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Power The Almighty Buck

NuScale Power Awarded $226 Million To Deploy Small Nuclear Reactor Design 210

Posted by Soulskill
from the melts-down-in-your-mouth,-not-in-your-hand dept.
New submitter ghack writes "NuScale power, a small nuclear power company in Corvallis Oregon, has won a Department of Energy grant of up to $226 million dollars to enable deployment of their small modular reactor. The units would be factory built in the United States, and their small size enables a number of potential niche applications. NuScale argues that their design includes a number of unique passive safety features: 'NuScale's 45-megawatt reactor, which can be grouped with others to form a utility-scale plant, would sit in a 5 million-gallon pool of water underground. That means it needs no pumps to inject water to cool it in an emergency - an issue ... highlighted by Japan's crippled Fukushima plant.' This was the second of two DOE small modular reactor grants; the first was awarded to Babcock and Wilcox, a stalwart in the nuclear industry."
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NuScale Power Awarded $226 Million To Deploy Small Nuclear Reactor Design

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  • There should be one between Corvallis and Oregon.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday December 13, 2013 @03:10PM (#45682943) Journal

    Any kind of leak and you've suddenly got 5 million gallons of contaminated water.
    Of course, this assumes that your containment pool doesn't leak (yea right).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by i kan reed (749298)

      Leaks can be detected and contained at relatively low levels and happen with "big nukes" too. And it's nowhere near the environmental risk that meltdowns are.

    • and what happens if the earth splits and the water drains away?

    • Not to mention that we're already running down our aquifers...

      Kinda wish the article made any attempt to explain how "put it in a pool of water" makes it supposedly automatically safe in the case of accident. Wouldn't they still need pumps to circulate the water through the reactor to absorb the heat?

      • by Jeremi (14640)

        Wouldn't they still need pumps to circulate the water through the reactor to absorb the heat?

        Assuming they designed it well, the convection currents caused by the heating of the water would be sufficient to circulate the water through the reactor.

      • by iroll (717924)

        Five million gallons is absolutely nothing for a power station, even for a desert community. It's a cube less than 20 m on each side.

        Much, much, much more water is already blown into the atmosphere by the cooling towers which are a necessary part of any nuclear, coal, gas, solar-thermal, or other steam turbine-driving technology.

        • by fnj (64210)

          Actually it's a good bit more than a 20 m cube; not less.

          5 million gallons of fresh water times 8.33 lb/gal = 41.7 million lb divided by 2000 lb/ton = 20,900 tons = 19,000 tonnes

          19,000 tonnes = 19,000 m^3 = 26.7 x 26.7 x 26.7 m

          (minor roundoff errors are of no significance to the point)

          That is one hell of a lot of water. Not from a use standpoint; normally there would be zero usage once filled; but in case it gets contaminated and then leaks away.

          • by iroll (717924)

            Good catch; I did the calculation earlier and forgot which way I had rounded. It's a 30-m cube.

            But it doesn't matter, because 5MG is not a hell of a lot of water from a utility-scale water management perspective (the field I work in, incidentally). This plant (http://www.srpnet.com/about/stations/kyrene.aspx), which is a 520 MW power plant, uses more than 3 MG daily in make-up water. Others use more or less.

            The GP was musing about impact on declining aquifers, and my point was that the communities buying po

      • Not to mention that we're already running down our aquifers...

        Which doesn't matter much because there are huge reserves of water under the ocean [the-americ...terest.com].

        Not to mention the amount of water we are talking about is really tiny when compared to the amount used even by a small city.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      5 million gallons may sound like a lot, but it's not event that big. 5 million gallons, equates to about 19000 cubic meters. which is a 27 meter cube of water. Or a pool the size of an american football field, at 4 meters deep. I wouldn't be hard to contain the water if the basin was built properly.
      • by hondo77 (324058)

        5 million gallons may sound like a lot, but it's not event that big. 5 million gallons, equates to...a pool the size of an american football field, at 4 meters deep.

        So how big does a pool have to be before you consider it to be big?

