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This document sets out governmental energy policy changes that must be made to arrest global climate change.
PART I sets out the reasons for immediately ceasing extraction of fossil hydrocarbons.
PART II summarizes Ontario's energy requirements and how they can be met without use of fossil carbon.
PART III sets out necessary changes to the electricity rate structure.
PART IV sets out reasons for adopting Small Modular liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (SMFNRs).
PART V sets out important aspects relating to scale up of liquid sodium cooled SMFNRs.
PART VI cautions against potentially dangerous instabilities in liquid fuel Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs).
PART VII addresses energy related business decisions driven by government policy.
PART VIII summarizes essential governmental energy policy changes.
PART I - REASONS FOR IMMEDIATELY CEASING EXTRACTION OF FOSSIL HYDROCARBONS
1) The law of conservation of energy requires that for the average temperature on planet Earth to be stable over time the thermal energy content of planet Earth must also be stable.
2) Over millions of years of evolution planet Earth has reached a near steady state thermal energy condition whereby the solar radiant energy absorbed per unit time is nearly equal to the infrared radiant energy emitted per unit time so that Earth's thermal energy and average surface temperature slowly oscillate within narrow bands.
3) The geophysical record shows that Earth's average surface temperature naturally oscillates over about a 10 degree C temperature range which causes small glaciations at about 12,000 year intervals and larger glaciations at about 100,000 year intervals. The oscillations are in part due to minor oscillations in Earth's orbital shape, precession and axis inclination collectively known as Milankovitch cycles.
4) The accompanying slow changes in sea water temperature cause Earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration to swing over the range 190 ppmv to 300 ppmv in phase with the glaciations. The atmospheric CO2 concentration at the commencement of the industrial revolution was about 280 ppmv.
5) As the ocean temperature rises the atmospheric CO2 concentration increases causing further warming. As the ocean temperature falls the atmospheric CO2 concentration decreases causing further cooling. The warming-cooling cycles periodically reverse direction due to relatively abrupt changes in planetary albedo (fraction of incident solar radiation reflected into space). When there is extensive glaciation, the ocean is cold and the atmospheric CO2 concentration is low plant life at higher elevations dies triggering dust storms which cause a reduction in ice albedo and hence initiation of global warming. When there is no glaciation, the ocean is warm, the atmospheric CO2 concentration is high and growth of biomatter increases the planetary albedo thereby causing initiation of global cooling.
6) These warming and cooling mechanisms tend to phase lock with the Milankovitch cycles.
7) During the industrial revolution mankind commenced large scale combustion of fossil fuels. This combustion had two major effects:
a) Emission of fossil CO2
b) Emission of fine black soot.
8) The fossil CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and then dissolves in the ocean with an exponential concentration decay time constant, obtained from measurements of the concentration decay of atomic bomb injected C-14, of about 16 years. The atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2017 is about 406 ppmv. An immediate consequence of a step increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration is a step decrease in thermal infrared radiation emission into outer space by planet Earth. However, the drop in thermal infrared radiation emission does not change the amount of absorbed solar radiation. Hence there is an increase in dry land surface temperature and there is ongoing net radiant energy absorption by the oceans. These two effects are known as CO2 induced global warming.
9) The net energy (heat) accumulation causes melting of both floating polar ice and land borne glaciers.
10) The increase in dry land surface temperature due to the increased atmospheric CO2 concentration reduces soil moisture content. The snow and ice melting reduces average snow cover in the circumpolar countries which routinely have seasonal snow cover. The reduction in average snow cover causes a decrease in planetary albedo (solar reflection), which causes a further increase in solar radiation absorption. Hence there is accelerated global warming.
11) Combustion of fossil fuels also produces fine black particulate matter known as soot. When the soot particles deposit on ice or mix with snow they reduce its albedo (solar reflectivity) causing further net energy absorption. Human activity that triggers forest fires magnifies the soot problem.
12) The combination of reduced far infrared thermal radiation emission and increased solar radiation absorption is causing ongoing net heat accumulation by planet Earth. This net heat accumulation is significantly changing Earth's climate and in time will cause major sea level rise due to melting of land borne glaciers and due to ocean thermal expansion.
13) The net heat absorbed by the oceans increases the violence of ocean storms. Increased temperatures over dry land cause severe local climate changes.
14) The non-linear energy transfer equations and the geophysical record both show that planet Earth has two stable temperature states. The cool state corresponds to presence of glaciation. The warm state corresponds to absence of glaciation.
