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XYLENE POWER LTD.

OTTENSMEYER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION

By Charles Rhodes, P.Eng., Ph.D.

OTTENSMEYER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION:
Implementation of the Ottensmeyer Plan requires resolution of about twenty-five issues or processes. These processes must all function smoothly together to enable FNR operation as contemplated on this web site. These processes do not involve new science. However, there are many practical details that must be resolved to implement these processes.

1) Production of the 6.0 m HT-9 steel (88% Fe, 12% Cr) tubes and tube bundles;

2) Selective extraction of mildly radioactive uranium oxide from intensely radioactive spent reactor fuel at reactor sites;

3) Storage of mildly radioactive uranium oxide in sealed stainless steel containers;

4) Rail and road transport of intensely radioactive spent reactor fuel residue to reprocessing site at Chalk River, Ontario;

5) Dissolve spent reactor fuel residue in HNO3;

6) Partition residue using a combination of solvent extraction, pyroprocessing, volatile fluoride processing and chloride extraction to realize new core rod material, new blanket rod material, fission products, surplus UO2, surplus Zr;

7) Form new blanket rods;

8) Transport of mildly radioactive blanket rods to the FNR site;

9) Fabricate of intensely radioactive core rods from the remaining high atomic weight components;

10) Rail and road transport of intensely radioactive core rods from Chalk River to the FNR site;

11) Final fuel tube and fuel bundle assembly on the FNR site;

12) Transport of assembled fuel bundles from their assembly point to the FNR;

13) Fabrication and transport of containers;

14) Rail and road transport of neutron activated zirconium;

15) Rail and road transport of intensely radioactive fission products from Chalk River to the 300 year storage location;

16) Design and fabrication of porcelain outer storage containers;

17) Loading of intensely radioactive fission products into porcelain storage containers, porcelain storage container placement and ongoing storage container supervision.

18) Design of the high differential temperature inconel tube heat exchangers that go on each end of the FNR intermediate heat transfer loops.

19) Design of the gamma ray camera system required to sense the gamma flux emitted by each core fuel bundle.

20) Design of the laser range sensing system required to sense the vertical position of the indicator tube of each core fuel bundle.

21) Design of the system for remote sensing the liquid sodium discharge temperature of each fuel bundle;

22) Design of the liquid sodium hydraulic system for control rod positioning.

23) Develop a formula relating the equilibrium liquid sodium temperature in a FNR core region to the amount of control rod material in that core region.

24) Develop software for automatic loading and unloading of multiple steam turbines to take advantage of the load following capability of the FNR.

25) Find solution to diffusion equation for neutrons to optimize the FNR core zone height.

Potential investors in FNRs must have certainty that all of the aforementioned processes have been defined in detail and that the related regulatory matters have been resolved before major capital is committed to construction of a pilot power FNR.
 

1) PRODUCTION OF THE HT-9 STEEL TUBES AND TUBE BUNDLES:
HT-9 is a iron-chromium alloy with a very low nickel and carbon content. The required tube material is 0.500 inch OD, 0.065 inch wall thickness, straight to within +/-1 mm per m. At this time there is likely no capacity to produce this tube material in Canada. However, the HT-9 material requirement is large. Each 2007 MWt FNR requires about 2531 km of this tubing. Hence at some point there will likely be merit in establishing a HT-9 fuel tube production capability in Canada.

Fabricating the tube bundles (516 tubes / bundle) is a job for a highly automated large volume production facility with advanced expertise in automatic welding. Major Canadian companies with the capability of doing this type of work include Magna and Linamar. The actual rate of natural circulation of liquid sodium between the tubes of a representative tube bundle under intended operating conditions must be measured.
 

2) SELECTIVE EXTRACTION OF MILDLY RADIOACTIVE URANIUM OXIDE FROM INTENSELY RADIOACCTIVE SPENT REACTOR FUEL AT REACTOR SITES:
Chemically this reaction is similar to the method presently used by the mining industry to extract uranium oxide from base rock. The significant difference is that instead of stable rock residue in this case the residue is intensely radioactive rare earths plus transuranium actinides. The separation ratio achieveable with each step of this process needs to be measured first with non-radioactive rare earths and then with a CANDU spent fuel bundle material that has been in storage for at least 10 years. The process is well known but it must be implemented with automatic equipment behind a biosafety shield equivalent to a 12 inch thickess of lead. Since the mass of spent fuel to be processed is large (typically about 15,000 tonnes per reactor site) the automatic equipment used must be highly robust, highly reliable and easily serviceable.
 

