Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Intelligent Design for Rational Nuclear Evolution

Charles S. Holden founder of Thorenco LLC working with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory physicists has proposed a small transportable 50-megawatt-thermal Thorium converter reactor for multiple uses: producing electricity (15 megawatts), burning up high-level actinides from spent fuel, and producing low-cost, high-temperature steam (or process industrial heat). This high-temperature steam can be used for extraction of oil from tar sands, or desalinating, purifying, and cracking water. The reactor’s fuel matrix can be “tuned” to provide the right output for each particular work process.

Designed by specialists, the reactor core is a squat cylinder, about 140 centimeters in diameter and 50 centimeters tall. Its size makes it portable, so that it can be brought to remote locations to work site and supply heat and electricity there without dependence on long-distance transmission lines. Its small size also allows it to be factory-built and transported to its destination, “plugged in” in a deep underground containment structure, and put to work quickly. The core can be shipped back to the factory when the fuel needs to be changed. _Thorenco
The modern world is in desperate need of a compact, scalable, portable source of reliable power. Several startups and established companies are designing small modular reactors to meet that need, but in nuclear and industrial design there is always room for improvement. The new Thorenco LLC 50 MW thermal thorium reactor answers most of the concerns which critics of nuclear power have expressed:
• Neutrons convert Fertile Thorium-232 to
fissile Uranium-233
• No Plutonium Produced
• No melt downs
• No fuel rods
• No cooling ponds
• No 10,000+ year spent fuel storage _Thorenco Presentation PDFvia NBF
More from NextBigFuture:
•10 years at 40 megawatts
•141 Kg. U-233 “burned” during decade
•More than 100 Kg. of fissile produced
•1600 kilograms of U-233 fissile load
•9000 kilograms of Th-232 fertile load
•23 Grams U-232 produced in fuel over the decade of operations
•Hexagonal Prism 160 Cm. Width and Height
•Fuel Volume 2330 Liters
•Fuel 11.65 Metric Tonnes; 1-2 Metric Tonnes Fissile in Fuel
•Coolant 93,200 Liters; 450 Tonnes
•Reflector Volume 1420 Liters 16.65 Metric Tonnes

Thorenco’s ceramic fuel is dispersed in an inert metal matrix covered by Holden’s Patent Cooperation Treaty application. This solid state metal alloy is composed of four materials. The thorium and uranium fuel particles are embedded in the alloy, which both slows and moderates the fissioning process. There are moderating materials dispersed in the alloy along with the actinide particles. Using the metallic alloys as moderators (instead of the water used in other Thorium reactor designs) allows Thorenco’s reactor to operate in a more energetic neutron spectrum so that its core can have a long life.

The self-regulating reactor is expected to operate for 10 years without needing refueling. _NBF

Not only does the small thorium reactor avoid the production of plutonium, it burns nuclear waste from conventional nuclear reactors -- without producing 10,000 years of radioactive waste products. Besides greater safety in terms of proliferation and waste products -- and in making productive use of nuclear waste from mainstream reactors -- these small modular thorium reactors can be installed in remote locations for dedicated use in mining and industrial CHP applications.

Economically, modular reactors allow much greater versatility for both utility planners and for off-grid applications. Rather than being forced to connect to the grid -- or to overdesign a grid to match large reactor outputs -- economic entities can fit the power source to the actual need.

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