15) The present high atmospheric CO2 concentration caused by combustion of fossil fuels has triggered commencement of a spontaneous transition from the cool state to the warm state. The only way to stop this transition and the attendant ocean warming, sea level rise and climate change is to immediately cease extraction and combustion of fossil fuels.
16) Even after fossil fuel extraction has totally stopped the atmospheric CO2 concentration will take about 16 years to significantly drop. However, the accumulated heat will take many more decades to dissipate.
17) If the increased rate of heat absorption due to the decrease in planetary albedo exceeds the increased rate of heat emission due to the increase in temperature and the decrease in atmospheric CO2 concentration then there will be a spontaneous transition from the stable cool state to the stable warm state with an accompanying rise in temperature.
18) The geophysical record shows that in the past Earth has undergone comparable transitions from the cool state to the warm state, such as during the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) 56 million years ago. The fossil record shows that such state transitions are accompanied by global land animal extinctions.
19) To prevent an unstopable transition from the cool state to the warm state it is prudent that mankind cease use of fossil fuels at the earliest possible date.
PART II - ONTARIO'S ENERGY REQUIREMENTS AND HOW THEY CAN BE MET WITHOUT USE OF FOSSIL CARBON
1) Currently the Ontario ongoing average per capita electric and thermal power requirements, as indicated by published electricity and fossil fuel consumption data, are about 2 kWe (electricity) + 12 kWt (heat).
2) In addition there are unaccounted fossil CO2 releases resulting from tar sand processing, natural gas flaring, pipeline operation, refinery operation, asphalt oxidation, coke oxidation and municipal waste oxidation that are not captured by published coal, oil and natural gas consumption data. There is also additional fossil CO2 emission due to heating of limestone to produce cement.
3) The total unaccounted for fossil CO2 emission corresponds to about an additional 6 kWt per capita. Note that some of this fossil CO2 emission occurs outside the province of Ontario but is required to supply the fossil fuels, steel, base metals, fertilizers and paper consumed in Ontario.
4) The 2 kWe (electricity) per capita is 90% non-fossil energy and is delivered to end users via the electricity grid.
5) The 12 kWt + 6 kWt = 18 kWt (heat) per capita is delivered to end users via fossil fuels, unmetered refinery byproducts and base metals such as steel, nickel and aluminum that are consumed in Ontario but are produced outside of Ontario.
6) The 18 kWt is presently transported from the fossil fuel extraction point to end users by a combination of pipeline, ship, rail and truck transport.
7) Elimination of fossil fuels means that the equivalent energy must be supplied from non-carbon energy sources via increases in electricity system capacity and via district heating system capacity.
8) In order to minimize the energy transmission cost most of the energy generation capacity must be located close to the load. This network configuration is commonly known as distributed energy generation.
9) Absent direct delivery of heat via a piped heat transport fluid such as steam or super heated water the electricity system capacity would have to be increased about ten fold.
10) Non-fossil electricity generation consists of renewable generation and nuclear generation.
11) Renewable generation is by nature widely geographically distributed and is not concentrated near urban centers. It is also intermittent and requires expensive balancing energy storage which is also widely geographically distributed. Thus the energy storage and transmission costs of renewable energy are far greater than the pure generation costs identified by most renewable energy advocates.
13) The only sources of non-fossil energy that can provide sufficient power when required close to the load and at a price comparable to current electricity costs are locally installed Small Modular nuclear Reactors (SMRs).
14) Since reliability of energy supply is crucial the fuel required for starting and operating the SMRs must be readily available in Ontario without relying on imports. An obvious source of this SMR fuel is reprocessing of the existing 50,000 tonnes of spent CANDU fuel currently in storage at CANDU reactor sites. This spent CANDU fuel still contains 99% of its original energy content.
15) To be acceptable for urban installation and remote supervisory control SMRs must be passively safe. A passively safe SMR must reliably and safely shut down in the event of: overheating, an unplanned loss of electricity grid connection, loss of thermal load, loss of control or accessory power, loss of supervisory control communications, local alarms or a remotely generated shutdown signal.
16) The required reactor capacity can be reduced by delivering heat to urban loads via district heating pipelines and heat pumps and by changing the electricity price structure to incent high load factor. However, the electricity system capacity will still need to be increased between 5 fold and 8 fold depending on the system efficiencies and load factors that are actually achieved.
17) For urban reactor siting the new nuclear reactors must have dry cooling towers and must be modular with individual modules that are truck transportable along existing city streets which impose both size and weight constraints.