3) STORAGE OF MILDLY RADIOACTIVE URANIUM OXIDE IN SEALED STAINLESS STEEL CONTAINERS:
4) TRANSPORT OF MILDLY RADIOACTIVE URANIUM OXIDE AND NEUTRON ACTIVATED ZIRCONIUM TO THE BLANKET ROD FABRICATION FACILITY:
5) FABRICATION OF BLANKET RODS FROM MILDLY RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL:
6) TRANSPORT OF MILDLY RADIOACTIVE BLANKET RODS BACK TO REACTOR SITES:
A key issue during these four steps is the reduction of radioactivity per kg actually realized during the selective extraction of uranium oxide from the spent reactor fuel in step #2 above. It is currently contemplated that the radioactivity per kg in the extracted uranium oxide will be reduced by a factor of between 10,000 and 1,000,000. However, this radioactivity reduction must be experimentally measured and the thickness of the bio-safety shielding used appropriately chosen. If the radioactivity reduction actually achieved is insufficient the recycled uranium oxide will require additional bio-safety shielding both in storage and during transport. Thus a key issue in material flow design is the level of radioactivity reduction actually achieved during the selective uranium oxide extraction process of Step #2 above. Before the Ottensmeyer Plan can be implemented on a commercial scale the actual radioactivity reduction must be experimentally determined.

The blanket rod fabrication is not anticipated to be a major problem because the contemplated blanket rods are physically nearly identical to CANDU fuel rods presently made by Cameco. Hence the obvious party to do any directly related blanket rod fabrication development work is Cameco.
 

7) FINAL FUEL TUBE AND FUEL BUNDLE ASEMBLY ON REACTOR SITE:
Final fuel tube and fuel bundle assembly is done in an argon atmosphere. Final fuel tube assembly involves heating sodium, a fuel tube and its corresponding fuel rods to over 100 degrees C, injecting a measured amount of liquid sodium into the fuel tube, inserting the the appropriate numbers of blanket rods and core rods into the fuel tube in the proper order, attaching the fuel tube top plug, inserting the fuel tube into the fuel bundle assembly. Due to the radioactivity of the individual fuel bundle components the entire fuel bundle final assembly process must be automated and performed behind a bio-safety shield. Parties doing this work should have prior relevant experience in robotic welding and assembly automation.
 

8) TRANSPORT OF ASSEMBLED FUEL BUNDLES:
Assembled fuel bundles, which are highly radioactive, must be safely transpoerted from the asembly point to the FNR. The weight of the biosafety shielding required for this transportation effectively sets the maximum size of a single fuel bundle.
 

9) RAIL TRANSPORT OF INTENSELY RADIOACTIVE SPENT REACTOR FUEL RESIDUE:
The major issue is use of a transportation container that provides sufficient bio-safety shielding and that contains sufficient B4C to stop the residue mass becoming critfcal if due to a transportation accident water penetrates both the outer shipping container and the inner stainless steel container. The inner stainless steel container must contain enough B4C to prevent formation of a critical mass if water penetrates and fills the inner container.
 

CHALK RIVER:
It is contemplated that for the foreseeable future the following three processes will be implemented at Chalk River. This work should be done far from any major metropolis by psychologically stable personnel because an insane worker or a jihadist could potentially cause a major release of radio activity.
 

10) SEPARATION OF INTENSELY RADIOACTIVE SPENT REACTOR FUEL RESIDUE INTO LOW ATOMIC WEIGHT ATOMS AND HIGH ATOMIC WEIGHT ATOMS:
This separation process uses liquid cadmium and is known as pyro processing. Pyro processing must be done in a hot cell. The process must be demonstrated on a small scale and then the apparatus must be scaled up by apparatus duplication. The amount of high atomic weight material in any singlee container at any one time must be restricted to prevent accidental formation of a critical mass. This process exists on a small scale in Idaho but needs to be transferred to Canada and scaled up. In North America the commercial entity with the most experience with this process is GE-Hitachi (GEH).
 

