1.3: Taichung Coal to Nuclear Conversion Project

This introduction to molten salt reactors is divided into five parts:
1. Taichung, Taiwan, Coal to Nuclear Conversion Project
2. coal2nuclear Conversion Project Background
3. Nuclear Waste: The Sub-Seabed Solution.
4. Introduction to Molten Salt Reactors                                      
A 12-page ticket to the world of molten salt reactors:  Molten Salt Reactor Adventure.pdf   

Part 1

Taichung, Taiwan, Coal-to-Nuclear Conversion Project
The world's largest single source of CO2

Fewer than 2% of all power plants are making almost 30% of all Climate Change emissions.

(Right)  Taichung power plant in Taiwan.  The world's largest emitter of Climate Changing CO2 and probably none easier
 to convert to underground ThorCon nuclear steam generators.

The source of this idea is the 386 page 1965 Oak Ridge Laboratories EBASCO 1,000 megaWatt(e) molten salt reactor study:    1000 mWe - ORNL-TM-1060.pdf

ThorCon Molten Salt Reactor  ThorCon Power, division of Martingale - Abundance of very open informative papers, diagrams, and explanations by long-time experts.
Introductory video presented by ThorCon: 
  ThorCon - Indonesia Thorium Consortium Completes ThorCon Technology Pre-Feasibility Study - 14142672.pdf 
About modern nuclear:

Taichung has ten 550 megaWatt coal fired supercritical steam electricity generators, four 70 mW natural gas turbines, and twenty-two 2 mW wind turbines. 
ThorCon molten salt reactors, which naturally run right at the threshold of supercritical steam, might be used to convert Taichung's 10 coal power plant units to nuclear.  The ThorCon underground nuclear steam generator silos would be located where the red dots are.  The steam pipes (red) would be run past the smokestacks (one stack for every two coal boilers) and further on to the long gallery where the electricity generating turbines are located.  2 of the 10 coal units are located at the far left edge of the coal yard and are out of view but identical in layout to the other 8 coal units. Hurricane (Typhoon) storm surges might call for surrounding the reactors with a dyke depending upon elevation.  The electricity exits into the switchyard at right.
 - -  (This web page was prepared without ThorCon's or Taichung's knowledge or permission.)

Molten Salt (is non-explosive, inert, like red-hot lava) has been used for the transfer of large quantities of very hot heat in the iron industry for over 100 years.
Unlike first-generation nuclear reactors, fuel is mixed directly into the liquid salt coolant, avoiding both the cost and the inherent dangers of zirconium metal cladding around the uranium fuel rod pellets. When overheated in water, zirconium releases explosive hydrogen gas.
Notice the molten salt reactors do not need any more radiation isolation than a ship's reactor. 


Entire Plant Site Overview


Notice the molten salt reactors (non-explosive, inert, like red-hot lava) do not need any more radiation isolation than a ship's reactor.
(Side View) ThorCon
Underground Silo Dimensions. 
(Blue english conversion notes by site author.)

ThorCon Estimated Heat Balance - From ThorCon web site library.  (Blue english conversion notes by site author.)



Repowering the Taichung, Taiwan, Coal Power Plant
This web site is free speech Climate Change and energy opinion talk, not professional engineering advice, made without the knowledge or approval of any cited entities.
Fewer than 2% of all coal power plants are making almost 30% of all Climate Change.

Taichung coal power plant is number 1 on the list of the world's largest 1,200 coal burning power plants.  This group of 1,200 makes 30% of all Climate change.

Over the next several years as many as 50 different North American companies will be unveiling their versions of as many as 10 different types of new Small Modular Reactors (known as SMRS).  These fourth generation reactors are designed to be mass produced by the thousands like airplanes and ships.

In the world of energy, cost is usually the most powerful market force and nuclear heat can be as much as 2,000 times cheaper than coal, something coal has always known and feared since the 1950s. 

From what I've seen, the far more costly and dangerous first and second generation nuclear power plants we've come to know and love are hopelessly obsolete and mindlessly expensive.

Old fashioned nuclear reactors typically are high pressure water cooled and over 1,000 megaWatts in power creating the potential for very powerful above ground steam explosions (think Chernobyl). Most of the new modern reactors are unpressurized molten salt (think lava), which is incapable of exploding, smaller than 300 megaWatts in power, be used in large numbers like today's big stationary diesel and aeroderivative jet turbine engines. The new nuclear reactors are usually designed to be located at the bottoms of underground silos for extreme safety.  Much smaller, cheaper, and lighter, in fact, the first molten salt reactors were intended to power airplanes.

Once I understood the concept of the "CMO", or Cubic Mile of Oil equivalent , as a way to get my brain around the size of the energy we are obtaining from fossil fuels, I understood why windmills and solar cells simply could not provide the energy necessary to replace all fossil fuels as a way to stop Climate Change. 

Nuclear energy is, however, big enough to replace the worst source of Climate Change, coal, and advanced nuclear reactors are hot enough to power the chemical processes - i.e., water splitting to obtain hydrogen and catalytic reactions to make the syngas biosynfuels - needed to replace oil and natural gas.

