About the Newly Approved Nuclear Microreactor

While greens are clamoring for more unreliable wind and solar, nuclear is about to make a big leap forward with the recent Pentagon approval of the first microreactor. Here is a technical summary from the U.S. Office of Nuclear Energy.

Microreactors are factory-built, plug-and-play reactors.

They can be used to power military bases, disaster recovery efforts or remote locations where traditional infrastructure doesn’t exist.

These mini reactors can provide between 1-20 megawatts of thermal energy used directly as heat or converted to electric power.

They fit on the back of a semi-truck and will not require a large number of people to operate them.

Microreactors can integrate seamlessly into distributed grids to complement renewable power and are expected to run continuously for about 10 years without refueling.

Once the core is spent, they can be exchanged for a new one.

Features

Microreactors are not defined by their fuel form or coolant. Instead, they have three main features:

  1. Factory fabricated: All components of a microreactor would be fully assembled in a factory and shipped out to location. This eliminates difficulties associated with large-scale construction, reduces capital costs and would help get the reactor up and running quickly.
  2. Transportable: Smaller unit designs will make microreactors very transportable. This would make it easy for vendors to ship the entire reactor by truck, shipping vessel, airplane or railcar.
  3. Self-adjusting: Simple and responsive design concepts will allow microreactors to self-adjust. They won’t require a large number of specialized operators and would utilize passive safety systems that prevent any potential for overheating or reactor meltdown.

Benefits

Microreactor designs vary, but most would be able to produce 1-20 megawatts of thermal energy that could be used directly as heat or converted to electric power. They can be used to generate clean and reliable electricity for commercial use or for non-electric applications such as district heating, water desalination and hydrogen fuel production.

Other benefits:

  • Seamless integration with renewables within microgrids
  • Can be used for emergency response to help restore power to areas hit by natural disasters
  • A longer core life, operating for up to 10 years without refueling
  • Can be quickly removed from sites and exchanged for new ones

Most designs will require fuel with a higher concentration of uranium-235 that’s not currently used in today’s reactors, although some may benefit from use of high temperature moderating materials that would reduce fuel enrichment requirements while maintaining the small system size.

The U.S. Department of Energy supports a variety of advanced reactor designs, including gas, liquid metal, molten salt and heat pipe-cooled concepts. American microreactor developers are currently focused on gas and heat pipe-cooled designs that could debut as early as the mid-2020s.

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Hoyt Clagwell
August 9, 2022 10:09 pm

Yes, that’s all well and good but the real question is, how do we tax it?

-Chuck Schumer

Dan
Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
August 10, 2022 9:00 am

Correction: how do we tax it enough so that we can’t make it in the US and we must outsource it to China?

August 9, 2022 10:22 pm

Perfect for large minesites throughout Western Australia. Most currently running on diesel often with a token windmill

Graeme#4
Reply to  Keith Woollard
August 10, 2022 1:29 am

Actually the minesites in the Pilbara region, being next door to cheap gas supplies, are naturally connected to gas pipelines.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Keith Woollard
August 10, 2022 9:29 am

Likewise for some far Northern communities in Canada as well as remote mines. Excess heat for greenhouse production in the North, where veggies cost an arm and a leg. Sadly, we have a government that can’t see past next week’s poll numbers on a clear day.

Last edited 1 month ago by john harmsworth
Drake
Reply to  john harmsworth
August 11, 2022 5:49 am

The real sadness is that you have a voting majority who keep Trudops in power.

If the western provinces can’t separate from Quebec, conservatives in Canada have no future.

mario lento
August 9, 2022 10:32 pm

No mention of the nuclear reactors within the video or features… so what they showed is hard to understand. Appears to be a chamber that harnesses heat, some turbines and/or impellers. OK… what else?

Last edited 1 month ago by mario lento
eyesonu
Reply to  mario lento
August 11, 2022 6:04 am

I thought the video sucked. I’ve seen better advertising sandals or energy drinks. Maybe they should go for something like a One Wheel GT promotion! lol

John Pickens
August 9, 2022 10:35 pm

The article mentions “renewables” several times. In exactly what way are wind and solar energy systems “renewable”?
They only last 10 to 25 years, take more energy to produce and operate than they will contribute during their lifetimes, and there is no means of “renewing” them at the end. Madness.

Reply to  John Pickens
August 10, 2022 8:11 am

Thorium liquid salts cooled reactors are the answer….can be factory built and units can be stacked to provide more power if one is insufficient. Cheap reliable electric power is basic to a healthy economy and population.

Reply to  Anti-griff
August 10, 2022 3:05 pm

“can be factory built” – hopefully. See a Crescent Dunes solar plant fiasco. It was supposed to run on molten salts, but proved totally unreliable. And their salts were not radioactive.

DCE
Reply to  Curious George
August 11, 2022 9:00 am

There was a molten salt reactor run at ORNL in the 60’s and early 70’s and they didn’t seem to have any problems with it.

Comparing a solar plant to a nuclear reactor which are likely using different ‘salts’ makes no sense. That’s comparing apples to tomatoes.

Reply to  DCE
August 11, 2022 12:36 pm

It was discontinued due to problems.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  DCE
August 12, 2022 11:35 pm

They faced the same problems people face now: corrosion. Molten salts chow everything.

Reply to  Curious George
August 16, 2022 4:26 am

To mention a 1070’s design as a data pt for a 2020’s moment seems lame to me.

Surrr
August 9, 2022 10:38 pm

“The environmental destruction that will be left by developers marching across the country carpeting our ridgelines and open lands with 600-foot spinning turbines, solar panels, substations, and miles of high voltage transmission is impossible to quantify. Habitats will be degraded and destroyed, viewsheds industrialized, and wildlife killed or displaced. Federal and state agencies will be hamstrung by new permitting rules – also part of Schumer-Manchin – that will impair their ability to avoid and minimize project impacts.”
I copied, paste this comment because it perfectly explains the destruction the left is going to inflict on gullible Western nations. The clean up bill is going to dwarf the installation costs.
Just replace the 2 US politicians names with your own idiotic countrys politicians and use everywhere.

Dennis
Reply to  Surrr
August 9, 2022 10:52 pm

The new left leaning Labor Government (Federal) of Australia has announced five offshore wind turbine sites for New South Wales and Victoria, the largest population states. The primary responsibility for electricity supply is state governments and they are also responsible for all kinds of development application approvals, red and green tape application regulations etc. But offshore does involve the Commonwealth of Australia Federal Government.

But the same governments refuse to lift the ban on uranium and nuclear, but are willing to fund a new interconnected electricity grid to make wind and solar energy transmission more efficient, obviously not needed for power stations including nuclear technology.

les online
Reply to  Dennis
August 10, 2022 5:08 pm

Even during the 1970s Australia’s two major political parties were considered TweedleDum and TweedleDee because they pursued the same policies. Both employ ‘product differentiation’, the Labor mob moreso than the other mob. Labeling the current Labor government “left” is simply a prejudice. Compared to the Whitlam 1970s Labor government it is rightwing, the shift to the right firmly entrenched by the 1980s Hawke-Keating neo-liberalist Labor governments…

J. R.
August 9, 2022 10:44 pm

What will these things cost? How many would it take to power a city of 50,000 people? Assuming these come to fruition, it looks like they could become enormous game changers.

H.R.
Reply to  J. R.
August 10, 2022 4:11 am

Comparing nameplate to nameplate, I gathered that these microreactors would cost far less than the equivalent number of giant pinwheels, J.R.

But you have a good question there. They will require some specialty materials and probably very close tolerance components, so they won’t be exactly cheap. But they are proposing assembly line type production, which will greatly cut costs compared to onsite construction of a nuclear plant.

Site preparation/disturbance will be minimal. And there’s only one line needed to tie them to the grid, whereas a field of nameplate equivalent bird choppers would need a line from each one.

I’d also be really interested to know not only what a unit will cost, but also the installed cost. It seems they have a huge advantage on installation costs.

william Johnston
Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2022 6:31 am

Not to mention their minuscle footprint and contribution to visually improving the landscape.

Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2022 1:49 pm

The assembly-line part is what really matters the most. One of the biggest reasons conventional nuclear plants are so expensive is that each one has to be designed, approved, and licensed as a unique and precious snowflake. When microreactors are coming off the assembly line, those costs can be amortized over every unit built for that model. The more they make, the cheaper they can be made per unit.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  H.R.
August 12, 2022 11:40 pm

I would like to see a proper energy in and energy produced analysis. How many more times the total input energy does it produce during its working life and be sure to add the fuel preparation and disposal.

For a large nuke the return is about 50:1 which is good.

chadb
Reply to  J. R.
August 10, 2022 7:39 am

What will these things cost? A lot. There is a reason this is related to the Pentagon. Right now diesel generators are ridiculously expensive for DoD to operate partially because of the logistics of getting fuel to the front. If you are able to drop a crate with a mini nuclear reactor you are much better off. Assuming of course it doesn’t get hit with a mortar shell. I also suspect they will find their way into long term subsea unmanned vehicles. Although my personal opinion is that the absolute best place for small nuclear reactors is ocean going vessels.
How many would it take to power a city of 50,000 people? Again, a lot. You would be much better off using a 100-300MW system and linking into existing grids. That size can still be mass produced rather than custom build.

Drake
Reply to  chadb
August 11, 2022 6:07 am

NuScale approved SMR is 77 MWe gross output, with plant designs for up to 12 reactors.

The reactor vessel is 65 feet by 9 feet, highway or rail transportable.

Not a micro reactor but is to be factory built so better than typical large commercial reactors.

If some of what I have read is true the new Democrat scam bill COULD provide equivalent tax breaks and subsidies to new Nuclear plants since they are “zero carbon”.

If they excluded nuclear, the future Republican controlled federal elected government would only need to redefine “zero carbon” to include nuclear output, AND have the breaks apply to all new AND existing nuclear generation capacity, then CAP the total cost of the program to the current level, thus eliminating all new subsidies for wind, solar and Nuclear, thus an even playing field.

Reply to  chadb
August 11, 2022 10:12 am

Rolls Royce consortium is targeting 470MW

Meab
Reply to  J. R.
August 10, 2022 12:42 pm

A US military approval only covers military bases and military operational sites. Don’t get me wrong as I’m a strong proponent of nuclear power (PhD in Nuclear Engineering albeit Fusion emphasis) but micro reactors are NOWHERE near economically competitive with conventional large reactors except for use in remote areas.

Jtom
Reply to  J. R.
August 10, 2022 1:05 pm

Rolls-Royce has a nuclear division. They manufacture nuclear power plants for subs. You might be interested in this:
https://news.yahoo.com/rolls-royce-secures-400-million-080228964.html

Excerpt: “ Small modular reactors are mini-nuclear power stations that are easier to build and smaller than traditional nuclear power stations. Each site is roughly the size of two football pitches and can generate enough energy to power 1 million homes, compared to 6 million for a traditional nuclear station.

