Small modular nuclear Power Plants
Modular Nuclear Plants & Advanced Technology
Advanced Nuclear Power technology is the way forward
I’m excited for Australia to look into nuclear power using Rolls Royce Small Modular Reactors (SMR), but with a twist. According to what I’ve read about them, they appear to be an excellent fit for our country, offering grid stability and security alongside renewable energy sources, waste to energy, and maybe other waste recycling technologies that can be utilised to fuel power generation.
The one problem I see with the Rolls-Royce SMRs is that, while they will only produce a small amount of nuclear waste, the waste will be of an older form that will require segregated storage for thousands of years. Developing an environmentally friendly means of dealing with spent fuel/nuclear waste is one of the most difficult challenges in nuclear power from what I can see.
We call it nuclear waste but is it really Waste?
There are numerous myths surrounding nuclear waste, but it may be the key to a green and sustainable future. Nuclear waste is a broad term that can apply to a range of things, including radioactive medical items, but the big ticket concern on most people’s thoughts is ‘Spent Nuclear Fuel,’ as relates to nuclear power generation.
The waste from typical nuclear power reactors is known as ‘High Level’ waste and it’s the uranium fuel that is ‘spent,’ meaning it can no longer produce electricity efficiently. Because spent fuel is both extremely hot and highly radioactive, it must be handled remotely and protected with shielding.
Introducing the Amazing New Nuclear Technologies
Advanced nuclear reactors generate significantly less waste. Natrium technology, for example, uses radioactive uranium fuel to power nuclear reactors far more efficiently and completely than traditional facilities. Bill Gates and TerraPower and doing some exciting work in this space.
Because of the efficiency with which it uses the fuel, Natrium technology will lower the volume of waste per megawatt hour of energy produced at the back end of the fuel cycle by 500% without any reprocessing.
It seems that we have the solutions available now
All of our worries about reactor accidents, the potential conversion of nuclear fuel into highly destructive weapons, the management of hazardous, long-life radioactive waste, and the depletion of the world’s commercially viable uranium reserves could be dispelled by a relatively new type of nuclear technology. Part of this is the latest development of a technology that’s actually been around for a long time but just never mainstream.
This new technology involves (1) pyro-chemical processing, a way of converting nuclear waste into fuel and (2) Advanced Fast Neutron Reactors (AFNR) capable of running on Nuclear Waste
Canada are leading the way forward, why don’t we just copy them?
Thanks to AFNR technology, we have a process that never uses pure plutonium. These reactors have the unique ability to extract the maximum amount of energy from nuclear fuel, which best ensures that the spent fuel doesn’t have enough energy remaining to be used to manufacture weapons.
The AFNR nuclear fuel cycle is closed, rather than open, as in traditional reactors.
Note: If spent fuel is not reprocessed, the fuel cycle is called an “open” or “once-through” fuel cycle; if spent fuel is reprocessed or partially reused, the fuel cycle is called a “closed” nuclear fuel cycle.
Advanced Fast Neutron Reactors can be fuelled by nuclear waste components such as reactor grade plutonium and minor actinides, which means that radioactive waste from previous generation nuclear power plants can now be reused rather than stored for thousands of years. We can now consider existing nuclear waste to be a resource rather than a burden, which is fantastic given that there are 400,000 tonnes of spent fuel/nuclear waste in storage throughout the world that can now be used as fuel.
Due to the use of liquid metal as a coolant in AFNR technology, another benefit of these reactors is the ability of the radioactive core to function at pressures that are almost ambient. There is little chance of a serious loss-of-coolant event occurring.
A small amount of waste would still be generated and require specialised storage but this waste would stabilise within a few centuries, rather than tens of thousands of years as with traditional reactors, that is of course, unless there’s a way of turning that into fuel?
Pyrochemical Processing of Nuclear Waste (Recycling)
The pyrochemical process recovers a combination of transuranic elements from spent fuel rather than pure plutonium. Its name originates from the high temperatures required to treat metals and it is based on electroplating. It chemically dissolves waste fuel with a strong electric current; plutonium and other transuranic elements are then selectively recovered on an electrode, along with some fission products and the majority of the uranium. The majority of the fission products, as well as some uranium, are still present in the bath.
When a batch is finished, the electrode is removed by the operators. The materials are then scraped off the electrode, melted, and cast into an ingot before being shipped to a re-fabrication plant to be converted into fast-reactor fuel. Once the bath is saturated with fission products, technicians clean the solvent and prepare the collected fission materials for long-term disposal.
We must be open to considering all options on the table
So, if we
were to adopt the technology being developed by Canada and build Small Modular
Advanced Fast Neutron Reactors and ensure and perform Pyro-Chemical Processing
on any waste we create, then that seems to make Nuclear Energy a great option.
think that there is many years of reliable energy buried in the ground as
landfill and that we should not exclude Licella’s Cat-HTR and Sierra Energies
FastOx Gasification processes as ways of clean fuels and gasses to power other
forms of energy generators.