        • by cusco (717999)

          Did you know that they seal garbage dumps? That's an enormous area. There are entire Superfund sites that are multiple times that size, completely sealed. Then there are the neutrino detectors, which are not only huge and sealed, but sealed to the point where no impurities at all can contaminate the detector. So yeah, it's a good sized pool, but we know how to do that really well.

      • by fnj (64210)

        It wouldn't be hard to contain the water ... unless, like, a big earthquake happened and split your container all to hell. Think.

  • http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/12/senior-fusion-researchers-give-major.html [nextbigfuture.com] In a major endorsement of the fusion energy research and development program of start-up Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP), a committee of senior fusion researchers, led by a former head of the US fusion program, has concluded that the innovative effort deserves “a much higher level of investment based on their considerable progress to date.” The report concludes that “In the committee’s view [LPP’s]
    • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Friday December 13, 2013 @03:36PM (#45683253) Homepage

      This company can produce power now. Focus Fusion might be able to produce significant amounts of excess power in a 10-25 year time frame. Or maybe never.

      • by mythosaz (572040)

        Focus Fusion might be viable on the horizon, especially at a potential price tag of only $226 million, but you can get a Hybrid Fusion for about $22,000 MSRP.

    • http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/12/senior-fusion-researchers-give-major.html [nextbigfuture.com]

      In a major endorsement of the fusion energy research and development program of start-up Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP), a committee of senior fusion researchers, led by a former head of the US fusion program, has concluded that the innovative effort deserves “a much higher level of investment based on their considerable progress to date.” The report concludes that “In the committee’s view [LPP’s] approach to fusion power is worthy of a considerable expansion of effort.”

      Talk to Ford - you might be able to sell 'em just on the fact that supporting "Focus Fusion" is free advertising for two of their models...

    • There would be a much quicker return on the investment if the money was invested in dispersed solar generation. Low interest loans and tax credits to homeowners would have panels on roofs in a few months, not the decades it would take to get a nuke online. Also, remember the $226 million is just a start. The cost of nuclear power is huge if it is done even halfway intelligently. Dispersed solar power is quick and cheap. For now the greatest demand on our power networks is during the hot summer afternoo
      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        ah you mean like the tax break that the UK government gave that equated to an 8% tax free yield for rich middle class people - paid by the poor people who dont have either a suitable site or a spare 8-10 k to spend.
  • by timeOday (582209) on Friday December 13, 2013 @04:05PM (#45683575)
    This plant is 45 MW. Assuming 90% capacity factor for nuclear vs. 25% for wind, you'd need a 160 MW wind plant for the same average output. (All of the top dozen [wikipedia.org] wind farms are at least triple that.) Assuming $2M/MW [theenergycollective.com] for wind (second source [awea.org]), that's $320M for something equivalent to this $226M nuclear plant. I assume the nuclear plant cost includes waste disposal, although fuel, maintenance, and decommissioning costs would seemingly be lower for wind. For nuclear there is the question of pricing in possible catastrophe.
    • The big advantage of wind farms is that when you decommission them, you don't have this huge stockpile of exhausted wind lying around in cooling ponds that will be hazardous for the next ten thousand years.
      • by weilawei (897823)
        More FUD. The longer-term decay products are correspondingly less dangerous. The really dangerous stuff has very very short half-lives. Store it for a short while, let the nasty stuff decay, then continue to use it as fuel. This is FUEL. Not waste. FUEL.
        • Fuel. Yes, if it's both economical and safe to reprocess. You STILL wind up with a lot of nasty stuff to store.

          The biggest problem with nuclear is that people run that industry - short sighted, greedy, sometimes incompetent people. Let me know when you find a technical fix for that.
          • by weilawei (897823)
            You can say the same of any industry working with potentially high risk situations. The solution is to levy actual punishments on the key perpetrators. Hard jailtime. This isn't a technical problem (see an LFTR fuel cycle, instead of the existing ones), it's a social one, with social solutions.
        • by fnj (64210)

          Nobody is buying it, unless very short to you is 30 years. That is the half-life of Cesium-137, and Cesium-137 is hideously harmful.

          Nothing magic happens after 30 years, either. In 30 years it is half as hideously harmful as it is now. In 60 years, 1/4. In 90 years, 1/8. Still hideously harmful.

