Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The MSR Horse Race; Who is in first place?

Yesterday, I looked at the MSR Review.  I would like to note one serious weakness.  In particular the apprasal of the MSR horse race does not receive proper evaluation.  This is most unfortunate,  not all participants in the MSR  race are equal in funding, organization, and in the process of developing a viable product.

The clear leader at this point is Terrestrial energy.  This can be discerned because Terrestrial has a considerable corperate structure, identified sources of support  For example the Terrestrial Energy Web site, looks more like the web page of an established business concern, one which is concerned about the management of funding streams, and funding as well as product development.  t would appear that there is impressive backing for Terrestrial energy, otherwise they would not be able to afford their impressive management team.  Furthermore, Terrestrial Energy isworking on its preconceptual design, and inportant step in moving from dream to reality.  Terrestrial Energy appears to have from 20 to 30 full time employees.  So where is the money coming from? Why the big time business structure?

Canada is a very good place to do business, by some accounts a better place to do business than the United States.  In Harper era Canada, the business prospects of a new Canadian nuclear startup is considerably better than in the United States.  In addition a large Canadian  business is in big need of low-carbon, low cost steam.  That most assuredly will not come from renewable technology in Canada.  Think of solar heating of a large amount of water above its boiling point in wenter, only to have it freeze as soon as the long Winter night decends on say Alberta.   To heat that water to steam without emitting large amounts of CO2, can only be accomplished in Canada, by turning to muclear.  There is a Canadian business that does require a large amount of steam, and the product that David Leblanc has to offer is a good match to their energy needs.  Pluse corperate planners, looking at the potentual of David LeBlanc's product may have suggested that the Business might prophet long term, if they owned a share of David's business.  I do not know if this is what has happened.   Indeed if it is, both sides are keeping it close to their chests.  It would appear that Terrestrial Energy is spending somewhere in the eight figures on an annual basis, and mind you this is a guess based on The Terrestrial Energy discription of its corperate structure.

So where is Terrestrial Energy in terms of Product development?They would appear to be in the Pre-conceptual phase.  The phase that marks the transition brom preliminary ideas, to detailed plans.  After pre-concept is completed, the next step is to begin blue print development, and then you start ordering parts. Terrestrial energy appears to believe that it can reach that phase quite soon.   So the revolution is upon us, and may break out in a place and time, when and that the self styled experts least expect.  If everything rorceeds at the present pace, a prototype might be built during the next five years, and comercial models will be comming off the production line in five more years.  Terrestrial Energy is extremely ambitious.  Think Standard Oil in the early phase.  They think they will be eating everyones lunch, via very low cost, clean and safe nuclear power. They believe that their simple , affordable imsr will be a game changer, a black swan, a silver bullit.  I kid you not

It is a little difficult to determine who is in second place in our race.  My guess is that it is Thorcon, although this is only a guess.  I know a whole lot less about what is going on at Thorcon,and compaired to Terrestrial Energy.  They do have a patron or perhaps patrons, and hence sources of money.  Lars Jorgensen offers an account of what Thorcon is up to.

Jorgensen unlike Terrestrial Energy is not telling us that Thorcon is going to eat everyones lunch, but he does intend to eat the lunch of the Global Coal Industry.  Thorcon is thinking about manufacture and transportation to reactor final sites, as well as the final assembly process.  Jorgensen does not give us real hints about money or team size.  He has advisors, who come from the Energy from Thorium crowd.  He is talking about thorium in the Thorcon eactors, which introduces levels of complication that David LeBlanc has decided to avoid.  Clearly then if Thorcon is number 2, they are a long way behind number 1.  But in terms of thinking about and access to manufacturing facilities, Thoecon leads the pack.

There is a possibility that Transatomic might be second rather than third on the project development.  Ther are charting their progress online.  Transatomic has a 5 person R&D team.  and a a budhet that would appear to be in the low 7 figures.  They have no deep pocket customers, waiting in the wings, although one potential customer should be.  Unfortunately this customer is the United States Government, which collected billions of dollars in taxes from the nuclear industry to pay for a solution to the nuclear waste problem.  Now two kids from MIT have appeared offering to takenuclear waste off the hands of nuclear utilities, and burning it in MSRs in order to generate scads and scads of no carbon energy.  Needless to say, the United States Government is shaking in fear at the prospect that one of the great bugaboos of the anti-nuclear argument would be destroyed if the two MIT smarties got their way.  Who cares about the moral obligation which the government agreed to when it promised to take care of the nuclear waste problem in return to the nuk owners pauying a special, just for them tax.  From the moral perspective, the United States Government should pay Transatomic Power to take care of its obligation to dispose of nuclear waste, but from the time of Alvin Weinberg's firing onward, the government's treatment of the nuclear industry has never been moral.  Tramatomic is planning to use Zarconium hydride as its moderator.  This is a very promising idea, one which would lead to smaller MSR cores.  Small cores would lower reactor costs, plus solve the graphite replacement problem, which would add significantly to the core lifespan.  It might be a good Idea for Terrestrial Energy and Thorcon to quickly license the idea from Tranceatomic, if they have intellectual property rights.  Given the problems with graphite, this does suggest a step forward.

Finally we come to FLiBe Energy,  i simply do not have enough information to make any judgement on the MSR Reactor account.

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