90% of the parts needed for the facility can be built in factories and then assembled on site, which is a radical departure from traditional nuclear power stations.

SMRs are cheaper to get off the ground, meaning they are less likely to be hit by the kind of funding issues that have plagued other nuclear projects”

That was a year ago. I believe they have planned it out, set a $2.3 billion price tag on it, and the UK government plans to procure 10 of them.

This article compares them to wind and solar:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertbryce/2022/05/27/rolls-royces-smr-needs-10000-times-less-land-than-wind-energy-proves-iron-law-of-power-density/?sh=154a7d4a98f0

Last edited 1 month ago by Jtom
Graham
Reply to  Jtom
August 10, 2022 1:38 pm

Nuclear power has to be the answer if the green blobs illusion of rising CO2 levels are going to heat the world .
The problem is that the greens originated in the 1970s with protests against nuclear weapons . “Ban the bomb the world is doomed .”
Our New Zealand government banned US nuclear warships from visiting New Zealand a long time ago .
Then our communist Prime Minister on being elected told the country that she had a nuclear moment and banned any new offshore exploration and drilling for oil and gas .
I ask you how can a politician take actions like this but fly around the world .
Like so many politicians they have one rule for us commoners but the elites can use as much jet fuel as they like .

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Graham
August 10, 2022 7:14 pm

It says a lot about the mentality of “The (wo)Man Who Would be King.” They have an inflated view of their importance, and like most liberals, feel that the end justifies any means.

To paraphrase Lord Acton, “Corruption is proportional to the political power wielded.” That is one of the main justifications for democracy.

RoHa
August 9, 2022 10:44 pm

Smaller than your average reactor, but not quite micro. Micro would be small enough to fit into your DeLorean.

Old Cocky
Reply to  RoHa
August 10, 2022 1:16 am

Doen’t that need a Mr Fusion?

Jim
Reply to  Old Cocky
August 10, 2022 4:01 am

Flux capacitor.

Mr.
Reply to  Jim
August 10, 2022 9:28 am

And flux Joe Biden too.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Mr.
August 10, 2022 7:20 pm

He’s been flummoxed so many times I’ve lost count.

Reply to  Old Cocky
August 11, 2022 11:47 am

Should have been “Mr. Mass Conversion.”

Richard Page
Reply to  RoHa
August 10, 2022 8:45 am

That’ll be the 2nd or 3rd generation microreators. Good luck trying to find a surviving DeLorean to put it in!

Richard Page
Reply to  Richard Page
August 10, 2022 2:13 pm

Duh, microreactors. My fat fingers on a small keyboard.

J. R.
Reply to  Richard Page
August 10, 2022 10:44 pm

Does Jay Leno have one?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  RoHa
August 10, 2022 7:19 pm

Or, a Tesla Cybertruck.

J. R.
August 9, 2022 10:47 pm

“…can integrate seamlessly into distributed grids to complement renewable power….”

With one or more of these, what’s the point of keeping renewables?

A second thought: These are just what Elon Musk needs when he takes his colonists to Mars.

Redge
Reply to  J. R.
August 9, 2022 11:41 pm

With one or more of these, what’s the point of keeping renewables?

william Johnston
Reply to  Redge
August 10, 2022 6:31 am

Subsidies??????

Mr.
Reply to  Redge
August 10, 2022 9:33 am

My thought exactly.

HOWEVER, the SMRs should be in service BEFORE the wind and/or solar inputs are turned off, otherwise we’ll be making the same stupid mistake that greenies made when they scrapped coal plants before they’d proven the delivery performance of the wind & solar farms.

Reply to  Mr.
August 11, 2022 10:14 am

You really think renewable energy is delivering anything of value at all?

Sciguy54
Reply to  J. R.
August 10, 2022 5:31 am

The real killer for windmills (besides the horrible destruction of thousands of miles of natural ridgelines, etc, etc) is that they must be connected by thousands of miles of copper, sized large enough to carry 115% of nameplate capacity, despite only carrying 20-30% of nameplate capacity on average. Just layers and layers of waste. These tiny nukes can be placed a mile or two from distribution lines (or on existing facilities) and be sized for 115% of nameplate capacity while averaging 85% day after day. This amounts to millions of tons of copper ore which will not be mined and processed.

auto
Reply to  Sciguy54
August 10, 2022 10:51 am

Sciguy
This amounts to millions of tons of copper ore which will not be mined and processed.”
Well, it’s all mined and processed abroad, so not a problem.
And it’s paid for with Other People’s Money.
Even less of a problem, especially as a few cents or pence of that sum may be used to facilitate acceptance . . . .
What do they say?
10% for Mr Bigun [Is that spelt right?]?

Auto

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  auto
August 10, 2022 7:25 pm

Even though much of the copper (and cobalt, REEs, and lithium) mining takes place abroad, the ‘Karens’ of the environmental movement still complain about mining whether done by large corporations or supposedly by child slave-labor. They hate mining almost as much as they hate Trump.

griff
Reply to  Sciguy54
August 11, 2022 3:39 am

solar power is used right where it is produced

Drake
Reply to  griff
August 11, 2022 7:08 am
b.nice
Reply to  griff
August 11, 2022 3:27 pm

Blatant RUBBISH statement from griff.!

Drake
Reply to  Sciguy54
August 11, 2022 7:01 am

Connected to the generators of any existing thermal electrical generating plant would be easy.

Is this why the Democrats make sure the retired coal plants are completely demolished?

Reply to  Sciguy54
August 11, 2022 10:16 am

Er…by and large transmission lines are made of aluminium. Its cheaper and lighter than copper…

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 11, 2022 11:50 am

I did not know this:

An aluminium wire have a 1.5 times larger cross section to pass the same current as a copper wire, but two times lighter. Weight is one of the most important parameters for high-voltage power lines that transmit power over long distances. Therefore, only aluminium wires are used in main overhead power lines.

John Hultquist
Reply to  James Schrumpf
August 11, 2022 9:22 pm

 Pacific DC Intertie (aka, Path 65) {DC = direct current}
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_DC_Intertie#Components

ACSR (aluminum conductor, steel reinforced)

There is also a Path 66, AC type. I can’t find information on the type of wire.

Dennis G. Sandberg
August 9, 2022 11:12 pm

Times
The plans call for a 40-ton reactor that can fit in three-to-four 20-foot shipping containers and, once set up, provide 1 to 5 Mega Watts of power on full power operation for up to three years before refueling.

Reply to  Dennis G. Sandberg
August 11, 2022 10:17 am

Nuclear subs run for longer than that

H B
August 9, 2022 11:19 pm

This concept is not new there was one at Scott base for many years it was non pressurized it was nicknamed old leaky ( did not leak ) it eas replaced with a set of diesel generators /boilers
the oak ridge MSR reactor was a little larger permanent installation but in the same space

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  H B
August 10, 2022 7:28 pm

Probably similar to the one at Camp Century (Greenland) in the 1960s. Apparently, it DID leak.

August 9, 2022 11:24 pm

Doubt that these micro reactors will make much difference.

My bet is that the sodium cooled fast reactor will be far more important:

https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/doe-selects-sodium-cooled-fast-reactor-design-versatile-test-reactor-idaho

Drake
Reply to  Jan Kjetil Andersen
August 11, 2022 7:11 am

The micro reactors are not intended for grid scale generation.

The are for portability.

M Courtney
August 9, 2022 11:59 pm

This is not a new idea.
The issue has always been security. How do you stop someone swiping it and making a dirty bomb?
It’s uneconomic when you add in the insurance costs.

H.R.
Reply to  M Courtney
August 10, 2022 4:35 am

Fair point about security, M Courtney, and I wondered about that, too. These are not exactly suitcase sized and I imagine the fuel chamber can be designed to be secure enough that you couldn’t get at it without a small army and a large amount of exotic heavy equipment.

I was thinking that the security would be such that it takes too long and too much effort and special equipment for a theft attempt to go unnoticed. Any attempt would be stopped before it was successful. Obviously, I’m just guessing.

So, security should be addressed to everyone’s satisfaction.

Oh, and insurance cost will settle to the level of risk. There’s no telling what that will be. It could just as well be cheap as very expensive, depending on the answer to the security question.

M Courtney
Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2022 6:12 am

From the article:

They fit on the back of a semi-truck 

As does an ATM machine quite often. But that’s just so as the criminals can get cash.

A dirty bomb is a conventional explosive that contaminates an area with radioactivity. Making Manhattan uninhabitable would be quite the coup for a terrorist organisation. And the insurers would need guarantees that they would not be held responsible for misuse of the reactor once it had been stolen.

It’s just not viable without large-scale security.

Duane
Reply to  M Courtney
August 10, 2022 7:39 am

Your notion of a dirty bomb making Manhattan uninhabitable is a Hollywood fantasy, not possible, period.

Terrorists don’t give a shit about the long term health implications of radioactive contamination … they don’t covet so-called “dirty bombs” – what they covet are full on nuclear weapons that blow the shit out of everything within a given blast radius.

Last edited 1 month ago by Duane
H.R.
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 2:38 pm

I have to agree with you on that, Duane. As I understand it, the ‘dirty’ part only spreads maybe a tad farther than the blast radius.

The point is creating fear; terror. If the Hazmat team in bunny suits gets called out and shuts down a 5-lane freeway just to clean up a few gallons of spilled diesel fuel, imagine the panic NUCLEAR WASTE!!! OMG! would cause. Boo-yah, baby!

Idle question: How do you know what terrorists covet? They seem happy enough with just a small suicide vest, yes? And where were you last Thursday night that you know what they covet? 😉 [nudge, nudge. wink wink, teasin’ ya]

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2022 8:12 pm

… the ‘dirty’ part only spreads maybe a tad farther than the blast radius.

There are two concerns: One is a dose level high enough to cause acute radiation sickness, with dea’r’th following soon after exposure. That is most likely in close proximity to the blast radius. [I’m trying to avoid censure by the word monitor.]

The other, a chronic exposure to fine particles of something like plutonium dust, which will almost certainly result in lung cancer, and eventual dea’r’th.

Both have to be addressed to protect the public. The issue of plutonium dust is the more intractable. An individual PM 2.5 particle of alpha-emitting plutonium may not be detectable, or cleaned from the already dirty and windy streets of Manhattan. Yet, it may well cause lung cancer.

One can argue about the actual risk, but the public, showing an unwillingness to accept the assurance of the safety of COVID vaccines, may not be satisfied with any assurances about low risk from PM 2.5 plutonium dust blowing around. Thus, Manhattan could become uninhabitable after a successful attack with a ‘dirty’ bomb.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28985139/

John Andrews
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 10, 2022 10:32 pm

Small particles of plutonium will not cause cancer. The alpha radiation is so intense immediately adjacent to the particle that it kills all the adjacent cells effectively encrusting the Pu in an inert shell of callus-like material.