PART III - NECESSARY CHANGES TO ELECTRICITY RATES
1) In a non-fossil electricity system the cost of grid supplied electricity is primarily the cost of providing sufficient power capacity to meet the seasonal peak demand. Once there is sufficient non-fossil generation capacity and transmission capacity the cost of additional energy is relatively small.
2) The present Ontario retail electricity rate provides no financial incentive for energy storage or peak demand control, provides no financial incentive for use of surplus non-fossil electricity in preference to fossil fuels and results in a much higher blended electricity rate per kWhe than would otherwise be necessary. At present (2017) large amounts of non-fossil electrical energy are either curtailed or are exported at a very low price ($0.016 / kWh). This situation is a direct result of poorly conceived Ontario government policies that fail to recognize that in a non-fossil electricity system costs are proportional to capacity to meet peak demand, not energy consumption.
3) In order for the Ontario retail electricity billing rate to meet the revenue requirement while enabling use of surplus non-fossil electricity for fossil fuel displacement the retail electricity rate should be about $70.00 / kWe-month + $0.02 / kWhe. Instead the present retail electricity rate in Ontario is about $0.20 / kWhe.
4) The global adjustment is effectively the fixed cost of generation capacity that is not recovered in the wholesale electricity market. The present retail electricity rate is distorted in large part because in 2002 the Liberal government passed legislation whereby the global adjustment was applied to all grid supplied kWhe sold instead of to the monthly peak kWe demand. The Liberal government has repeatedly failed to remedy this legislative error which has led Ontario to having a very large marginal price per kWhe instead of a large marginal price per peak kWe that would much better reflect the cost of providing non-fossil electricity. This problem has been aggravated by various poorly conceived government programs that financially reward kWhe savings instead of rewarding peak kWe savings. In a non-fossil electricity system such as Ontario's kWhe savings that are not accompanied by corresponding peak kWe savings yield almost no electricity system cost savings. Hence the result of financially rewarding kWhe savings is simply to increase the blended cost per kWhe to all electricity rate payers while providing no system benefits. The parameter that should be financially incented is a reduction in peak kWe demand. This problem is increasing every year due to government programs that financially favor intermittent wind and solar generation.
5) A major popular misconception is that a kWh can pass through the electricity system with its value unchanged. In reality almost 75% of wind generated kWh that cost the ratepayer over $0.11 / kWh are either exported at an average price of about $0.016 / kWhe or are curtailed with zero cost recovery. This is an ongoing injury to the electricity rate payers that could easily be avoided by introduction of a suitable interruptible electricity rate as contemplated herein. Such a rate would cause most of the available surplus non-fossil generation to be used for fossil fuel displacement.
6) A blunt reality that politicians must face is that displacement of fossil fuels by surplus non-fossil electricity will not occur unless the marginal cost of electrical energy per kWhe is less than the marginal cost of fossil fuel energy per kWht. That price relationship will not be possible until the electricity rate structure is changed as indicated herein.
7) A high marginal retail electricity rate per kWhe eliminates any financial incentive for consumer owned behind the meter energy storage. A high marginal wholesale rate per kWhe eliminates any financial incentive for LDC owned energy storage.
8) Another blunt reality that politicians must face is that the market value of intermittent solar and wind generation is only the value of the marginal cost of fossil fuel that this intermittent generation can displace. This value is generally less than $0.02 / kWht because the wholesale electricity market operates on a marginal cost of production basis. In order to incent behind the meter energy storage the wholesale and retail electricity rates must change from being primarily kWhe based to being primarily kWe based. In order for that rate change to happen the legislation must be changed so that the global adjustment and OEB approved costs related to transmission, distribution and regulatory charges are applied to monthly peak kWe demand instead of to kWhe consumed.
