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Hitachi begins joint research with MIT, U Michigan and UC Berkeley on next-gen nuclear reactors that use radioactive waste as fuel

28 August 2014

Hitachi, Ltd. has begun joint research with MIT, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Berkeley aimed at using Transuranium Elements (TRUs) as fuel, and the development of Resource-renewable Boiling Water Reactors (RBWRs) to use that fuel. TRUs are contained in the radioactive waste materials discharged by nuclear power plants that have atomic numbers greater than that of uranium (92), and which require a long period of time to decay.

Transatomic Power
Start-up Transatomic Power is developing an advanced molten salt reactor that would consume spent nuclear fuel cleanly and completely.
The reactor can be powered by nuclear waste because it uses radically different technology from conventional plants; instead of using solid fuel pins, Transatomic dissolves the nuclear waste into a molten salt.
Conventional nuclear reactors can utilize only about 3% - 5% of the potential fission energy in a given amount of uranium before it has to be removed from the reactor. Transatomic says that its design captures 96% of this remaining energy.
The main differences between Transatomic Power’s molten salt reactor and previous molten salt reactors are its metal hydride moderator and LiF-(Heavy metal)F4 fuel salt. These allow the the reactor to be more compact and generate electricity at lower cost than other designs. The reactor can operate using fresh fuel enriched to a minimum of 1.8% U-235, or light water reactor waste.

Through this joint research, Hitachi plans to evaluate the performance and safety of RBWRs, which is being developed by Hitachi and Hitachi GE Nuclear Energy Ltd., and to study plans for testing with a view toward practical applications with each university.

The uranium fuel used in nuclear power plants contains TRUs, which are harmful to humans, and it is estimated that it takes about 100,000 years for the radioactive properties of these materials to decay to the level of uranium ore in its natural state.

If TRUs could be effectively removed from these spent fuels, then the period of decay for the remaining radioactive waste materials could be reduced to just a few hundred years, Hitachi notes. For this reason, research and development is being conducted throughout the world targeting nuclear reactors that can achieve nuclear fission in transuranic waste.

As one solution to this challenge, Hitachi has undertaken the development of RBWRs based on Boiling Water Reactor technologies, which already have an extensive track record of applications in commercial nuclear reactors.

RBWRs could potentially use TRUs separated and refined from spent fuel as fuel along with uranium. Although RBWRs use new core fuel concepts to burn TRUs, they use the same non-core components as current Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), including safety systems and turbines. As such, RBWRs are unique in that extensive experience accumulated through the application of BWRs can be leveraged to achieve efficient nuclear fission in TRUs, Hitachi says.

Hitachi conducted joint research targeting RBWRs with MIT, U-M, and UCB from 2007 to 2011, evaluating safety and performance in the burning of TRUs, as described above. In this next stage of joint research, utilizing the knowledge and insights acquired through the previous stage, and applying the more accurate analysis methods developed by MIT, U-M, and UCB, Hitachi will continue to evaluate the safety and performance of the new reactors, and will study plans for tests with a view toward practical applications.

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It will have a hard time to compete with electricity at 2.5 cents/kWh from latest very large wind turbines on 100m to 120m towers?

One day I read here that thorium nuclear reactors were safe cheap and will be the future but since then I never heard back of this.

We have LOTS of depleted uranium from decades of uranium enrichment, just build fast breeder reactors, then we can power the world for the next 1000 years.

Amen, SJC. I've done a 180 degree turn on nuclear energy in recent years and everything going on in the world today is helping to confirm that. IMO, what we need is concentrated CO2-free energy and lots of it. Renewables have a big role to play but I think they complement nuclear energy very well. We need to replace our fossil-fuel based liquid fuels with things like syngas, hydrogen etc as well as producing an excess of electricity for EVs. It scares the heck out of me that we are so dependent on the Middle East and (for Europe) Russia for oil and gas. The sooner foreign policy separates from energy policy the better. Maybe then we can make decisions based on what's right rather than what we need to keep our economies running.

