“Nuclear Energy” – National Nuclear Science Week, Day 3 (October 22)

NSWlogoThe third day of National Nuclear Science Week is focused upon the production of energy by nuclear means – and that means energy that can do work for man.  Electric power, steam for heating businesses and homes, and mechanical power for propelling ships are perhaps the best known examples of man’s use of nuclear energy.

The classic image of a modern nuclear power station, represented by Perry Nuclear Plant, Ohio.  Photo in Will Davis collection.

The classic image of a modern nuclear power station, represented by Perry Nuclear Plant, Ohio. Photo in Will Davis collection.

Regardless of model or type, all nuclear reactors produce heat; this is how we get useful work from them.  In the case of a nuclear power plant, the heat is used to boil water into steam which then is used to run very large turbines; these generate power for thousands of businesses, homes, street lights, traffic lights – everything around you see that receives electric power.  And did we say “large?”  A typical turbine generator at a nuclear plant can be 200 feet long; the parts inside the turbine that rotate can have a total mass of around 700 tons, and the machine overall can develop from 900 MW (megawatts) to 1400 MW.  That’s well over one million horsepower!

You can read about nuclear energy in an introductory fashion at the American Nuclear Society’s CNSTI page on Reactors, a special part of the Nuclear Science Week publications.

The United States Government has two primary offices related to nuclear energy.  The US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy develops and promotes nuclear power technologies, while the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the responsibility of oversight of all nuclear facilities in the US.

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For more information on the development of nuclear energy:

The path to developing useful work from splitting the atom (known as “fission”) began with Enrico Fermi’s “atomic pile,” the CP-1, which was the first working nuclear reactor.  Click here to read about the effort, and its 70th anniversary.

The first full scale nuclear reactor of any sort was actually not used for power production, but rather was part of the US Manhattan Project.  Still, this complicated and large machine proved out concepts that would be used in power reactors.  Click here to read about this reactor, the Hanford B Reactor.

The first nuclear reactor plant intended for the production of useful power alone (propulsion and electricity) was the STR Mark I, which was the prototype or dress rehearsal for the world’s first nuclear powered vessel, USS NAUTILUS.  See some details of the prototype’s construction at this link.

Nuclear energy has been employed to power hundreds of military vessels; it's also been used to propel at least three merchant ships.  The first, NS SAVANNAH, is shown.  Illustration courtesy NS Savannah Association, Inc.

Nuclear energy has been employed to power hundreds of military vessels; it’s also been used to propel at least three merchant ships. The first, NS SAVANNAH, is shown. Illustration courtesy NS Savannah Association, Inc.

General Electric’s Vallecitos Boiling Water Reactor was part of the effort that led to the first measurable commercial sale of nuclear generated electric power in the United States.  Click here to read about this project and see a film on it.

President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms For Peace” program led directly to the development of civilian nuclear power in the United States.  ANS Nuclear Cafe described that program in a three part feature, which can be seen at the following links:  Part 1Part 2Part 3.

(Will Davis for ANS Nuclear Cafe.)

 

“Careers in Nuclear” – National Nuclear Science Week, Day 2 (October 21)

NSWlogoThe second day of National Nuclear Science Week promotes the knowledge of careers in nuclear-related fields.

For most people, the idea of a career in a nuclear-related field might evoke images of the production of electricity by nuclear energy.  While that field has a very large number of associated practices, there are many other nuclear related disciplines.  How many times have you passed by, or perhaps even been a patient in, a Nuclear Medicine department of a hospital?  Have you ever heard of the use of nuclear technology to evaluate materials?  Did you know that nuclear technology can help with the long-term preservation of food items?  These are only a few areas of life wherein nuclear technologies are of great benefit to mankind.

The American Nuclear Society’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information has a great resource page on nuclear careers; click here to see it.  You might be amazed by the number of points of our lives that are touched by nuclear technologies and made better for having been.

(Will Davis for ANS Nuclear Cafe.)

“Get to Know Nuclear” – National Nuclear Science Week 2014, Day One

NSWlogoMonday, October 20, marks the first official day of National Nuclear Science Week—a week long, annual coordinated educational event that promotes nuclear science and technology.

Five years ago the Smithsonian Affiliated National Museum of Nuclear Science and History founded this nationally recognized, week-long celebration. Nuclear Science Week is a unique outreach opportunity that grants teachers, students, and the general public direct access to nuclear technologies and energy experts. A basic introduction to the concept, as well as details of its execution, can be found here.

Each day of the NNSW focuses on a specific theme, and as an introduction the first day is designated as “Get to Know Nuclear.” You might be surprised how many facets of our lives are touched, and enhanced, by nuclear technologies—and you might be surprised how many people know little or nothing about these nuclear technologies. Fortunately, there are a number of great, easy-to-read official sources you can consult if you’re an educator tasked with presenting such material or even if you’re just personally curious.

The American Nuclear Society’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information has set up a special section on National Nuclear Science Week, which can be found here. There is a specially dedicated section for the first day, “Get to Know Nuclear.” ANS also has a variety of educational materials available at this link.

National Nuclear Science Week has its own dedicated stand-alone website, found here, which is presented by the National Museum of Nuclear Science. A schedule of various events throughout the week can be found here.

