Monday, September 20, 2010

Fluoride High Temperature Reactor Workshop at ORNL: Day one

I attended the Fluoride High Temperature Workshop at ORNL, and no doubt will be headed back later this morning for the second day. The FHR concept is closely related to the ORNL MSR. but somewhat less related to the LFTR. Current concepts call for uranium cycle, as opposed to thorium fuel cycle reactors.

The biggest difference between FHRs and MSRs is that FHRa place their fuel in graphite structures of graphite pebbles, while in a MSR, the fuel is dissolved in the core salts. There are in the MSR some design features that are required to manage the fuel coolant salt combination. This is, in the grand scheme of things, no big deal. Believe it or not the borrowing features from gas cooled graphite reactors or pebble bed reactors is considered a shortcut. The justification is that the Fluoride Salt coolant salvages gas cooled. graphite and pebble bed technology, and leads to the the ability to design reactors that are very cos competitive with Light Water Reactors. in fact the cost of the FHRs will run to only 50% of that of LWRs, without adopting a full court press approach to cost lowering.

Thus FHR costs will be closely related to MSR/LFTR costs. My own estimate of factory produced LFTR costs place them at about 50% of LWR costs, before the adoption of the full court press approach to cost lowering. The full court press approach, adopts every possible cost lowering measure, including site development savings through recycling old coal fired power plant sites as LFTR venues.

The cost lowering potential of either the FHT or the LFTR should put both on the fast track as LWR replacements. We need one or both if we are to reach our 2050 goal of an 80% reduction of CO2 emissions from energy related economic activities. As I have argued elsewhere in Nuclear Green every plan that calls for replacement of fossil fuel energy generations would doom industrialized society to an unmitigated economic disaster.

The most significant impression I formed of the conference is of a business as usual approach that lacks urgency, and lacks an understand of or an appreciation for the task that they face. We - humanity - face a huge challenge over the next 40 years to not only replace the old energy basis of our society with a new energy basis. At the same time it would be unacceptable to stop economic and social processes, that is beginning to bring ever higher levels of energy to several billion people. if my assessment is correct, the only technology that currently holds the potential to do that is Molten Salt nuclear technology. Thus the task which the FHR Workshop addresses is one of transcendent importance, and the utmost and most immediate urgency
What the Workshop lacks is an Alvin Weinberg, a visionary who can motivate participants by showing them he importance of what thy are doing. We are not ready yet. No one dares to give hope wings, no one dares to envision challenges and possibilities. We are not there yet, and the best we can hope for is a movement forward toward a realization of responsibilities and possibilities.

Update: At least one workshop participant, Sherrell Greene appears to be on the right track.


Robert Hargraves said...


Please describe or post a link to FHR so we can understand it.

Charles Barton said...

Robert, here is one:

Nathan2go said...

Charles, the FHT is a great concept, I'm glad to see that it's getting more attention.

As you mention, the anticipated cost savings are very important. But it has other virtues too:

- 25 to 30% reduction in uranium ore utilization vs. LWRs.
- uses the same high efficiency He Brayton cycle generator as will be needed for LFTR (and provides experience with salt as heat transfer fluid).
- can supply high temp process heat for Petro industry.

And importantly, it could be coupled with thermal energy storage to make loadfollowing cost effective. If momentum builds for a renewable portfolio standard @ 20% renewables, then a nuke with storage would likely be the only kind of nuke that would be economical!

carl said...

Hi Charles,

Is anyone from Berkeley there?

Charles Barton said...

Carl, of course, Per Peterson was a presenter.

Nathan2go, Process heat would be a major motive for developing FHT reactors. And yes the FHT reactors could produce stored Molten Salt for peak demand use.


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
Dr. Joe Bonometti speaking on thorium/LFTR technology at Georgia Tech David LeBlanc on LFTR/MSR technology Robert Hargraves on AIM High