9) In any non-fossil electricity system there is an inherent mismatch between the instantaneous electricity supply and the instantaneous electricity load. Available nuclear electricity generation is almost constant. Renewable electricity is only available when natural conditions provide rainfall for hydroelectric generation, sunlight for solar generation or wind for wind generation. The availability of renewable energy becomes more seasonal at higher latitudes. By contrast the load profile is governed by weather and human activities. There are time intervals when non-fossil electricity generation is available but the grid load is low. There are other time intervals when the grid load is very high but these intervals tend to be relatively short (typically less than 50 to 100 hours per year in total) and can potentially be bridged by suitable application of energy storage, load control and an interruptible electricity rate.10) In an electricity system to achieve voltage regulation at every instant in time the amount of generation must precisely match the total load. The methods of matching generation to load without use of fossil fuels are:
b) Build central electricity storage and supporting transmission. In Ontario wind and solar generation require about 240 hours of energy storage at peak demand to bridge low wind and low solar generation periods over the four seasons. In Ontario due to unfavourable geography the costs of hydroelectric energy storage (which is currently the least expensive long term energy storage technology) and the required supporting transmission are prohibitive;
c) Change both wholesale and retail Time-Of-Use (TOU) electricity rates per kWh to strongly incent use of electricity in off-peak periods and discourage use of electricity in on-peak periods. Such TOU rates would also give consumers a strong financial incentive to install and appropriately use short term (few hours) behind the meter energy storage. This alternative would require a high ratio of on-peak to off-peak rates that many consumers might view as punitive. This alternative also would not capture the benefits of available wind and solar renewable energy because these renewable generation sources are intermittent and do not follow a predictable time schedule;
d) Change both wholesale and retail electricity rates so that the main source of electricity rate revenue for generators, transmitters, distributors, regulators and debt amortization is a monthly peak KWe demand charge. The peak demand measurement should have a 90% step response time of about 4 hours to prevent billing for random load transients that due to load diversity have no cost impact on the electricity system. Updating of a consumer's measured peak demand value should be automatically bypassed at times when the Local Distribution Company (LDC) transmits a signal indicating immediate availability of surplus non-fossil electricity generation. The surplus non-fossil generation would provide interruptible electricity suitable for fossil fuel displacement.
e) Simultaneously change both the wholesale and retail electricity prices per kWhe so that at times when surplus non-fossil electricity is available it is used in preference to fossil fuels in all electricity market sectors. The retail price of a marginal kWhe should be set at about $0.02 / kWhe, which is above the marginal cost of production of a non-fossil kWhe but is below the marginal cost of a fossil fuel kWht.
11) The combination of 10 d and 10 e above would give consumers a financial incentive to use load control and behind the meter energy storage to maximize their load factor at times when there is limited non-fossil generation and would give consumers a further financial incentive to use surplus interruptible non-fossil electricity for fossil fuel displacement. This electricity rate structure change must be implemented at the earliest possible date to mitigate the blended electricity price per kWhe and to financially enable the entire spectrum of energy system changes required for fossil fuel displacement by non-fossil energy.
12) An advantage of consumer owned behind-the-meter energy storage is that much of the storage can be thermal, which costs much less per stored kWh than energy storage that outputs electricity.
13) Implementation of the new electricity rate will require an enhanced smart electricity meter that in addition to displaying cumulative kWh consumption must also display both instantaneous kWe and monthly peak kWe. These new meters require an internet based communication feature whereby the kWe calculation is suspended at times when the LDC signals to the end user that surplus non-fossil electricity generation is available.
14) Because a mandatory change to retail electricity rates will affect consumers differently due to their different consumption patterns, it is contemplated that adoption of the new retail electricity rate plan proposed herein should initially be voluntary. Initially consumers should be able to opt in or out of the new rate plan. The new rate plan should not be unilaterally canceled by the LDC for at least 10 years to allow consumers who invest in energy storage and load management equipment incented by the new retail rate plan to have certainty of receiving a fair return on their investment.
15) The electricity rate changes contemplated herein are required to displace fossil fuels with renewable and nuclear energy. Failure to implement these electricity rate changes will prevent use of surplus non-fossil electricity generation for fossil fuel displacement. Government commitments to fossil fuel consumption reduction simply cannot be met without these electricity rate and metering changes.
16) In large multi-tenanted buildings the electricity should be bulk metered and energy use by the tenants submetered. The electricity and submetering costs should be allocated to tenants in proportion to each tenant's individual kWh consumption. Otherwise the building management has no financial incentive to operate the common mechanical equipment in a manner that minimizes the overall building peak demand and hence minimizes the cost of supplying the building with non-fossil electricity.
PART IV - REASONS FOR ADOPTING SMALL MODULAR LIQUID SODIUM COOLED FAST NEUTRON REACTORS (SMFNRs)
1) In Part II above it was shown that in the future the primary urban energy source will have to be Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). In this part it is shown that the SMRs must also be solid metal fuel liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs). These reactors are referred to herein as Small Modular Fast Neutron Reactors (SMFNRs).
