Mini-nukes, the future of distributed power?

Status
Not open for further replies.

OVERKILL

$100 Site Donor 2021
Joined
Apr 28, 2008
Messages
48,060
Location
Ontario, Canada
Just saw this Reuters article: pint-sized Nuclear plants Which gave me a bit of a chuckle, as I was recently thinking about the feasibility of a pressure-cooker sized CANDU due to the obscene power prices in Ontario. The article got me thinking about the issues regarding current sites in large countries like the US and Canada where often we are running transmission lines obscene distances due to the location of the facilities. Local generation options are often limited by geography (we have 5x hydro electric dams but of course that's not an option everywhere) and sometimes importing power from elsewhere is the only real option for base-load. These "mini nukes" could be, as the article details, transported in parts via rail or truck, and would be modular and standardized. This drives down the cost and of course this, in conjunction with their size, drives down the time to the site going live. Coupled with a distributed fuel reprocessing model, breeders, or some distributed flex-fuel CANDU's and you could have distributed generation with very little total waste and a great amount of generation, which would be good for the price of electricity relative to the electrification of the automotive world and for driving electric transit and the like.
Originally Posted By: Reuters
A range of mini-nuclear power plants could help solve Britain's looming power crunch, rather than the $24 billion Hinkley project snarled up in delays, companies developing the technology say. So-called small modular reactors (SMRs) use existing or new nuclear technology scaled down to a fraction of the size of larger plants and would be able to produce around a tenth of the electricity created by large-scale projects, such as Hinkley. The mini plants, still under development, would be made in factories, with parts small enough to be transported on trucks and barges to sites where they could be assembled in around six to 12 months, up to a tenth of the time it takes to build some larger plants. "The real promise of SMRs is their modularisation. You can assemble them in a factory with an explicable design meaning consistent standards and predicable costs and delivery timescale," said Anurag Gupta, director and global lead for power infrastructure at consultancy KPMG. In a nuclear power plant, heat is created when uranium atoms split. Different reactor designs use this heat in different ways to raise the temperature of water and create steam, which then powers turbines to produce electricity. Manufacturing advancements mean SMR developers are only a few years from being able to replicate this technology on a smaller scale, and plants could be ready for deployment by the mid-2020s. "From a technical perspective there is no reason why you wouldn't be able to make a smaller version of an already commercially viable nuclear technology such as PWR (pressurised water reactor)," Mike Tynan, director of Britain's Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC), said. There are already more than 100 nuclear plants using PWR technology in operation across the globe. NuScale, majority owned by U.S. Fluor Corp, is developing 50 megawatt (MW) SMRs using PWRs which could be deployed at a site hosting up to 12 units generating a total of 600 MW. The 50 MW units would be 65 feet (20 metres) tall, roughly the length of two busses, and nine feet in diameter. Rolls-Royce, which already makes components for PWR nuclear submarines, is part of a consortium developing a 220 MW SMR unit which could be doubled for a larger-scale project. Rolls-Royce Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stein said the first 440 MW power plant would cost around 1.75 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) but costs would likely fall once production is ramped up. "One of the advantages of the SMRs is that they cost a lot less (than large nuclear plants), and it is an easier case to present to private investors," Stein said.
Regarding the size, our local solar field is 200 acres and has a nameplate capacity of 10MW. 50MW in something the size of a school bus is absolutely incredible in comparison. At $5,230,000 per MW (based on the 440MW example above) it actually compares quite favourably, as the solar field cost us $4,500,000 per MW in comparison and the uptime of the nuke is several times higher than the solar field. Per KWh per year, the nuke would wind by a landslide, you get far, FAR more for your dollar.
Originally Posted By: Reuters
Critics, however, say there is no guarantee that SMR developers will be able to cut costs enough to make the plants viable. "SMR vendors say factory production will save a lot of money, but it will take a long time and a lot of units to achieve what they are calling economies of mass production," said Edwin Lyman, nuclear expert at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). "Factory manufacture is not a panacea. Just because you are manufacturing in a factory, it doesn't mean you are certain to solve problems of cost overruns," he said. Costs are a sensitive issue and could have played a part in Britain's decision to review the $24 billion project to build the two new Hinkley Point nuclear reactors led by French utility EDF and Chinese partner China General Nuclear. Almost half of Britain's electricity capacity is expected to close by 2030, as older, large nuclear plants come to the end of their operational lives and coal plants shut as part of the country's efforts to meet its climate goals. The two new reactors at Hinkley Point are supposed to provide around 7 percent of Britain's electricity, helping to fill that supply gap. Nuclear developers are confident SMRs could be up and running by the late 2020s, in time to help bridge the looming electricity supply shortfall. A study carried out by the National Nuclear Laboratory, a government owned and operated advisory body, said Britain could host up to 7 gigawatts (GW) of SMR capacity by 2035, more than double the capacity of Hinkley. But anti-nuclear green groups such as Greenpeace argue that with advances in renewable technology, such as offshore wind, Britain may not need any new nuclear plants. This week Britain approved Dong Energy's plans to expand an offshore wind farm project that could ultimately span an area of the North Sea more than twice the size of London and produce up to 4 GW of electricity, more than Hinkley Point. Nuclear power defenders say the intermittent nature of renewable electricity production and lack of grid-scale storage mean nuclear plants are needed to ensure continuous supply of power if the country is to meet its emission reduction targets. "Working alongside renewables, nuclear provides the reliable low carbon energy required to balance variable wind and solar generation," said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association.
And this covers a lot of what we have discussed on here regarding intermittency and baseload.
 
