Thursday, August 15, 2019


Via The Mirror, August 12, 2019:

"A series of mini-nuclear reactors could be built across the North in a major power scheme.

Plants could generate energy in Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire under a project spearheaded by Rolls-Royce for “small modular reactors”.

The Government is pumping in £18million so the firm can develop the design of the reactors.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to formally announce the plan in September and the first plant could be up and running within the next 15 years.

“These new mini nuclear reactors would be concentrated across the North — and plans are in motion to place them in the Sheffield city region, Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire,” a Government source told the Times.

“Nuclear is clean and a way of reducing the UK’s carbon footprint on a large scale.”

The reactors would trigger a jobs bonanza, with 40,000 posts expected to be created.

Each power station could generate enough energy to fuel 750,000 homes, according to estimates by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison said: “There is market ready technology available globally which can be put together with the UK supply chain, with us having what is needed to build them here in the Northern Powerhouse alongside investing in a large factory which this support will help us to achieve.

“Work undertaken by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre has shown what can be achieved; ensuring that we build up our capabilities and all the resulting economic benefits of the jobs being here in making them.

“Our upcoming energy industrial strategy for the Northern Powerhouse will focus heavily on SMRs, fulfilling the promise of when George Osborne back in 2015 committed the funds to establish the UK as a leader in what was then an emerging area globally.”

Supporters say nuclear power is clean, efficient and renewable.

But critics believe it is too expensive, takes too long to clean up and the risks involved are too great.

Rolls-Royce’s website says: “At every point in the development of our UK SMR solution, we have sought to take a modular approach to drive down the cost of electricity to as low as practically possible, whilst at the same time building in multiple layers of fault prevention and protection to make sure the technology is safe in all modes of operation.”

But scientist Dr Ian Fairlie, of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: “The grandiose safety claims made about SMRs are reminiscent of false claims about nuclear power in the 1950s when it was said electricity would become too cheap to meter.

“SMRs are still vulnerable to nuclear accidents, terror attacks, and can produce more nuclear waste than conventional reactors per unit of electricity.”

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis said: “The Sheffield City Region is superbly placed to support the development of small modular reactors technology.

"We can play a leading role in meeting the challenges of climate change while helping to keep the lights on.”

French firm EDF is building a £20billion nuke plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset."

Here's a brief technical overview, per the Rolls Royce website:

"A three loop, close-coupled, Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR)
provides a power output at circa 400-450 MWe from 1200-
1350 MWth using industry standard UO2 fuel. Coolant is
circulated via three centrifugal Reactor Coolant Pumps (RCPs)
to three corresponding vertical u-tube Steam Generators
(SGs). The design includes multiple active and passive safety
systems, each with substantial internal redundancy.Rapid, certain and repeatable reactor and overall power
station build is enhanced through site layout and maximising
modular build, standardisation and commoditisation. The UK
SMR design is illustrated below. The three loop reactor (Figure
1) is located in Nuclear Island, shown in red, adjacent to
Turbine Island, shown in yellow, with the Cooling Water Pump
House following, shown in blue (Figure 2). These facilities are
protected by a robust hazard shield. Support buildings and
those containing auxiliary services are situated within a berm
that sweeps around the site and provides further protection
from external hazards, e.g. tsunami or aircraft impact."

The reactor pressure vessel is of course the downmost cilinder in the centre. The pressurizer is the one slightly above it. The three cilinders arrayed around and above it are the Steam Generators. Here the water from the primary circuit, typically 315°C hot but held at 155bar to prevent boiling, transfers its heat to the secondary circuit water. This water, at "only" 60 bars, does start boiling. Its steam is then fed into turbines which in turn propel the generators, whence electrity is fed to the grid. A gif to refreshen your memory:

Anyway, Rolls Royce's SMR looks very much like the Chinese Hualong One design:

I'm a bit disappointed that the Rolls Royce design is apparently still a good old PWR reactor using classing Uranium Dioxide as fuel, and not a Molten Salt reactor. These use the relatively abundant Thorium-232 as the fertile material (the Th232 is transmuted, by shooting a neutron in it, in U-233, which is a good nuclear fuel), and have the advantage of producing less long-life term radioactive waste. Perhaps the costs of developing a reactor suited for a Thorium fuel cycle was considered too high. Perhaps there's still an echo of Cold War reasoning behind this continued UO2 and MOX preference. I don't know. Either way, reliance on this type of reactors is far more realistic than putting your bets on solar and windmills.


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