(Will Davis for ANS Nuclear Cafe.)

Nuclear Science Symposium Kicks Off in Seattle

NSW logo

The 5th annual Nuclear Science Week was launched with a public symposium on October 16 and 17 at the Pacific Science Center at the foot of the Space Needle in Seattle.

Nuclear Science Week is an international, broadly observed week-long celebration to focus interest on all aspects of nuclear science and technology. Each day provides for learning about the contributions, innovations, and opportunities emerging in nuclear energy and other applications. The event was established by the Smithsonian-affiliated National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, NM.

“In addition to the regional presence of multiple nuclear organizations and corporations, Seattle is a community that values the arts, embraces technology, and prioritizes the environment—and Nuclear Science Week is an opportunity to explore how advanced nuclear technologies in energy, medicine, and even space exploration help support these values on a national and international basis,” said Suzanne Hobbs Baker, coordinating chair for the NSW Symposium.

Click Here to watch online

Click Here to watch online

The NSW Symposium launches at noon Pacific Time (3:00 Eastern Time) and will be webcast and archived. The full agenda and speaker list are available on the National Nuclear Science Week web site.

The National Science Teachers Association will be offering the webcast to over 400,000 classrooms nationwide as part of their Science–Technology–Engineering–Math (STEM) programming.

The American Nuclear Society is a proud sponsor of Nuclear Science Week. ANS President Mikey Brady Raap will be delivering the closing keynote address at 12:45 pm Pacific Time/3:45 pm Eastern Time on Friday, October 17.

Governor Proclaims Nuclear Science Week in Washington

In recognition of the contributions of nuclear science and technology, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State has designated Oct. 20–24 as Nuclear Science Week in Washington.

The proclamation notes:

WHEREAS, the nuclear science week community is convening a public symposium October 16th and 17th at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle to explore the contributions of nuclear science and technology to communities around the world

Washington NSW Proclamation

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laura-scheeleLaura Scheele is a Senior Public Affairs Analyst and Member Relations Manager at Energy Northwest, a not-for-profit joint operating agency headquartered in Richland, Wash. She is an active board member of the ANS Eastern Washington Local Section.

ANS Winter Meeting 2014 – What you Need to Know

• What – American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting 2014

• Where – Disneyland Resort, 1313 S. Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, California 92802

• When – November 9–November 13, 2014

The ANS Winter Meeting for 2014 (which also features a Nuclear Technology Expo) is fast approaching—and as with all of these big, national meetings there may be a lot of questions that attendees would like to have answered in one central place. We’ve done that homework for you.

REGISTRATIONClick here to access the ANS Meetings page for registration. Keep in mind that October 14 is the last day for discounted registration, and the last scheduled day to reserve rooms.

RESORT: The venue is the wonderful, completely remodeled original 1955-vintage Disney California resort hotel. All basic information you might want about the hotel can be found at this official Disney link. There is also a dedicated “events” page that Disney has set up with some further links; click here to see it.

Disney Anaheim Resort

Disneyland Hotel, site of the 2014 ANS Winter Meeting. Photo ©Disney and used by permission.

AIRPORTS: The closest airport to the Disney venue is John Wayne Airport, Orange County (identified as SNA).

GETTING AROUNDThe page linked here is an official page set up by the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau on transportation opportunities in the area.

FOOD: In addition to the varied assortment of establishments inside the Disney resorts perimeter (see “RESORT” link above), there are many more available outside. The Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau has also set up a page on dining in the area;  click here to see it. The AOCVCB pages have a number of other useful links available, so make sure to explore those—they include coupons and deals.

COMMUNICATION: It is well known that even with the best of schedules, things can change during meetings. For those purposes it’s helpful to remember the following:

• ANS has a Facebook Event Page that will be used to broadcast changes. Facebook users can also communicate with each other on that page to network during the meeting week.

•A NS will use its Twitter account (look for @ans_org) to communicate during the meeting—both live-tweeting various events and photos, but also broadcasting any changes of rooms, locations, or anything else generally useful. The official hashtag is #ansmeeting—this has been used for over a year for official ANS meetings.

MEETING SCHEDULE: As this post goes to press, the schedule is still preliminary and does NOT include exact room locations for various sessions. We will update this post later with that link when it’s available.

Keep in mind that there will be plenty of ways to find out what you need to know on site from both ANS staff and Disney staff; that said, please don’t miss the opportunity to bookmark this post (or even make an icon on your smart phone) so that you’ll have all these links handy before you even leave home.

We’ll observe the “comments” section for specific questions not answered in the material above. We hope to see YOU there!

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Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 230

ferris wheel 202x201The 230th Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival has been posted at the AREVA Next Energy Blog.

Click here to access Carnival 230.

Each week, a new edition of the Carnival is hosted at one of the top English-language nuclear blogs. This rotating feature of nuclear “posts of the week” represents the dedication of those who are working toward a future of energy abundance, improved health, and broadened security through nuclear science and technology.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Hiroshima Syndrome, Things Worse Than Nuclear Power, AREVA Next Energy Blog, EntrepreNuke, Thorium MSR and Deregulate the Atom.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support.  If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

They Harnessed the ATOM – the first Navy prototype nuclear plant

By Will Davis

This past week, a remarkable article was printed in The Atlantic, which gave a full first-person account of the initial trial run of the STR Mark I nuclear prototype plant—the plant that paved the way for the success of the first nuclear powered vessel ever built, the submarine USS NAUTILUS.

