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Energy Generation: Some Good and Bad News

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posted on Sep, 27 2018 @ 05:52 PM

Terrestrial Energy USA, a company that is developing a fourth-generation molten salt nuclear reactor, has joined forces with Southern Co. and several U.S. [...[ DOE national labs, in a [...] R&D project that seeks to pin down whether its reactor technology can produce hydrogen efficiently using nuclear heat and power.

The two-year-long project will examine how efficiently and economically Terrestial’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plant can produce industrial-scale hydrogen. It will test a hybrid sulfur process, which is a carbon-free method of generating hydrogen from water and “may be more efficient than high-temperature steam electrolysis,”

Interest in molten salt reactor technology has also kicked up of late. Molten salt reactors under consideration for future licensing by the Office of New Reactors, an arm of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), use either solid fuel or liquid fuel (fuel mixed with molten salt). The NRC notes that at least four molten-salt reactor designs are under development—Flibe Energy’s 600-MWth LFTR (liquid-fluoride thorium reactor), Martingale’s 557-MWth ThorCon, Transatomic Power’s 1,250-MWth TAP (Transatomic Power), and Terrestial’s 400-MWth IMSR. “The thermal spectrum liquid fuel reactors use a fluoride salt and some employ on-line removal of fission products and possibly actinides. Some have unique ways of adding fissile and fertile material,” notes an April 2018 report from Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Nuclear Science and Technology Department.

According to SRNL, hybrid sulfur hydrogen generation is a two-step thermo-chemical cycle based on sulfur oxidation/reduction. A key step in the reaction is electrochemical water splitting using a sulfur dioxide–depolarized electrolyzer. SRNL says the demonstration could develop a “plausible path” to producing hydrogen gas using both thermal and electrical energy (78% thermal energy and 22% electrical energy) at a cost of less than $2/kilogram of hydrogen. Molten salt reactors are the “best choice” for high turn-down electrical power generation efficiency, it says. In a June 13, 2018, presentation, SRNL noted that total funding for the project to demonstrate the hybrid sulfur hydrogen production process integrated with a molten salt reactor would be equally cost-shared. The DOE’s share is $525,000 and industry would pick up the remaining $525,000.

Power magazine (, Sept. 9, 2018 - Demonstration Advances to Produce Hydrogen Using Molten Salt Reactor Nuclear Technology.

They are going to tap into the thermal energy of molten salt reactor (MSR). They are going to demonstrate three pipelines of thermal usage and the info-graphic shows 600 °C coming off the IMSR: One used to generate electricity; Two, to store/share with renewable source (they do not explain 'how' it is just the info-graphic); Three, hydrogen production.

This will be a multi-year study. A nice win for carbonless hydrogen production! (YAY!)

That was the good news.

In a Tuesday announcement, Leslie Dewan, Transatomic’s CEO and co-founder, wrote, “We haven’t been able to scale up the company rapidly enough to build our reactor in a reasonable timeframe. It is therefore with a heavy heart that I must announce that Transatomic is suspending operations.”

Dewan also announced that the Cambridge, Mass.-based company will be “open-sourcing our intellectual property, making it available for any researchers — private, public or nonprofit — who want to continue the work we’ve started.”, Sept. 25, 2018 - Transatomic to Shutter Its Nuclear Reactor Plans, Open-Source Its Technology.

If anybody has been following, Transatomic they sprang out of MIT and a molten salt reactor design from Oak Ridge. Their big claim was a "zirconium hydroxide moderator" that would be mixed with the fission fuel that they said would scale, and be safe, and then basically over promised the amount of energy the reactor could produce.

That is where MIT Technology Review stepped in. They ran the numbers and found a couple errors. This was quite the scandal when it hit the press! The reputation of MIT Startups all failing has the Transatomic proclamations to thank for this general impression.

Now Transatomic is done with. RIP. I had hoped they would/could use "waste" nuclear material as fuel in their reactor (nuclear fission fuel is not completely "burned" and it is this material they were going to use. Generate electricity and clean up the environment, what is not to love? Except they did not actually reduce nuclear waste which is one of the things Technology Review pointed out.)

I hope they do get clearance from the DOE to open source their research!

And one more piece of good news!

NuScale Power, based out of Portland, Oregon[, ...] issued a press release today saying that, after 18 months of searching, it has selected manufacturing company BWX Technologies to begin engineering work that will lead to manufacturing the company's Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design.

Phase 1 engineering and manufacturing begins today and will last until 2020, NuScale wrote, and then Phases 2 and 3—"preparing for fabrication" and "fabrication," respectively—will continue from there., Sept. 26, 2018 - A good announcement and a bad announcement for two nuclear-energy startups.

They also cover Transatomic closing shop. It is the other announcement about NuScale SMR because a few months ago they got Stage 1 NRC approval which is like going from the minor league to the majors!

It appear with all my fusion fanboy antics that I am anti-nuclear but that is not true. It will take all forms of energy generation from coal and gas, to renewables, to nuclear fission and SMRs, to supercritical CO2 turbines, and when it can be done, nuclear fusion, thorium reactors, and hydrogen. Not to mention grid-level energy storage (using your preferred method: chemical, thermal, kinetic).

Let's really open this up! The issue is touchy. But that is OK. What say you ATSitizens (lol) about nuclear fission? Too scary? An idea whose time has past? It is renewables all the way, baby? You'll get my coal when you pull it from my cold, dead, fingers? Thorium is best? Geo-thermal? OTC? Metamaterial waste heat scavenging? Hydrogen? Biofuels? Tesla? Quantum foam? Wilson!

Or are you like me, sitting in the corner, gently rocking, repeatedly saying to yourself, "Fusion is coming. Fusion is coming. Fusion is coming..."

edit on 27-9-2018 by TEOTWAWKIAIFF because: Title was not the topic I ended up talking about. Changed.

posted on Sep, 27 2018 @ 06:19 PM
This is good news but like all the cool things it is going to take many years until this will be ready to be implemented.
I always read about new discoveries on different sites and they never say when it will be ready for the general public which grinds my gears. I wish from discovery to use was only like 1 year... but that is never going to happen.
edit on 27-9-2018 by watchandwait410 because: u

posted on Sep, 27 2018 @ 07:01 PM
a reply to: watchandwait410

Yeah, which is why when re-reading my original thread I realized the title did not match.

I think part of the reason for the privatization of fusion research is precisely that it takes so long when all these researchers pile on to the project. Then each group has to work to secure research money which ends back up in the political realm as the parties see-saw back and forth and claim they "support tech A because the other guys supports tech B which if become president I will stop wasting money..." and these announcements do not get to be true "break through" announcements.

The DOE has been rather helpful to industries and assist in providing science and scientists but that hardly gets published. So I have hope for the multi-use MSR to not only see the light of day but get dinosaurs to stop thinking the way they do "larger is better". Which is also why I like what Lockheed is thinking of the compact fusion reactor as being small and distributed instead of monolithic.

All I am really sure about is that we cannot keep on doing what we are doing because the infrastructure is aging on the monolithic plants both conventional and nuclear. Renewables also show that distributed is the only real option and that means storage too.

A 1-year turnaround would be awesome! I guess we get to wait and see.

posted on Oct, 8 2018 @ 07:10 PM
Not a fan of nuclear technology. There's a lot of good alternatives as it is.

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