Reply to  John Andrews
August 11, 2022 10:29 am

Well plutonium is as nasty as lead.Into which it will turn.You get cancer from heavy metal poisoning same as lead.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 11, 2022 10:28 am

The other, a chronic exposure to fine particles of something like plutonium dust, which will almost certainly result in lung cancer, and eventual dea’r’th.

Not really. Simply not enough plutonium, and anyway plutonium is more poisonous that dangerously radioactive. A lungful of lead is is just as bad. A lungful of asbestos arguably worse, and a lungful of cigarette smoke positively lethal…

I know its disappointing but low level radioactivity is about 1000 times less dangerous than the regulations suggest, and about a million times less dangerous in real life compared with Holywood.
No one cleaned up Hiroshima. The blast radius was only slightly less than the lethal radiation radius.Beyond that a few people got cancer almost immediately, After that they rebuilt the city, moved back in and lived happily ever after,

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 11, 2022 1:09 pm

John Andrews said, “The alpha radiation is so intense immediately adjacent to the particle that it kills all the adjacent cells effectively encrusting the Pu in an inert shell.”

He also said, “Small particles of plutonium will not cause cancer.” I provided a source that suggests otherwise.

Leo, you say, “I know its disappointing but low level radioactivity is about 1000 times less dangerous than the regulations suggest, …”

Neither of you provide citations to support your claims. Which of you should I believe, and why?

Ken
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 13, 2022 11:12 am

Who said Manhattan is inhabitable now?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 7:48 pm

Hollywood fantasy, not possible, period.

That is a pretty strong statement. What if hijacked airplanes, with loads of radioactive waste, were to be flown into the highest buildings in Manhattan, or strategic locations such as the Pentagon? Could never happen, right?

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 11, 2022 10:30 am

What if? Not a lot really. The smoke and dust that came out if the twin towers was lethal enough as it was.

chadb
Reply to  M Courtney
August 10, 2022 7:44 am

Like the thing would be sitting on the street in Manhattan. Sheesh. They are (first) designed to support military overseas. Any contamination would be in backwoods Afghanistan. Second sites (as mentioned above) would be mining. Frankly terrorists aren’t going to load these onto a semi at a mining site.

Bob Meyer
Reply to  chadb
August 10, 2022 3:59 pm

It’s possible that a dirty bomb could make Manhattan uninhabitable, or rather, more uninhabitable. I’m not sure the residents would notice the change.

Reply to  Bob Meyer
August 11, 2022 10:32 am

No, actually it isn’t,
Except for Lefty greentards, and that would be a benefit

MARTIN BRUMBY
Reply to  chadb
August 10, 2022 7:17 pm

In fairness, a few goatherds with fertiliser did pretty good up against what the Pentagon put down over 20 years.

And Xi Jinping carries on laughing his socks off.

MarkW
Reply to  M Courtney
August 10, 2022 7:47 am

The so called dirty bomb is a weapon of ignorance.
The reality is that cleaning up after such a weapon is not that difficult. A few guys with Geiger counters can get the biggest chucks, as for the micro stuff, set up filters in the sewers and wash everything int the sewers.

H.R.
Reply to  MarkW
August 10, 2022 2:22 pm

I’m not so certain about that if hot nuclear material is used.

MarkW
Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2022 7:41 pm

So called hot nuclear material is only hot for a few months.

Reply to  MarkW
August 11, 2022 10:33 am

a few hours….

H.R.
Reply to  MarkW
August 11, 2022 11:29 am

But this comes back to the question w-a-a-a-y up there, Mark. If you “unplug” the unit, hook up, load it with explosives drive it to your target zone and then set it off, all in some matter of hours, you have a very dirty bomb.

What are the security considerations? I dunno.

Up and down this discussion about dirty bombs, some are assuming technology and the conditions of today. It didn’t take much to convince me that “dirty bombs” made via theft from a NPP just isn’t going to happen. The existence proof is that no one has done it for all the reasons brought up in this section of comments.

I’m not even sure how small these micro reactors will get, but if they are on flatbeds, it’s a whole different game from today.

Steal the whole dang thing while it’s hot and go blow it up seems possible to me. What countermeasures have been planned for that? I dunno.

Reply to  H.R.
August 11, 2022 10:32 am

If hot nuclear material is used, wait a week.It wont be hot anymore

H.R.
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 11, 2022 11:35 am

These are small and maybe will remain on wheels. These micro reactors seem to eliminate all the barriers to making “dirty bombs” we have today.

Steal today, blow up tomorrow. Why can’t terrorists compete with Amazon?

Next-Day-Terror, Inc.
(There will be a 30% upcharge for same day terror.)

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MarkW
August 10, 2022 8:20 pm

I wish I could share your confidence in the ability to clean up Manhattan. All the pot holes and cracks in the pavement and sidewalks will act like riffles in a sluice box and trap the dense particles like uranium and plutonium. Besides that, all the buildings would have to be pressure washed from top to bottom. It would not be impossible to clean the city, but it would not be a trivial undertaking. Then, with the general public paranoia about radiation, a lot of people would not want to continue to live there.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 11, 2022 10:36 am

Heavy particles of Uranium and plutnium will stay where they are because they are heavy, And they are not very radioactive anyway.
A vaccuum cleaner and a geiger counter i all you need.

Unles yu can engineer some sort of criticality a dirty bomb is pretty harmless – wont be anything like Xenon, Iodine or Caesium.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 11, 2022 1:19 pm

And they are not very radioactive anyway.

That is not the opinion held by John Andrews, above.

It is precisely the iodine and cesium (and plutonium) that are the concern with a dirty bomb versus a fission bomb.

Reactors operate over years and ‘burn’ a greater percentage of the fissionable isotopes than a bomb, which blows everything apart in milliseconds. Therefore, the concentration of the fission byproducts are greater in spent fuel rods than the debris from a bomb.

Richard Page
Reply to  M Courtney
August 10, 2022 8:49 am

How do you stop a terrorist organisation stealing a tanker-load of petrol and turning it into a fuel-air explosive bomb, arguably a far more instantly destructive device?

H.R.
Reply to  Richard Page
August 10, 2022 3:23 pm

Richard – the ‘terror’ part is the fallout over an area, much smaller than people would think. It’s a fear factor thingy. You might even call it an attempt producing fear terror.

The tanker play has a different effect. The fire is out, the show is over.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  M Courtney
August 10, 2022 7:43 pm

And the insurers would need guarantees that they would not be held responsible for misuse of the reactor once it had been stolen.

And, in their infinite wisdom, Democrat governors and congresspeople (birthing variety and otherwise) are pushing to establish the legal precedent of holding manufacturers and retailers of firearms financially responsible for the criminal use of their products by third parties. If they get their way, no insurance company would want to insure a company for an amount less than what would bankrupt the companies.

Reply to  M Courtney
August 11, 2022 10:19 am

Not enough uranium in one to do anything more than cause green heads to explode and that’s a benefit.

H.R.
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 11, 2022 11:40 am

How much uranium will be in one of these? I really don’t know. I’m asking.

That may be the security angle, Leo. A teaspoonful, even if stolen and blown up while hot, would barely raise an eyebrow.

But I don’t know if there will be a fair amount or a pigeon poop pellet of fissionable material.

Duane
Reply to  M Courtney
August 10, 2022 4:41 am

Reactors are not bombs or bomb precursers. The notion of a “dirty bomb” is a myth.

Anybody can make enriched uranium. Making a bomb that reliably detonates when you want it to is extremely difficult to produce.

H.R.
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 5:17 am

Duane, my understanding of a dirty bomb is that it’s conventional explosives with a nasty uranium cherry on top. I thought they were just supposed to contaminate an area measured in city blocks.

The fact that so many of our military have been injured by IEDs demonstrates that it is easy to make a bomb explode exactly when you want it to, such as right when soldiers are passing by.

What is surprising to me is your statement that “anybody can make enriched uranium.” Why haven’t we seen more dirty bomb attacks if that is so? Why aren’t all terrorist car bombings ‘dirty’?

I dunno. I’m asking.

Duane
Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2022 7:23 am

Uranium isn’t very nasty, actually. It is a naturally occurring element very widespread throughout the earth’s crust.

What would be “nasty” is the fission products from a uranium reactor that has been operating for quite some period of time. But it’s not like the average terrorist nimrod can take apart a nuclear reactor, and reprocess the spent fuel, and come up with anything useful for a mythic “dirty bomb”. It’s a Hollywood fantasy, not real.

H.R.
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 2:15 pm

👍 Yes, I looked into the rods – quite safe to handle and no special requirements before being put into service – and as you and Mr. Sutherland have pointed out, extremely, extremely nasty after use. It’s all highly specialized handling then.

But these micro reactors can be stolen without ever trying to get at the fissionable material. Just back up a rig and take the whole thing.

That’s the wrinkle that makes a dirty bomb possible – I think. Fill the outer envelope with your favorite flavour of explosive. Drive to the nearest Widows and Orphans home or the midtown Starbucks or downtown Mayberry and press the button.

Your observation on the insane level of toxicity is correct under present circumstances or else we would have seen a dirty bomb long before now. We haven’t. We won’t.

But I thought it fair to question the security of these micro reactors because they change up the game a bit. They are almost as grab ‘n go as a Hershy bar at the 7-11.

And I’ve written twice elsewhere “I dunno” about these new units. Will they be secure? Will we be giving terrorists a once in a lifetime opportunity? (Somebody has to stay and push the button. 😉)

I dunno.

OweninGA
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 5:18 am

A dirty bomb does not involve a nuclear explosion. It is a conventional bomb with a radioactive or toxic casing that spreads the toxic and radioactive elements over an area dependent on the size of the explosive and the amount of toxic casing. It is kind of difficult to clean up afterwards, and can deny use of an area to a population for a long time. This is a type of weapon that a terrorist organization might attempt to use.

It is like the suicide bomber vests that are full of nails, nuts, and other detritus, except the cleanup needs a little more than a couple of guys with brooms.

H.R.
Reply to  OweninGA
August 10, 2022 6:05 am

Thanks, Owen. That was my understanding, too. The only surprise was that anybody can make enriched uranium.

Why can’t I order enriched uranium from Amazon for next day delivery? Maybe I should have checked the “deliver whenever” box or maybe it’s just out of stock and on backorder. Maybe I should just order plain ol’ uranium and enrich it myself.


I just checked on Amazon and you can buy uranium ore from them, $39.95 with free, next day shipping(!). I forgot to note how much it weighed but it comes in a small tin. It’s also available on eBay. (No kidding) So, it looks like refining and enriching it would be a DIY project.

Duane
Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2022 7:30 am

NORKs did it – the most primitive nation on earth. As have the Iranians, as have the Indians, as have the Pakistanis, as have the Israelis, as have the French, as have the Brits, as have others we’ll probably never know about. The US did it in the 1930s, nearly a century ago.