At the time this prototype plant was built in the Idaho desert, at what was at that time called the National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS), there was actually a rather remarkable amount of information provided to the public about the plant—mostly in terms of photographs of the plant, if not anything in any real technical detail. Let’s take a look at some of the unclassified views released to the public and published in widely available resources, along with a few details of the plant’s history.

S1WatNRTSJan201954

The photograph above was released January 20, 1954, and was both distributed by wire photo channels (you are seeing a scan of an original photo) and was published in a remarkable PR brochure entitled “They Harnessed the ATOM,” which you’ll see more of shortly. This is the STR Mark I prototype at NRTS Idaho Falls; “STR” stood for “Submarine Thermal Reactor,” the original designation for this plant that was later redesignated “S1W” for “Submarine, First design, Westinghouse.” At the time this plant was constructed, its designer, the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, was operated by Westinghouse for the U.S. government—hence the “W” designation. This of course is the plant whose operation was detailed in the article linked above.

STR Mark I door

Above, the front cover of the brochure “They Harnessed the ATOM” that shows a view into the open door of the STR Mark I prototype. The simulated submarine hull is clearly visible, as is the large tank of water at the opposite end that surrounded the reactor compartment and that was used for shielding.

STR Mark I inside

Inside “They Harnessed the ATOM” is this view (above) looking down onto the STR Mark I prototype power plant. The power plant of course developed a fair amount of waste heat, which had to be dissipated; in these early days, cooling towers were not used but rather spray ponds. The spray pond for STR Mark I is seen below, also from this brochure. The pond, it was said, held 2 million gallons of water and could cool 22 500 gallons of water per minute.

STR Mark I spray pond

Another publication of that time that featured photos and some scant details on the construction of this prototype was “Selected Articles on Nuclear Power,” which took several articles that had appeared in the Westinghouse employee magazine “The Westinghouse Engineer” and republished them essentially as an advertising brochure—although this one was much more pointed at industry than the previous one shown, which was pointed at the general public. Inside the front cover of “Selected Articles,” we find the illustration seen below.

STR Mark I Selected Articles

The upper part of the illustration is a view similar to, but not identical with, that seen earlier while the lower appears to show a student examining a model of the power plant. Naturally, the model is an exterior model only (not a cutaway) and shows no real details of the nature of the construction of the nuclear steam supply system, propulsion or control equipment, or actual plant arrangement.

Inside this publication is an interesting and concise timeline of use to historians:

Timetable of Submarine Thermal Reactor Project

• April 1948 – Formal project established at Argonne National Laboratory

• June 1948 – Original Navy-Westinghouse contract

• December 1948 – Original AEC–Westinghouse contract

• March 1950 – Occupancy of new facilities at Bettis Site

• August 1950 – Commencement of STR Mark I construction, National Reactor Testing Station, Idaho

• August 1951 – Award of NAUTILUS construction contract to Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corporation

• June 1952 – Keel plate laying of USS NAUTILUS (SSN-571)

• March 1953 – First critical operation of STR Mark I prototype plant

• January 1954 – Launching of USS NAUTILUS

• September 1954 – Commissioning of USS NAUTILUS

As can be seen from the timetable above, time was of the essence for the prototype power plant, as the keel for the operational submarine (which would house the plant designated STR Mark II) had already been laid down less than a year before the first startup of the prototype reactor. As is so vividly described in the Atlantic account, the actual prototype’s design was already well up the learning curve and the performance so satisfactory that NAUTILUS went to sea confident in its ability to perform. Of course, Admiral Rickover’s choice to build the first prototype plant as a simulated, land-locked submarine section in order to prove out not just concept but physical construction was exactly correct. A similar design process—use of an actual power plant design that could be duplicated perfectly for a production submarine—was employed for the Submarine Intermediate Reactor Mark I, built thousands of miles away to test principles for what would become USS SEAWOLF at the same time.

From the brochure "The Seawolf Story," Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.  "In the early morning of March 20, 1954, the prototype power plant of the Seawolf was 'launched' into its location in the 225 ft. diameter steel sphere located at the West Milton Site of the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory."

From the brochure “The Seawolf Story,” Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory. “In the early morning of March 20, 1954, the prototype power plant of the Seawolf was ‘launched’ into its location in the 225 ft. diameter steel sphere located at the West Milton Site of the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.”

What happened to STR Mark I, later known as S1W? The plant operated for decades, as an integral part of Admiral Rickover’s system that insisted that Navy nuclear propulsion personnel obtain qualification on a land-based plant before being assigned to a nuclear powered ship or submarine. The plant finally shut down for the last time in October 1989.

It may be difficult to imagine today that photos such as we have seen were released, but several of these have actually circulated fairly widely. In fact, it would certainly appear that India took notice of the design of these early submarine prototype plants; look at the links below, and note the overall, external design of the prototype plant for the first Indian nuclear submarines.