    • And when its not windy you have a 0MW wind farm.

    • The biggest problem with wind is that it doesn't adjust to demand. Even in reliably windy areas, you sometimes get a calm day. At least with solar, you get peak output during peak energy demand (hot summer days, although the demand is shifted more to the late afternoon. There's a time lag as buildings and the air heat up. Peak production is 10am-4pm, peak demand Is noon-8pm). Ultimately, if you don't want to burn fossil fuels, nuclear is a very dependable strategy. Wind is fine if your alternative sou

    • by nojayuk (567177)

      Offshore wind runs about $5/MW of dataplate energy according to a report today on the BBC about a major project that's just been cancelled -- £5.4 billion ($8.6 billion) for an 1800MW capacity wind turbine array (Three hundred 6MW units). Offshore gets a little bit better capacity factor than land-based units, maybe 30% so that's 540MW average over a year or so. Expected lifespan of offshore wind turbines is about 15-20 years but the industry has been quite coy over failure rates and actual operating

      • by olau (314197)

        You are taking a pessimistic view on the wind power side here.

        In Denmark, we just completed a 400 MW offshore site which gets a non-inflation-adjusted strike price at 0.19 USD/kWh for the first 10-12 years. After that it operates on market terms. The capacity factor is expected to be around 45-55% as far as I know (other offshore sites have similar factors - the numbers are publicly available in an open catalogue of all Danish turbines). Modern turbines have much improved capacity factors compared to the ol

        • by nojayuk (567177)

          I understand the site off Tiree for the planned 1.8GW dataplate wind farm involved hard-rock mounts for the turbines and apparently the engineering costs for the mounts were going to raise the price -- this wind farm was to be situated in the north Atlantic which is a much harsher environment than the sheltered southern reaches of the North Sea. Some other wind farms in the south of Britain closer to major population centres in shallower more sheltered areas such as the Irish Sea have gone ahead at that str

  • Sounds like this is just big enough to power a huge data center or corporate campus. So this is probably not a plant for the average citizen, but one to make power cheaper for corporate users. No surprise. It helps Google get cheap power, while we keep paying for coal and gas.

    • by compro01 (777531)

      You don't use just one of them.

      45MW is about the same as a GE LM6000 natural gas turbine. You stick three, or four, or a dozen of those together to make a single plant of worthwhile size. You'd use these mini-nukes in the same manner.

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Friday December 13, 2013 @04:26PM (#45683795)

    ....what ever happened to these?

    China gets one running and... ...then nothing? A few people stopped funding theirs?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble-bed_reactor [wikipedia.org]

    • by Dr. Zim (21278)

      http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/2001/october/a6oct01.html outlines the issues with pebble bed reactors.

  • by sallgeud (12337) on Friday December 13, 2013 @04:36PM (#45683885)

    5 million gallons of water is approximately the size of one football field x 12 feet deep... or 360' x 160' x 12' ... or if you prefer cubed... about 87.4' cubed of water

  • Here's a description without the hype. [nrc.gov] This has a small containment vessel, only slightly larger than the reactor pressure vessel. It's a vacuum bottle setup - there's normally a vacuum between the pressure vessel and the containment, as insulation. In an emergency, the reactor vents into the containment vacuum, which allows more heat conduction to the outside. The outside water pool is just a big heat sink.

    Most containment vessels are much bigger than the reactor vessel. One of the problems with the re

    • by suutar (1860506)
      The reason containment vessels are so large in current reactors is that they're using high-pressure high-temperature water to move the heat around. High temperature because that's the only way to move the heat efficiently, and high pressure to keep it from becoming steam. But if there's a breach, there goes the pressure, and now you have X liters of water turning into 1500X cubic meters of steam (1 liter is 55 moles, and each mole becomes about 22.7 cubic meters of vapor). So you need a lot of room for the
  • This design is built primarily off site, which should greatly reduce construction costs. In addition, a standard design would reduce O&M as well.

    Its modular design allows refueling of a plant while the other continue to operate, which could yield large savings since you could refuel during light load periods and stagger the refueling throughout the year.

    Turbine design would be interesting - do you build a turbine for max anticipated load or for installed laid and then upgrade?

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