Uranium enrichment is a simple process. All one needs do is to gassify the unenriched uranium then run it through a series of mechanical centrifuges, gradually collecting higher percentages of “enriched” uranium (i.e, a higher than the natural percentage of U-235).

It’s a slow process, and very expensive when desiring to produce a sufficient volume of weapons grade uranium.

Uranium bombs are extremely inefficient weapons, only fissioning a very tiny percentage of the U-235 before the bomb detonation blows itself apart. So it takes a huge mass of U-235 to detonate in a “gun style” bomb. Sophisticated nuclear weapons today are vastly more efficient than the original bombs used in Japan in 1945, requiring far less fissionable material (virtually all today are plutonium cores, not uranium), utilizing accelerators and various other components to create a thermonuclear detonation.

Last edited 1 month ago by Duane
MarkW
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 7:51 am

Governments willing to spend billions, is not “anybody”.

Mr.
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 9:45 am

Thanks for this Duane.
While you’re here, do you know how to stop the little chocolate buds from all sinking to the bottom when using a homemade ice cream maker?

SteveS
Reply to  Mr.
August 10, 2022 7:01 pm

Add chips after icecream is solid, adding a few at a time over 5 minutes of churning

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 8:41 pm

A plutonium fission bomb is not a “thermonuclear detonation.”

All of your cited examples were well-funded national efforts, not something that an amateur scientist could accomplish in his garage working alone.

Drake
Reply to  Duane
August 11, 2022 7:25 am

You forgot South Africa.

Although they claim to have disassembled their bombs.

The US used magnets to separate the uranium, much faster and more efficient.

Bob Meyer
Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2022 4:07 pm

The complete plans are available here:

http://chymist.com/Make%20a%20thermonuclear%20device.pdf

H.R.
Reply to  Bob Meyer
August 11, 2022 11:46 am

Thanks, Bob. I’m getting a little bored with fishing and have been looking for a new hobby to take up.

It’ll be either thermonuclear devices or building sternwheeler riverboat models out of matchsticks.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2022 8:37 pm

It is difficult to even legally get your hands on depleted uranium, let alone enriched uranium.

Yes, making Yellow Cake from uranium ore, could be done relatively easily in one’s basement chemistry lab. But, beyond that, things get more difficult because to make enriched uranium requires separating the U-235 isotope from the much more abundant U-238. You’re talking about processing tons of ore to get a few pounds of enriched uranium. Then, to get the really nasty stuff, you have to build a reactor and run it for a few months. It is much easier to let the US government build and operate the reactor and then steal it.

H.R.
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 11, 2022 11:50 am

Good points, Clyde. And these micro reactors can be stolen while ‘hot'(maybe?) and driven to the Girl Scout camp of your choice.

All the barriers to dirty bombs we have today may just go away with micro reactors on wheels.

Duane
Reply to  OweninGA
August 10, 2022 7:26 am

Again, that is a myth, not reality.

There is nothing a terrorist can do with a reactor power plant to build a so-called “dirty bomb”. The fission products in spent reactor fuel have to be processed via an extremely complex system of chemical processes within protective glove boxes using extremely sophisticated computer-controlled robotic mechanisms. A terrorist group would fry themselves in the first minutes they attempted to handle any spent reactor fuel.

It is a Hollywood fantasy this myth of the so-called “dirty bomb”. Only a nation state with a fully developed nuclear weapons program could ever hope to produce one, and it would not be worth the effort or the cost, as a standard nuclear weapon would be vastly more damaging than the worst possible “dirty bomb”.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 9:08 pm

The spent fuel is stored in cooling ponds on the grounds of the reactor sites. When it first comes out of the reactor, it is extremely radioactive. It is literally so hot that it has to be held in the cooling ponds for an extended period of time.

Stealing a “micro reactor” or its core is fraught with risks. However, if religious zealots are willing to crash planes into the Pentagon, or wear suicide vests, they just might be willing to sacrifice themselves to contaminate a critical location, like the White House or Fort Knox.

Above, you claimed that enriching uranium was a DIY home project. Now you are saying “Only a nation state with a fully developed nuclear weapons program could ever hope to produce one, and it would not be worth the effort or the cost, ..” Which is it?

MarkW
Reply to  OweninGA
August 10, 2022 7:50 am

Cleanup is nowhere as difficult as the anti-nuclear types want everyone to believe. Most of it can be gathered by guys with Geiger counters and tongs.
The rest can either be encased in place or washed into filters.

John Pickens
Reply to  MarkW
August 10, 2022 9:38 pm

Tell that to the people who used to live near the Fukushima reactors who are not allowed to return to their homes.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  John Pickens
August 11, 2022 8:35 am

Or those forced out of the hot zone around Chernobyl . . . no cleanup there some 36 years after that reactor explosion.

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 11, 2022 10:55 am

Indeed. And people are still living there growing and eating their own vegetables etc.Short duration high level radiation kills you. The firefighters who died show that’s true. The same dose spread over 50 years does nothing at all.The failure of any cancer spikes to materialise shows that, but all safety standrads are based on the incorrect assumption that what matters is the total lifetime dose, despite the fact that anyone living in any of the many areas of high natural background radiation should be dead within 15 years, but none are.

…it has been useful to keep people very scared of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
Why?
Cui Bono?
Go figure.
(Hint: See Ukraine)

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 12, 2022 8:44 am

“. . . epidemiological studies have found that the large increase in thyroid cancers among children in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia following the [Chernobyl – GD] accident clearly indicates that it was the cause of the increase. According to the 2008 UNSCEAR report (p. 19): ‘To date, some 6,000 thyroid cancers have been seen among those in the three republics who were under 18 at the time of the accident, of which a substantial fraction is likely to have been due to radiation exposure.’

“. . . the International Journal of Cancer concludes that Chernobyl will have caused 16,000 thyroid cancers and 25,000 other cancers in Europe by 2065, and that 16,000 of these cancers will be fatal. Since thyroid cancer is rarely fatal, most of the cancer deaths will be from other cancers. (These estimates do not consider the recovery-operation workers.)”

— source of above quoted text: https://allthingsnuclear.org/lgronlund/how-many-cancers-did-chernobyl-really-cause-updated/
(my underlining emphasis added)

Indeed.

Reply to  John Pickens
August 11, 2022 10:48 am

Wade Allison tried to, but the Japanese turned out to be even more gullible than their politicians.
There was no need to clean up anything. But peole with votes stirred up by a media circus thought there was.
More people died being evacuated tnan were ever at risk from radiation.

ATheoK
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 6:17 am

Making a bomb that reliably detonates”

According to some, a dirty bomb can be constructed using ordinary explosive materials covered with radioactive material…

Not even “Timothy McVeigh”‘s ” rental truck bomb of approximately 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane” would spread the radioactive materials very far.
As borne by Earth’s surface winds, not far at all.

The mental image of a nuclear blast pulverizing radioactive materials into dust that is blown up into the stratosphere to spread around the Earth is not going to happen with conventual explosives.

People apparently expect radioactive dust as spread by explosions measured in the megatons (one million metric tons of TNT), from small ordinary explosions.
It ain’t gong to happen.

They might spread enough radioactive material to “dirty” a building or at most a city block, but not likely anything larger in area.

Duane
Reply to  ATheoK
August 10, 2022 7:43 am

Given the minimal effects of a so-called “dirty bomb” it just isn’t worth the time effort and cost to build and deploy one. Far more efficient and effective to just deploy a regular old nuclear weapon.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 8:57 pm

I do hope that potential terrorists agree with you.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  ATheoK
August 10, 2022 8:54 pm

When the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, it spread debris more than a city block. What wasn’t cleaned up was indistinguishable from the usual city dirt and dust. The same cannot be said for plutonium.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 11, 2022 10:58 am

Plutonium is positively benign and its dangers are massively overstated.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 11, 2022 1:42 pm

Thank you for actually providing a link to information. However, it did not support your “positively benign” claim. Reading it, I discovered that 3-year old spent fuel rods produce not only the alpha-emitting Pu-239 that I was familiar with, but that about 30% of the plutonium produced is a prolific source of neutrons, Pu-240. Not the type of radiation that will be benign in the lungs, as claimed by Andrews.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 8:27 pm

Anybody can make enriched uranium.

No, even after years, relatively rich nation states like Iran are still trying to produce enough enriched uranium to make a bomb. The logistics of centrifuging a large volume of uranium hexafluoride gas is probably more daunting than making a trigger that a competent team of machinists could make in a basement.

Reply to  Duane
August 11, 2022 10:42 am

It took about 4 years to make enriched uranium in the most technically advanced country in the world, It is amazingly difficult. Making a bomb out of it is actually a lot easier.
And mildly enriched uranium still isn’t good enough – you need to run a breeder reactor for a few years ans make and reliably separate e.g. plutonium.
If Iran still hasn’t made a bomb, how long is the average Jihadist going to take?
Frankly if I wanted to case a scare to explode green heads id collect all the old smoke alarms and extract the thorium, look out for some scrap dental x-ray machines etc etc.
The cobalt-60 in those is actually lethal.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 11, 2022 1:49 pm

… you need to run a breeder reactor for a few years ans make and reliably separate e.g. plutonium.

According to the article whose link you provided, the optimal run cycle for producing Pu-239 is 30 days.

Smoke detectors use americium-241, not thorium.
https://www.epa.gov/radtown/americium-ionization-smoke-detectors

Kevin
Reply to  M Courtney
August 10, 2022 6:52 am

A practical “dirty bomb” must be compact in order to make it transportable. However, the intensity of the radioactive material increases dramatically as it is compacted making it easier to detect as well as increasing the hazard to whoever is constructing or transporting it. Anyone with the technical knowledge to design such a device certainly realizes this which is probably why they have not been used.

If the Manhattan Project had failed to construct a working fission bomb, there was consideration of using the waste products to make a dirty bomb to use against German agriculture. It was concluded that such a weapon would be more hazardous to the bomber crew than the Germans.

Reply to  M Courtney
August 10, 2022 11:22 am

For someone to carry a single fuel rod a hundred yards/meters or so would leave him essentially dead before they made the entire distance. The spent fuel is handled under water at nuclear power plants and by robots a reprocessing plants. Even the in-core Temperature and Thermal monitoring detectors used at nuclear power plants are placed inside a lead shield more than 8″ – 12″ thick when removed for replacement and they still create a high radiation area limiting personnel exposure to just minutes of exposure. As they said Dirty Bombs are made for/in movies.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Richard Lentz
August 10, 2022 9:04 pm

Yes, freshly removed spent fuel rods are extremely hazardous to one’s health. However, that doesn’t mean that terrorists couldn’t use on-site equipment used to stock the cooling ponds, and choose rods that have been decaying long enough that only the long-lived isotopes are abundant.

It isn’t necessary to process the spent fuel rods to make them usable for a dirty bomb.

Kevin
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 11, 2022 7:42 am

The conditions under which such an operation is possible imply that the plant has been completely taken over by hostile forces and that the authorities are unable to reassert control. At that point the hostile forces would not need a dirty bomb.

