The HTGR is a game changer

By Fred Moore

In spite of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear crisis and negative reverberations around the world, there is some good news about nuclear—the helium-cooled High Temperature Gas Reactor (HTGR).

On behalf of the NGNP Industry Alliance, Ltd., I would like to share some compelling facts. First, let’s look at a few of the major policy issues facing the United States and other nations today, namely energy security, jobs, long-term stable energy prices, and climate change.

It is the Alliance’s view that the HTGR technology can have a significant and positive game-changing impact on these critical policy goals. (See video resources at NGNP homepage.)

The HTGR, first and foremost in light of the Fukushima crisis, stands out due to its inherent safety characteristics that include no water cooling, low-power density and consequently the inability to overheat the fuel to the point of failure under any accident conditions (no reliance on active equipment and/or operator actions), air cooling of spent fuel, and, as a result, no need for offsite evacuation or sheltering plans.

Why is it a game changer?

  1. It produces high-temperature process heat and is the only nuclear technology on the horizon that can address this industrial sector need, which accounts for as much as 20 percent of the U.S. carbon footprint.
  2. It produces electricity competitively with light water reactors and provides yet another carbon footprint offset.
  3. The most recent Idaho National Laboratory cost estimate provided to the Department of Energy places its competitiveness with natural gas in the $6 to $9/MMBTU range, well within the likelihood of gas prices in the 2020+ time frame.
  4. When used to co-produce hydrogen, it can be used in the clean gasification of indigenous sources of carbon (from coal to pet coke to other renewable) to produce synthetic fuels (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel) via the Fischer-Tropsch process with virtually no CO2 production by using the hydrogen to avoid the water shift reaction.
  5. The Alliance’s most recent study identified the market for this technology at 600 reactors. Even a 25-percent market penetration in the next 25 years will produce in excess of $1 trillion in GDP, and tens of thousands of high paying construction jobs.
  6. Help stop migration of the high-paying manufacturing overseas by addressing our energy policy and providing a low-volatility energy source as more than 70 percent of the cost of energy is tied to the capital versus a natural gas plant where it is just the opposite.
  7. After the initial 20-year depreciation period, including the accruing of cost for decommissioning of the plant, these assets will likely be dispatched first in the electricity market even if the site specific process heat need no longer exists.
  8. This technology, combined with a long-term purchase agreement with a major process heat user, allows for a new financial model that likely obviates any need for loan guarantees for the mature plants as the owner/operator can take the 20-year term sheet to the bank to secure the loan. Further, this commercial arrangement lends itself to multiple owners and different financing (e.g., 80/20 debt to equity) that substantially improves the economics

More good news. Europe is in the process of pulling together a similar alliance and we are hopeful that we can work in concert across the pond to bring this technology to commercialization.

Please visit our Web site and learn more about the Alliance and the technology.


Fred Moore is the executive director of NGNP Industry Alliance, Ltd. He is also the global director of manufacturing and technology for the energy business of The Dow Chemical Company, where he is responsible for the safe and reliable production of power, steam, and other utilities for Dow globally.

4 thoughts on “The HTGR is a game changer

  1. Engineer-Poet

    Molten-salt reactors can also operate at process-heat temperatures (the Aircraft Test Reactor, or “fireball reactor”, ran as high as 860°C), and has a much smaller waste volume than an HTGR using TRISO fuel.  The reactor core is also much smaller, and there is no pressure vessel as the molten salts do not boil at operating temperature.

    Regardless of the exact technology chosen, the nation which adopts nuclear process heat for its industry will have a strong advantage over nations which do not.

  2. Brian Catt CEng CPhys MBA

    Please can you put me on you distribution list. I am active in promoting Nuclear power to anunknowing government still working with belief systems and problems from the last Century – not the end of fossil and hence the “alternatives” that in reality just offset fossil emissions in symbiosis that prolongs the life of fossil – and are effectively obsolete with fossil.

    I am preparing accessible presenations and want to have a long list of what is being done regarding waste reduction and treatment – in improved fuel cycles and also in waste treatment using fission and fusion fast neutron fluxes. In a way people will understand and can be used in sound bite against the Irrational Green enemy who simply recite, assert belief with no provable/referenceable numerate backup.


    Brian Catt

  3. Alan

    In addition to those points, I have my own suspicions that such reactor types can ultimately offer several options for a more sustainable nuclear fuel cycle. I know INL has done a lot of work with the burnup of gas reactor fuel, and the idea of the small balls of fuel embedded in the graphite always seemed like a really clever trick to me.

    If this program gets off the ground, it would have pretty major implications for all chemicals manufacturing in general. I can easily imagine a world with HTRs are the de-facto source for large industrial heat needs. Talking about a 25% market penetration isn’t just a matter of jobs, it would transform the industries it’s used in.

  4. Pingback: Weekly Digest for August 1st » NA-YGN Southeast Region

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