“INS Arihant reactor to be made critical next week” (May 2013)

INS Arihant reactor goes critical (August 2013)

In a First for India, Nuclear Sub’s Reactor Activated (August 2013)

Were it not for the fact that the above-linked articles’ photos are color, one might assume the view was of the STR Mark I prototype in 1954 and not of an Indian nuclear sub prototype in 2013.

For more information:

“Nuclear Navy celebrates end of an era at Idaho Falls.” Article at INL.GOV website about the shutdown of the last operating Navy nuclear prototype at the former NRTS Naval Reactors Facility.

Photos and brochures used in this article are in Will Davis’s library.

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SavannahWillinControlRoomWill Davis is the Communications Director for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. where he also serves as historian, newsletter editor and member of the board of directors. Davis has recently been engaged by the Global America Business Institute as a consultant. He is also a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society; an active ANS member, he is serving on the ANS Communications Committee 2013–2016. In addition, he is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants. Davis is temporarily managing all social media for the American Nuclear Society.

Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 229

ferris wheel 202x201The 229th Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival has been posted at Next Big Future.

Click here to access the latest Carnival.

Each week, a new edition of the Carnival is hosted at one of the top English-language nuclear blogs. This rotating feature of nuclear “posts of the week” represents the dedication of those who are working toward a future of energy abundance, improved health, and broadened security through nuclear science and technology.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Hiroshima Syndrome, Things Worse Than Nuclear Power, EntrepreNuke, Thorium MSR and Deregulate the Atom.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support.  If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation

Changing How We Communicate

Preface: Robert Rock, a Canadian professional who authored the post you’re about to read, is relatively new to the field of nuclear communications but isn’t new to communications overall. I believe it’s good to get outside perspectives once in a while—they make us think about and reflect upon our own actions. I hope that his piece, specifically written for us here at ANS Nuclear Cafe, can provoke some discussion and help us develop new perspective. Your Editor, Will Davis.

••••••••

Changing how we communicate.

by Robert Rock

Participating in a LinkedIn Group called Cool Hand Nuke got me to thinking of the movie that it wittily takes its name from—Cool Hand Luke. Specifically, one of the movie’s most famous quotes, “What we have here is … a failure to communicate”

I think that quote sums up the nuclear industry both at the moment and over the last few decades.

Right now, I see a large amount of people looking for safe, cheap, non-carbon emitting energy, which can produce a large amount of power reliably. Dear nuclear crowd, doesn’t that describe nuclear energy? How have we not been able to tap into this desire?

Why haven’t we?

By the very nature of the nuclear industry, we are heavily weighted toward scientists, engineers, and other technical professionals. This is exactly what the industry needs to continue its great track record of safety and reliability.

The flip side is that there are far too few people who are professional communicators. We need these professionals in our industry as well as to improve our ability to connect with our audience.

An analogy that I often hear in the nuclear industry is that we aren’t building 1970s reactors anymore. Why do we still want to communicate like it’s the 1970s?

Communications 101

First, we need to define our audience. In my personal opinion, we have two major audiences for our message, but they’re very closely linked—the general public and politicians. They’re linked because politicians can move forward on new nuclear build without public support, while the public won’t demand new nuclear from politicians without knowledge of the industry.

Next is our message. As an industry, the question is do we have a clear, concise message that we all believe in? If we do, then I’ve never heard it. We desperately need to develop that message, but we have to develop that message with our audience in mind. It has to connect to them and satisfy their “what’s in it for me” desire. We won’t get it right the first time out and that’s okay. We need to experiment, learn from other industries, and have some trial and error. This process will improve our connection to the audience.

Finally, after we know our audience and our message, we now need to define the ways that the audience wants us to relay that message to them. That could be social media, blogs, videos, infographics, radio, TV, a combination of some, or all of the above. Again we need to experiment and constantly review the impact that each method has had in reaching the audience.

Our current society has had an explosion in the amount and variety of ways that we are communicating with one another. We “talk” to one another over email, we text, we participate in online groups in Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn, we tweet each other, we watch videos on YouTube, and sometimes we use Skype to have a conversation “face to face”.

Changing how we communicate

Taking the 101 and mapping it out, we see the components of communication. The most common problem on the sender side of the message is that what they want to say and what they end up saying is often very complex and often not even totally clear to themselves. The message of the industry is filled with technical information, acronyms, and the science of nuclear. Will our desired audience understand the message? Are we delivering the message using words they understand and in a format that they want?

On the receiver side, if the message is complex, they don’t understand it. The reader, listener, viewer immediately wants to know “what’s in it for them.” If there isn’t that connection, then they shut down. This may even include the words the sender has chosen to use in their message (i.e., how many of you non-industry friends know what LFTR or LWR or IMSR stands for?). If they don’t understand the message or it’s too complex, they most often simply reject it. If we aren’t speaking their language, and presenting ourselves in a way that makes “sense and cents” to the audience, they simply aren’t interested.

How we can change

We have to connect our good news stories into the current zeitgeist, and that’s going to mean some strange bedfellows. The documentary Pandora’s Promise really kicked off one of those new strange partnerships linking environmentalists with the nuclear industry. Now before the comment field explodes, I’m not advocating the film, climate change, global warming, or anything else that seems to really upset people in the nuclear industry.