2) Water cooled power reactors are fuelled with the uranium isotope U-235. However, U-235 is a relatively rare natural isotope. The world supply of U-235 is not sufficient to sustainably displace fossil fuels. It makes no sense to invest public resources in new nuclear reactors that rely on U-235 for ongoing fuelling because we have certainty that in the near future there will be a world wide shortage of U-235. The new reactors should instead be solid metal fuel liquid sodium cooled fast neutron reactors (FNRs) that can convert the plentiful natural isotope U-238 into the fissionable isotopes Pu-239 and Pu-240 and can also dispose of the highly toxic transuranic isotopes produced by water cooled reactors. As compared to the CANDU reactor fuel cycle use of liquid sodium cooled FNRs and appropriate fuel reprocessing reduces the consumption of natural uranium per kWh of generation by over 100 fold and reduces the production of long lived nuclear waste by over 1000 fold.
3) Use of metallic fuel instead of oxide fuel minimizes the corrosion and heat transfer problems of reactor fuel operating in a high temperature liquid sodium environment.
4) In the long term the available supply of nuclear fuel can be extended by using Th-232 in place of U-238. However, Th-232 introduces further fuel breeding, nuclear waste and potential nuclear weapon proliferation complications and hence is not a preferred development path at this time.
5) An advantage of liquid sodium cooled FNRs is that the reactor thermal power can efficiently track rapid changes in the grid load.
6) Another advantage of liquid sodium cooled FNRs is that the Pu-239 core fuel can be denatured by Pu-240 so that the reactor fuel cannot easily be used for weapon production.
7) Sodium is chemically incompatible with water. To ensure that there will never be any contact between the sodium and flood water the reactor should be constructed above any potential future flood level. If the elevation of a chosen reactor site is not sufficient the site elevation must be raised by moving sufficient suitable fill to the reactor site. The high reactor elevation also ensures that in a connected district heating system there is sufficient circulation pump suction head at every thermal load and that entrained gases can readily be vented.
8) An important feature of a liquid soduim cooled SMFNR is that the radioactive primary sodium coolant operates at a low pressure which makes the reactor much safer for installation in an urban environment. In a liquid sodium cooled SMFNR nuclear power plant the high pressure steam used for electricity generation is not radioactive;
9) If the temperature in a liquid sodium cooled SMFNR fuel bundle rises above the normal operating temperature the nuclear chain reaction naturally shuts down without reliance on either a mechanical control system or operator action.
10) Each SMFNR fuel bundle can be shut down using either its own control portion actuator or the control portion actuators of its four nearest neighbour fuel bundles. This feature enables two completely independent reactor shutdown systems.
11) A liquid sodium cooled SMFNR located in an urban environment should be fitted with a dry cooling tower for normal operation and a smaller wet cooling system for emergency removal of fission product decay heat. The dry cooling tower avoids fog, condenstion and icing problems on neighbouring structures and avoids environmental problems with heating bodies of water such as rivers and lakes. The wet cooling system is only for emergency use during shutdown after a rare event such as a severe earthquake or tornado that might damage or disable the dry cooling system.
12) The primary coolant temperature in a liquid sodium cooled SMFNR is about 440 degrees C as compared to the discharge water temperature of about 300 degrees C in a CANDU reactor. This higher temperature enables more efficient conversion of heat into electricity which reduces the cooling tower size requirement. This higher temperature also potentially allows a SMFNR to be used for supply of moderate steam (up to 420 degrees C at 11.2 MPa) for various commercial/industrial processes.
13) The US EBR-2 liquid sodium cooled reactor operated at a liquid sodium temperature of 488 degrees C. However, there is uncertainty regarding the long term working life of HT-9 fuel tubes at that temperature. At 440 degrees C there is certainty that the time between succesive fuel reprocessing cycles will be determined by long term fission product accumulation rather than by fuel tube material swelling.
14) The fuel bundle cycle time to reprocessing can be extended by periodic repositioning of fuel bundles so that all the fuel bundles are equally consumed. For reasons relating to reactor shutdown safety the active fuel bundles at the outer rim of the reactor core region are consumed less quickly than active fuel bundles in the interior of the reactor core region.
15) Use of a 2.8 m wide liquid sodium guard band around the fuel tube assembly prevents neutron activation of intermediate heat exchanger and enclosure structural materials, thus minimizing formation of radioactive maintenance and decommissioning waste.
PART V - SCALE UP OF LIQUID SODIUM COOLED SMFNRs
1) Liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Power Reactors have successfully operated for over 30 years (1964 to 1994 in the USA) and (1986 to 2017) in Russia. Other countries such as France, China, South Korea and Japan have had mixed success with liquid sodium cooled FNR programs. The US EBR-2 reactor was rated for 20 MWe or about 60 MWt. The Russian reactors are rated for over 600 MWe. Clearly the Russians have a commercial size experience advantage that Canada and the US must overcome. The problems in Canada and the US have been largely political and date back to the governments of Pierre Elliot Trudeau and William Jefferson Clinton. Those governments lacked the vision and foresight to grasp the constraints on combustion of fossil fuels and the merits of investing in FNR programs.