Joined
Sep 23, 2015
Messages
4,398
Location
Connecticut
If you start placing these in smaller cities the licensing and certification of plant/operators would get to be quite a mess. Then you have all these 50 mw radioactive sources that have to be routinely inspected/approved by the NRC, EPA, etc. Emergency plans for every area have to created. It's not so difficult if these mini-nukes are kept at current licensed sites and replace older units. But as far as having one in my neighborhood, not likely. 50 MW should be able to handle the electrical needs of a town with 50,000 people. What is the cooling medium on these mini-reactors? What are the odds of a melt-down due to equipment failure and/or operator error? Many of the current US nukes use nearby ocean or river water for cooling. If one 1,000 MW nuke plant is a handful to regulate and operate, how do 20 replacement 50 MW units get any easier?
 

OVERKILL

$100 Site Donor 2021
Thread starter
Joined
Apr 28, 2008
Messages
48,060
Location
Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: 69GTX
If you start placing these in smaller cities the licensing and certification of plant/operators would get to be quite a mess. Then you have all these 50 mw radioactive sources that have to be routinely inspected/approved by the NRC, EPA, etc. Emergency plans for every area have to created. It's not so difficult if these mini-nukes are kept at current licensed sites and replace older units. But as far as having one in my neighborhood, not likely. 50 MW should be able to handle the electrical needs of a town with 50,000 people. What is the cooling medium on these mini-reactors? What are the odds of a melt-down due to equipment failure and/or operator error? Many of the current US nukes use nearby ocean or river water for cooling. If one 1,000 MW nuke plant is a handful to regulate and operate, how do 20 replacement 50 MW units get any easier?
I always get a chuckle about the size of the US plants now, as many of them are so small compared to the Ontario ones. Our largest plant is the biggest in the world at over 7,000MW. Darlington, our smallest, is over 3,700MW. A little OT, but I recall discussing the closure of one of the US plants and then upon looking it up, realized it had a single reactor and was under 700MW. Surprised the socks off of me, as I didn't realize those kinds of deployments existed until that point. Back on topic: you bring up some really good points. I think with respect to the inspections and the like, that the standardization of the facilities themselves would streamline this somewhat. Cooling, I would expect water, like current sites. This makes them non-viable for desert locations but great for anywhere with a decent sized lake or ocean access. I would assume that safety and meltdown mitigation would be a big part of the design process like it is for standard reactors. I would expect this would see just as much scrutiny as part of the design process as it does with current large models. The EPA already inspects current generators, be they gas, coal, nukes.....etc, so at least by having a standardized model you'd help make that inspection easier. With respect to living near a nuke, I'm within 50Km of our 4-reactor unit (Darlington), and not much further from our oldest, which is Pickering (it has eight, two are shuttered, so six functional). It has never bothered me for a second. They are cooled via lake Ontario and Darlington recently got an award for safety and being one of the best in the world. I'd recently thought that with Pickering being shuttered (non-viable for a refurb) that deploying a few 700MW flex-fuel CANDU's at the Darlington site to burn the waste left over from Pickering makes a ton of sense. Burn through the waste from that site, then start working on the waste from Darlington and Bruce shrug There are a lot of options with nuclear power. A lot of things we currently aren't doing that we could be doing to minimize their footprint and waste.
 
