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This subject's pages:          NuScale: The U.S. Bridge Reactor    
Footnotes & Links

    Advanced Nuclear:
NuScale, A "Technology Bridge" Nuclear Reactor


12 very small "walk-away safe" reactors, not one huge bundle of energy.

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Unfortunately, this reactor is tied to the past in somewhat the same way as the original 1712 Newcomen atmospheric pressure steam engine.
It's reactor operating temperature of 550F means it has no chance of replacing the heat of fossil fuels beyond boiling water to power low-efficiency steam turbines.

Molten salt (1,300F salt) and pebble bed (1,800F helium) reactors can exceed the performance of the typical coal power plant boiler (1,100F steam), enabling man to completely replace fossil fuel fires - either directly or indirectly through the use of nuclear energy to manufacture carbon-neutral biosynfuel combustion fuels.

NuScale does a much better job describing their advanced reactor - and it IS an advanced reactor - than this web site can. Check out their web site:  http://www.nuscalepower.com/

Behind today's massive world-standard water cooled solid uranium pellet fueled nuclear reactor is a story that is hauntingly similar to the story of the world's first steam engine, the 1712 Newcomen steam engine.

While history doesn't repeat itself exactly, it rhymes surprisingly often.

Steam engine explosions that leveled towns and killed thousands, inefficient to the point that only coal mine operators could afford the massive amounts of coal it consumed, very limited in the kinds of applications it could power, the first steam engine was replaced less than seventy years later - in 1780 - by the same reciprocating steam engine we are still building today - the Watt steam engine.

Newcomen's steam engine was a vacuum engine - notice the quick spurt of cooling water.

To be clear, England's 1712 Newcomen vacuum steam engine was a big step forward, it replaced horses that were being quickly worked to death lifting large amounts of water from deep coal mines.  But, as you can see, it couldn't make shafts turn like the waterwheels and windmills that were being used to power England's spinning mills at the time. 

The more efficient 1780 Watt steam pressure engine used far less coal to make the same power and, using Leonardo da Vinci's (1452-1519) crank invention to turn back-and-forth motion into rotating motion, could replace waterwheels and, a few years later, power railroad locomotive wheels and ship's paddle wheels.

 

In turn, the Watt steam engine eventually became a technological bridge for the development of steam turbines in 1884, (oil powered ships), and then later, gas turbines about 1930, (jet engines).

 

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In your author's opinion, the NuScale nuclear reactor is a technological bridge between solid fuel, water cooled nuclear reactors and liquid fuel,  molten salt cooled reactors - a safer integration of solid fuel nuclear energy and water cooling - with the 70 year time interval between the two nuclear technologies being almost the same as the time interval between the first two steam engine technologies. 

It takes time to come up with the bits and pieces necessary to build better versions of the same thing.

One might make a similar time interval observation about tubes and transistors with the transistor being a bridge technology leading to today's integrated circuit microchip.

NuScale has developed the concept of a safer, simpler, more economical conventional water cooled nuclear reactor to a level not attained by any earlier conventional reactor.  It's unlikely significant further improvement of this type of reactor will be made.

Unfortunately, like all conventional uranium reactors, it's nuclear waste will contain extractable amounts of plutonium-239 that can be used to build nuclear weapons. 

What NuScale gave up was high energy density.  A NuScale reactor produces only 50 megaWatts (mW) as compared to the 1,800 mW produced by the latest and greatest conventional reactors. So, like a large multi-engine airplane, multiple NuScale reactors at a single site are envisioned as a good way to power a large city very reliably. 

Unlike large reactors however, the NuScale's small size enables it to have the electrical agility necessary to fill in for the electricity lulls and surges caused by wind and solar electricity sources.

This is important since our new wind farms are forcing power companies to add large numbers of quick-acting fossil fuel natural gas electricity turbines as a way to keep our electrical grids reliable. Adding more fossil fuel electricity to the grid is not a good trend with more electric cars coming down the road.

The first example of a NuScale reactor power station is being constructed on Idaho National Laboratories (INL) property.  It will go into service testing connected to the U.S. Northwest electrical grid alongside large wind farms, small solar, several average coal electricity power plants, and the Columbia nuclear power plant.

The world continues to build modern examples of the nearly 250 year old Watt steam engine. Your author is confident descendents of the new classic NuScale SMR reactor design will continue to be built 250 years from now.

And they will be even safer.
For example, Enhanced accident tolerant fuels are revolutionary concepts of the next generation to be deployed within the next decade, said Elmar Schweitzer, AREVAs senior expert on Materials and Thermal-Mechanics at a IEA COP23 side event in November, 2017.

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Footnotes & Links

Links checked

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