Getting elected requires $$$M and pay back time does not always lead to doing what is right but to do what will increase profits for large election contributors.

That is the type of up-to-date democracy that we are trying so hard to force on other people.

Unfortunately, there are not too many better alternatives.

An election expending ceiling of $1 to $2 per voter, paid for (100%) by regular taxes could work. Pre-payments could be done based on the average (surveys) of voters intention. Corrections could be made with real data a few days after elections.

I have a hard time understanding why some many people fear nuclear power and favor wind turbines. If you throw out the Chernobyl disaster, there have been more fatalities involving wind turbines than nuclear power. It takes several thousand wind turbines to generate the power developed by a nuclear power plant. The rotating equipment has to be maintained at a height that is often 100 m (~330 ft) or more above the ground. There have been numerous nacelle fires and blade failures and even some complete tower failures. For more information on this than you ever wanted, see http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/fullaccidents.pdf

The main problem with nuclear power has been the spent fuel and now there are a number of newer designs that will essentially burn the waste and the so-called depleted uranium. There is nothing that is truly safe but I would rather live near a nuclear power plant than a wind turbine farm.

Latest and future improved large (6 MW to 10 MW) wind turbines installed on 120 m towers can produce electricity at a very low cost (2.0 cents to 2.5 cents per kWh). That's about 6 to 8 times lower than electricity produced with future nuclear reactors.

Less than 200 of those well located large Wind turbines (with a production factor of 50%) can produce as much electricity as a large nuclear reactor, at a much lower initial capital cost.

With lower initial cost and lower production cost, large Wind turbines are an excellent alternative to CPPS, NGPPs and Nuclear power plants.

China is in first place with 95,000 MW of Wind power
installed and for the first time this year, more CPPS will be shut down than new one will be built.

USA's Wind map at 120 m height is excellent on both East and West Coasts and in most Central USA States. There is enough Wind energy potential to supply more than 100% of the electricity required. CPPs, NGPPs and NPPs are not really required.

HarveyD

I wish you were correct and it was so easy. However, the largest on-shore wind turbines, I could find were 3.2 MW from GE and 3.3 MW from Vestas. There are limits to how large a blade can be and still be transported and how large the diameter of the tower can be and still be transported. Vestas has built a 8 MW off-shore wind turbine and that apparently is the largest to date. Most commonly, the on-shore wind turbines that are presently being installed are about 1.5 MW. These numbers are the rated power and for on-shore wind farms, you are doing very well to average 20% of the rated power. So if you take 1000 MW for a new nuclear plant and 2.5 MW for a very large on-shore wind turbine and then take the average output to be 20% of that or 0.5 MW, it will take 2000 of these wind turbines to equal the power of the nuclear plant and I think that I am being generous with the numbers. I would like to see a verifiable reference for wind turbine power being produced at 2.0 cents to 2.5 cents per kWh

As I said in a previous post, about a month ago I flew in a private plane from Utah to Wisconsin and back. We flew low enough so that it was easy to see the wind turbines on the ground in Wyoming, north western Nebraska, and southern South Dakota and Minnesota. Almost none of the turbines were rotating and I think I could have counted the turbines producing power on my fingers.

Very large (up to 10 MW), very high Wind turbines (up to 120m) will soon be a reality. Blades final assembly may have to be done close to the Wind turbine farms or be transported by large cargo helicopters or airships.

Here are a few of the contenders:

1. Vesta V164 = 8 MW
2. Enercon E126 = 7.5 MW
3. Samsung 6M = 6.15 MW
4. Siémens SWT150 = 6 MW
5. Alstom Halidade = 6 MW
6. Sinovel SL6000 = 6 MW
7. Areva M5000 = 5 MW
8. Gamesa G5 = 5MW
9. Bard 5mw = 5 MW
10. XEMC5MW = 5 MW

11. GE will certainly join in soon.

Large turbines on very high towers capture 3 to 5 times more Wind than current 1.5 MW units of 50m towers. Higher towers (140m) would be better for 10 MW units.

China has already installed over 92,000 MW and will very soon reach 100,000+ MW.

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