Thursday, March 01, 2012

Radix Mini-Modular Reactors Aim for Off-Grid and Military Markets

Startup nuclear reactor company Radix is aiming to build and sell a 10 MW Mini Modular Reactor (MMR) to replace diesel generators for large off-grid and military applications.
The Radix design is similar to some SMRs in that it is an integral pressurized water reactor (PWR) with the pressurizer and steam generator in a single vessel. Where it differs is the fuel design: the Radix fuel is based on Triga, an all-metal fuel with a very high power density and thermal conductivity compared to uranium oxide with a long history of use in research reactors -- which might make it more readily approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Triga, originally developed at General Atomics, has an inherent safety feature: a very fast temperature response, which means that in the event of a control rod insertion error, the reactor will shut itself down.

...The goal is to go after off-grid applications as opposed to the on-grid power sources envisioned by the SMR manufacturers. The value proposition claimed by the company is that the lifetime cost of an MMR beats the lifetime cost of diesel power. Further, the company believes the device would work on islands or remote geographies such as in Alaska, as well as in the previously mentioned military applications.

The challenges to this company are many. Raising funding from conventional VC sources will be an uphill battle -- VCs want to isolate risk and this technology, like all nuclear technologies, has market, cost, and regulatory head winds. Nuclear has a post-Fukushima black eye, and the NRC is not known for flexibility or speed. _GreentechMedia
Here is more on the Areva IV-Gen HT-Gas Cooled Reactor which won a recent award from The Next Generation Nuclear Plant Industry Alliance:
The design is for a 625-megawatt, high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor. Unlike current reactor models, the design uses helium to cool the reactor instead of water...Using the process heat from the nuclear reactor instead of fossil fuels would help reduce a company’s carbon footprint, he said.

The main steam temperature in the reactor is designed to produce stabilized steam at about 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit to be used in the manufacturing process, he said.

Southworth said 90 percent of process heat used by industry is in the range of 482 to 932 degrees Fahrenheit, which falls into the reactor’s range.

Parece said safety is different between the current reactors and this next generation design. The helium would always be in a gaseous form and could remove heat from the reactor at all times. Modern reactors use water to remove heat, so it can only go to a certain temperature before it turns to steam, he said.

The reactor would not need big water tanks like modern designs and because the cooling is self-controlled, nuclear fuel will not be damaged, he said.

“This is one of few inherently safe designs,” Parece said.

...In France, the company [Areva] is designing a fourth-generation sodium-cooled reactor Parece said can use natural uranium as fuel. He said it fits the country’s needs for reactors because it has the resources for that type of design. _NewsAdvance
Gen IV reactors will provide solutions to several problems faced by older reactors. Besides increased safety, and the production of game-changing high quality process heat, certain types of Gen IV reactors will provide the solutions to nuclear proliferation and waste storage concerns.

It is ironic that anti-nuclear "environmentalists" are forcing societies to use less safe and more polluting forms of power generation, due to their efforts to retard the approval of newer, safer, cleaner nuclear reactor designs.

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