Tuesday, April 28, 2009

LFTR Development and manufacturing costs

I was working on the question of LFTR costs. I had intended to review two documents:

ORNL-4812: Development Status of Molten-Salt Breeder Reactors
ORNL-5018: Program Plan for the Development of Molten-Salt Breeder Reactors

Those two documents offer a perspective on the cost of MSR developmental.

According to ORNL-4812, up to 1972 ORNL had spent $130 million dollars on MSR development. In 2009 terms this was less than than one billion dollars,

In 1980 the ORNL staff estimated that a commercial DMSR could be developed for $700 million (about 2.5 billion in 2009 dollars). Given another 2.5 billion for the development of the LFTR prototype we would have a total investment of between 5 and 6 Billion 2009 dollars investment. At that point there would be a product ready to go on the assembly line. Thus the total investment in the LFTR would be comparable to the Federal investment into the LWR. It would be one fourth the investment in so far unsuccessful LMFBR technology.

My analysis suggests that with factory production and by recycling coal fired power plants, modular LFTRs can come online for an investment as small as a dollar a watt. Let us assume that the actual cost is twice that. We still have a price for LFTRs that is lower than the 2009 price for windmills. even with a capacity factor no better than the windmills, the LFTR would be a fae better buy because of its superior flexibility.

It would be nice to imagine a private enter[rice investing in the LFTR. Is it possible? $5 billion would not be unreasonable for a private business invest in LFTR development. Consider the €11 billion plus that Airbus invested in the development of the A380. At a cost of $327 million the A380 would be if anything more expensive than the modular LFTR. In fact it is doubtful that Airbus will ever recover the Airbus 380 development cost, while the LFTR potentially could be quite profitable.

Further comparisons of the LFTR and the Airbus 380 might be in order. I suspect that the 380 would be far more complex, require far more labor input, require more exotic materials in its construction, require far more instrumentation and control, and take longer to build.

Such speculation should receive far more investigation than I have conducted, should be the subject of much more rigorous testing, and proof. I off these initial conjectures, in the hope that they will receive more investigation.


donb said...

The comparison between the LFTR and the Airbus 380 is interesting.

The money to develop a commercial LFTR is certainly within the reach of a number of large companies and even a few individual.

The difference between the LFTR and the Airbus 380, I believe, is in government regulation. The A-380 is being regulated for its success. That regulation certainly includes safety, emissions, and noise. These requirements have been tightened incrementally over the years, but they apply to all new aircraft being manufactured, whether of old or new design. These regulations are the things necessary to make the aircraft acceptable in the market. In a way, they may be "hurdles", but they are necessary hurdles. Once past these hurdles, I don't expect that there will be actions taken by various groups to prevent the entrance of the A-380 into the market. The success of A-380 will determined by the market. Investors recognize this market risk, and accept it as a normal part of doing business. From a business point of view, satisfying regulatory requirements is simply another part of the development, much like fuel burn and flight range.

Contrast this with the regulatory climate for reactor development. Safety regulation seems to be used not as a mechanism to make nuclear reactors acceptable in the market, but as a method to prevent them from being built at all. Unlike for aircraft, the level of safety demanded for a new nuclear reactor is not applied as well to a newly constructed coal plant.

I think we are correct to expect a higher standard of safety with nuclear reactors, but if the safety bar is raised so high as to prevent the development of advanced nuclear reactors, safety is degraded as we continue to use old coal-fired power plants, and build new ones.

Similarly, radioactive emissions. It is easily shown that radioactive emissions into the general environment from a coal-fired power plant are much higher than for a nuclear plant. Once again, I think we should expect a higher standard for nuclear plants, but not so high as to prevent them from being constructed and benefitting society.

Given that regulation seems to be more about placing obstacles in the way of advanced reactor development than about benefit to society, is it any wonder that so few large companies and individuals are willing to invest in the development of advanced reactors?

Warren Heath said...

The reason governments throw a myriad of regulatory roadblocks and safety & environmental red tape, in the way of nuclear power generation, but do their best to streamline and reduce the regulatory obstacles for aircraft, is that aircraft burn lots of fuel unlike a nuclear reactor which saves lots of fuel.

What was the WMD that terrorists used on 9-11? Large Aircraft. There is no emergency shutdown on large aircraft, as there is on Nuclear Reactors. Imagine an Airbus 380 crashing into Manhattan during rush hour. They don't allow nuclear reactors in Manhattan. Obvious another example of where Nuclear is irrationally opposed by Government & the Press vs other vastly more dangerous technology. Now why would that be? Follow the Money.

Large Aircraft Assembly Line production methods are a good model for the production of medium sized nuclear reactors in the 100 to 500 MWe range. The key is demand must be high enough and governments must give a clear signal that they will support with words AND DEEDS, factory production of small and medium sized nuclear reactors. Certainly with high Carbon Taxes and the coming explosive rise in Fossil Fuel prices, the demand will be more than adequate.

Alex P. said...

Have you got at least a rough estimate for the cost of construction of a first prototype of the small size of 10 or 100 MW thermal (fluorides in thermal/epithermal spectrum or chlorides in fast spectrum), in order to develop the necessary start R&D for MSR technology?


Blog Archive

Some neat videos

Nuclear Advocacy Webring
Ring Owner: Nuclear is Our Future Site: Nuclear is Our Future
Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet
Get Your Free Web Ring
by Bravenet.com
Dr. Joe Bonometti speaking on thorium/LFTR technology at Georgia Tech David LeBlanc on LFTR/MSR technology Robert Hargraves on AIM High