Joined
Jan 30, 2007
Messages
17,501
Location
Clovis, CA
Quote:
Mini-nukes, the future of distributed power electricity?
That's how you should've worded it. As it is now, the red flags are up all over the place. smile
 

OVERKILL

$100 Site Donor 2021
Thread starter
Joined
Apr 28, 2008
Messages
48,060
Location
Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: Al
You will never see it with the regs what they are.
The same regs that are preventing fuel reprocessing I imagine .A pretty sad state of affairs IMHO.
 
Joined
Aug 11, 2005
Messages
7,533
Location
Leamington, ON, CA - between Detroit and Cleveland
I remember reading decades ago when I was in the electronics repair business where Toshiba had a proposal for a nuclear generator to power a single family home. Looked like a central air compressor unit sitting outside the house. That was back in the time when Ontario electricity rates were "sane" - why bother with your own generator. My BIL has 2 wind turbines on his farmland. Royalties pay for 2 worldwide vacations a year (@ $14k per)
 
Joined
Aug 24, 2011
Messages
9,558
Location
Boston, MA
Originally Posted By: eljefino
The Russians powered remote lighthouses with mini-nukes. wink
They were straight thermal converters using decaying isotopes.
 

OVERKILL

$100 Site Donor 2021
Thread starter
Joined
Apr 28, 2008
Messages
48,060
Location
Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: HerrStig
The French ahve been using the small plant approach for a long time.
And they house the reprocessing facility that handles all the fuel in Europe. They are probably the world's largest champion of nuclear power with >80% of their power coming from nukes.
 
Joined
Jan 17, 2003
Messages
3,463
Location
Coastal South Carolina
combine americans desire to fix it themselves (or learn how on a tube video) together with their dislike of any government inspection of anything they own, I hope mini nucs are a long time off
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Messages
4,836
Location
Central Texas
Indeed. Studied the feasibility of this 33 yrs ago when taking engineering energy policy. Locally owned remote nuclear power plants. Everyone had a chicken egg sized core to obtain all of their energy & heat. About 3 12-gauge shot shells. We examined nuclear power inside & out, compared the US to Canadians, French, Germany, Japan. How their policy was different than ours. They reprocessed. Used heavy water. Removed all the fear associated with it. What a shame 33 years later the USA is in the dark ages, STILL no national energy policy! With the devolution of our society, we're much too stupid for anything else...... Canada
 

OVERKILL

$100 Site Donor 2021
Thread starter
Joined
Apr 28, 2008
Messages
48,060
Location
Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: edwardh1
combine americans desire to fix it themselves (or learn how on a tube video) together with their dislike of any government inspection of anything they own, I hope mini nucs are a long time off
LOL! These would be more municipal than personal smile
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Joined
Dec 14, 2002
Messages
46,994
Location
New Jersey
Originally Posted By: OVERKILL
Regarding the size, our local solar field is 200 acres and has a nameplate capacity of 10MW. 50MW in something the size of a school bus is absolutely incredible in comparison. At $5,230,000 per MW (based on the 440MW example above) it actually compares quite favourably, as the solar field cost us $4,500,000 per MW in comparison and the uptime of the nuke is several times higher than the solar field. Per KWh per year, the nuke would wind by a landslide, you get far, FAR more for your dollar.
Look at the sizes of current SOA gas turbines like the Rolls MT-30, GE LM2500 G4+ and LM6000, and you'll quickly see why these size claims are dubious. Steam cycles are different, but the footprint of the balance of plant and containment is going to make these change drastically in size. The technologists that push their stuff always bound without the whole story. Wrong, wrong, wrong way for them to define their wares. I deal with this all the time...
Originally Posted By: OVERKILL
Originally Posted By: reuters
Nuclear power defenders say the intermittent nature of renewable electricity production and lack of grid-scale storage mean nuclear plants are needed to ensure continuous supply of power if the country is to meet its emission reduction targets. "Working alongside renewables, nuclear provides the reliable low carbon energy required to balance variable wind and solar generation," said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association.
And this covers a lot of what we have discussed on here regarding intermitancy and baseload.
The dynamics of these will surely be better than a many GW plant, but the ramp up will still likely be at the single digit MVA/s rate if they're directly coupled on the 60Hz grid. Not sure I'm buying that but time will tell.
 

