Saturday, June 27, 2015

Thorcon's executive summery reveals a vision of future MSR technology

The link leads to a Thorcon Executive Summery, an initial and evolving document, that suggests that Thorcon is moving toward a preconceptual phase of its power producing MSR development. Thorcon is very ambitious, and its plans would seemingly bypass the United States Nuclear Regulatory Comission. This is possible if Thorcon intends to build its MSRs outside the United States. There are hints that the manufacturing facility might be located in a South Korean, Ship Yard. My vision prevents me from reading this document, and unfortunately Chrom's speech feacher does not work with pdf documents. My comments are gleaned from what my poor vision can make out about the text.

I have spotted a few things about this text.  First the 4 module design appears to draw on ideas developed by Ed Bettis during the 1960's.  Secondly, the plan takes into account the graphite problem which concerned the ORNL design team during the 1960's.  This also appeaqrs to be the case in David LeBlanc's design for the 
IMSR, which forsees a core life of only 7 years.  I believe that the solution to the graphite problem is the introduction of graphite pebbles into the core fluid.  The pebbles can serve as the core moderat, and then floated out of the core when exposure to neutron bombardement ends theit useful life.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Robert Hargraves - Thorium Energy Cheaper than Coal @ ThEC12

Robert Hargraves on thorium Energy Cheaper than coal. Uranium energy is also cheaper than coal, and it we can build UMSRs more quickly than LFTRs, at even lower costs, We can have very large numbers of MSRs within 10 years, of the start of a well funded MSR development and manufacturing process.

Robert Brice Demonstrates our Failure ti Stop the Coal Disaster

Robert Brice demonstrates demonstrated in a recent essay on the future of coal that  the failure of the Greens, to rid the world of the scourge of coal, and its CO2 byproduct. Brice argues that the human desire for energy and the wealth that it can create will drive people to use more and more coal. Thus we are doomed, and as Brice demonstrates Renewables are not the Answer. Is there no path away from the coal dilemma?
Robert Hargraves has argued that LFTRs can be built and operated more cheaply than coal. Uranium fueled Melen Salt Cooled, solid fueled and simple Molten Salt Reactors, can be built and operated at a similar price to LFTRs, also at a price that is lower than coal. MSRs have huge advantages over coal asside from their lower cost. Coal fired power plants have far more indirect costs than MSRs and reactors such as MS-PBReactors. Not only do they cost less to buyild than coal fired power plants, they can be3 built rapidly in factories, and can be transported by rail and by barge. Thet are extremely safe, and they will be highly reliable.

Robert Bryce, Energy Policy and the Environment Report 14, October 2014

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Storm van Leeuwan still causing a Storm of Green Errors.

He's back. After several years of invisability, Green advocate Dr. Becky Martin is using arguments based on the infamouse Storm-Smith paper on the CO2 emissions of nuclear power. Since Philip Smith, Storm van Leeuwan's colaborator, is no longer with us, it is up to Jan William Storm van Leeuwan to hold down the fort. Dr. Becky martin recently relided on sources that utalized Storm-Smith to argue that nuclear is not a low carbon energy sources. Wrong, Dr. Martin. 

I think this is a good example of how LCA and EROEI analysis are methods too arbitrary to be really useful in institutional decision making. The results depend in great part on the political credo of the people making the...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Two more Unanswered Energy Collective Comments from 2011 by Jochem Gruber.

This comment was a response to another post on Jacobson.  They are both intelligent and serious, and I think it will be still helpful to give them attention.

Jochen Gruber says:

When nuclear fuel enrichment and reprocessing is combined with commercial nuclear power generation there is a problem with possible uranium/plutonium clandestine diversion by the state or a subnational group: Henry D. Sokolski (ed.) Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom, Strategic Studies Institute - United States Army War College, February 27, 2008

CB:Reasonable premise.


Chapter 1: Henry D. Sokolski "Assessing the IAEA's Abiity to Verify the NPT"
A Report of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center on the International Atomic Energy Agency's Nuclear Safeguards System

Currently, the IAEA is unable to provide timely warning of diversions from nuclear fuel- making plants (enrichment, reprocessing, and fuel processing plants utilizing nuclear materials directly useable to make bombs). For some of these plants, the agency loses track of many nuclear weapons-worth of material every year. Meanwhile, the IAEA is unable to prevent the overnight conversion of centrifuge enrichment and plutonium reprocessing plants into nuclear bomb-material factories. As the number of these facilities increases, the ability of the agency to fulfill its material accountancy mission dangerously erodes. The IAEA has yet to concede these points by admitting that although it can monitor these dangerous nuclear activities, it cannot actually do so in a manner that can assure timely detection of a possible military diversion - the key to an inspection procedure being a safeguard against military diversions.
Chapter 5: Edwin S. Lyman "Can Nuclear Fuel Production in Iran and Elsewhere be Safeguarded Against Diversion?"

