Generation IV nuclear energy systems are future, next-generation technologies

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Story: Michael Anissimov http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2006/10/a-nuclear-reactor-in-every-home/

 

The world-changing thorium reactor I am envisioning qualifies as a Generation IV reactor. A Generation IV reactor will pay for itself even more quickly than a Generation III reactor, and will replace every other source of electrical power in terms of cost-effectiveness. Generation IV reactors will be the fission reactors to end all fission reactors.

The Generation IV International Forum’s definition:

Generation IV nuclear energy systems are future, next-generation technologies that will compete in all markets with the most cost-effective technologies expected to be available over the next three decades.

Comparative advantages include reduced capital cost, enhanced nuclear safety, minimal generation of nuclear waste, and further reduction of the risk of weapons materials proliferation. Generation IV systems are intended to be responsive to the needs of a broad range of nations and users.

Currently, it is thought that Generation IV reactors will not come online before 2030, at least according to the Generation IV International Forum’s Technology Roadmap. A substantial amount of R&D must be done to develop the molten salt reactor idea into a viable construction plan. However, I am more optimistic on timescales. Improvements in materials science and high-quality manufacturing will relax design requirements, decreasing research time from 20 years to 10 years and building time from 3-5 years to one year. That is why I can imagine thorium reactors by 2020.

Thorium reactors will be cheap. The primary cost in nuclear reactors traditionally is the huge safety requirements. Regarding meltdown in a thorium reactor, Rubbia writes, “Both the EA and MF can be effectively protected against military diversions and exhibit an extreme robustness against any conceivable accident, always with benign consequences. In particular the [beta]-decay heat is comparable in both cases and such that it can be passively dissipated in the environment, thus eliminating the risks of “melt-down”. Thorium reactors can breed uranium-233, which can theoretically be used for nuclear weapons. However, denaturing thorium with its isotope, ionium, eliminates the proliferation threat.

Like any nuclear reactor, thorium reactors will be hot and radioactive, necessitating shielding. The amount of radioactivity scales with the size of the plant. It so happens that thorium itself is an excellent radiation shield, but lead and depleted uranium are also suitable. Smaller plants (100 megawatts), such as the Department of Energy’s small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor (SSTAR) will be 15 meters tall, 3 meters wide and weigh 500 tonnes, using only a few cm of shielding. From the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory page on SSTAR:

SSTAR is designed to be a self-contained reactor in a tamper-resistant container. The goal is to provide reliable and cost-effective electricity, heat, and freshwater. The design could also be adapted to produce hydrogen for use as an alternative fuel for passenger cars.

 

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In 1995 At Maui High Performance Computing Center The Maui Scientific Analysis & Visualization of the Environment Program was first incubated. I was the principal investigator of this independant research project which was a joint development between MHPCC, Silicon Graphics Computers (SGI) & NKO.ORG. Using SGI Cosmo Worlds software, we pioneered the development of Internet based 3D virtual reality GIS based interactive worlds. In 1996 with a network of seven high performance SGI workstations we pioneered development of live streaming MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Real Video and QuickTime Streaming Server utilizing Kassenna MediaBase software. In Maui 2002 we pioneered and tested the first wireless live streaming video using laptop computers and Maui Sky Fiber's portable 3G wireless device. In Maui we pioneered live streaming video using usb modems from AT&T , Verizon as well as live streaming from iPhone 3 over 3G wireless networks. Today The Maui S.A.V.E. Program has diversified into storm tracking including visualization and analysis of large, memory-intensive gridded data sets such as the National Hurricane Center's wind speed probabilities. I volunteer my services to numerous Disaster Services Organizations. In June 2013 I returned from Hurricane Sandy deployment as a computer operations service associate with the Disaster Services Technology Group assisting as The American Red Cross migrated from a Disaster Response Operation to Long Term Recovery Operations. Pioneering the production/editing and Internet distribution of HD video to sites like Youtube.com and Vimeo.com we are shining the light towards environmental and peace efforts of humans across the globe. Since 1992 I have held the vision of establishing Maui, Hawaii as the environmental sciences center of the world. After His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet came to Maui This vision has expanded to establishing Maui as the environmental & peace center of the world.

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