What I am saying though is, this film opened the eyes of a lot of people who have historically been against the nuclear industry. We’ve done nothing to follow up on that opportunity.

How can we be better?

  1. Acknowledge we have a problem—I think intuitively we all know that there are issues connecting all the positive aspects of nuclear with the general public. They believe the myths about the industry much more readily than the truth.
  2. Make a change—We don’t have to continue to communicate the way we always have. We need a new style, message, and method to make the impact that we all want to continue to move nuclear forward in the United States and Canada and not just something the rest of the world is doing.
  3. Review—When we do make a change, we are not going to get it perfect the first time. We’ll experiment and review how our messages have done informing, engaging, and entertaining the audience.

I welcome your comments and feedback and I hope we all work together to change how we communicate about the nuclear industry.

 

Robert RockRobert Rock is President of Nuclear Edge, a digital and communications company that specializes in the nuclear industry. He is also President of Environmentalists for Nuclear, Canada and is on the Board of Directors for Environmentalists for Nuclear US, US Nuclear Energy Foundation, and the Durham Strategic Energy Alliance. Robert has worked to get the positive message of nuclear energy out to the public in a variety of means, including strategy development, content creation, advertising, and more. Robert has been a radio host since the age of 18, and has appeared on or hosted many TV shows. His own TV show is “Social Media Learning,” and he’s the resident expert on Digital Media on Rogers Daytime.

Business focused approach to molten salt reactors

by Rod Adams

I’ve been listening to an evangelical group of molten salt reactor enthusiasts for several years. Their pitch is attractive and they often make good arguments about the value of rethinking the light water reactor technology model, but most of the participants are unrealistic about the economic, material, technical, and regulatory barriers that their concepts must overcome before they can serve market needs.

Recently, I recognized that there are some companies interested in molten salt reactors that have a better-than-expected chance of success. They are led by hard-nosed, experienced businessmen with a balance between entrepreneurial optimism, a firm grasp of commercial technology requirements, and sound financial strategies.

One example is Terrestrial Energy, Inc. (TEI), a start-up company founded in 2013 and headquartered in Ontario, Canada. The officers and board of directors have the kind of heft and broad industry experience that reassures investors.

David LeBlanc, the chief technology officer and inventor of the firm’s basic technology, understands the need to take measured steps that take advantage of new ideas while using as much existing supply infrastructure as possible.

One of the key attractions of molten salt reactors over traditional water-cooled reactors is the ability to operate the radioactive portions of the system at atmospheric pressure. The fissionable material is dissolved in a chemical salt that has a boiling point in the range of 1400 ºC, so it operates as an atmospheric pressure liquid with a substantial margin at an operating temperature that can provide steam temperatures of 550–600 ºC.

In contrast to reactors where the fuel is composed of solid oxide pellets sealed into corrosion resistant cladding, molten salt reactors can be designed to allow fission product poisons to migrate out of the areas of high neutron flux, thus allowing a large portion of the neutrons to convert fertile materials into fissile isotopes to improve fuel economy.

The liquid fuel form allows a substantially higher burnup before reaching a condition where the core can no longer be used to produce heat; fuel pin swelling and cladding pressure are no longer operational concerns.

The integral molten salt reactor (IMSR) that LeBlanc has developed includes several key features that set it apart from some of the fanciful reactors that enthusiasts promise will extract 50–200 times more energy per unit mass of fuel using thorium “superfuel” than is possible using the conventional light water reactor fuel cycle.

One key feature is that the TEI’s IMSR uses low enriched uranium. Here is the logical explanation for that choice, quoted from TEI’s web site:

Other MSR development programs, including the extensive original U.S. program from the 1950s to 1970s, are generally focused on two key objectives: i) to use thorium-based fuels, and; ii) to “breed” fuel in an MSR-Breeder reactor.

Terrestrial Energy intentionally avoids these two objectives, and their additional technical and regulatory complexities, for the following reasons. Thorium is not currently licensed as a fuel. Liquid thorium fuels are the nuclear fuel equivalent of wet wood. Wet wood cannot be lit with a match; it requires a large torch. That large torch must come in the form of, for example, highly enriched uranium (HEU). Such a torch has no regulatory precedent in civilian nuclear power.

Furthermore, the use of proposed thorium fuel with HEU additive leads to valid criticisms of the proposed reactor’s proliferation and commercial credentials. The thorium fuel cycle would require its own involved regulatory process to become licensed for use on a wide commercial basis. The liquid uranium fuel of an IMSR can be lit easily, it is dry tinder.

Another key design decision was based on LeBlanc’s desire to avoid the complications of repairing systems or components that have been contaminated by direct exposure to molten fuel salts. The reactor, primary salt pumps, and primary heat exchangers are sealed into a single tank. There are redundant components inside the sealed boundary; replacement vice repair is the planned strategy.

Each reactor is designed to last for seven years of full power operation, but the reactor container has little in common with the thick-walled pressure vessels common in water-cooled reactors. The IMSR core is more like a single use, replaceable fuel cartridge that is inserted into a designed, shielded cavity in the power plant. There will be an empty cavity during initial startup, and after the initial core has completed its cycle, a replacement core unit is placed in the adjacent cavity. Secondary coolant lines and power production are then switched over to the new unit. The original unit thus has seven years of cooling before being moved to long-term storage to make way for a third core unit.

