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On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Job001 Gibson

Interestingly enough, I founded a company in 1993 called Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. based on a design for a closed cycle gas turbine using a pebble bed reactor, nitrogen as the working fluid and a simple Brayton cycle using compressors and turbines that were designed for the combustion turbine market.

These machines could be made available in a variety of power outputs by choosing the appropriate reactor internal volume, filling it with the appropriate number of pebbles, and choosing compressors and turbines that were already being manufactured, thus avoiding the costs of design and creating whole new supply chains for unique machines run on some kind non standard gas like helium.

It is a well proven and testable fact that pebble bed reactors using TRISO fuel particles can be made so that they can withstand a complete loss of cooling without scram and still maintain all fuel temperatures below the temperature that will damage any of the elements. That statement holds true up to a thermal power level of about 300 MW, so it is not terribly interesting to people who think in terms of reactors with thermal power of 3,000 to 5,000 MW. 

However, since large combustion turbines are generally in the power range of 100-150 MWe, it is a very useful characteristic for someone interested in closed Brayton cycles that are intended to compete against combustion turbines and diesel engines.

Anyway, you can find out more by perusing the documents available at and

Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. by the way, was never successful in raising enough capital to move off of our computers and into actual machinery. Part of the problem was that the TRISO fuel particles that we initially thought had been proven to be good enough were not available anymore. There was, and remains, a very credible fuel manufacturing and testing program that is designed to meet NRC expectations being run by the DOE and the NGNP partnership. That program is scheduled to have licensable fuel ready by 2021 or 2022. We couldn't wait that long.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

July 5, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort


Germany's electricity reliability statistics are interesting but irrelevant in a global sense. Germany is a well developed, relatively densely populated country with an existing grid and neighbors that are quite willing to sell it power when needed or to take its excess production -- though the willingness to purchase the excess is becoming saturated.

For example: If your goal is to power a moderately sized city in the American Southeast, you would be daft to believe that wind or solar would be a significant contributor. Geothermal is a non-starter. Hydro works, but there is virtually no available waterway left to dam. (There are many places in the world with similar challenges.)

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

July 3, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Bill Hannahan

Since you reference Ray Haroldsen’s story about blowing up BORAX, I presume you actually read it. Do you recall the portion where he described in detail the creative engineering he had to invent in order to cause the rod ejection, high reactivity rate to begin in the first place?

There are many protections that prevent such an even from happening in any reactor that can be licensed and built today.

July 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Job001 Gibson

People are also willing to pay more for energy that is available when and where they need it. No matter how popular it might be to think that the wind and sun are all you need, no human has figured out how to control when the sun shines or the wind blows. Long transmission lines are just as vulnerable to interruption by aggressors as any other kind of fuel delivery system.

If someone owns a nuclear power plant, they are not terribly vulnerable to extortion since they can stockpile several fuel reloads if desired and each reload lasts for 18-24 months.

There are several independent fuel suppliers that are not in any kind of cartel.

July 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Nathan Wilson

I would put the line of demarkation in a different place. Those nations that have technically compenent, respected advisors who can do math in decision making or decision influencing positions like nuclear energy. Several of them - Sweden, France, Russia, India, South Korea, China, Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and others are keenly interested in building and operating nuclear power plants and taking advantage of their impressive energy output. 

Those nations that are dominated by a love of money rather than a love of humans seem more interested in maximizing profits for their already wealthy members who have learned to prosper in a hydrocarbon-based economy. Those nations tend to have decision makers who think that laws and policies trump math and thermodyamics.

Some of the countries that can do math are not admirable and are also in the nuclear game for the benefits that it can bring to people at the very top, but at least they have not ignored the technical reality that fission is superior to combustion in a number of applications.

Sadly, at least one of the countries that recognizes the value of nuclear energy would prefer if only its friends used the technology, so it has invested time and money supporting movements that discourage nuclear energy by spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

July 2, 2014    View Comment    

On IPCC Working Group III Recommends Nearly Quadrupling Nuclear Energy

@Willem Post

I am not getting my hopes up just based on the IPCC report, but on what I see as a growing consensus among honest scientists and engineers who are justly concerned about the continuing effects of unrestricted CO2 dumping. People like Hansen, Wigley, Calderia and Emanuel are finding a voice and telling people the truth that needs to be repeated - climate change is a big risk and the most important available solution that is ready today to tackle the problem is nuclear energy.

