Sunday, September 19, 2010

More Comments to Douglas Wise on BNC

I had another exchange of comments with Douglass Wise on Brave New Climate over the weekend.

Douglas, your assessment “that many more years of very expensive research would be needed before the IFR concept could be shown to be a goer and live up to the potential claimed for it by its advocates” is probably correct. The Indians have launched a second generation FBR program,. That program would appear to develop at least some IFR features (ie. metallic fuel) through a multiple prototype stage that will last at least 15 years. Argonne IFR research has focused on the IFR as a burner not a breeder. The highest breeding ratio for an IFR design i have found coming out of Argonne is 1 to 1.07, which is comparable to the ORNL MSBR. Argonne can probably develop a high breeding ratio design, but that will take considerable time, and probably the most economic approach would be to throw in with the Indians.

There is research from both Oak Ridge and Russia, which suggests that the MSRs can be competitive with IFRs as actinide burners. Part of the LFTR sales pitch will be that you can dump nuclear waste into a bunch of LFTRs and get a heck of a lot of electricity in return.

As for development time, I would be willing to bet you a sushi dinner that were LFTR and IFR R&D given equal financing, the LFTR would come to market first,

Douglas, Of the issues that turned me into a Molten Salt Reactor/LFTR advocate in 2007 were nuclear costs, and scalability, although by the time I completed my initial analysis, I was convinced that the MSR solution would offer superior safety, and a solution to the problem of nuclear waste. Later analysis was to reveal that the MSR offered solutions to the problems of industrial heat, intermediate and peak power, while offering in costal areas desalinization. i found multiple paths to nuclear cost saving, for example recycling old coal fired power plants as LFTR sites.

From my perspective, you have focused on the right questions. Until recently i was in agreement with Barry that the short term energy solution solution, but after attending David Le Blanc’s presentation at ORNL in May, and discussing the uranium fueled MSR option with Kirk Sorensen, i now think that non-breeder uranium fueled MSRs can be developed quickly, and that they would be a low cost alternative to LWRs.

Douglas, since my father played a significant role in the development of the light water reactor, and indeed regarded this as the professional accomplishment that gave him the most pride. What lead me to the molten Salt reactor was first a question about big a LWR build out could be. It is 3 years later and no one has come up with a doable large scale LWR buildout that would offer even a significant part of the 2050 solution.

I thus decided that that alternatives were needed. I looked at 2. Robert Hargraves was advocating the Pebble Bed Reactor in 2007, and I seriously considered it, before I decided that the LFTR was a far better candidate for a rapid buildout than the PBMR.
I knew about MSR technology because i was still living in Oak Ridge during the MSRE, and we read about it in the news paper.. i really talked to my father more about MSRs in 2007-2008, than i had during the 1950′s and 60′s. What drew me to the MSR was its simple design, compact size, high operating temperature, safety, and potential for solving the nuclear waste problem.

Actually i began to appreciate my father’s contribution to MSR development after i got better acquainted with its design features and the history of its development.

There are undoubtedly some brand loyalty issues, but since my father contributed to the the development of several reactors, i have some choice regarding which brand to be most loyal too. Brand loyalty would seem to preclude criticizing the LWR, but that has not stopped me.

In addition DMSR type reactors could serve as a bridge to the LFTR.

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