Climate change

December 2, 2009

IFR FaD 1 – Context

As a complement to TCASE category, I’m starting another series of posts on the Integral Fast Reactor design for sustainable nuclear power, called IFR FaD (facts and discussion). There are many, many issues worth raising about this Gen IV nuclear power, and I hope to cover them here, in brief, manageable chunks.

There won’t be any natural sequence to the posts — it will be idiosyncratic, covering whatever aspect I feel interested in writing about at the time. I might also be influenced by a question that’s come up in another thread. Perhaps, when many of these have been completed, I’ll try to order them into a more logically arranged FAQ, or some such. But that’s looking a bit too far ahead.

Anyway, before I start, a few points of context.

First, to make sense of these posts, you’ll need to have at least a basic understanding of what the IFR is (history and key technological features). Nothing profound — but if your first question is “what is the IFR?” or worse “what is nuclear power?” — then I suggest you read these 3 posts and listen to these 3 radio programmes that I’ve recorded in the last year.

Second, the focus of this series is aimed squarely at the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) rather than other Gen IV designs, such as the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) or Advanced High Temperature Reactor (AHTR). The reason for this is two fold: (i) I’m more familiar with the IFR technology (and I am in regular email exchange with the world experts on this technology, via SCGI and other links), and (ii) LFTR has a strong and welcoming advocacy group elsewhere, and I’d encourage people to go there to ask more questions about that technology (you can also ask the very approachable Prof Per Peterson about the AHTR on the Energy from Thorium forums). However, I should make it quite clear that I’m not “for IFR and against LFTR” — both 4th generation nuclear designs hold great appeal to me, and I will sometimes consider IFR vs LFTR comparisons in the IFR FaD series, as a point of comparison or contrast.

To give readers a feel for the range of ideas I intend to cover in these short posts (each about 500 — 1000 words long), here’s a sampling of my recent brainstorming on IFR FaD. (If you have other points you’d like me to add to this list, please do let me know and I’ll add them to the pile).

fissile inventory; breeding rates; synergy with ALWRs and LFTRs; global deployment rates to 2050 and beyond; metal vs oxide fuel; loop vs pool design; sodium coolant; passive safety; heat exchanger safety; hard spectrum reactor control; reactor size optimality;  S-PRISM and LSPB; relationship to GIF; construction costs; CO2-intensity; LCOE projections; near-term IFR prospects; medium-term IFR prospects; sustainability of fuel supply; waste management; historical fast reactor failures; historical fast reactor successes; operating and planned fast reactors; pyroprocessing; LWR used fuel recycling; proliferation resistance; EBR-II; decommissioning; operating temperatures and thermodynamic cycles.

Remember, there’s no particular order to the above, and I’m sure there’s plenty more topics — that list is really just a taster. Suggestions appreciated.

If the above terms don’t mean anything to you, fear not. In time, each of them will do — and, I hope, you’ll find the learning exercise interesting (to me, any of those topics are fascinating!). That’s what IFR FaD aims to do — give you the facts and figures, and dispel the myths, behind the IFR story.

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