Wind is playing a role today and may continue to grow, but it cannot do the job that we need our power sources to do. It cannot provide power when and where we need it; it is more of an opportunistic, fair weather power source that is destined to play a minor role.

April 22, 2014    View Comment    

On IPCC Working Group III Recommends Nearly Quadrupling Nuclear Energy


Did you even read my post? Working Group III of the IPCC was formed to provide suggestions for workable solutions. They have clearly stated that nuclear is part of the very short list of suggestions and they have identified to policy makers that the main obstacles in the way of using more nuclear are political and must be solved by policy makers, not engineers or scientists.

That is a good thing. We do not have time to wait for inventions like "reliable electricity storage" or cost effective "carbon capture and storage" but we have plenty of time to allow people to change their minds. Popularity of technology like nuclear can be changed almost as quickly as we can change our minds about the best available smart phones.

April 22, 2014    View Comment    

On Some Lessons Were Learned from TMI, Others Were Not

@Bob Meinetz

You wrote:

John, TMI is dwarfed by the Santa Susana Field Laboratory accident of July 1959, which is estimated to have released 400-500 times as much radiation to the environment, and resulted in as many deaths from cancer over the years.

You mean zero, right? I have to admit that your first paragraph threw me off -- when I initially read it -- because somehow my eyes skipped the key word 'as'. That left me seeing "resulted in many deaths from cancer," which did not jive with the context of the rest of your comment.

It just goes to show that words -- even tiny little words -- matter. 

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

April 8, 2014    View Comment    

On American LNG Won’t Solve Russia's Energy Bullying


The prices you quote in your first paragraph are for 1000 cubic FEET, not 1000 cubic meters. That makes them wrong by a factor of 35.3 on the low side.

Russia also does not sell its gas to European customers for the equivalent of $4 per 1000 cubic feet (which is also frequently stated as MMBTU for million British Thermal Units.)

The monthly prices since September 2013 have remained relatively constant at almost $11/MMBTU.

Natural gas from the US based on our current -- artificially low prices -- would cost about $12/MMBTU, as you stated, but that it not as far from Russian prices as you stated.

On the other hand, I agree that it is irrational to think that very many investors are going to sink the kind of capital investment required into an LNG delivery infrastructure on the hope that current North American gas prices will remain in place for the next 20 years while they recover their capital investments.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

April 7, 2014    View Comment    

On Vogtle Construction Update Video

@wind smith

Here's the funny thing. A substantial portion of the money that Wall Street controls and invests is owned by millions of individuals who have invested in pension funds, mutual funds, and regular bank accounts.

We should demand to get more for our money than just bigger returns and paychecks for the bankers.

April 6, 2014    View Comment    

On Is The Energy Department Still Looking To A Give Coal-To-Liquid Plant A Loan Guarantee?

@Joe Romm

There is another way to sharply reduce the CO2 production rate per unit of fuel in a caol-to-liquid conversion process. The reaction is an endothermic one; most of the extra CO2 production associated with coal to liquid comes from burning about half of the input coal to provide the heat. That process releases CO2 and cuts the output liquid by about 50%.

If a high temperature, ultra-low emission nuclear reactor provided the heat -- as is proposed by the NGNP project and others -- there would be far fewer emissions and a substantantially greater liquid fuel output.

The overall cycle could approach the CO2 emissions per unit of liquid fuel currently achieved with conventional petroleum. The required raw materials are located in the US, not under the territory of potentially hostile nations or trading partners who happily export crude oil to the US in a highly profitable arrangement -- for them.

A great source of the coal for this process is the coal that will no longer be directly burned in US electricity production because it has been displaced by cleaner sources of power like natural gas, wind, solar, and, of course, nuclear energy.

If you're interested, there is more information here:

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

April 6, 2014    View Comment    

On What a Waste – Vermont Yankee is in Beautiful Condition

@jan Freed

It is too easy to simply say nuclear is too expensive without a reasonably good understanding of WHY it is so expensive. After all, fission is just another heat source that uses machinery very similar to that used to convert combustion heat into electricity. 

There have certainly been mismanaged projects, but there have also been numerous projects that were purposely delayed for many years. Delays during the late 1970s and early 1980s were very costly since interest rates were in the double digits and briefly exceeded 20%.

Solar and wind have been growing rapidly, but it might be worth your time to pay attention to what the American Wind Energy Association says every time the deadline approaches and their precious Production Tax Credit (or the Investment Tax Credit in lieu of the PTC) expires.

April 5, 2014    View Comment