Refueling operations will be similar to those currently conducted. Instead of lifting individual fuel bundles, the whole core will be removed as a single unit. Instead of putting used fuel into deep pools of water, the sealed core units will be placed into shielded, cooled cavities.

As a consequence of the molten salt core, the same basic design can be arranged to produce a variety of power levels without redesigning the fuel or changing the fuel manufacturing tooling. The initially planned product lineup will include three reactor sizes scaled to produce between 29 and 290 MWe.

Steam conditions available from using a higher temperature reactor enable the use of compact, efficient superheated steam turbines instead of the larger saturated steam turbines more common in nuclear applications.

TEI investigated several possible headquarters alternatives and then selected Ontario, Canada, as having the best combination of available expertise, a sound manufacturing infrastructure, and a well-qualified nuclear regulator that uses a performance-based licensing system offering a quicker approval path for an innovative design than is available in the United States.

TEI has successfully passed through two phases of development and capital raising. Its second round of funding was significantly over-subscribed, attesting to the high level of interest in the technology and the recognized competence of the company’s management.

There is every reason to be skeptical about the chances for success for any new nuclear technology. Many readers here have heard dozens of stories before and often refer gushing salespeople to Rickover’s document on paper reactors versus real reactors. LeBlanc and his team appear to have done at least as much homework before becoming as actively public as Rickover and his team; their innovations seem well-informed, realistic, and well-timed.

It’s taken me several meetings and a good bit of additional reading about both the company and the technology before I reached the stage at which I was willing to share its story with a moderate endorsement. I’m now confident that there is no risk to my reputation from saying that Terrestrial Energy, Inc. is a company with an intriguing plan that is worth a look and a listen.


A version of the above article first appeared in the September 11, 2014, issue of Fuel Cycle Week. It is republished here with permission.

Rod Adams is a nuclear advocate with extensive small nuclear plant operating experience. Adams is a former engineer officer, USS Von Steuben. He is the host and producer of The Atomic Show Podcast. Adams has been an ANS member since 2005. He writes about nuclear technology at his own blog, Atomic Insights.

Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 228

ferris wheel 202x201The 228th Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers and Authors has been posted at Yes Vermont Yankee.

Click here to access Carnival 228.

Each week, a new edition of the Carnival is hosted at one of the top English-language nuclear blogs. This rotating feature of nuclear “posts of the week” represents the dedication of those who are working toward a future of energy abundance, improved health, and broadened security through nuclear science and technology.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Hiroshima Syndrome, Things Worse Than Nuclear Power, EntrepreNuke, Thorium MSR and Deregulate the Atom.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support.  If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation

Seven Decades Past, A New Dawn

by Will Davis

Shortly before midnight on September 26, 1944, a sustained chain reaction was begun for the first time in a nuclear reactor whose purpose was not merely to prove that fission could be achieved or sustained. The brand new reactor at Hanford Engineer Works, Washington state, had only been complete for about a month; its first uranium fuel had begun loading only on September 13. Incredibly, this facility, of a nature that had never been attempted before (as man had only been aware of fission, itself, for less than a decade) was built in the incredible time span of 11 months; ground had been broken to build the reactor building in October 1943.

 

Construction begins on the Hanford 105B building -- the "B Reactor," first ever built.  The contractor was E.I. duPont de Nemours, usually just known as "DuPont."

Construction begins on the Hanford 105B building — the “B Reactor,” first ever built. The contractor was E.I. duPont de Nemours, usually just known as “DuPont.”

 

Hanford B reactor construction is well underway in this view; the plant's various designated spaces are now beginning to take shape.

Hanford B reactor construction is well underway in this view; the plant’s various designated spaces are now beginning to take shape.

 

With building construction nearly complete, workers have begun constructing the giant graphite moderator.  Thousands of bricks, eventually totalling 2200 tons, will be installed to slow neutrons to the energies required to interact with uranium fuel.

With building construction nearly complete, workers have begun constructing the giant graphite moderator. Thousands of bricks, eventually totalling 2200 tons, will be installed to slow neutrons to the energies required to interact with uranium fuel.

 

The completed 105B Building, otherwise known as B Reactor, the world's first full scale non-experimental nuclear reactor.

The completed 105B Building, otherwise known as B Reactor, the world’s first full scale non-experimental nuclear reactor.

The purpose of this reactor was fairly simple; it used a large number of uranium fuel elements that, under bombardment by neutrons from the chain reaction, produced plutonium. This plutonium could be extracted from the fuel through a chemical separation process, also performed at the vast Hanford site, and then concentrated to make atomic weapons. That was, in fact the purpose of this facility—under the purview of the Manhattan Project. The reactor developed a great deal of heat during this process (the original design as built was rated at about 240 megawatts thermal or MWt, but the reactor was substantially upgraded over the years to develop 10 times this) and it was of course natural to expect that this heat could be harnessed for power. At Hanford, the waste heat was simply dumped to the river, but the first nuclear electric generating stations in England and in France were of essentially this type—reactors whose primary purpose was to produce weapons material, but whose waste heat was harnessed to produce useful energy.