H.R.
Reply to  Kevin
August 11, 2022 11:58 am

Absolutely, Kevin.

But the question by M Courtney that kicked all this off was about the security of these reactors on wheels and them being potentially driven off and used to produce terror,** a totally different scenario from what you are describing.

[Edit – hit ‘post’ before fininhing]

No one is going to occupy one of the micro reactors. They are going to hook up and steal it.


**Terror. It’s what terrorists do. They aren’t all that big on invasions or occupying territory.

Last edited 1 month ago by H.R.
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  M Courtney
August 10, 2022 7:35 pm

I’m surprised at all the down votes you have gotten. I think it is a reasonable question to ask, and an important issue to address. After all, the rationale for Jimmy Carter banning re-processing of spent fuel was his concern over the potential for terrorists intercepting shipments between reactor facilities and re-cycling plants. We have been supplying new fuel rods to civilian and Navy reactors in the US for decades, and similarly, France has been re-cycling spent fuel for decades, and neither of us have ever lost a shipment. However, that is within the confines of our borders, not over-seas in a battle field environment.

M Courtney
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 11, 2022 12:37 am

No-one likes to evaluate pretty engineering solutions through a policy lens. People want this idea to work.
The fact that the problems are legal and financial, not physical, is unfashionable with the sort of techy readers this site gets.

H.R.
Reply to  M Courtney
August 11, 2022 12:12 pm

I’m with Clyde on questioning the down votes, M Courtney.

I have learned a lot about why terrorists aren’t out making dirty bombs today.

But a whole hot micro facility on wheels is a new ballgame which removes the current barriers to making dirty bombs. I think the question of how security will be addressed should be asked.

Hard to say what the answer will be.

Steve Richards
August 10, 2022 12:31 am

Are these different to the small modular nuclear reactors from Rolls Royce?

Michael ElliottMichael Elliott
Reply to  Steve Richards
August 10, 2022 12:59 am

As these small reactors are obviously going to be competition to the ” None” CO2, so called Renewables Wind & Solar, expect the Green lobby to demand a vast number of so called Safety regulations.

They will trot out all of the old properganda against Nuclear.. A woman clasping a baby, & in the background will be a mushroom cloud.

As for their small size, they can be grouped together as we here in South Australia do with small diesal
generators which the State Government use to back up the 47 % of Green power generation.

Michael VK5ELL

Richard Page
Reply to  Steve Richards
August 10, 2022 8:57 am

Yes, smaller. The big advantage of the SMR is speed of assembly – everything is prebuilt on an assembly line, like the microreactors, and assembled ready to use. I think SMR’s need more technical knowledge to run and maintain but would probably be more economical for bigger grids than getting dozens of microreactors.

Drake
Reply to  Steve Richards
August 11, 2022 7:28 am

See NuScale for US SMR.

Shawn Marshall
August 10, 2022 3:15 am

So what is the size of the reactor in a Nuke submarine or air vest carrier?Placing distributed nuke generators on load centers is a tech long overdue. No more transmission lines needed.A 1MW unit seems too small to have much practical application…only good for ~300 homes or a small mall?

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Shawn Marshall
August 10, 2022 4:13 am

According to Wiki the USS Gerald R. Ford the latest USN nuclear powered aircraft carrier

The new reactor was named A1B, following the Navy’s reactor-designation scheme of type, generation, and manufacturer: A for aircraft carrier, 1 for the maker’s first reactor plant design, and B for Bechtel.[3] Two A1B reactor plants will power each Gerald R. Ford class ship.
It is estimated that the thermal power output of each A1B will be around 700 MWth, some 25% more than provided by the A4W.[4] Improved efficiency in the total plant is expected to provide improved output to both propulsion and electrical systems. Using A4W data[5] with a 25% increase in thermal power, the A1B reactors likely produce enough steam to generate 125 megawatts (168,000 hp) of electricity, plus 350,000 shaft horsepower (260 MW) from just one reactor to power the four propeller shafts

Enough to propel a 100,000 ton ship at 30 knots

MarkW
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
August 10, 2022 7:55 am

I got the impression that these reactors don’t use steam to turn a turbine, but rather use the heat to directly generate electric power. Much like NASA has been doing for years.

beng135
Reply to  MarkW
August 10, 2022 9:02 am

That seems to be the case — don’t see any “boiler” in the schematic — so it’d be thermocouple-produced electricity. Apparently a gas of some sort is used to cool it — heat pipes were mentioned and those work thru natural flow w/o a need for “forced” coolant flow.

Last edited 1 month ago by beng135
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MarkW
August 10, 2022 9:12 pm

Thermoelectric generation is very inefficient. It is justified in space probes because it is light weight and no moving parts to break down.

John Pickens
Reply to  MarkW
August 10, 2022 9:46 pm

That impression is incorrect. They use steam turbines with rotating shafts to make electricity, and rotate the propeller shafts.

Reply to  MarkW
August 11, 2022 11:05 am

Hot gases can run a gas turbine

Drake
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
August 11, 2022 7:46 am

AND they use highly enriched uranium so that they don’t need to refuel every couple of years.

The previously worst president of all time Jimmy Carter made it so the private commercial nuclear generators would never be allowed to use weapons grade U, so the efficiency of reactors is reduced by the down time necessary for refueling.

ALL reactors for electrical generation should use highly enriched fuel.

Security?? Only specific crews under the protection of the US Military would be allowed to do the refueling and transportation of fuel which would be once every 20 to 30 years, instead of every 2 to 3 years.

Reply to  Shawn Marshall
August 11, 2022 11:04 am

Military reactor power is classified, but its in the 20MW to 50MW range, typically
(a MW is about 1200 bhp).

Microreactors are well known technology and everyine is jumping on the small reactor bandwagon,

Why? It doesnt have many technical advnatgeds but it has some massive political advantages. Type approval mean one design get approved ONCE.
The anti nuclear brigade have weaponised the regulatory process. SMRs circumvent that.

Yooper
August 10, 2022 4:01 am

How about using them as steam generators and using them to replace the boilers at existing FF power plants? Then they don’t need massive infrastructure, just use what’s already there. It would also make security much easier.

OweninGA
Reply to  Yooper
August 10, 2022 5:22 am

At 1-10 MW, you’d need an awful large number of them to replace a large coal furnace.

Yooper
Reply to  OweninGA
August 10, 2022 6:08 am

I’m assuming that the design is scaleable so they can be sized for the application. Besides having more than one steam generator for each turbine improves reliability.

tgasloli
Reply to  Yooper
August 10, 2022 6:38 am

FF boilers are generally 300 MW. If you want a 300 MW nuclear power plant you don’t make it by stacking 30 of these.

And realistically, these things are for thermal not electric generation. The use of the term MW rather than BTU in the article created confusion & false expectations.

Reply to  OweninGA
August 11, 2022 11:14 am

That is why microreactors are only partial solutions.Rolls Royce, and others in the 0.5GW range of reactor size, which represnents about the biggest you can factory build and cool passively, are talking in term of multiple reactor sites so an existing 1.2GW set – typical for a two reactor UK AGR or Magnox reactor – could become a 3 reactor SMR site.
And if public perception allows, a rwo reactor city based unit using a river to cool is as neat as it gets

1-10MW is just right for a small ocean going ship

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Yooper
August 10, 2022 9:17 pm

A problem that needs to be addressed is disposing of the nuclear waste. France takes care of it by recycling the spent fuel to recover the long-lived fissionable material. However, because of Billy Carter, we can’t reprocess the fuel and have to keep it isolated from the biosphere for longer than civilization has been around. The problem will be exacerbated by more widespread adoption of conventional fission reactors. Carter’s Executive Order needs to be rescinded.

Reply to  Yooper
August 11, 2022 11:09 am

There is a problem with that, and that is the peak heat that comes out of a gas cooled reactor needs a different boiler design, and the rather lower heat from a BWR/PWR also isnt quite right for existing gas and coal units either.
In the end all you can use is the alternators, the switch gear and the grid connections,Even the cooling towers need to be replaced

George V
August 10, 2022 4:13 am

If this thing is real, does anyone think the environmental lobby in the USA will permit the transportation of a nuclear reactor on a truck? They’d litigate the movement of one of these things for decades.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
Reply to  George V
August 10, 2022 5:27 am

Can’t you order one via Amazon or eBay? That would fix it.

Sounds like a great development.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
August 10, 2022 9:20 pm

It can be delivered piecemeal by quadcopter drones. Some assembly may be required. Batteries are not included.

Mr.
Reply to  George V
August 10, 2022 9:52 am

If was an EV truck, that would be OK?

auto
Reply to  Mr.
August 10, 2022 11:12 am

That won’t be ‘Next Day Delivery’, though . . . .
Recharging breaks, and all.

Auto

Drake
Reply to  auto
August 11, 2022 7:47 am

Sure it would, the truck could be powered by the reactor, unlimited range!

Duane
August 10, 2022 4:45 am

These microreactors by themselves are not a solution to powering the grid – they are uneconomical at grid scale power production. Large utility scale reactors are necessary as a grid solution, and are easily available to any nation that wants to build them.

However, part of the technology involved in the microreactors – i.e., modularizing its construction, and the ability to scale up – IS applicable to utility scale power plants. And that is where future reductions in both construction time and cost will be achieved.

Martin
Reply to  Duane
August 10, 2022 5:27 am

If wind turbines are a grid scale solution these area substantial upgrade since they provide schedulable dispatchable power.

Fred Hubler
August 10, 2022 6:46 am

I wonder how they are cooled and how quickly then can be turned on and off or power ramped up or down.

griff
Reply to  Fred Hubler
August 11, 2022 3:37 am

good questions…

surely unlikely to have fast ramp up/down???

Drake
Reply to  griff
August 11, 2022 7:51 am

And why would you need that? As you have said repeatedly, even if these are used for unreliable generation disruption mitigation, the “Unreliable” industry can project the exact output of their solar and wind resources days in advance, so no rapid ramp up, OR down required.

“Hoisted on your own petard” much?

Reply to  griff
August 11, 2022 11:29 am

All modern reactors are designed with dispatchability built in, there is nothing about a reactor that limits its ability to operate below full power. In fact they can ramp nearly as fast as coal.

The issues are around the nuclear chemistry – poisoning of the reactor rods at low outputs happens, and old rods dont do as well as new ones. But a typixal EDF French reactor will ramp from 25% to 100% in three hours or less, with fresh fuel rods.EDF operates its freshly fuelled recators as dispatchable plant and the as the rods age they are used for baseload.

Typically small reactors are passive circulation pressurised water reactors.They dont need cooling pumps under SCRAM conditions. Some may not need cooling pumps at all. This is one of their main advantages – if you don’t need a pump you don’t need a backup pump either, as the unit will be safe under any loss of power.