This page introduces the reader to a nuclear technology that appears to have the "Right Stuff" for quickly ending about 1/3 of all the world's climate changing CO2 - the amount of CO2 being emitted by the world's 1,200 largest coal burning power plants . By comparison, the world's other 70,000+ smaller coal power plants are almost innocent bystanders. I should point out that a typical coal power station plant has 4 to 6 boilers so we are probably talking 6,000 pairs of small nuclear reactors to replace the world's 6,000 largest coal boilers.  Few people have ever been exposed to the entire global electrical system.  You can get an idea of how large electric power really is from these folks:

Knowing that only 2% of the world's coal burning power plants are making almost 30% of ALL Climate Change makes obvious nuclear repowering of the world's 1,200 largest existing coal power plants is the world's best opportunity to reach the Paris Climate Change goals of 2050.

This web page is an introduction to the idea of replacing a large coal burning power plant's boilers with advanced molten salt nuclear reactor heated steam generators installed in ocean-going barges rigidly parked next to the electricity plant's turbine gallery building.  When the underground reactor modules are taken away for refueling, repair, or plant decommissioning, their radioactivity goes with them.  Again, replacing coal boilers with nuclear boilers isn't a new idea:  Hook-Ons.pdf  .

This introduction to molten salt reactors is divided into five parts:
1. Taichung, Taiwan, Coal to Nuclear Conversion Project
2. coal2nuclear Conversion Project Background
3. Nuclear Waste: The Sub-Seabed Solution.
4. Introduction to Molten Salt Reactors and Radiation
5. The First Molten Salt Reactors: Aviation Power Plants. 


1. There are two variants or packages of ThorCon reactors:

ThorConLand: A landside version in which 150 to 500 tons blocks are manufactured shipyard style, barged to the site, and erected.

ThorConIsle: An onshore version in which two entire 500 MW(e) electricity power plants are encapsulated in a hull, entirely built in a shipyard, towed to a nearshore or onshore site with a water depth of 0 to 10 m, ballasted down to the seabed, and if necessary surrounded by a breakwater. - ThorCon

Steel vs. Concrete Hulls - PontoonReport.pdf

2. Ideas on this web site always need to be properly vetted by competent engineering companies such as Bechtel or Fluor before anyone should even consider taking these ideas to the bank. 
The Devil hides in the details. Engineering a detailed preliminary design of a pilot plant for something untried is a good way to vet an idea. - Site Author


Part 2

coal2nuclear Conversion Project Background


TAICHUNG, Taiwan.  The world's largest single source of CO2.
The world built supersized coal power plants after the environmentalists convinced the world NOT to build nuclear power plants . . .  
Producing about 30% of all Global Warming, the world's 1,200 largest coal burning power plants
(only 2% of all power plants)
are the world's dominant sources of Global Warming CO2.
An average 500-megawatt coal plant releases about 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

Virtually all coal burning steam power plants can be quickly decarbonized by converting their coal boilers to Molten Salt Nuclear.

Taichung is a very large coal power plant on the island of Taiwan.  It has ten 550 mW coal units, four 70 mW gas, and 22 2 mW wind turbines.

A 2015 report, “The Truth about China,” states that more than 2,400 coal plants are under construction around the world – many in China, India, and Japan. Even Germany, long-time disciple to climate improvement, has been building new coal-fired plants, in order to back out of their use of nuclear power. Last year, 44 percent of Germany’s electricity came from coal – more than in any other EU country.
The Paris climate agreement fell short. Vague promises and hopes that countries like China and Russia will act against their self-interest are a fool’s game. Better to develop realistic solutions, like cleaning up coal-fired boilers. 


The advantages of converting existing coal power plant boilers to nuclear.


Boiler Replacement Advantages

Boiler Swapping Offers Many Economic and Speed Advantages. 

Swapping just the power plant's boiler preserves the power plant, its worker's jobs, its operating permits, the plant's access to cooling water, electrical grids and heavy transportation.  What's not to like from a deal like this? 

The Advantages of Swapping Out Supersized Boilers: Supersized Power Plants are job one:  2% of the world's 60,000 fossil fuel power plants, 1,200 supersized power plants, are making over 3/4 of coal's Global Warming.  The world will never be willing or able to provide much money for Global Warming mitigation.  This will enable us to re-use everything else at the power plant - including an already experienced workforce - a strategy much wiser than building the equivalent amount of generating capacity in new windmills.   

If you owned a coal burning power plant here are the biggest reasons why you would want to convert to nuclear:

Permits.   Permits.     PERMITS.     PERMITS.    PERMITS!

An existing old coal burning power plant has enormous local support for the idea that adding a small modular nuclear boiler unit is far better than shutting the plant down. 


2. Already wired to our cities - NO NEW TRANSMISSION LINE RIGHT-OF-WAYS NEEDED


4. Already have access roads - NO NEW ROAD RIGHT-OF-WAYS NEEDED

5. Already have railroad tracks - NO NEW RAILROAD RIGHT-OF-WAYS NEEDED

6. Usually have ample land for several additional future units - NO NEW LAND NEEDED, COAL YARD LAND WILL BECOME LAWN SOON


8. Already have proven operators who know the equipment - FEWER OPERATORS LOOSE JOBS, EXISTING OPERATORS WOULD BE BETTER PAID

9. Cleaner working environment - NUCLEAR PLANTS ARE CLEAN

[A helpful power plant operator reader suggested I add the following. (Thank you)]

A few advantages you may want to list in terms of BOP. Feel free to use them or not...