Cutaway of Hanford B Reactor building showing purpose of internal spaces and location of reactor.

Cutaway of Hanford B Reactor building, showing purpose of internal spaces and location of reactor.

Of course, the reactor did not exist in a vacuum; not only were many various support facilities required (including a steam plant and pump house to provide 35,000 gallons of cooling water per minute for the reactor), but there were other reactors of identical type under construction very soon, spread around the giant reservation along the Columbia River.

Hanford B Reactor site, showing various structures around the reactor building which is just right of center.

Hanford B Reactor site, showing various structures around the reactor building which is just right of center.

Today, B Reactor remains unique at the site. While a number of other reactors were built, operated, and eventually shut down (as was B on February 12, 1968, for the last time) over the intervening years, these have been “cocooned” or placed in storage. B Reactor on the other hand is preserved (although long since defueled and cleaned up) and is open for tours; the site has received numerous landmark awards (including from the American Nuclear Society) and is recognized today for the place it played in history in many ways.

It’s quite clear that when the sun rose on September 27, 1944, it did so on a world that had changed—a world that could never turn back. While the immediate result of this project was nuclear weapons, nuclear energy had already been considered (since 1939, in fact, by the US Navy) and both might be thought of as having been born the night before. As the world today pulls back from nuclear weaponry, it finds itself advancing in energy demand, with nuclear playing a role now even into developing countries in Africa as well as established and prosperous countries in the Middle East. The immensity of the achievements of September 1944 cannot be underestimated.

Hanford B Reactor

For More Information:

B Reactor – Dep’t. of Energy / Hanford Site

B reactor is located in the 100 Area at Hanford Site.

DOE Hanford has its own YouTube channel, with dozens of videos showing work and remediation all over the site; some feature B reactor.

Sources for this article:

The Atomic Energy Deskbook.  John F. Hogerton;  Reinhold Publishing Company, New York, 1963.

Manhattan Project – B Reactor.  Brochure, US Dep’t of Energy, 2009.

History of 100B Area.  WHC-EP-0273  Westinghouse Hanford Company for US Dept. of Energy, October 1989.

Hanford’s Historic B Reactor.  HNF-40918-VA Rev 0.  Fluor Corporation for US Dept. of Energy, March 2009.

SavannahWillinControlRoomWill Davis is the Communications Director for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. where he also serves as historian, newsletter editor and member of the board of directors. Davis has recently been engaged by the Global America Business Institute as a consultant.  He is also a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society; an active ANS member, he is serving on the ANS Communications Committee 2013–2016. In addition, he is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.  Davis is temporarily managing all social media for the American Nuclear Society.

Presenting Atucha III

Atucha I and II at right; artist's concept of Atucha III at left.  Courtesy Nucleoelectrica Argentina S.A.

Atucha I and II at right; artist’s concept of Atucha III at left. RIght-most unit is Atucha I. Courtesy Nucleoelectrica Argentina S.A.

by Will Davis

Nucleoelectrica Argentina S.A. announced in July that it had entered into a contract with China National Nuclear Corporation to build a Chinese–sourced version of the traditional Canadian CANDU reactor at its Atucha site. This 800-MWe plant will be the fourth at the site (already occupied by two Siemens pressurized heavy water reactor plants, and the just-begun CAREM Small Modular Reactor plant) and the nation’s fifth nuclear plant overall (adding in the CANDU plant at Embalse.) This new unit will be Argentina’s most powerful nuclear unit, topping Embalse by 200 MWe.

Just yesterday, Nucleoelectrica Argentina released a video (subtitled in English and Chinese) showing the location and construction of this new nuclear plant—a plant that not only marks a step forward for Argentina, but in the bigger picture a step forward for China’s desired goal of widely exporting nuclear power plants.

Click here to see the video on Nucleoelectrica Argentina’s YouTube channel.

Nucleoelectrica Argentina S.A. image of Atucha III, a CNNC / CANDU plant, under construction.

Nucleoelectrica Argentina S.A. image of Atucha III, a CNNC/CANDU plant, under construction.

Atucha III’s construction is expected to last eight years, and is a joint project between Nucleoelectrica Argentina, China National Nuclear Corporation, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Nucleoelectrica Argentina will act as both owner-operator and architect-engineer, with CNNC providing “technical support, services, equipment and instrumentation” as well as materials that will ultimately be fabricated into parts in Argentina. The reference plant for the Atucha III design is the Qinshan CANDU-6.

In March of this year, Nucleoelectrica Argentina proudly announced the 40th anniversary of Atucha I, which it describes as “the first nuclear electric generating plant in Latin America.” The company expects to build yet another, still unspecified large commercial unit at the same site in the future, according to World Nuclear Association.

For More InformationClick here to see World Nuclear Association’s paper on Argentina’s nuclear energy program.

 

SavannahWillinControlRoomWill Davis is the Communications Director for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. where he also serves as historian, newsletter editor and member of the board of directors. Davis has recently been engaged by the Global America Business Institute as a consultant.  He is also a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society; an active ANS member, he is serving on the ANS Communications Committee 2013–2016. In addition, he is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.  Davis is temporarily managing all social media for the American Nuclear Society.

Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 227

ferris wheel 202x201The 227th Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers and Authors has been published at The Hiroshima Syndrome.