OVERKILL

$100 Site Donor 2021
Thread starter
Joined
Apr 28, 2008
Messages
48,060
Location
Ontario, Canada
Originally Posted By: JHZR2
Originally Posted By: OVERKILL
Regarding the size, our local solar field is 200 acres and has a nameplate capacity of 10MW. 50MW in something the size of a school bus is absolutely incredible in comparison. At $5,230,000 per MW (based on the 440MW example above) it actually compares quite favourably, as the solar field cost us $4,500,000 per MW in comparison and the uptime of the nuke is several times higher than the solar field. Per KWh per year, the nuke would wind by a landslide, you get far, FAR more for your dollar.
Look at the sizes of current SOA gas turbines like the Rolls MT-30, GE LM2500 G4+ and LM6000, and you'll quickly see why these size claims are dubious. Steam cycles are different, but the footprint of the balance of plant and containment is going to make these change drastically in size. The technologists that push their stuff always bound without the whole story. Wrong, wrong, wrong way for them to define their wares. I deal with this all the time...
The same could be said about the nameplate versus actual capacity of wind and solar. A 2.5MW wind turbine does not replace a 2.5MW steam, GT or other turbine due to variability. That's why sizing capacity uses the 20-30% output range when working to replace a traditional turbine with a renewable. The containment I think could be minimized with the transport and reprocessing of fuel rather than trying to store all the used stuff on site. Worth thinking about. Even with all of those considerations including on-site storage, a nuke still takes up MASSIVELY less land than a wind or solar farm a fraction of the capacity. I would imagine GT's have the smallest footprint (which I believe you are alluding to).
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
6,638
Location
South Florida
We can plan for disasters, but we cant plan for ALL disasters. The Japanese never thought a 9.0 earthquake would kick up 125 ft tsunami waves and knock out the backup generators, and the backup - backup generators. There are a lot of far fetched scenarios that could cause disasters. That being said, I am 100% for nuclear power. Its a shame what the US nuclear power system looks like it does. I am also of the opinion that these small plants should be used a LOT more. Like in small Alaskan towns that currently run diesel generators. And on huge ocean going cargo vessels. Can you imagine the impact on carbon emissions and fuel consumption alone if these big ships were nuclear powered? The Russians have nuclear powered ice breakers.
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Joined
Dec 14, 2002
Messages
46,994
Location
New Jersey
Originally Posted By: OVERKILL
Originally Posted By: JHZR2
Originally Posted By: OVERKILL
Regarding the size, our local solar field is 200 acres and has a nameplate capacity of 10MW. 50MW in something the size of a school bus is absolutely incredible in comparison. At $5,230,000 per MW (based on the 440MW example above) it actually compares quite favourably, as the solar field cost us $4,500,000 per MW in comparison and the uptime of the nuke is several times higher than the solar field. Per KWh per year, the nuke would wind by a landslide, you get far, FAR more for your dollar.
Look at the sizes of current SOA gas turbines like the Rolls MT-30, GE LM2500 G4+ and LM6000, and you'll quickly see why these size claims are dubious. Steam cycles are different, but the footprint of the balance of plant and containment is going to make these change drastically in size. The technologists that push their stuff always bound without the whole story. Wrong, wrong, wrong way for them to define their wares. I deal with this all the time...
The same could be said about the nameplate versus actual capacity of wind and solar. A 2.5MW wind turbine does not replace a 2.5MW steam, GT or other turbine due to variability. That's why sizing capacity uses the 20-30% output range when working to replace a traditional turbine with a renewable. The containment I think could be minimized with the transport and reprocessing of fuel rather than trying to store all the used stuff on site. Worth thinking about. Even with all of those considerations including on-site storage, a nuke still takes up MASSIVELY less land than a wind or solar farm a fraction of the capacity. I would imagine GT's have the smallest footprint (which I believe you are alluding to).
Solar/renewables, though in your OP, weren't in my thought process at all. Sure, those things are huge... But the two school bus sizing will ultimately become more like 20 (granted that's still quite small), when things are said and done. As someone who is an active participant in power and energy research, it's highly annoying when people pushing their wares don't tell the whole story. On the other side,,I'm still not sure that the turnip/down speeds of these devices are really fast enough for widespread renewables. But evidence one way or another must still be generated...
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top