Friday, June 26, 2009

Small Nuclear Reactors

What prevented the rapid development of nuclear power in the past was simply scale. The US market of the sixties was not big enough to reward a lot of innovation and alternative protocols. Canada and others also produced their own indigenous system and largely failed to create any thing other than one off markets.

Now we have a major Chinese market emerging, which implies a similar market in India over the next decade. This reports on the advent of innovation in the sector and the application finally of mass production..

We have also reported on Indian Thorium fueled systems which turns out to be good news to all except I suppose Uranium miners. Thorium is plentiful in concentrated form in Indian beach sands and that assures a long life for the technology. This is not so readily assured in the uranium business which has historically depended of rich hot spots to provide the fuel.

The easy stuff got found pretty early and the less than easy stuff is an exploration nightmare that is thinly disguised blind drilling. A typical high grade uranium mine consist of an ore sausage that may have very modest cross section that is easily missed with the necessary deep drilling on even fifty foot spacing.

Remote sensing technology may improve enough to clean this up, but we are a long ways away as yet.


Update on China and South Africa Nuclear Reactor Construction and Wall Street Journal on Small Nuclear Reactors

1. South African nuclear technology firm PBMR plans to have its first 80 megawatt (MW) power and heat processing plant based on its pebble-fuel technology by 2018. Previously there was a target date of 2014, but the project was cancelled for a few months, but appears to be back on track.

The global economic slowdown has forced the company to change the design to include industrial applications as well, using PBMR's ability to create high temperatures to attract buyers among companies including those active in Canada's oil sands projects and petrochemicals group Sasol (SOLJ.J).

Ferreira said that while the first plant would take some four years to be built from the time the company expects to take a final commercial decision in 2014, the next ones would take only two years to be constructed.

China is scheduled to start construction of its 200 MWe pebble reactor in Sept, 2009.

2.
Work to build a new reactor at Fuqing, China has been officially launched - three months ahead of schedule. Construction at various stages is now ongoing for six units at the site.

Preliminary permission was granted for the other four units in April by the National Development and Reform Commission with ground being broken for units 3 and 4 early this month, and excavation for units 5 and 6 already about 30% complete. The overall 6000 MWe project is expected to cost 100 billion yuan ($14.7 billion).

China National Nuclear Company (CNNC) said that preliminary design work for units 1 and 2 is complete and it is satisfied that construction and equipment design work meets the requirements for the project. Procurement of major components is running on schedule, with contracts for units 3 to 6 under development.

The astonishing pace of nuclear development in China - Fuqing is just one of seven multiple reactor power plants currently being built - is part of a national plan to have 72 GWe of nuclear capacity by 2020

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