Monday, February 01, 2010

Designing a Reactor For Oil Sands and Heavy Oils Production

It takes a lot of energy to produce oil sands and heavy oils -- particularly in remote and cold locations. High temperature extraction processes for oil sands and heavy oils demand a lot of heat and power. What better way to provide both heat and power than using a nuclear reactor designed specifically for the job: like Areva's proposed high temperature gas-cooled reactor HTGR?
Areva’s R&D manger leading the effort, Finis Southworth, (right) told a conference call of nuclear energy bloggers in January it will take about 10-12 years and $3 billion to design, license, and build a 300 MW (electricity) 600 MW (heat) fast reactor to provide process heat co-located at oil refineries and chemical manufacturing plants.

Southworth said members of the NGNP Alliance include Areva, Dow Chemical, Conoco, and Chevron. There are additional members of the Alliance, but for business reasons have chosen not to go public with their participation. However, in March 2009 Rod Adams at Atomic Insights found a public list of the membership, released by the Heritage Foundation, and posted it on his blog.

NRC licensing challenges ahead

While the technology roadmap to develop the reactor is relatively straightforward, the path to complete NRC licensing has some unknown twists and turns.

"NRC licensing is critical to our success," Southworth said, "and it takes too long." He added that right now, "NRC does not have the regulatory framework to conduct safety analyses for high temperature gas cooled reactors."

Not much progress seems to have occurred at the NRC since it published an NGNP licensing strategy in 2008.

One of the safety features of the new reactor design, Southworth says, is that its "passive safety" features do not require electrical power, pumps, pipes, or cooling systems to shut down.

Market and competitive factors

Market opportunities for the new reactor include providing process heat for oil refineries and chemical plants. The reactor would be designed to deliver heat in the range of 450-550C. For applications in the Alberta tar sands, heat would come out of the reactor at 450C and could be piped up to 10 Km arriving at the mining site at 350C. _EnergyCollective

Information on the Toshiba 4S reactor, one of the leaders in the race to small modular reactors.

A fascinating look at GE - Hitachi's PRISM reactor

Nice overall look at the small nuclear reactor competition worldwide

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is an underfunded, sluggish, and outdated bureaucracy that is completely unsuited to the 21st century task of modernising the nuclear power industry. While the US NRC drags its bumbling and inept feet, the global economy waits paralysed, wondering where the energy will come from for the next big push in technological and societal advancements.

As the world's entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and inventor / innovators wait for the green light, parasitical opportunists such as the UN IPCC and faux-environmental lobbies rip and tear at the vulnerable underbelly of an aging energy and industrial infrastructure. The Obama - Pelosi reich is not making things any better by declaring CO2 a dangerous pollutant, and pursuing all possible means to starve the US of every reliable energy source.



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