We know enough about reatir design to tailor reator types for any given application. I believe its the Natrium reactor that will use molten salt not to cool the reactor, but as a massive heat bank to drive the steam unit to allow peak power several times higher than the reactor actually can generate for a few hours.This making it a supremely fast load following unit. That has a place as well.

It is strange how you are prepared to trust scientists in white coats spreading climate doom, but do not trust sober hardworking engineers when they tell you what is what.

Kevin
Reply to  Fred Hubler
August 11, 2022 7:57 am

Current generation nuclear plants are limited in power ramp rates by fuel mechanical limits, ability to adjust the steam generation equipment and changes in fission product poisons (primarily Xe-135) which compete with fuel for neutrons. The more robust fuel designs available today, the simpler steam generation equipment and the more compact cores used in this design tend to mitigate those problems. But these reactors are probably intended to produce a steady output rather than load follow.

Reply to  Kevin
August 11, 2022 11:32 am

Exactly so Kevin, and there are cheaper ways than Tesla power banks or hydrogen tanks to put storage on the grid when your primary energy is not mechanical or electrical, but high grade HEAT.
A bloody great tank of molten salt will store that nicely. For a day or ten.At extremely high efficiency.

Gordon A. Dressler
August 10, 2022 6:53 am

From the above article:
“These mini reactors can provide between 1-20 megawatts of thermal energy used directly as heat or converted to electric power.”

Well, the thermal-to-electrical efficiency of modern, power plant-size nuclear fission reactors is only about 33% (ref: https://www.nuclear-power.com/nuclear-engineering/thermodynamics/laws-of-thermodynamics/thermal-efficiency/thermal-efficiency-of-nuclear-power-plants/ )

So for, say, a 10 MWh thermal energy microreactor carried out into the field on the back of a semi truck, only some 3.3 MWh of electrical energy would be available and some 6.7 MWh of thermal energy will have to be dumped into the ambient environment. Most likely, to do this much cooling efficiently will mean the field site must have access to a large supply of fresh or salt water, thus greatly limiting where microreactors can be used.

And this is not even considering that efficiency characteristically scales with physical size, so that the proposed microreactors will likely not exceed 25% thermal-to-electrical efficiency.

Need I go further into how such microreactors, once they’ve been used a bit, might be turned into radioactive “dirty bombs”?

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 11, 2022 11:40 am

1/. I assume you mean MW, not MWh.
2/. 33% efficiency is about the same as a diesel engine.
3/. 3.3MW is about 5,000 bhp. I’ve seen bigger diesel locomotives sets and they didn’t need rivers to cool off.
In short you are talking through your arse from utter bigotry.
You dont know the difference between power and energy
You cant do basic sums.
You have no idea how big or little a MW is.
Why don’t you bugger off until such time as you have the faintest clue what you are talking about? Like 2100

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 11, 2022 1:43 pm

1/. No, I intentionally used the correct term, MWh, to denote energy (thermal or electrical); units of MW are used to denote power level which is totally different from energy.

2/. OK.

3/. I HP is equivalent to about 746 watts, about .000745 MW. Therefore, 5000 hp is about 3.7 MW . . . close enough to your value for “government work”, as the saying goes. So, now compare the size of that diesel locomotive engine to a nuclear fission microreactor that supposedly can fit on bed of a semi-tractor truck . . . no comparison actually. Then there is fact that the closed-loop radiator cooling system used on a locomotive engine is really massive and would not be suitable for cooling the same amount of waste heat concentrated in a source that maybe 1/4 the characteristic physical dimension of a diesel locomotive engine. The video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYHI0Je0hrU is instructive. No, your going to need an open loop water cooling system for your microreactor.

Your phrase “In short you are talking through your arse from utter bigotry” is laughable for its use of the word “bigotry’ making it totally non-sensical.

As to the rest of your post, phttttfptht.

Last edited 1 month ago by Gordon A. Dressler
griff
August 10, 2022 6:54 am

Well the Rolls Royce SMR scheme is up and running and should produce a prototype around 2030 with 5 working units by 2035 delivering around 2.5 GW of electricity.

all very good, but that’s a long time and a lot of money for very little power

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  griff
August 10, 2022 7:36 am

How can the Rolls Royce SMR be, simultaneously, “up and running” and yet there not be a prototype until around 2030, 8 years from now?

Of course, I know that I am seeking logic where none is to be found.

Richard Page
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 10, 2022 2:19 pm

I’m guessing that the Bill Gates/Warren Buffet SMR system will be up and running way before then – they were estimating about 7 years to get it built and running, but I don’t know if that clock has started yet.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Richard Page
August 10, 2022 4:11 pm

For what it’s worth, in my opinion the TerraPower SMR isn’t nearly as far along as the NuScale SMR is in traveling down the arduous pathway that any new SMR design must travel to reach commercialization.

Project risk management is the name of the game here. Having looked at TerraPower’s published project schedule for their SMR design, I don’t find their schedule to be credible. IMHO, the scope of work they say will take seven years to accomplish will actually take twelve years. Or longer.

Once the first TerraPower plant has been constructed and has gone live, then yes, succeeding plants will cost less and will take less time to build.

In contrast, the NuScale project team of Fluor, Energy Northwest, and UAMPS has a good portion of the regulatory, project management, and industrial base infrastructure requirements already covered.

The first NuScale plant is slated to go online in eastern Idaho in 2029. Those parts of the total project effort still remaining to be put into place before onsite construction begins are likely to be fully implemented by the end of 2024 or early in 2025.

For myself, I simply don’t see clear evidence that the TerraPower project is nearly as far along as they claim that it is.

Drake
Reply to  Beta Blocker
August 11, 2022 8:07 am

But the owners of TerraPower ALL contribute to the Democrat Party so they have an advantage over NuScale, at least until January of 2023.

NuScale’s design has already been approved by the DOE.

Has TerraPower even submitted a design for review?

Reply to  Beta Blocker
August 11, 2022 11:46 am

the race is on and Rolls Royce having 50 years experience in small reactors has a head start, but who cares? any design will do, let the best man win.

griff
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 11, 2022 3:35 am

They have started the build programme, to be clear

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 11, 2022 11:44 am

2.5GW is more than all the UK windmills are producing at this time. It is half of what the remaining nuclear fleet is producing, It is twice what all the rooftop solar is producing.
And that is only the start.
Even EDFs rubbish EPR will be running by 2025 producing 3 GW

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 12, 2022 8:08 am

Get back to me when any of what you state actually HAPPENS.

MarkW
Reply to  griff
August 10, 2022 7:57 am

but that’s a long time and a lot of money for very little power

Now that’s funny coming from someone who advocates wind and solar.

Last edited 1 month ago by MarkW
griff
Reply to  MarkW
August 11, 2022 3:36 am

Well regardless of what you think of renewables, is 2.5 GW at unknown cost 13 years from now worth it?

Drake
Reply to  griff
August 11, 2022 8:00 am

And regardless of what you think, unreliables produce Net 0 power at night when the wind is not blowing.

Reply to  griff
August 11, 2022 11:47 am

I dunno did you say that about renewables 13 years ago?
At the cost isn’t unknown.

Reply to  griff
August 11, 2022 3:56 pm

Griff
I would guess they’re being conservative in timelines to make absolutely sure there is no technical failure, or even delay, as both of these would be politically dangerous to the UK’s acceptance of nuclear which, while firm for now, remains fragile. The antinuclear zombies are never far away. Bite and hold rather than a grandiose offensive.

Kevin
August 10, 2022 6:56 am

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission would be the agency to approve such reactors for civilian, non-emergency use. Reactor at this scale may not be economically viable for such applications. They would be appropriate for manned lunar and planetary outposts.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Kevin
August 10, 2022 7:41 am

“They would be appropriate for manned lunar and planetary outposts.”

Yeah, right . . . and they would be cooled exactly how?

If you think this would be done by passive thermal panels radiating to deep space, work out the area required for such per MWh waste heat and the volume and mass of metal and/or recirculating coolant fluid required for such.

Kevin
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 11, 2022 7:47 am

Heat is not a waste product on the moon or mars.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Kevin
August 11, 2022 1:04 pm

Second law of thermodynamics applies only on Earth? . . . who knew???

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 11, 2022 11:50 am

Oh dear. Another Art Student Who Cant Do Sums.
Dumping anything up to around 50MW of heat is a trivial excersise in fan cooled radiators

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 11, 2022 1:05 pm

Oh dear, another lacking reading comprehension.

How is it, exactly, that fan cooled radiators are going to work on the Moon?

Don’t be shy, speak right up.

Coach Springer
August 10, 2022 7:20 am

Can’t wait for the DeWalt version.

Richard Page
Reply to  Coach Springer
August 10, 2022 9:05 am

It’ll come out shortly before the Walmart ‘own brand’ version!

MarkW
August 10, 2022 7:38 am

How do these reactors compare to the thermal power sources that NASA has been using for years?

John K. Sutherland.
Reply to  MarkW
August 10, 2022 8:40 am

RTGs… Radio-isotope Thermal Generators, put out ‘Watts’. Reactors, put out Mega-Watts.

MarkW
Reply to  John K. Sutherland.
August 10, 2022 10:30 am

Same principle, just scaled up.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  MarkW
August 10, 2022 12:14 pm

“Same principle, just scaled up.”

No, not at all.

RTGs use the thermoelectric effect (aka Seebeck effect) to generate electrical power directly from a temperature difference across a bimetallic junction (i.e., a thermocouple). They have no moving parts.

Nuclear fission reactors use a thermal power cycle (typically a water-steam based Rankine cycle utilizing steam turbines to drive generators that produce electricity). They have many moving parts, including valves, and require extensive safety systems.

Completely different operating principles. Orders of magnitude different power output capabilities, as pointed out by JKS.

MarkW
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 10, 2022 1:37 pm

The reactor in question does not boil steam. It appears to be a thermoelectric one.

Reply to  MarkW
August 10, 2022 3:32 pm

It seems not to generate electricity at all. By design, maybe.

Reply to  MarkW
August 11, 2022 11:50 am

I doubt that

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  MarkW
August 11, 2022 3:04 pm

“Despite the straightforward implementation of thermocouples in RTGs, the chief disadvantage of using them is their low conversion efficiency of heat to electrical energy. Conversion rates for the materials listed above typically lie in the range of between 5 to 9%.”
https://nuke.fas.org/space/gphs.pdf

I don’t believe RTG conversion efficiency has improved all that much since 2013, but let’s optimistically assume it is now around 10%. Therefore to generate, say 2 MW electric power would require 20 MW thermal power, the upper level mentioned for microreactors in the above article, if the conversion was done using thermocouples as used in RTGs.

Then there is this:
The highest specific power RTGs (developed for spacecraft) have steady-state output ratings in the range 4-5 watts electric per kilogram of total RTG mass. So, to generate 2 MW electric power, the RTG mass would have to be about 440 thousand kg, or about 490 short tons (assuming linear scaling).

