been the best part of a 20 year delay, but breeder reactors will prevail and there's still a chance that your children and grandchildren will not hate you quite so much.

Doesn't the Country realise what they're losing her?

Do yourself a favour and try to think if you can make a contribution to supporting a breeder reactor programme:  Making a Contribution: The Story of EBR-II

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Do you have a morbid fear of invisible radiation? Why not holiday in Denver?

Forum on Energy: You’ve also talked about the Denver Dose and what that means for radiation dangers. Can you explain that idea?
Richard Muller: We are surrounded by natural radioactivity, which is no more or less dangerous than radioactivity from nuclear reactors. Depending on where you live, there may be more or less natural radioactivity. Denver is just a well-known location that happens to have high natural radioactivity. You might think this is a dangerous place to live because of that, but, in fact, the cancer rate in Denver is lower than the average in the rest of the country. It doesn’t mean that radioactivity is curing or stopping cancer. What it does mean is that at the level of natural radioactivity—the Denver Dose, as I call it—people simply shouldn’t be worrying about radioactivity.
Now, the fact is the Denver Dose is comparable to what most of the Fukushima region is now experiencing. We shouldn’t be evacuating that region if we’re not evacuating Denver. There’s really no difference. Likewise, much of the Chernobyl region is well below the Denver Dose. In fact, a study just a few years ago on the health effects of Chernobyl concluded that the major health effect came about from the panic and worry caused by the evacuation. There were places that should have been evacuated, but there were places that shouldn’t have been. It is conceivable that there were more deaths caused by excessive smoking and drinking caused by anxiety over what had happened.
This is what happens when there is meaningless exaggerated fear and overreaction. Meanwhile, there are so many things in our lives that are far more dangerous that we accept.

What is David Cameron's vision? What will be his legacy?

Dear Prime Minister,

One decision, more than any other, can secure a wonderful future for our Nation.

That decision will revitalise our manufacturing industries, leading to growth and prosperity not witnessed for several generations. It will meet our carbon targets with alacrity, whilst securing our energy supply for hundreds of years to come, with the incidental outcome of making our nuclear waste ‘problem’ evaporate.

On your watch, events are conspiring for you to make this decision, leave your mark on history and earn the grateful thanks of the generations of your children and grandchildren, as the UK leads the world into a pollution-free and energy-rich era.

The era is that of the inevitable global deployment of breeder reactors, which can supply all of the energy requirements – that’s electricity and carbon-neutral fuels for all transport and industrial processes (including seawater desalination) – for many thousands of years to come, for every individual on the planet, from inexhaustible uranium and thorium fuel sources. Your children can inhabit a planet free of the threats of energy wars, water wars, pollution and climate change.

Ignore the negativity coming at you from your renewable and (PWR) nuclear advisers, because energy from both technologies fall orders of magnitude short of the capabilities of breeder reactors. Look at the performance of the GE Hitachi PRISM Power Block, one of which you will surely be sanctioning, in the not too distant future, to economically dispose of our plutonium stockpile. Then, you can do the arithmetic for yourself.

This benign, that is, passively-safe reactor generates 600 MW of electrical power, capable of supplying all of the electricity needed by a city with 600,000 inhabitants. You will be aware that there are no impediments to its UK licensing, which you can surely expedite. You will also be aware that we have a fuel source, in our existing legacy waste, to power our nation for the next 500 years. About 30 PRISM Power Blocks would supply all of the 16 GW of our ‘New Nuclear’, which would be a credible first-step towards ‘PRISMs to Power the UK’ (the title of my new Blog).

The vessels and pipework of a PRISM are made from stainless-steel and operate at atmospheric pressure and these factors are of tremendous significance, because we have the technological expertise, experience and the manufacturing capacity to produce these reactors in their entirety, right here in the UK.

Crucially, you are at a point in history giving you the strongest possible position to negotiate a licence with GE Hitachi, for us to start to manufacture PRISMs in the UK. They are sure to consider an offer which can turn all of their endeavours thus far, into saleable hardware.

Do you have a vision for our country stretching beyond your watch? You could lead your Cabinet, Parliament, the UK and the world, into the era of the breeder reactor. Within your own lifetime, you will see some of the fruits of your decision, but that decision will influence far more greatly, the character of the world your children and grandchildren will inherit.

Energy decision time is now. If today’s national leaders, you included, get this singular decision on energy wrong, the outcome for future generations could be nightmarish.

I urge you most strongly, to look into the matters I raise and would very much appreciate your thoughts on our energy future.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Megson,


This will be winging its way shortly, to the PM.