•Click here to access this week’s edition.

Each week, a new edition of the Carnival is hosted at one of the top English-language nuclear blogs. This rotating feature of nuclear “posts of the week” represents the dedication of those who are working toward a future of energy abundance, improved health, and broadened security through nuclear science and technology.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Hiroshima Syndrome, Things Worse Than Nuclear Power, EntrepreNuke, Thorium MSR and Deregulate the Atom.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support.  If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation

Another Nuclear Design Approved by the NRC

• This week the GE-Hitachi ESBWR design received its Design Certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

• “Design Certification” is a step in the licensing process for new nuclear power plants that allows a basic design for a nuclear plant to simply be referenced in the actual licensing process for a site, theoretically speeding the process.

ESBWR - Illustration courtesy GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy

ESBWR – Illustration courtesy GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy

by Will Davis

Earlier this week, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted design certification to General Electric’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor nuclear plant design, ending a years-long effort by GE to get design certification (called a DCA) and potentially paving the way to further new nuclear builds in the United States.

Dr. Solomon Levy mentions in his book “50 Years in Nuclear Power: A Retrospective” (American Nuclear Society, 2007) that the SBWR or “Simplified Boiling Water Reactor,” the predecessor design to the just-certified ESBWR, was begun as a design effort in the 1980s along with several other advanced nuclear plant designs. At that time, design was beginning to shift to passive safety features—those that take effect without operator action, which are included in the new design.

American Nuclear Society Treasurer Margaret Harding was with GE in various capacities for many years, and is familiar with BWR series development; she served as Fuel Engineering Leader for the ESBWR project. “The SBWR was a fully natural circulation reactor (meaning there are no pumps to move water through the core), was simpler, and thus less expensive than the forced recirculation designs that came before it such as the BWR/6 and ABWR,” she said. “The SBWR design eventually evolved into the ESBWR, which is even more simplified and has a number of both passive and active safety features.”

Harding said that there was a major push to reduce equipment and piping overall, leading to the decision to use natural circulation (the tendency of hot water to rise over cold water), but this led to the design of a wider, flatter reactor core that will require a slightly higher uranium enrichment than forced circulation BWR reactors and that may be slightly less economical from a fuel consumption standpoint. “But because fuel is such a small percent of your operating costs, that disadvantage isn’t huge,” she added.

Natural circulation BWR plants aren’t new; the Elk River Reactor, built by Allis-Chalmers (originally ACF) for Rural Cooperative Power Association in Minnesota in the late 1950s, was a natural circulation boiling water power reactor. Early problems with recirculation piping in various makes of boiling water reactors were another factor that led to the determined effort over the years to either move the recirculation pumps inside the reactor vessel and eliminate external piping (GE BWR/6, various ASEA–ATOM BWRs and the Hitachi–GE HP-ABWR) or else eliminate them entirely as in the ESBWR.

Of course, ESBWR is fully a GEN III+ plant (light water reactor with advanced safety features) in every sense of the term, with both fully passive and active core cooling features, a core catcher, a new containment, and more. GE-Hitachi has combined proven features from operating experience with a half century of boiling water reactors with advanced features in this design, which also interestingly is near the high end of available outputs with an electrical rating of 1600 MWe gross. The plant is available with either an 1800 RPM turbine generator for utilities that provide 60 Hz power, or a 1500 RPM unit for those that provide 50 Hz.

As of now, only two projects in the United States that have specified the ESBWR are active—namely, DTE Energy’s plan for a new Fermi-3 unit, and Dominion’s plan for a new North Anna Unit 3. DTE submitted to the NRC for a Combined License Application (COL) in September 2008, while Dominion submitted its COL in November 2007. Neither project presently has a planned date of completion for NRC review/issuance of the COL, however. In the case of North Anna-3, much of the delay centers on the fact that while Dominion initially selected the ESBWR, it switched reactor designs from 2010 to 2013 to the Mitsubishi US–APWR and then reverted to the ESBWR.

What’s next? Well, the next design to be certified in the United States might well be the South Korean APR1400. While the review process for this design was thrown back to Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in December 2013 and remains officially at the “pre-application” status, a recent announcement by Korea Electric Power Company Engineering & Construction (which designs and builds Korean nuclear plants) reveals a sweeping inter-corporate contract among the major players in the South Korean nuclear industry to restart the push for US NRC design certification with actual application made by the end of 2014.

GE-Hitachi's ESBWR displays a number of highly advanced features, including a new containment, passive core cooling, and a core catcher.

GE-Hitachi’s ESBWR displays a number of highly advanced features, including a new containment, passive core cooling, and a core catcher.

For more information:

• GE-Hitachi has a great deal of information available to the public on its website. Click here to access their ESBWR page that includes specifications, illustrations, and very detailed downloadable documents.

See the GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy press release.

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SavannahWillinControlRoomWill Davis is the Communications Director for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. where he also serves as historian, newsletter editor and member of the board of directors. Davis has recently been engaged by the Global America Business Institute as a consultant.  He is also a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society; an active ANS member, he is serving on the ANS Communications Committee 2013–2016. In addition, he is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.  Davis is temporarily managing all social media for the American Nuclear Society.