2) In Canada federal government policy from 1966 through 2015 was heavily influenced by the fossil fuel lobby. As late as 2016 Canadian federal government pipeline decisions were still made under the assumption of increasing future dependence on fossil fuels.
3) In 1965 Canada was a world leader in Fast Neutron Technology. In 1993 the USA was a world leader in fast neutron technology. Both of these leading positions were sacrificed by politicians who failed to understand that funding continuity is essential to maintenance of the skilled personnel required for a nuclear development program. In 1966 many highly trained AECL fast neutron personnel were lost to the USA and elsewhere due to an arbitrary government funding cutback at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). In 1994 many more highly trained FNR personnel were lost by the US Argonne Lab due to an arbitrary US government funding cutback. The key issue that governments must recognize is that it takes 20 to 40 years of post secondary education and relevant industrial experience to educate a physicist or engineer to a level where he/she can usefully contribute to new nuclear facility development. It takes only a few months of an arbitrary government funding cutback to destroy that entire training investment. A nuclear systems engineer is a highly trained person who is capable of finding alternate employment and who will not wait for government to get its act together.
4) At this time there is no alternative but to train a whole new generation of nuclear engineers in Canada. There has been no significant new power reactor design in Canada since the late 1990s. Everyone who was significantly involved in design of the Bruce and Darlington reactors is now past retirement age. There are a few ex AECL personnel who worked on Chinese reactors in the 1990s but even those individuals are now on the threshold of retirement. Almost all the personnel now working for Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and Bruce Power have never completed a new reactor design. The biggest single problem in implementation of SMFNRs in Canada can be summarized by the two words: "personnel training". A consequence of inadequate personnel training will be that any new reactor project will likely cost at least twice as much as would otherwise be the case due to the overhead burden of personnel training and the associated costs of the learning curve.
5) In addition to the personnel training problem there must be a two order of magnitude scale up of FNR fuel and material related manufacturing processes some of which were previously demonstrated via laboratory or small scale techniques. The required enhanced processes include:
a) Automated Fe-Cr fuel tube fabrication and end plug welding;
b) Automated fuel bundle fabrication;
c) Automated selective extraction of pure uranium oxide from spent CANDU fuel bundles on CANDU reactor sites to achieve 10 fold spent fuel concentration to enable economic spent fuel transport;
d) Automated pyro-processing of spent CANDU fuel concentrates to selectively remove fission products;
e) Selective zirconium extraction from fission products;
f) Development and production of of porcelain - stainless steel containers for interim storage of fission products;
g) Automated chemical reduction of remaining CANDU concentrates to metallic fuel with an appropriate alloy mass ratios;
h) Development of equipment for automated casting of FNR fuel rods;
i) Development, approval and production of shielded containers suitable for transporting the various radioactive components.
j) Development of a nuclear qualified manufacturing business that shop assembles and warehouses standard SMFNR system modules (sheet stainless steel pool and enclosure components, heat exchangers, liquid sodium pumps, steam generators, turbo-generators, condensers, cooling towers, transformers, switch gear, controls, and other long-lead time equipment);
k) Development of a nuclear qualified construction and commissioning business that field assembles and commissions SMFNRs. This business would be the equivalent of a general contractor that builds major highrise buildings.
6) Each of these specialized functions can be viewed as a business unto itself, although multiple functions might be combined within an integrated business analogous to a large aircraft manufacturer.
7) Step 5c above should logically be done at the existing CANDU reactor sites at Bruce, Pickering and Darlington. Steps 5d, 5e, 5f, 5g and 5h above should logically initially be done by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) at Chalk River.
8) Large scale implementation of FNRs will ultimately be limited by availability of FNR start fuel. In this respect it is essential that spent water cooled reactor fuel containing plutonium be conserved and not permanently buried in the ground in a manner that prevents inexpensive recovery and recycling.
PART VI - POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS INSTABILITIES IN LIQUID FUEL MOLTEN SALT REACTORS (MSRs)
1) There is a class of fast neutron reactors that use molten salt instead of liquid sodium as the primary coolant. There is a subclass of these reactors in which the fission fuel is dissolved in the molten salt. Such liquid fuel Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) have been demonstrated in very small sizes but have not been built or operated in power reactor sizes.
2) There are parties that advocate scale up of these liquid fuel Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) for industrial heating and electricity production.
