Nuclear Energy Solutions September 1, 2006Posted by federalist in Energy.
Large-scale custom nuclear power plants are so passe. We should push technology to standardize and miniaturize nuclear energy. Here’s an essay advocating one fascinating design called the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor.
The fuel comes in the form of baseball-size graphite balls, each containing sugar-grain-size particles of uranium encapsulated in high-temperature graphite and ceramic. This makes them easier and safer to handle than conventional fuel rods, says Pretoria-based nuclear physicist Kelvin Kemm.
Not only are these reactors immune to meltdown risks, but they also are more fuel-efficient:
Conventional fuel rod assemblies are removed long before complete burn-up, to avoid damage to their housings, but PBMR fuel balls are burned to depletion.
With this design we eliminate a whole host of concerns regarding transportation, fuel security, reactor safety, and waste recycling. If we standardized nuclear fuel production on encapsulated uranium balls we could put these non-polluting PBMR reactors anywhere we need large doses of power.
Process heat from PBMR reactors can also be used directly to desalinate seawater, produce hydrogen from water, turn coal, oil shale and tar sands into liquid petroleum, and power refineries, chemical plants and tertiary recovery operations at mature oil fields.