11) SELECTIVE EXTRACTION OF NEUTRON ACTIVATED ZIRCONIUM FROM THE INTENSELY RADIOACTIVE LOW ATOMIC WEIGHT MATERIAL LEAVING INTENSELY RADIOACTIVE FISSION PRODUCTS AS RESIDUE:
This process is known as the dry chloride process. This process must be implemented in a hot cell. However, there are no critical mass concerns. This process exists in the USA but needs to be implemented in Canada. Implementation of this process could be delayed for a few decades until there is a large enough inventory of concentrated fission products to economically justify implementation of this process.
 

12) FABRICATION OF INTENSELY RADIOACTIVE CORE RODS FROM THE HIGH ATOMIC WEIGHT COMPONENTS:
This is a metal casting process involving an intensely radioactive metal alloy which is done at about 1000 degrees C in a hot cell. The mould material is silica tubing with a well controlled inside diameter. The amount of metal alloy in any single container must be restricted to prevent formation of a critical mass. This process should be monitored with a mass spectrometer or other instrument to ensure that the core fuel rod alloy composition is correct.
 

13) RAIL TRANSPORT OF INTENSELY RADIOACTIVE CORE RODS:
This process is primarily an exercise in design of a suitable transportation container that robustly contains enough B4C to provide certainty that a critical mass cannot form in any imaginable transportation accident or sabotage attempt, including water leaking into the inner transportation container. The corporate beneficiaries would be primarily parties in the business of rail shipment, producing stainless steel welded containers, producing cast lead shipping containers and supplying B4C. The exact transportation and material security protocol must be defined.
 

14) RAIL/TRUCK TRANSPORT OF NEUTRON ACTIVATED ZIRCONIUM:
This is primarily an exercise in calculating the maximum possible radioactivity of the neutron activated zirconium and defining a suitable transportation container and transportation methodology. The primary corporate beneficiary would likely be a party in the business of making cast lead shipping containers.
 

15) RAIL/TRUCK TRANSPORT OF INTENSELY RADIOACTIVE FISSION PRODUCTS:
This is primarily an exercise in calculating the maximum possible radioactivity of the concentrated fission products at the time of shipment and defining a suitable double wall transportation container. There is no concern about criticality. The corporate beneficiaries would be parties in the business of rail transport, producing welded stainless steel containers and producing cast lead shipping containers.
 

16) DESIGN AND FABRICATION OF PORCELAIN OUTER STORAGE CONTAINERS:
Porcelain is routinely made into tile and dish ware, is occasionally used to make large size industrial pipe that must resist aggressive chemicals but is seldom made into objects the size of the contemplated radio isotope outer containers. The obvious parties to make the porcelain outer containers are parties who already source natural porcelain clays and fire the material to make washroom fixtures. However,such parties tend to be guided by artisans rather than scientists. Some R & D is required to: suitably define the porcelain atomic mixture and firing conditions, test the material as specified and develop simple tests for confirming that the fabricated porcelain containers will be reliable for medium term (up to 1000 years) radio isotope isolation and storage. It is currently contemplated that this R & D would be principally done by Simon Fraser University which has equipment and personnel suitable for microscopic study of porcelain ceramic material. Certain specialized bulk material property tests would be done at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Representative porcelain samples can be exposed to controlled amounts of gamma radiation and tested at TRIUMF, which is located on the UBC campus.
 

17) LOADING OF FISSION PRODUCTS INTO STORAGE CONTAINERS, CONTAINER PLACEMENT AND CONTAINER STORAGE SUPERVISION:
This is an ongoing task for a consortium of mining companies that own suitably located large high elevation depleted mine works in crack free granite. These mine works need minor modifications to make them suitable for the contemplated application. This work includes drilling suitable gravity drains, forming cement to level the floor, forming suitable ventilation shafts, installing suitable signage and installation of suitable electric lighting. There have already been preliminary discussions between Xylene and TRIUMF with respect to training personnel for staffing the contemplated radio isotope storage facility.
 

18) DESIGN OF THE HIGH DIFFERENTIAL TEMPERATURE INCONEL TUBE HEAT EXCHANGERS FOR EACH END OF THE FNR's INTERMEDIATE HEAT TRANSFER LOOPS:
The FNR will operate with natural circulation of the primary sodium coolant. Achieving this natural circulation requires an approximately 200 degree C temperature differential across the intermediate heat transfer loops. The heat exchangers at both ends of the intermediate heat transfer loops must be designed to minimize thermal stress under all operating conditions. The steam generators and their protective shunts must be designed with these factors in mind. Dr. Rhodes of Xylene acquired relevant experience in this matter while designing fired stainless steel pressure vessels during the 1980s.
 

