Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mass Production of Small MSRs for Sustainable Low Cost Electricity

Kirk Sorensen and his associates (William A. Casino Jr and and Christopher Whitener) certainly deserved their American Nuclear Society's Student Design Competition
prize. There are more details on the UT Nuclear Engineering website. Kirk's blog contains links to their paper and a Power Point presentation of the concept.

Sometime ago, I came to the conclusion that small (100 to 300 MW electricity output), highly efficient reactors that used inherently safe reactor technology, were the solution to our national energy issues. There are two inherently safe reactor technologies. Pebble Bed Reactors (PBR) and Molten Salt Reactors (MSR). Of the two, the MSR has many advantages.

Kirk's small reactor has has all of the features I would look for in a small reactor. It can be produced on an assembly line. It can be shipped to its final destination by conventional transportation methods, its set up costs would be far less than the on site construction costs of conventional reactors.

Another advantage would be the savings on material costs. Reader's of Nuclear Green might be aware of my argument that materials input costs are a major issue in evaluating alternate solutions to the national energy problem.

Clearly Kirk is on the right track. If I am right 1 GW of nuclear generating capacity can be mass produced in a "small nuks" factory, at far lower costs than the current construction costs for a 1 GW Generation 3+ reactor.

The mass production approach makes a systematic attack on costs. By mass production both labor and parts costs can be lowered. Capitol costs can be lowered, because reactor manufacture would no longer be a multiyear task. The use of MSR technology would dramatically lower materials cost. Massive containment structures would no longer be necessary. Location would no longer be a problem.

Small reactors can be set up close to the source of electricity demand, minimizing grid inefficincies. No massive new $400 billion high tech grid would be be required to handle the massive local power generation envisioned by current solar and wind schemes.

Molten Salt Reactor technology can provide the world with sustainable energy for at least the next 10,000 years. Small MSRs appear to be the key to unlocking that promise.

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