But Lot's wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.
Salt and Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactors
Sales of American reactors have crashed; yet lately, we hear that nuclear power will save us from climate change. So why is the dog chasing its tail?
After the war, the 1946 McMahon Act prohibited Americans from sharing nuclear secrets with anybody. (Unless you wanted to swing at the end of a rope) Every nation was a leper unto each other so that nuclear power evolved as a series of chaotic experiments.
During the 70's oil crisis, American light water reactors were finally ready for commercial production. Sales at home and abroad exploded, even though the design had a fatal flaw. Consider a hot water heating system. A furnace heats the water; the water travels to the radiator, heats the room, and flows back to the furnace. Let's refer to the water as a "coolant"; because if there is no water flowing over the nuclear core, there will be hell on earth.
Here's the bug that never went away. Water under pressure (coolant) takes heat from the core to the heat exchanger.
1. The water is under pressure; so if a pipe bursts, the water turns to steam and the core instantly overheats. It is not enough to turn off the system (SCRAM). The thermodynamic inertia will melt the core.
2. So in addition to SCAM, emergency splash systems soak the core and end the crisis. Maybe not, here is what happens in the real world.
Three Mile Island [TMI-1 TMI-2] March 28, 1979
1. A stuck-open relief valve allows reactor core coolant to drain away. This is detected and 8 seconds later there is a system SCRAM.
2. Emergency pumps are activated to flood the core. Nothing happens because the valves were closed for system maintenance!
In order to refuel, the reactor must be shut down. A second, identical, reactor takes over; hence the designation TMI-1 and TMI-2. The light water design makes sense for a ship or submarine when it comes into port. The reactor is shut down and refueled for a vessel that is not going anywhere.
Another point, light water reactors use enriched uranium. Heavy water or CANDU reactors, in a manner of speaking, can just use the dirt from the ground.
Commercial reactors should work just fine as long as the taxpayers gets one invoice for the civilian reactor, and another one for the weapons of mass destruction.
Pebble Bed reactor: High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor [PBR: HTGR]
This type of nuclear reactor was developed in Germany from 1960-1988. It failed, in part, from the incompatible problems of doing research while trying to make a profit simultaneously.
How does it work? This is considered to be a "next generation" investment. It uses no water; rather, the fluid is a gas such as helium. The operating temperature can go up to 950 degrees Celsius so that other applications; such as coal gasification, hydrogen gas production, are possible. Thermal meltdown is apparently impossible due to the pebble arrangement.
Because of the politics and technical difficulties, Germany shut down the program. A license was granted to China and development continued for more than ten years. These reactors will be replacing coal-fired plants, and as well, there will be foreign sales-Indonesia is first on the list. Expect the price of uranium to go up and the price of coal to go way down.
Molten Salt Reactor [MSR]
This technology can deliver unlimited energy with orders of magnitude less of toxic waster. It is also called "next generation" but might not be ready for a generation. MSR and PBR can used a Brayton cycle, a sort of closed circuit jet engine. No water is necessary which is useful in a desert environment.
Right now, one of the leading designs is based on a liquid floride thorium type reactor [LFTR]. This is a version of fast breeder reactor where the nutrients can be injected and the waster products filtered out-like a biological cyborg.
The full resources of China are being applied to the problem. At least one American company, Flibe Energy, also works on the same.
I would consider two technologies to be in the lead. Pebble Bed Reactors [PBR] which use enriched uranium, and Heavy Water Reactors, which do not need enriched uranium. We need to qualify this a bit. Most of the easy mining has been done and that product has been wasted on atomic bombs. In general, some mining and refining has to be done with a toxic material.
There is/was some cooperation to recycle older nuclear weapons and hazardous materials. This depends on the U.S. Senate. At this time, June 2017, they primp and puffed themselves up for the broadcast media. It is really quite a bore.
sniffyraven at fastmail.fm