13 January 2011

What do the UK's Nuclear Experts think?

I am hoping to get a spectrum of views, from a fair few of the UK's nuclear physicists and engineers, to see if there is any cause for optimism or if any avenues of progress reveal themselves to me.

I will see if the following email/letter produces any results:

Dear ,

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs)

I am contacting you to see if you would be kind enough to let me have your views and comments on LFTRs and, in particular, if you think the technology may have future relevance to the UK manufacturing sector.

I am a LFTRs disciple and hosting what I think is the only UK Blog on the subject: LFTRs to Power the Planet (http://lftrsuk.blogspot.com/)

I would most appreciate it, if you would spend a few minutes looking at my ‘mechanical engineer’s take’ on LFTR technology, which assumes that a (relatively) cheap R & D programme would get us to, say, a 100 MWe working prototype, and a further modest sum would finance a feasibility study, to design and cost the production line manufacture of such units. All of this could be accomplished in 5 years.

My efforts are directed at the opportunity for UK manufacturing to jump-the-gun in offering the first SMR versions of LFTRs to a potential market for tens of thousands of such units. Manufacture of such ‘chemical engineering plant’ is within the capabilities, capacities and expertise of several UK engineering companies or consortiums and the prospects for growth and jobs in the manufacturing sector is huge.

My hope is that adoption by the developed world will prove irresistible to the developing world, and will make LFTR technology easier to sell than any of the competition.

No other form of energy generation comes anywhere near to offering:

Lowest ecological effect – the mining of 200 tonnes of thorium ore per GWyear.
Sufficient thorium available to last thousands, or even tens of thousands of years, at developed-world usage levels.
Virtually zero environmental impact - no greenhouse gas emissions and only 1 tonne of radiotoxic waste per GWyear (decaying to background radiation levels in 300 years).
Can be configured to ‘burn’ existing radiotoxic waste, including that requiring hundreds of thousands of years of storage.
Cheaper, in terms of capital and running costs, than any other form of electrical generation, SMR units would be affordable by developing world countries and regions (or gifted, on the premiss that increased electrical power usage correlates to reduced birthrate - an essential humanitarian goal).

Load following capability lowers cost, simplifies and improves efficiency of any installation/grid infrastructure.
High temperature waste heat for district heating, to massively improve the efficiency of electricity generating installations.
High temperature heat to create a hydrogen economy, to manufacture carbon-neutral fuels for all transport needs.
High temperature heat to manufacture ammonia, as fertilizer feedstock, to maintain high levels of agricultural production.
High temperature heat for producing potable water from seawater or brackish groundwater.
High temperature heat for industrial processes for the petrochemical industry, heavy oil extraction, etc..
Having no mechanism for expelling radioactive materials into the environment, such as high pressure steam/gas or highly-reactive core materials, no containment structures or exclusion zones are required. The land ‘footprint’, requiring no additional piped or transport infrastructure, is smaller, per GW, than any other form of generation.
SMR versions (say 100 MWe) would allow 10 such units to supply electricity to a city of 1 million people. If ‘sold’ as intrinsically safe, with the necessity for social fairness towards the siting of units, district heating schemes and simplified grid designs are economically attractive and feasible.
To the layman, it is highly likely a consensus can be reached that LFTRs have increased proliferation resistance over other commercial reactors.

1 comment:

  1. Colin,
    Have you been in touch with Victoria Ashley at Aker Solutions? They are exploring an LFTR design. Not everyone has their head in the sand... though whether they will get funding together before the Chinese are selling LFTRs on eBay who knows?