Monday, September 21, 2009

Scenarios for a worldwide deployment of nuclear power

There are two versions of Scenarios for a Worldwide Deployment of Nuclear Power. The short version:
Intensive worldwide deployment of nuclear power could prove necessary to mitigate global warming and fossil fuel shortages while still satisfying a growing demand for energy. We present scenarios for such deployment and bring to light the constraints, such as the availability of fissile matter and the build up of Plutonium stockpiles according to the reactor types considered. Pending the availability of reactors able to breed their fuel, a fleet of 2nd ant 3rd generation light water reactors will have to be built. These can ensure a growth of nuclear power for the coming 20 to 25 years and the transition to sustainable 4th generation nuclear reactors. We show that at least one comprehensive and balanced solution can be found, which reconciles fuel cycle closing, non-depletion of natural resources, reduced long lived waste production, and the option to stop or restart nuclear power rapidly.
It rests on the combination of light water reactors and converter reactors needed to incinerate Plutonium and produce Uranium-233, leading to a reactor fleet widely based on the Thorium-Uranium-233 fuel cycle. The flexibility of this solution and its naturally reduced long lived waste production makes it appear optimal in view of sustainable, intensive nuclear power generation.
There is also a longer version,"The Full Report."


DV8 2XL said...

Interesting document, but definitely a product of France and French thinking on the matter. Considering the situation in the nuclear industry in that country, it is clear that the scenarios presented would be the ones that would suit France best, and not leave her in a state of dependency for any part of the nuclear power cycle. Not only that but this schedule will nicely dovetail into √Člectricit√© de France's long-term plans for both the current and projected reactor fleet it manages.

In particular I do not accept the notion that supplies of uranium will only last until 2085, nor do I see India falling into line with the breeding program they are suggesting. To me at least it is clear that the thorium cycle will first be deployed using a combination of HWRs and AHWRs. It should be recognized that a real possibility exists that there could be an entrenchment of this path if India sells as many 220 MWe PHWRs as they are projecting.

So while the French report is interesting, it should be recognized that there is a certain element of wishful thinking in it as well.

Charles Barton said...

DV8 2XL, they are French physicist. There is no attention to cost. Reactors are of conventional size. No consideration of factory production which is a standard feature of recent American thinking about reactor design. The description is driven by a computer model. In their favor however, The Reactor Physics Group is thinking in terms of deploying a nuclear and largely thorium cycle MSRs, as a major component, Compared to other thinking about AGW mitigation the RPG is extremely farsighted.

DV8 2XL said...

Oh, sure it's better than most, but I am a francophone, and I read a great deal of what is written in that language in science and technology. Forward looking papers are a great staple of the scientific culture in the French-speaking world, and it is generally understood that they are expected to follow a certain formula, as it were, where one shows how things could work out, and work out advantageously for those reading.

It's not bad science per se, because does follow some unwritten norms, but they are not seen as planning documents in the same way that they would be in the English-speaking world. There is a certain streak in all of these types of papers that would be considered unseemly outside of French culture.

While I will not say they are without some value, I would caution everyone to not take these too seriously,

Charles Barton said...

DV8 2XL In the land of the Blind, the oneyed man isKing. Who besides the Energy from Thorium circle and the Reactor Physics Group has done any thinking at all about a mass world wide deployment of nuclear power? Un their favor the RPG has chosen to participate in the Weinberg legacy.

DV8 2XL said...

Perhaps I am being too harsh on them. It's just that I have gotten used to reading between the lines on this sort of paper to get too excited, or believe that something will come out of it in the way of policy, even in France.

It was only my intention to put this document in the proper perspective - it is an interesting take on the issue, but only that. In the context of the French scholarly offerings, it is very light weight, and is all it was meant to be.

David Walters said...

I finally read the Full Report Charles linked to.

Clearly this is EPR oriented but that's ok since they were just starting to deploy the EPR and they expect it to be a major LWR contributor.

I think the report is good. It lays out something we haven't really talked about which is resources vs U-233 production (at least as a section of the larger report). It parsese the numbers based on the obvious need for LWR reproduction out through 2100 to *create* the needed U-233 tonnage for an ongoing LFTR (they call it the TMSR).

This report should be standard reference for all us promoting LFTR.

David Walters said...

Another point. If LFTR is adopted, how do we configure it to use DU/U238 as a feed stock? I'm thinking terms of it not AS a feed stock but as a way of disposing of DU.

Soylent said...

David, if you want to unproductively dispose of DU for some reason, convert it to a ceramic or glass and put it back into it's natural habitat. It is no more active than it was on the day you dug it out of the ground; absent significantly insane regulations there's no problem just sticking it back into the uranium mines from whence it came.

If you want to make U-233 from DU and thorium I see no reason it ought not be possible to develop a fleet of "leaky fast-reactors" that produce as much plutonium as they consume in addition to irradiating a blanket of thorium that soaks up remaining neutrons to make U-233 start up charges. If sufficiently paranoid they can be hosted in countries that are card-carrying members in the nuclear weapons club; like China, Russia, UK, US or France. Eventually you can start to think about consuming remaining stocks of TRUs, leaving thorium-fueled reactors as the standard for producing electricity from nuclear fission.

LarryD said...

DU is 60% as radioactive as natural uranium. DU is only a disposal issue because some countries (the US for example) keep a lot of it as uranium hexafluoride gas. Which I agree is dumb if you aren't going to use it for anything. The US DOE has been working on converting its inventory of uranium hexafluoride to uranium oxide.

If you're not wedded to thorium as a fuel, a 4th Gen MSR can burn DU with no big issues, once it is started up. Current DU stocks represent a convenient fuel supply since it is already mined and concentrated.


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