3) The obvious advantage of a molten salt over liquid sodium as a primary reactor coolant is that salt does not chemically react violently with water.
4) The concept of liquid fission fuel suggests apparent simplicity in reactor design.
5) An obvious disadvantage of use of molten salts is large scale production of long lived nuclear waste radio isotopes such as Cl-36 which is difficult to safely store as well as transuranics if the neutron energy is not sufficiently high.
6) Another disadvantage of fission fuel dissolved in the molten salt is rapid degradation of containment, moderator and heat exchange material that limits the working life of the apparatus and leads to production of a lot of decommissioning waste.
7) One of the motivations for using fission fuel dissolved in molten salt is to achieve an operating temperature of over 700 degrees C to enable reforming of hydrocarbons and supply of high temperature steam to industrial complexes. However, the primary coolant containment and heat exchange materials must safely work at even higher temperatures. There are many difficult metallurgy problems that will need to be overcome.
8) However, there is a much more serious issue that is insufficiently recognized by most advocates of liquid fuel FNRs. That issue results from the combination of the liquid fission fuel flowing motion and formation of waves and vorticies in the liquid fuel. This problem becomes larger as the MSR size increases.
9) In any fission reactor criticality and power control are realized via delayed neutrons emitted by fission products. This delayed neutron flux is about 0.8% of the total neutron flux in most thermal reactors. These delayed neutrons are emitted about 3 seconds after prompt neutrons are emitted by the fission process.
10) To prevent an uncontrollable increase in reactor power all portions of FNRs must be designed to always be subcritical with respect to prompt neutrons. This requirement also applies to thermal neutrons in thermal reactors. The Chernobyl accident occurred because its RBMK reactor violated this fundamental design rule.
11) A fast neutron breeder reactor consists of a core zone in which the fission reactions occur that is surrounded by a much larger blanket zone in which surplus neutrons are captured for fuel breeding purposes. The core zone criticality is determined by the rate of neutron release in the core zone and the core zone geometry. When the fission fuel is dissolved in the molten salt coolant the fission product molecules move with the molten salt coolant. In a power reactor the coolant and hence the fission products can move through the core zone in less than three seconds. If for example the fission products remain in the core zone for only 0.75 seconds the fraction of the neutron flux in the core zone that is available for thermal power control purposes is only about 0.2%. Viewed another way at steady state operating conditions 99.8% of the neutrons in the core zone that are required for criticality will be prompt neutrons. The problem is that if that 99.8% accidentally exceeds 100.0% due to an unplanned transient core zone geometry change the reactor will very rapidly increase in power. The reason for this rapid power increase is because the prompt neutron multiplication time is much less than the thermal expansion molecular response time that would normally counteract the reactivity increase.
12) The problem with a liquid fuel is that under various molten salt flow conditions waves and/or vorticies can develop in the molten salt solution. These waves and/or vorticies can potentially cause transient changes in the core zone geometry sufficient to cause criticality with respect to prompt neutrons, leading to a rapid and uncontrolled reactor power increase. Even if this problem does not occur in normal reactor operation it could easily occur in various abnormal and accident conditions.
13) Hence the development of liquid fuel MSRs will be a very difficult challenge. It may be impossible for liquid fuel MSRs to meet the safety criteria required for commercial licensing. At the thermal power levels and coolant flow rates necessary for economic operation of liquid fuel MSRs their safety margins may be too small making them a potential accident waiting to happen.
PART VII - ENERGY RELATED BUSINESS DECISIONS DRIVEN BY GOVERNMENT POLICY
1) Business decisions are driven by government policies actually implemented. If those policies are driven by politicians wishful thinking rather than the underlying math, physics and economics then we will see sub-optimal and costly energy solutions.
2) People must grasp that over 90% of the monetary cost of nonfossil electricity lies in its capacity to meet demand, not in the cost of the energy produced.
3) Politicians must grasp that in a nonfossil electricity system intermittent renewable electricity generation such as wind and solar has little market value without sufficient nearby energy storage to align the generation output with power demand and hence give the generation capacity to meet power demand. In Ontario the cost of long term energy storage required to align the output of wind and solar generation with demand can easily exceed the cost of the renewable generation by more than an order of magnitude. Absent dependable capacity the market value of intermittent renewable electricity will remain under $0.02 / kWh. Hence about 90% of the Ontario investment in wind and solar generation has been wasted.
