Inside the U.S. government project to create tiny nuclear reactors like batteries

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Fascinating. But like every other "breakthrough" green energy source, there is no mention of when these might actually be produced and become practical. There is also no mention of any downsides. Is there radioactive waste? If so, what do you do with it? Cost?

I would love to see this work, for sure. And if they do, then you could cluster them for smaller towns or small cities.
 
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But can it throttle up and down to meet daily needs? Article doesn't say yes.
 
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This looks like a BWR design. One way is to always run the reactor near full power for stability, but waste steam around the turbine when full electrical output isn't needed.

A 5 year refueling is way too short. Ideally this would be fuel once then dispose (which with our present waste system means abandon) at the end of useful life.
 

OVERKILL

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This is quite similar to the USNC/GFP MMR project currently in the works at Chalk River here in Ontario. It is being funded by OPG, so it has money behind it. It's basically a "shipping container" design and the nuclear side, which can be swapped-out, is expected to run for ~20 years on a single fuel load (similar to marine reactors):

First operating example at Chalk River is expected by 2026.
 
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I think there is a future for this kind of energy source. The Navy has been doing it with their nuclear powered ships for decades.
 

OVERKILL

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I think there is a future for this kind of energy source. The Navy has been doing it with their nuclear powered ships for decades.
That's the inspiration for sure. Rosatom was doing really well with their nuclear barge and SMR program before the Ukraine situation. They already have two SMR's, on a barge, powering a remote Siberian community, as well as providing district heating.
 

OVERKILL

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Recently read where the Chinese have created a method of turning radioactive waste back into useable fuel, so there's that hope at least.
I think they called it some kind of cannon. If I find the article I'll link it here.

https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/20...eam-cannon-nuclear-power-breakthrough/368082/

Found it.
There are several methods that are already employed, or can be employed, that can do this.
- France uses a chemical process called PUREX to reprocess SNF (this only works with enriched fuel)
- The Russians use a breeder reactor to consume SNF. This is something that other nations like France and the US have pursued as well, but don't currently employ.
- HWR reactors like the CANDU have several SNF fuel cycles like DUPIC and MOX.

Nuclear fuel is a million times more energy dense than fossil fuels. However, using traditional fission, we only extract a small percentage of that energy, which is why, in application, that density is ~20,000 times. Further utilization has been of interest since fission was first discovered, but it has never been very cost effective, which is why many solutions, that work, have been mostly abandoned.

Ideally, the goal of some of the novel designs/methods is to reduce the radioactivity to downgrade the storage requirements. One of the designs I've brought-up previously, the Moltex SSR, is designed to do that with CANDU SNF. Whether that is successful? All we can do is wait and see.
 

MolaKule

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From the article:

"...Nuclear is a baseload energy source, meaning it can provide energy when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, serving as a backstop for the intermittency of renewables..."
 
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There's a new smaller "modular" reactor in the works for at the Hanford nuclear reservation called the Xe-100. The first demonstrator module is supposed to be online by 2028. I think each module is supposed to provide 80 megawatts and is designed to be build in a package of 4 modules. The "brochure" site makes the system seem pretty safe. It's a pebble bed design where in the event of an runaway, the bottom of the vessel melts and the fuel pebbles fall into a much larger container and are spread out enough that fission can't be sustained. No fancy pumps or complicated cooling systems are required for containment. And since all of the fissile material is encapsulated, its supposed to be way easier to handle.


There are a couple other high tech demonstration reactors in the works in the US. One is in Wyoming which is a molten salt type reactor and another in Idaho which I haven't read about.
 

OVERKILL

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From the article:

"...Nuclear is a baseload energy source, meaning it can provide energy when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, serving as a backstop for the intermittency of renewables..."
Yes, that's the pitch, the industry is trying to push the "pairing with renewables" angle. Problem is of course that if you have a nuke and storage, the renewables (particularly wind) are pretty redundant. Solar could aide in reducing peaking, but with the design being discussed, the unit should be able to cover all the load.
 

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