A typical ~50 foot long semi flatbed trailer can hold up to a maximum of about 24 short tons, and even a tri-axel semi flatbed trailer is limited to about 33 tons maximum load.

Bottom line: there is simply NO way that the touted microreactor is going to use RTG (i.e., thermoelectric) technology to generate meaningful amounts of electricity.

David Sulik
August 10, 2022 7:57 am

Where does the spent fuel go?

John K. Sutherland.
Reply to  David Sulik
August 10, 2022 8:50 am

Where all spent fuel goes… to be safely managed, in Concrete silos for the first few years. After about 20 years the only really awkward isotopes left are Cesium-137 and strontium-90 (natural uranium doesn’t count). The… about 434 initial, and highly radioactive fission nuclides, are mostly of very short half life…seconds, days, weeks, months, and are mostly ‘gone’ after this time. those with half lives of years, hang around a lot longer. After a couple of decades, the un-fissioned part of the fuel (up to 98% of it, which can still be used) can be reprocessed and recycled. The entire, spent nuclear fuel inventory of about 30 years of operation of a 1,000 MW reactor, can be safely managed in concrete silos which cover an area of only about a couple of acres. I used to look after transfers to this site and to monitor it, year after year over the years I worked in the industry. I was never in any danger, and nor was anyone else.

John K. Sutherland.
Reply to  John K. Sutherland.
August 10, 2022 4:05 pm

If I owned a small country or was chief on a RES, I would contract, and get paid handsomely, to take all of the spent nuclear fuel, and depleted uranium they could throw at me. In fifty years, that stuff (Once-through fuel), because of its residual energy content (e=mc2), is worth more than gold. I would set up my own reprocessing facility and then sell it all back to them. Money for Jam. I could power the world for many tens of thousands of years.

If we lived in a sane world, this is the way it would be.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  John K. Sutherland.
August 10, 2022 9:26 pm

After a couple of decades, the un-fissioned part of the fuel (up to 98% of it, which can still be used) can be reprocessed and recycled.

Not in the United States.

Drake
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 11, 2022 8:03 am

Again thanks to the now second worst POTUS, Jimmy Carter.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Drake
August 12, 2022 8:27 am

And the seven US Presidents that came after Carter were powerless to change things regarding spent nuclear fuel?

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
August 12, 2022 8:23 am

Exactly so.

As of Sept 2021, “The nation has over 85,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants.” — https://www.gao.gov/nuclear-waste-disposal 

Beta Blocker
Reply to  John K. Sutherland.
August 11, 2022 8:10 am

It makes no sense to bury our spent nuclear fuel. The least expensive approach for managing it over the next hundred years is to simply leave it right where it is in dry cask storage.

Having been in nuclear construction and operations for more than three decades, I myself would have no problem keeping a dry cask canister of spent nuclear fuel stored literally in my own back yard. For a fee, of course.

Not to say that our local city council would ever grant permission for this very safe and very unobtrusive home business venture.

Richard Page
Reply to  David Sulik
August 10, 2022 9:02 am

Back to nuclear reprocessing centres to be turned into fuel again.

Doonman
Reply to  David Sulik
August 10, 2022 2:32 pm

Where does the raw ore come from?

John K. Sutherland.
Reply to  Doonman
August 10, 2022 3:45 pm

Uranium mines in Canada, Kazakhstan, Australia, etc. Look up CAMECO.

Reply to  Doonman
August 11, 2022 11:53 am

Almost everywhere. There are around 6 billion tonnes in the earths crust and another 4 billion tonnes in the sea. All of it is economically viable because you get so much energy from such a small amount,

John K. Sutherland.
August 10, 2022 8:22 am

They would be ideal for Canada in the far north, where there are thousands of small isolated communities that are reliant on diesel fuel.
The town of Galena in Alaska was looking at a small reactor a couple of decades ago to replace their coal power. Nothing came of it that I know of.

Predictably, there are the usual uninformed idiot comments on dirty bombs, theft, etc. I used to say (tongue in cheek) let the idiots steal some used nuclear fuel. They wouldn’t get very far before they become toast, and once they try to get at the insides. They would also send up a signal that any SWAT team could see, and follow from miles away, like prospecting for uranium from the air. Ir wrote extensively on dirty bombs. Search the subject and look for my name.

John K. Sutherland.
Reply to  John K. Sutherland.
August 10, 2022 8:30 am
H.R.
Reply to  John K. Sutherland.
August 10, 2022 11:23 am

These micro units are different, John K. S., because the article said they could be transported on flatbeds.

So no, you don’t steal the fissionable material which, as you and Duane have pointed out (good info, btw) will fry someone before they get back to the getaway car. Nobody has done that before because it’s a dumb thing to do. These, you steal the whole thing. Then you pack it with the explosive of your choice from Amazon, and Bob’s your uncle.

Now granted, it’s not exactly suitcase size, but nobody is going to get away with fissionable material from our current nuclear facilities without getting caught or fried.

My question is, what is the risk if the whole shebang can be easily driven off? Back in, hook up, and off you go.

This is micro and hasn’t really been done before. Everything else is big or bigger or really, really big. So, what is the risk tied to these micro units?

Are these micros going to eliminate the last excuse for not making a dirty bomb? I dunno.

John K. Sutherland.
Reply to  H.R.
August 10, 2022 3:41 pm

‘Steal the whole thing’.
Good luck with that.
SWAT will get you before you move a few hundred feet… IF, you can move it a few hundred feet, with all of the safeguards… and there WOULD be safeguards for such an expensive, and critical item. I won’t go into them.

Buy enough explosive and you are already on their radar. Trying to make a dirty bomb is a truly dumb idea. Going to an isolated, and difficult to get to location where you would stand out like a sore thumb, is another one.

Beam me up, Scotty.

John K. Sutherland.
Reply to  John K. Sutherland.
August 10, 2022 3:48 pm

Once the flatbed is where you want it to be, you build a concrete structure over it and hook it to the grid, or use steam for district heating.

H.R.
Reply to  John K. Sutherland.
August 11, 2022 3:02 pm

John, those are possible answers to the original question w-a-a-a-y up thread. But they are assumptions.

I’m not sure about SWAT. If there are thousands of these, that’s a lot of people needed to keep an eye out. Hmmm… No worries, though. We’ll have an extra 87,000 armed IRS agents that can have “Keep an eye on those little reactors. Yours is at 4th and Vine. Shoot anyone that goes near it.” as part of their job description.

But yeah, the security will probably be pretty darn good if they are offloaded from their trailers and placed somewhere and in some hardened housing that would require lots of heavy equipment to get it back on a flatbed. I posited something along those lines in my initial comment.

I wasn’t aware of the issues when handling of ‘hot’ materials. That’s sort of its own security. No one is going to go for the reactor chamber. I didn’t know that when I was initially asking about the security of these little jewels.

I would guess then that these micro reactors could be fairly secure so long as they didn’t remain on their flatbeds. I’m sure many of them will have a site prepped and their travels will be over.

But that wasn’t clear from the article. The article was all aglow about how many could be deployed and how easily deployable they would be. I was left under the impression that these might be all over the place.

They could have at least ended the article with, “And don’t worry about these being everywhere. We have a security team as part of the design team. We have a few security measures built in (no, we’re not going to tell you what they are) that will prevent them from being used for ill.” But they didn’t, so that leaves questions.

I’d like to hear that they have security covered, not just assume it or guess what the security might be.

Kevin kilty
August 10, 2022 8:28 am

I was surprised to learn in my reseach on this topic that there are at least several dozens and perhaps a hundred designs of these. Some have fuel cycles as long as 30 years. The real trouble is that the Pentagon has only a certain amount of sway with NERC, and licensing them for civilian use may take a decade. Then as the green blob uses lawfare to fight siting, when can we expect the first functioning model?

Richard Page
Reply to  Kevin kilty
August 10, 2022 2:23 pm

Rolls Royce and Bill Gates/Warren Buffet both have designs, RR are working on a prototype, not sure exactly where the Gates/Buffet team is with their design, but it looks like the race is on.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Richard Page
August 10, 2022 4:47 pm

See my comment on that topic here.

Drake
Reply to  Beta Blocker
August 11, 2022 8:11 am

Beta.

It is amazing that no one knows about NuScale. Could it be due to shameless self promotion of RR and Bill Gates?

The one advantage for NuScale is they are building on a US nuclear testing site, not of land controlled by local politicians, and have an approved design.

The advantage RR has, is they are tightly connected with the UK government.

The advantage Bill Gates has is crony capitalism and his Democrat party connections.

Reply to  Drake
August 11, 2022 11:58 am

Thee are something like 70 small nuclear projects on the go. Nuscale Natrium, Rolls Royce are the ones that spring to mind. But I read the nuclear news regularly and every week a new initiative seems to be launched

Sam Axe
August 10, 2022 8:50 am

How many will I need to get 1.21 Gigawatts?

Reply to  Sam Axe
August 11, 2022 11:58 am

3 Rolls Royce units should do that

Dan
August 10, 2022 9:27 am

Although it might be tempting to think these micro reactors would work for commercial electricity generation, they would really be too expensive because they don’t put out enough power to make a return on the investment, except possibly at the 20MW level.

SMR (small modular) reactors are better for commercial use because they will still manufactured on an assembly line, transported piecemeal on trucks or by rail and are 20 to 100MW per reactor and they can be configured with x2, x4, x6, or x8 reactors. A number of US and international companies have designs that are in the process of being built or going through the approval process.

The military wants these micro-reactors because they want every military base to have its own power and not be reliant on the local, relatively unreliable electric grid. And they can always keep existing diesel generators as a backup. For them cost is not the issue and neither is security (its surrounded by soldiers) or insurance (none needed). The main issue is reliable power, any time, all the time that is hard for an enemy to knock out. Our electric grid is fragile enough that whole regions of the country could be put in a black out with the right targeted strikes. And it’s going to get less stable and more fragile as more utility wind and solar are added.

Reply to  Dan
August 11, 2022 12:01 pm

I think we simply do not know what the price or applications will be. For example a container ship running a 50MW reactor able to cruise at 30-40 knots without worrying about the cost of bunker oil – or its pollution – could be very interesting.
Down at 5MW you are almost looking at a semi truck.Or train locomotive.Or tank…

H.R.
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 11, 2022 4:33 pm

Leo, that’s one thing that is not clear. How scaleable down are these little beauties?

Are we going to start seeing these in Fiat 500s? Is there a lower limit? I suppose that, and as you mentioned, we don’t know the price, the price might set the lower bounds. Some thigs get more expensive the smaller they get.

These are intriguing. I’ve always thought of nuclear as BIG. Small has so many possibilities.

Doonman
August 10, 2022 9:52 am

When shipping by Semi-truck, will the trucks use DEF in their diesel engines to reduce PM air pollution on the way to the disaster?

Drake
Reply to  Doonman
August 11, 2022 8:14 am

Until a US president by executive order using the same basis as Brandon for many of his orders declares use of DEF unnecessary due to cost, etc.

