The Ergosphere
Friday, October 22, 2010
 

Why the Integral Fast Reactor had to die

Over at The Oil Drum, I left this comment, not really grasping the enormity:

Fast breeders can turn any isotope of uranium into energy (as well as burning all the transuranics), so you might want to look at this 2008 paper:

During the 50 years that the Federal Government controlled the U.S. uranium enrichment enterprise, DOE generated over 700,000 metric tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6).

About 10% of that is suitable for enrichment to LWR fuel, but fast breeders or converters can use 100% of it.  At 0.8 tons of metal/GW-yr, that is 590,000 GW-yr of generation or 590 years at 1 TWe without mining another gram of uranium.  The USA is currently using about 450 GW average.

A Gen IV nuclear reactor will probably have a thermal efficiency of about 40%; therefore, 1 TWe = 2.5 TWth.  What I didn't realize at the moment is how this compares to total US energy consumption.  The USA uses approximately 100 quadrillion BTU per year, give or take.  This is just a bit over 3.3 TWth.  The conclusion is that uranium already in the US inventory, burned in Integral Fast reactors, could power the USA for over 400 years at current rates of consumption!

I'm sure you see the implications.  The coal-mining industry:  gone.  The gas-drilling industry:  gone.  Coal transport by rail and barge:  gone.  Gas and oil pipelines:  gone.  Oil refining:  reduced to supplying the chemical industry.

"What's the problem," I hear people asking.  "Wouldn't we rather be without gas-line explosions and oil spills in our rivers and seas?"  Well, it depends who you are.  If you are one of the monied interests in the carbon-based fuel sector, these things represent huge amounts of wealth wiped out, and the rest transferred to regulated monopolies.  All of the power they create today, everything that lets those industry heads rub elbows with senators and play golf with heads of state... gone.

They can't let that happen, even if it would take 50 years.  That's why the Integral Fast Reactor had to die.

 
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
 

Worthwhile post on small nuclear reactors

Rod Adams has a post on small nuclear reactors, including some notes on the 1961 SL-1 reactor accident (now coming up on its 50th anniversary).

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