4) In Ontario there will be no fossil fuel displacement by surplus non-fossil electricity until the electricity rate structure is suitably changed. The required rate structure change can not happen as long as by law the global adjustment is distributed over kWh instead of over monthly peak kW demand. The same is true for transmission, distribution and regulatory charges. Thus Ontario government goals to reduce future fossil fuel consumption will remain unachieveable until after the necessary laws and regulations relating to the global adjustment and other fixed costs are revised.
5) Absent the required change in electricity rates technologies such as short term behind the meter energy storage and fuel switching will not be implemented. As a consequence the Ontario grid load factor will remain low (below 70%) and the Ontario blended electricity price per kWhe will remain too high to incentivize those technologies.
6) Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) provide the only practical means for sustainable economic displacement of fossil fuels. However, the benefits of FNRs are only realizable via FNR fuel reprocessing. In order to realize and fund FNR fuel reprocessing the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) agenda for burying un-reprocessed spent CANDU reactor fuel must be abandoned. Until the federal government commits to develop the technology to reprocess spent nuclear fuel there will be no industry confidence about the future availability of FNR fuel in Canada. Absent that certainty private industry will not invest in FNR technology development.
7) Closed cycle fuel reprocessing in combination with interim fission product storage can improve uranium utilization efficiency by about 100 fold and can reduce the spent fuel mass requiring long term storage by about 1000 fold.
8) An issue crucial to successful marketing of Small Modular Fast Neutron Reactors (SMFNRs) is the legal authority to use them for direct electricity supply to end users and for district heating. A crucial marketing requirement is a simple expropriation process that allows the reactor owner to obtain buried pipe easements underneath both private and public property. While this issue sounds simple it may require modification of existing federal, provincial and municipal legislation, regulation and standards relating to buried services, surface property rights and subsurface rights. Practical experience indicates that the SMFNR owner needs to be recognized by the province as an energy utility with expropriation rights independent of other utilities.
9) In order for SMRs to displace fossil fuels the comfort heating systems in urban centers must convert from fossil fuels to district heating. District heating requires long term forward municipal planning relating to the piping under city streets and private property easements that are required to deliver the heat and then return the heat transport fluid to the SMR. The layout of the subsurface pipe network must be planned decades in advance. The main pipe and the local drops to the property line should be laid whenever a major road is closed for repaving. The pipe network planning must take into consideration changes in elevation, the pipe slope and the necessity for venting entrained gases from superheated water at local high points.
10) If steam is used for heat transport there are important considerations relating to water hammer, condensate drainage and steam trap access. Typically steam pipes are run through dedicated service tunnels. Flood water drainage from such tunnels and access security in these tunnels are also important considerations.
11) Another important consideration is changing the building code and condominium code to allow for routing of heat transport pipes from the property line to a heat exchanger in the building and then transporting heat horizontally and vertically through the building to the existing boiler room(s). It may be necessary to route an upgraded electricity service along a similar pathway. Often in existing condominium towers it is necessary to expropriate private property to allow installation of new heat distribution and/or electricity service risers or to utilize existing parking or storage space.
12) Another complication is providing heat metering for individual tenants or condominium suite owners.
13) Another issue is upgrading the building main switchgear to meet new short circuit clearance requirements.
14) There are real property title issues relating to fixtures in buildings that must be addressed. In particular the parties supplying and maintaining the district heating equipment and /or upgraded electrical equipment need to have 24/7 site access to the equipment as well as a first charge on building title ahead of all other non-utility creditors.
PART VIII - ESSENTIAL GOVERNMENTAL ENERGY POLICY CHANGES
1) Thus the immediate governmental energy policy changes that are required to enable future displacement of fossil fuels by non-fossil energy are:
a) A provincial government decision to reprice electricity based primarily on peak kW rather than kWh;
b) A provincial government decision to grant SMFNR owners energy utility status;
c) A Canadian government decision to implement nuclear fuel reprocessing and recycling in place of burial of un-reprocessed spent CANDU fuel and to support Fast Neutron Reactors (FNRs) for fossil fuel energy displacement.
d) Municipal government decisions to plan underground services for future Small Modular Fast Neutron Reactor (SMFNR) based district heating.
Absent these four essential governmental policy changes it does not make financial sense for private industry to invest in the technologies required for fossil fuel displacement by non-fossil energy sources.
2) A fossil carbon tax only makes sense if the tax causes consumers to choose a non-fossil fuel energy source in preference to a fossil fuel energy source. If municipal, provincial and federal government legislation or regulations relating to electricity pricing, subsurface easements and nuclear waste disposal deny consumers a choice between non-fossil energy and fossil fuel energy then a fossil carbon tax has limited benefit.
This web page last updated September 5, 2017.
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