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Publication Title | The Modular Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactor - The Preferred new Sustainable Energy Source for Electricity, Hydrogen and Potable Water Production

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The Modular Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactor - The Preferred new Sustainable Energy Source for

Electricity, Hydrogen and Potable Water Production?

LESLIE G KEMENY

L. and M. Kemeny & Associates - Consulting Nuclear Engineers & Physicists 283 Main Street - Lithgow NSW 2790 - Australia

SUMMARY. High Temperature Gas Cooled (HTGC) nuclear power plant have the potential to become the preferred base load sustainable energy source for the new millennium. The great attraction of these helium cooled "Generation Four" nuclear plant can be summarised as follows:

• Factory assembly line production

• Modularity and ease of delivery to site

• High temperature Brayton Cycle ideally suited for cogenerarion of electricity, potable water and hydrogen

• Capital and operating costs competitive with hydrocarbon plant

• Design is inherently "meltdown proof and proliferation resistant.

This paper discusses, in part, work carried out for a Proposal Submitted in Response to the U.S.A. Department of Energy, Office of Nucleare Energy, Science and Technology, Nuclear Energy Research Imitative Solicitation Number DE-P503-2SF22467 (April 2002). This is a joint project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nu-Tec Inc. and Proto Power. It incorporates Patents and Intellectual Property. The Author is grateful to his colleagues in all three organisations for stimulating and critical comment and discussion.

Introduction

At the present time, some 438 nuclear power stations operating in 31 countries deliver around 16% of the world's electrical energy. The vast majority of these plants are Light Water moderated and cooled. The High Temperature Gas Cooled nuclear reactor concept was developed almost in parallel with the water reactors and prototype plants have operated successfully in many countries notably Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission adopted as one of its major research projects, the development of a High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor - with spherical "pebble bed" - type fuel elements. Unfortunately, the choice of Berryllia as the moderator proved to be an error and the project was finally abandoned.

Nuclear engineers and physicists in many countries all agree that the elegant simplicity of the graphite moderated pebble bed reactor is the basis for a most attractive design concept for a "Generation Four" nuclear power plant. In fact some, including this author, believe that such a design could well become the preferred base load energy source of the twenty- first century.

In order to develop and commercialise many areas of leading edge nuclear science and technology, the

company Nu-Tec Inc. was established in the United States in October 2001 by a group of Australians. Nu-Tec is now involved in research, development, licencing, joint ventures and commercialisation in the fields of power generation, environmental remediation, plant surveillance, mining of fissile and precious metals, scanning systems for the detection of illicit movement of dangerous materials, and the medical agricultural and industrial uses of radiation.

Nu-Tec quickly established that for many outstanding technical reasons the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) design of the Modular Pebble Bed Reactor (MPBR) represents the pre-eminent technology in the field of all new power plant on offer. Nu-Tec will be working with MIT in the areas of MPBR dynamics, control and surveillance, and also plans to invest financially in the development of the prototype plant. The MIT pebble bed reactor is normally a 250 Mwth-1 lOMwe indirect cycle helium cooled and helium gas turbine powered plant using pebble bed technology developed in Germany. This project is similar to that being proposed by ESKOM in South Africa in its core design but radically different in the balance of plant. The indirect cycle was chosen to allow for more flexibility in process heat applications and easier layout configurations, and it supports the fundamental premise of modularity, factory

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