Thursday, May 22, 2008

Robert Hargraves on the economic advantages of small reactors

Introduction: I cross-posted yesterday's post on "Energy From Thorium. Robert Hargraves responded to that post with a comment, and I thought it was worthwhile to reproduce his comment here:

I'm not a nuclear engineer, but here are my ignorant observations about the benefits of small sized nuclear power plants....

1. Small size enables mass production with more experience per unit produced, leading to the economies of production lines and smaller costs for errors.

2. Small size means lower capital investments at risk, with the opportunity to add to power plants as needed.

3. Small size means that low energy demand areas of the developing nations might be able to acquire nuclear power plants.

4. Small size means that power plants can be distributed closer to the points of power consumption, reducing transmission losses, reducing network management requirements, and enabling local control of production and consumption in emergencies. The "intelligent grid" concept flies in the face of the success of the distributed network control intelligence of the Internet.

My latest adventure in nuclear power is the course I gave and posted at

Afterword: Robert's blog is well worth looking at.  Robert probably started looking at the small reactor-mass production equation before I did.  However, Robert was thinking in terms of producing reactor construction kits here, which would still require considerable onsite  assembly. My view is that everything possible should be done in the factory, with the reactor shipped out in a few large modules, such as a core module, or a power generator module.  Local assembly of the modules should be like putting together "legos", simple and quick.   Robert advocates building Pebble Bed Reactors, and of course, the Pebble Bed concept has many attractive features, including a potential for high thermal efficiency, and inherent safety.    Of course the the LFTR matches the advantageous features of the PBR, and offers many attractive features which the PBR lacks.   But Robert's observations are correct for the manufacturing potential of both reactors.  Robert is a big picture thinker.

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