19) DESIGN OF THE GAMMA RAY CAMERA SYSTEM:
The operating power of each core fuel bundle is revealed by its emitted gamma ray flux. This camera must sense and output in real time the gamma ray flux emitted by each fuel bundle. This gamma ray camera will rely on the gamma ray optics developed for medical imaging.
 

20) DESIGN OF THE LASER BASED INDICATOR TUBE VERTICAL POSITION SENSING SYSTEM:
Design of the laser range finding system required to sense the vertical position of the top of each indicator tube. This system works via a mirror located over the FNR. This system must output in real time the position of each control rod to an accuracy of +/- 1.5 mm. The maximum indicator tube travel is 0.5 m.
 

21) DESIGN OF THE SYSTEM FOR SENSING THE LIQUID SODIUM DISCHARGE TEMPERATURE OF EACH FUEL BUNDLE:
Design of the system for sensing the liquid sodium discharge temperature of each fuel bundle. This system will operate based on the vapor pressure of mercury. The high temperature diaphragm material must be selected and the diaphragm seal to steel resolved. The required laser optics must be characterized.
 

22) DESIGN OF THE LIQUID SODIUM HYDRAULIC SYSTEM FOR CONTROL ROD POSITIONING:
Design of the liquid sodium hydraulic system for control rod positioning involves a liquid sodium pump, a liquid sodium release valve for position control and a liquid sodium release valve for emergency control rod release. There are seal issues at the piston ring and at the junction between the fuel bundle support pipe and its mating pool bottom fitting.
 

23) FORMULA DEVELOPMENT:
To properly size the control rod slugs it is necessary to have a formula that relates the equilibrium liquid sodium temperature in a core zone to the amount of control rod material present in that core zone.
 

24) AUTOMATIC LOADING AND UNLOADING OF STEAM TURBINES:
Develop software to make the turbo-generator electricity output follow the grid with appropriate enabling and disabling of the turbines and control of their related steam valves and the intermediate liquid sodium pumping rate.
 

25) FIND OPTIMUM CORE ZONE HEIGHT:
The core zone height Lc determines Fp, the fraction of the fission neutrons that do not diffuse out of the core zone and hence are potentially available to support the chain reaction. Determination of Lc from Fp trquires an accurate solution of the diffusion equation to quantify the flux of neutrons from the core zone to the adjacent blanket zones. We need an accurate value for Lc. For the EBR-2 Lc = 14.22 inches, but the methodology of calculation is not shown. For interim purposes I guestimated Lc to be 0.375 m = 14.76 inces but this value needs to be confirmed.
 

ORGANIZATION:
This work is presently being co-ordinated by Xylene Power Ltd. A related company Micro Fusion International Ltd.(MFI) owns the intellectual property (IP) and licenses that IP to Xylene Power Ltd. (Xylene) for use in Canada. This licensing arrangement is necessary to protect investors from unilateral national, provincial and municipal government legislative, regulatory and tax actions that have unforeseen and/or unappreciated consequences. All parties must appreciate that there is a major initial investment involved in the organization and engineering required to promote and launch liquid sodium cooled Fast Neutron Reactors in Canada.

There is an existing contractual relationship between MFI, Xylene and major Canadian mining interests relating to the required mine properties. The mining companies in turn have agreements or licences with: provincial governments, surface and mineral property owners and relevant aboriginal organizations.

As the Ottensmeyer Plan implementation issues are better identified, the regulatory issues are overcome and younger science/engineering/technical personnel are trained it is likely that the Xylene/MFI interests will be absorbed into a Canadian organization that is equipped to source and efficiently manage the required long term insurance/pension fund financing.

There is no point in seeking such long term financing until the unknowns in steps #1 to #24 above are resolved and until there is a sufficient price on fossil carbon emissions to make the cost of FNR supplied electricity competitive with the cost of electricity supplied by combustion of natural gas.
 

PESSIMISTIC VIEW:
It is possible and even likely that due to repeated procrastination by governments with respect to imposition of a sufficient price on fossil carbon emissions there will be a global large animal extinction on Earth due to atmospheric thermal runaway before FNRs can be constructed in sufficient numbers to prevent such thermal runaway occurring.
 

This web page last updated May 4, 2016

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