CB: Here we have a spacific case, that of Iran, in which inadiquate safeguards are in place.  Without knowing the exact system of safeguard that might be in place, how is it possible to determine
whether or not those systems would be sucessful.?  Perhaps we have a satisfactory account of a plausible  safeguard system somewhere else, but as it stands, we have inadiquate information to determine the validity of the argument.

"[Significant Quantity]
[Dr. Marvin] Miller [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in "Are IAEA Safeguards on Bulk-Handling Facilities Effective?", Nuclear Control
Institute, Washington, DC, USA, 1990]observed that for large bulk handling facilities, such as the 800 metric ton heavy metal (MTHM)/year Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP) now undergoing startup testing in Japan, it was not possible with the technologies and practices available at the time to detect the diversion of 8 kilograms of plutonium (1 significant quantity, SQ) - about 0.1 percent of the annual plutonium throughput - with a high degree of confidence. This is because the errors in material accountancy measurements at reprocessing plants were typically on the order of 1 percent -that is, a factor of 10 greater than an SQ. If after taking a physical inventory, the value of plutonium measured was less than expected (on the basis of operator records) by an amount on the order of 1 SQ, it would be difficult to state with high confidence that this shortfall, known as "material unaccounted for" or MUF, was due to an actual diversion and not merely measurement error."

CBHere we have a statement that presupposes a facility designed to extract Reactor Grade Plutonium from Spent Nuclear Fuel.  I will shortly point out the problems associated with using Reactor Grade Plutonium in Nuclear weapons.

[Accountancy Verification Goal - Expected Accountancy Capability (E)]

"In the past, the IAEA acknowledged that the 1 SQ detection goal could not be met in practice, and instead adopted a relaxed standard known as the "accountancy verification goal" (AVG), which was "based on a realistic assessment of what then-current measurement techniques applied to a given facility could actually detect." The AVG was based on a quantity defined as the "expected accountancy capability," E, which is defined as the "minimum loss of nuclear material which can be expected to be detected by material accountancy," and is given by the formula

E = 3.29 sigma A,

in which sigma is the relative uncertainty in measurements of the plant's inputs and outputs, and A is the facility's plutonium throughput in between periodic physical inventories.

This formula is derived from a requirement that the alarm threshold for diversion be set at a confidence level of 95 percent and a false alarm rate of 5 percent. Miller estimated that for the RRP, based on an input uncertainty of ±1 percent (which was the IAEA's value at the time for the international standard for the expected measurement uncertainty at reprocessing plants), the value of E would be 246 kilograms of plutonium, or more than 30 SQs, if physical inventories were carried out on an annual basis, as was (and is) standard practice. This means that a diversion of plutonium would have to exceed this value before one could conclude with 95 percent certainty that a diversion had occurred, and that the measured shortfall was not due to measurement error."

CB:  Here we have a statement of the the potential for diversion of Reactor Grade Plutonium.  My plan for my rresponse to Jochen Gruber 's comment is t0o lay out his view on RGP before I respond to it.

In a second Energy Collective comment to the same paper Gurber offered these responses:

"Thank you for this very resourceful paper! Although I tend to think along the lines of Jaconson, your arguments appear very convincing to me (my training is in nuclear physicis).

Some technical points:

(1) CANDU reactors have a modular structure such that you can exchange fuel rods without shutting down the entire reactor. This makes it much more easy to breed weapon's grade plutonium with CANDU reactors than with Light Water Reactors, because to breed weapons grade plutonium you need to keep the irradiation time of the fuel small. This means you need to exchange the fuel elements more frequently than when you merely want to generate electricity."

CB: There are problems which would make the CANDU path to nuclear weapons inpractical for every one but Canada and India.  First The fuel for CANDU reactors  The fuel comes in the form of ceramic and Zirconium fuel bundles.  If a fuel bundlr is puled out of a CANDU reactor, and replaced.  The process of extracting Reactor Grade Plutonium requires destroying the irradiated fuel bundle in order to recover the plutonium.

Several bundles would have to be replaced in order to acquire enough WGP to creat a nuclear weapon.  Since each fuel bundle has to be purchased from the reactor manufacturer, the would be proliferator would have to account for the missing fuel bundles.  India already has nuclear weapons, while who is worried about Canada becoming a hostile nuclear power?  Thus the CANDU argument may be the product of a lively imagination, it does not identify a serious proliferation risk.

(2) "Reactor Plutonium has been used for low yield (below 20 kt) nuclear explosions"

CB: This argument is dependent on classifying plutonium with 80% to 90% Pu-239 content.  The Pu-239 content found in spent nuclera fuel is closer to 50% with Pu-240.  I will shortly discuss the problems of militarizing RGP.  The claim that RGP devices has been tested rests on an equivocation.  At the time of the tests, the term RGP encompased Plutonium of from 80% to 90% Pu-239 composition. Although both tests produced significan explosions, neither appears to have been an unqualified success.