I drive many miles on the highway so my truck never needs to regenerate/clear the exhaust system. Anyone who has needed to do that knows the waste of diesel while the regeneration process is running.

Editor
August 10, 2022 10:39 am

Terrific potential — and the fact that the US Military will support development for their own selfish reasons means that development will be quicker.

This goes along with the Small Modular Reactors movement that have the same plug-and-ply feature, but are substantially larger and can power small cities — and in multiples, large cities.

Kit P
Reply to  Kip Hansen
August 10, 2022 2:46 pm

What a stupid statement! Kit P thinks Kip H has never usaed a slide rule.

Before calculators, engineers used slide rules.

Problem: How many BWR or PWR do you need for 300 million homes each with a potential of 1 to the power of 10 to the sixth.

Answer: 300 and I did not get my slide rule out.

How about adding micro reactors to the mix?

Answer: 300 and I did not get my slide rule out.

Why? 1,000,000 + 1 = 1,000,001 so you get the same answer using a slide rule because micro reactors have zero p0totential. Another way of writing zero is 0.000001

Editor
Reply to  Kit P
August 11, 2022 7:19 am

Kit ==> No idea what you are talking about.

Reply to  Kit P
August 11, 2022 12:04 pm

How about adding 3 million micro reactors to the mix?
Cost benefit analysis – watts per dollar – is all that counts.
Gimme a 20KW reactor for my house at less than $10,000 that lasts 60 years without refuelling. And I will bite your hand off

Gyan1
August 10, 2022 10:48 am

LENR is coming to market if they can get funding. Clean Energy Technology Company // Brillouin Energy

Ed Zuiderwijk
August 10, 2022 11:24 am

A very instructive read about nuclear power and its great future: ‘Atomic Accidents’ by James Maheffey.

LARRY K SIDERS
August 10, 2022 1:58 pm

Renewables require at least 15 days of 100% backup power to avoid shutting down the system and killing lots of people.

Any system capable of taking on the entire base load demand can OBVIOUSLY HANDLE all of the Power Generation ALL THE TIME… making the more expensive Renewables redundant and unnecessary.

Leaving Out the question of Back-Up power for Renewables is worse than just outright lying…it’s Criminal…and any Engineers signing off on these systems should be held liable for all damages.

Making any claim that “Renewables are Cheaper” is patently false…They REQUIRE building, maintaining and operating 2 entire Power Generating Systems…with the Renewable portion being the most EXPENSIVE — Ask the Europeans how much their cheap Renewables are costing them…as thousands of Pensioners perish in the cold this coming Winter.

griff
Reply to  LARRY K SIDERS
August 11, 2022 3:34 am

‘Renewables require at least 15 days of 100% backup power to avoid shutting down the system and killing lots of people.’

no it doesn’t

Drake
Reply to  griff
August 11, 2022 8:32 am

Absent RELIABLE BACKUP GENERATION, I would say nearly 6 months of backup in northern climes.

LAKKY K SIDERS is of course correct about reliable, dispatchable generation being all that is needed, and that unreliables are a total waste of resources.

The added cost of unreliables are just a regressive increase in the cost of “energy” that hits the poorest the worst.

So, as I have asked you before griff, why do you HATE poor people so much?

Reply to  griff
August 11, 2022 12:05 pm

Correct, it requires at least 30 days

Kit P
August 10, 2022 3:00 pm

My home is on a flat bed truck. I make electrity for my motor home with a 800 watt $88 generator.

My MH uses a 300 hp Cummins diesel to get from point A to B. On 6 very expensive 22.5 inch semi tires. Like safety related rubber components in a nuke plant, tires age out after 5 years.

Like with EV, what is the cost of added weight on things that do not last very long.

Some things are not practical. And never will be.

agimarc
August 10, 2022 3:56 pm

regarding cost: Historically, SMRs are much less economical to build and operate than the large light water power plant reactors of the last half century. I have long thought this is entirely due to the NRC regulatory overhead / licensing regime. Appears we are about to finally get a little bit of actual data.

My poorly uninformed guess is whatever their cost, that cost will be way below wind and solar, which is all we need for an actual opening bid. Cheers –

Brian
August 10, 2022 4:03 pm

Nothing wrong with put more than one in an area! Add 10-20 units and you’ve got a serious power supply!!

Drake
Reply to  Brian
August 11, 2022 8:37 am

10 to 20 SMR at 77MWe gross, yes, 10 to 20 micro reactors at 1to 20 MWe gross, not so much.

Reply to  Drake
August 11, 2022 12:07 pm

SMRs for grid scale use will be as big as we can make em, in a factory, and still not need active cooling under fault conditions. 500MW seems to be the golidlocks power

August 10, 2022 4:20 pm

Why no mention of Nuscale? The first nuclear SMR maker to get across the regulatory finish line. Odd. The article was about Nuscale without mentioning Nuscale.
Lactobacillum Bulgaricum.
Henry the Eighth.
Giraffe.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Phil Salmon
August 10, 2022 6:04 pm

The NuScale SMR is geared to serve the commercial utility market. See my comment here on the current status of the NuScale project as compared with the TerraPower effort.

Edward Katz
August 10, 2022 6:02 pm

These microreactors make a lot of sense, except since they have a nuclear component, they’ll automatically be denounced and rejected by the environmentalists.

David Segesta
August 10, 2022 9:03 pm

What do they do with the spent fuel? It will be highly radioactive for many years. Currently the spent fuel rods are stored onsite at the plant in pools. and they have to be kept covered with water for many years.

Drake
Reply to  David Segesta
August 11, 2022 8:43 am

The US government passed legislation to TAX all nuclear power output customers to provide for the storage of the spent fuel. The legislation was written by Democrats, a promise never kept, what a surprise.

Yucca Mountain was designated the ONE repository for the spent fuel. Designs for storage/transportation casks were completed and tested to withstand high speed train engine impact. A tunnel was bored through Yucca Mountain off which the casks were to be stored, I have been there. The national repository never happened.

You can trust Democrats just as far as you can throw them.

David Segesta
Reply to  Drake
August 11, 2022 2:20 pm

Yes there are plans which have never been put into effect. The bottom line is that they are still kept onsite. So who will maintain them for many years into the future? That’s a big question for the conventional plants. But I think there would be many more of these micro plants. So there will be many more storage sites to be maintained.

John K. Sutherland.
Reply to  David Segesta
August 11, 2022 11:59 am

Pools for a few years to cool down, and then concrete silos for a few decades. Then possibly, reprocessing. This stuff should never be ‘discarded in any way. It’s far too valuable.

John Andrews
August 10, 2022 11:06 pm

Good comments, empty article.

Tekov Yahoser
August 11, 2022 12:21 am

Big Green will fight cheap and abundant energy to the death. Their goal has always been pricing energy so high that economic and population expansion is thwarted.

griff
Reply to  Tekov Yahoser
August 11, 2022 3:33 am

If only fossil fuel companies had any cash or influence at all, the poor wretched thinks

Andy H
August 11, 2022 12:53 am

1-20 Megawatts is peanuts. The average (not peak!) power consumption in UK is 11000MW so you are going to need maybe 20000 of these generators to power the country if they were running flat out. In reality you would need 50000.

There is this this called the economy of scale, which says that you are better off making a few bit things than thousands of smaller ones. It is cheaper, takes less people to run and uses less resources.There are people who think that anything big is bad and local/smaller is magically better. They usually are not successful in anything they do.

griff
Reply to  Andy H
August 11, 2022 3:33 am

I don’t think that can be right as an average?

anyway daytime weekday summer power demand is around 30 to 35GW over working day… winter 40 to 49GW, winter peak just over 50 for a few evening hours

michael hart
August 11, 2022 9:35 am

Sounds good. But how quickly will they be able to ramp-up and ramp-down electricity production?

The way many electricity markets are now being regulated suggests this is critical to profitability. When the the usual suspects (wind and solar) fall off a cliff then the on-demand generators are able to shaft retailers up the wazoo. Sideways. With a Camel.

A nuclear plant that can do the same would be a goldmine. Base-load and on-demand increase. It’s a power shift from the (retail) buyers to efficient competition among the sellers. That will translate into cheaper electricity for consumers, n’est pas?

John K. Sutherland.
Reply to  michael hart
August 11, 2022 11:46 am

Naval nuclear reactors (sub, and Carrier) do fast ramp-ups on a dime, else they’d be no good.

August 11, 2022 11:44 am

Are the reactors in the US nuclear navy military secrets? They sure do have a long history of accident-free operation; seems like that design would fit this niche very well.

Kit P
Reply to  James Schrumpf
August 11, 2022 4:31 pm

It was US policy to freely share the peaceful use of nuclear power. As result allmost all commercial nuke plants are LWR like navy plants..

So not a military secret.

I was navy nuke officer and later was SRO certified on large commerical plants. The navy on a needed reactors small enough to fit in the hull of the ship.

The same people who built those, scaled he reactor up to make small commercial plants. Then bigger ones and bigger ones. My last one was 1600 MWe in China. A second one is now running at that site with room for many more.

So it is a matter of scale. If you need a small amount of electricty go to Harbor Freight, Slap a radiation warning decal on it and Griff, Skip, and Leo will not know the difference.

Karl
August 12, 2022 6:00 am

The Pentagon isn’t the NRC so don’t look for these anytime soon. Not to mention the fact that the fuel production infrastructure doesn’t exist yet for the more highly enriched fuel that this reactor needs. Also, I expect that the cost for these micro reactors are probably at least 3 to 5 times more expensive on a megawatt electric value versus an 1100 MWE regular reactor.
Especially if they follow the trend of the SMR which was just actually approved by the NRC. It provides 50 megawatts electric, which means you need 20 of them at 1.5 billion each to equal one regular reactor. That’s 33 billion. Not counting interconnects or site preparation. Or you could maybe buy the Russian version for 750 million a pop. Either way, extremely expensive. Not happening anytime soon. Don’t hold your breath.

Oh, by the way, why don’t you go on to nuclearPower.org which is the website of the nuclear power industry where they’ll show you that there’s not enough production of uranium in the world to meet the current demand of the 400 operating nuclear reactors.

Karl
August 12, 2022 6:05 am

Oh wow! I just read the actual links in the article. I actually like your website Anthony. I believe that humans are not affecting the climate to any degree as stated by the climate doomsayers. I also 100% agree with you that almost all of the temperature stations around the world are cited poorly. I mean just look at the one in Hawaii that’s between runways at an international airport. That being said, you wrote an article about a micro reactor that’s been chosen to be used as a test reactor at a test facility in Idaho. That means it may possibly go into production after NRC approval for commercial use sometime around 2035.

Oh and as far as non-reliable renewable energy it produced more electricity actual production not nameplate capacity in 2021. Then nuclear did. Go look it up. You know I’m right 20.2% versus 18.9 %

tom hewitt
August 12, 2022 7:06 am