1. Construction is made *cheaper* because all necessary roads, water transport and rail lines are already in place. A huge savings relative to a green field plant.

2. Licensing:
a. Water usage for everything from cooling to potable water. In place.
b. Sewage and waste water discharge. In place.
c. Air pollution (not that it's needed) in place, frees up carbon licenses if this occurs.
d. Hazardous waste storage/processing (all industrial facilities have to pay for this, regardless). In place.
e. Lube oil and chemical usage/storage licenses. In place.

3. Control Room(s). Only a retrofit of the existing coal plant controls have to occur.  Check out NuScale's nuclear reactor control room.

4. Grid access. The grid and switchyard is *in place* and ready to swap over. If MW out put is close to the same, it's even possible the same main bank transmission can be used, a huge savings, along with, BTW, all the associated remote monitoring (relays for undervoltage, overvoltage, shorts, grounds, etc etc), already in place. No major transmission upgrades needed if megaWatts(e) are to stay the same and even then, only minor ones at worse.

5. Human Resources. The coal plant will have trained operators and maintenance personnel many/some/a lot of whom will be able to migrate over (literally by walking) to the new plant after NRC qualifications.

6. Overall reduced footprint. Wildlife (my personal favorite) sanctuaries can be built as security belts around the formally soot-laden, coal spewed, plant site. Allows room for expansion for subsequent reactor heat use (desalination, chemical/hot process steam usage, etc etc).

If we built nothing but new renewables, what would we do with all the existing fossil-fuel burning power plants we now have? This is a major economic and grid logistics question no one is asking.  Many have 40 or more years of productive and profitable life remaining.  This is the most important consideration when second and third world countries think about ending their Global Warming CO2.

COMMENT: (From a reader:) 

Jim:  Stumbled on your web site and want to congratulate you on your mission.  I have been working on a similar unsolicited proposal to convert one of our largest coal plants in [deleted] to nuclear. The interest in the large plants is that one saves the incredible investment in sites, cooling towers, electric generators, multistage turbines (because 1,300°F molten salt reactors can produce world-standard 1,005°F steam), the condensing equipment, the switching yard, and most importantly the transmission lines and towers.  A very rough estimate is that half the cost of a new nuclear plant of the same size could be salvaged.  The federal government could loan the money and the utility smart enough to make this change could return the loan in carbon credits.  Large nuclear plants are very labor intensive and we obviously need the jobs.  Keep pounding your drum.  Solar and wind won’t hack it.  Signed, [deleted]        (This author regards this approach viable.)


Part 3

Nuclear Waste: The Sub-Seabed Solution
The radioactivity goes away with the nuclear barge.

The entire world of nuclear energy has bungled the issue of nuclear waste.  Here is a better idea:

CNNC to construct Chinese prototype floating nuclear plant, other nuclear barge items

Decommissioning Costs:

When no longer needed, the barge would be removed and taken to a sub-seabed disposal site 600 miles North of Hawaii, leaving no radioactivity behind at the customer's power plant site.  The nuclear power plant barge's radioactive equipment like worn-out reactor cores and coolant pumps would end up buried in the deep disposal site's peanut butter-like soft mud.  The disposal site is hundreds of meters thick so eventually the barge would would sink to the solid seabed strata at the bottom of the mud.

The really neat thing about this is that worn-out nuclear barges can be used to entomb everyone else's nuclear waste at the same time (for a modest fee).  Just add nuclear waste containers and pour in nuclear grade concrete.

Beyond technical and political considerations, the London Convention places prohibitions on disposing of radioactive materials at sea and does not make a distinction between waste dumped directly into the water and waste that is buried underneath the ocean's floor.

It remains in force until 2018, after which the sub-seabed disposal option can be revisited at 25-year intervals.

Russian Floating Nuclear Power Station (FNPS) Acadmic Lomonosov nuclear power plant barge - Due to come on-line fall, 2016.


Lights = Cities = Coal Power Plants.  The United States is about 1/4 of the Climate Change problem.


Part 4

Introduction to Molten Salt Reactors


(Above) Major components of an early generic molten salt reactor.

Notice the radioactive fuel salt and the non-radioactive coolant salt do not mix and the fuel salt is confined to the reactor container. A third stage of salt, solar salt, transfers the reactor's heat to the steam generator. This places 4 isolation barriers between the radioactivity and the steam turbine. Fukushima's steam generator was in the reactor container itself.
After running full-power for between 4 to 7 years (depends on the manufacturer) the reactor container is disconnected and placed in a "cool-down" silo for another 4 to 7 years to give the fuel salt's radioactivity time to decay to a point where the container can be safely shipped on public transportation back to the reactor factory for recycling.


Next >    Nuclear power plant ships.