(3) Low Enriched Uranium as fed into Light Water Reactors can be used to shorten the path to weapons grade uranium (Victor Gilinsky, Marvin Miller, Harmon Hubbard, A Fresh Examination of the Proliferation Dangers of Light Water Reactors, October 22, 2004, The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, Washington, DC, USA)

CB: This is of course understood.  If a nation possess Uranium isotope seperation technology, it can be used to enrich uranium to weapons grade.  The case of Iran, Pakistan and North Korea demonstrates that uranium seperation technology can be obtained by criminal means. This is true whether or not civilian power reactors are built in the United States, or Western Europe.

(4) Iran claims to use its enrichment plant for a civilian nuclear (energy) program. If there weren't nuclear power plants, enrichment would clearly be identifiable as having a military application.

Of course, but this argument does not show that the building of reactors in the United States will lead to the aquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran

(4) Off Topic:
For countries with covert or declared enrichment plants, timely detection of weapons grade uranium made from low enriched uranium as used in Light Water Reactors is not possible (page 30, Fig. 4 of Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom, Henry Sokolski (ed.), The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, 2008)

CB: This is true, but countries that produce illicit nuclear weapons, may have a heavy price extracted from them, witness the sanctions imposed on Iran and North Korea.

I will now finally respond to the Reactor Grade Plutonium argument.  Nuclear weapons experts such as Alexander Di Volpi have oiinted out major flaws in argument that nuclear weapons can be manufactured using RGP:

Radioactive Pu-238 produces significant heat as it decays.  The heat from U-238 is  damaging to the chemical explosives used to trigger plutonium weapons.  Eventually the usefulness of the RGP weapon is compromised.  Secondly, U-240 which may be as much as 25 of the plutonium found in RGP, fissions spontaniously.  This does mischafe in two ways.  First it causes neutron radiation, a highly undesirable state of affairs, if the weapon comes into close contact with people.  In addition the neutron radiation can over time damage the electronics used to trigger the initial chemical explosion.  Finally, the neutron release from Pu-240 will lead to a premature triggering of a GP device.   his premature triggering causes an explosive punch that maybe no more than 1% of a standard Plutonium weapon.  But why use a nuclear weapon, with all its complications, if its punch is not that much greater than a truck full of high explosives?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Delayed Answer to a 2011 comment on Advantages of Nuclear Power

In 2011 I wrote this post as well as a second post on Mark Z Jacobson's anti-nuclear arguments. Jacobson argues that by adopting nuclear power, we chose a path that will lead to nuclear war. The argument that building on nuclear power pllants in the United Stats will lead other states to acquire nuclear weapons is weak. States have options for acquiring nuclear weapons, without building Nuclear Power Plants. This reality, unlike Jacobson's speculations is based on proven facts. States like Isreal, South Africa, Pakistan, and North Korea have acquired Nuclear weapons with out possing a single nuclear power plant. Mark Z. Jacobson ignores this fact.
Secondly, even if the United States builds no no Reactors, states like India and China are comitted to massive, long term nuclear power build ups. Thus whether or not American energy policy us guided by Mark Z, Jacobson's flawed logic, many nuclear plants will be built during the next generation.

In a previous post I looked at Mark Z. Jacobson's decision to exclude nuclear power as an future...

Friday, June 5, 2015

Posts from my Facebook Page

    This essay is a responce to the two part esssay on the relationship of capacity factors to grid penetration by solar and wind generated electricity. The original essay, written by Breakthrough Institute writers Jesse Jenkins and Alex Trembath argued that capacity factors tended to limit the grid penetration of wind and solar. This essay argues that wind and solr capacity factors cannot be treated as additive, since none dispatchable power sources may be generating at the same time, thus competing for customers.
    Guest Post by John Morgan. John is Chief Scientist at a Sydney startup developing smart grid and grid scale energy storage technologies.  You can follow John on...
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    This is the second of a two part essay on the role of renewables in the future post carbon grid. The essay is argued from the perspective that solving the problem of post carbon energy will require much more than renewable energy sources. Whether or not the writers have assessed all of the factors that would determine the value of renewable energy to the post carbon grid, is an open question. I will offer some further reviews of this question
    Intermittent solar and wind are growing robustly today, and in some regions are approaching technical and economic obstacles to their further deployment....
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    Are Renewables the comprehensive answer to the post carbon energy problem? This is the forst part of a two part study of the evidence.
    Wind and solar have come a long way in recent years, contributing over 10 percent of all new electricity demand between 2003 and 2013. But large penetrations of wind and solar, commonly celebrated in countries like Germany and Denmark, look less...


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