Saturday, February 19, 2011

ANS Nuclear Cafe Hosts Carnival of Nuclear Energy # 40

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy has now reached the 40 edition point. ANS Nuclear Cafe has the latest. Here are some excerpts:

Thorium fueled reactors generate interest

Nuclear Green – Rising interest in thorium fueled reactors

Full-size thorium fuel assembly for a 1000 MWe Russian VVER-1000 nuclear power plant

Now that China has announced interest in developing innovative thorium fueled reactor designs, a lot of people are paying attention.

Despite [the Chinese announcement of LFTR development plans] not making a ripple in the wider press, there’s a chance this development could be very significant. If the advocates of LFTRs are proved correct – and their arguments are certainly very compelling – then the Chinese could be taking one of the first substantial steps in a new type of nuclear race.

And the stakes are high: as [Kirk] Sorensen reports, the project “aims not only to develop the technology but to secure intellectual property rights to its implementation”. It will be very interesting to see what happens next.

Oil company business model v. nuclear energy

Atomic Insights – embargo oil business model

The Atomic Insights blog has been covering the business competition between oil, gas, and nuclear energy.  This week it takes on the oil company business model exploring reasons why it is low on innovation and yet high on profits.

ANS launches India Section

Reprocessing spent fuel

Recovering uranium and plutonium from spent fuel can power a nation’s factories and cities.  We recycle aluminum, glass, and paper so why not spent fuel. The logic appears to escape some in the U.K. and elsewhere

Canadian Energy Issues

Get ready for a righteous fight over plutonium in the UK. The coalition government has launched consultations on the question of whether to recycle it in power reactors, or entrain the stuff permanently in glass logs and dispose of it, or just keep it in long term storage.

Expect the professional environmental lobby—with the full support of the professional anti-proliferation lobby—to oppose recycling, and to back up that opposition with reasoning that is either weak or outright contradictory.

Brave New Climate – Safeguarding the nuclear fuel cycle

The purpose of this post is to compare the safeguards challenges presented by two nuclear recycle approaches, relative to the current U. S. approach of a once-through fuel cycle.  If these nuclear fuel cycles are evaluated solely on the basis of the safeguards needed, one finds the following:

PUREX recycle offers no safeguarding advantage over the once-through fuel cycle.  Beyond that, this approach presents a significant concern over handling of separated plutonium in the power plant environment.  Since chemically pure Pu is inherent in the PUREX process, safeguards inspections must be highly intrusive.

Adding recycling fast reactors with pyroprocessing (“PYRO”) to an existing fleet of LWRs absorbs all of the plutonium produced by LWRs.  There will be no inventories of plutonium other than what is in active use. PYRO is a new class of facility requiring safeguards, but batch-process inventory controls, coupled with a simple mechanical layout, will make the inspectors’ job more straightforward than for a PUREX facility.

The facility for recovering usable material from used LWR fuel may require safeguards similar in approach to those in PUREX facilities, but no separated plutonium will be involved.  If plutonium were to be diverted from a PYRO facility or from the LWR recovery facility, it would be useless (for weapons use) without further processing in an otherwise unneeded PUREX type of facility.

Realistically, a full transition to recycling fast reactors is a process that will take decades.  However, if all the LWRs were retired and replaced with recycling fast reactors, in addition to the above advantages, there would be no further need for uranium enrichment.

Get your full gourmet meal of nuclear energy news at ANS Nuclear Cafe's 40th Carnival of Nuclear Energy, including pointed criticism of Obama's NRC, and the battle over public opinion regarding nuclear power.

Despite the many potential advantages of small modular reactors, some utilities want to stick with what they know -- coal. Unfortunately, as we learned from the recent Texas experience, power plants which rely upon day to day supply of fuel from the outside, may get frozen out.

Some scientists are predicting that low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) devices will achieve commercial success within 10 years.

The UK's Tokamak Solutions' attempt to achieve success with a spherical tokamak fusion reactor, is covered here and here.

The US government is stuck on an "energy starvation" setting for now. As long as the Obama regime chooses stagnation and stasis, it will be up to the rest of the world to take their own ideas and technologies -- plus ideas and technologies originating inside the US -- and move them forward to commercial success.

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