Sodium cooled nuke plant in Wyoming

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Mooderator
Staff member
Hearth Supporter
Nov 18, 2005
105,161
South Puget Sound, WA
Breaking ground this year.
 
i don't know the specific Na technology, but I'm happy new nuclear power will be coming online. Better to have some nasty waste that is localized than the crap we shoot in the atmosphere (CO2 and other byproducts).
 
I like that it is not dumping heat into the local river or sea and doesn't have the high pressures involved. Compared to water-cooled, liquid metals can absorb a lot more heat while maintaining a consistent pressure. Liquid sodium has a boiling point more than 8 times higher than water so it can absorb all the extra heat generated in the nuclear core. The pitch is that the sodium doesn’t need to be pumped, because as it gets hot, it rises, and as it rises, it cools off. Even if the plant loses power, the sodium just keeps absorbing heat without getting to a dangerous temperature that would cause a meltdown.

If I understand the tech correctly, the Natrium design also includes an energy storage system that will allow it to control how much electricity it produces at any given time which I think is unique among nuclear reactors. This feature is important for integrating with power grids that use variable sources like solar and wind.

The downside is that it will take years to build. Getting a lot of them online to replace coal and natural gas plants would take over a decade.
 
I like that it is not dumping heat into the local river or sea and doesn't have the high pressures involved. Compared to water-cooled, liquid metals can absorb a lot more heat while maintaining a consistent pressure. Liquid sodium has a boiling point more than 8 times higher than water so it can absorb all the extra heat generated in the nuclear core. The pitch is that the sodium doesn’t need to be pumped, because as it gets hot, it rises, and as it rises, it cools off. Even if the plant loses power, the sodium just keeps absorbing heat without getting to a dangerous temperature that would cause a meltdown.

If I understand the tech correctly, the Natrium design also includes an energy storage system that will allow it to control how much electricity it produces at any given time which I think is unique among nuclear reactors. This feature is important for integrating with power grids that use variable sources like solar and wind.

The downside is that it will take years to build. Getting a lot of them online to replace coal and natural gas plants would take over a decade.
Yes, keeping the streams cool is good.

The boiling point may be higher, but the heat capacity is significantly (>40%) lower, so that offsets it some. Moreover, pressure does not only build up at boiling, but at any temperature - it's dependent on the vapor pressure (as a function of temperature). Sodium's vapor pressure goes up quite a bit up to its boiling temperature. So the pressure will also be going up. I'm not sure what I'd like better, a steam explosion or a metal (liquid and vapor) explosion. In particular a metal that when coming into contact with water creates explosions (of hydrogen and oxygen, from splitting the water - nice youtube vids on that...).

I think the advantage of the sodium is that it works better when power is down.
Water also convects (pour boiling water in a cup, see the "snaky thingies" undulate: that's convective flow.
This is driven (just as the chimney!) by the differences in density of the liquid.
For Sodium there is a 2.7% difference in density between melting and boiling points. For water that's quite a bit less (0.6%), so this will work better for Sodium indeed, i.e. without power it will be easier to transport heat away than it is for water (and it stays liquid unless above 800 C or so, which is good too).
These two aspects (still liquid at high T, and more convection due to larger density differences) are I think the main advantages (over water).

I thought that these storage systems were molten sodium chloride (salt), not sodium. Imagine if something goes wrong and the sodium cools down and solidifies. How to get that out of your tank, a hunk of (soft) metal. Water is a no-no (see explosion above). For NaCl it's easy though: add water, dissolve it, done. That's how salt can be mined from deposits underground.

I agree that building generation with *integrated* storage is ideal.
 
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It’s got some thermal storage so that’s novel. 345 megawatt is not large. It’s a proof of concept. I wish we would have taken the French standardization approach. But that boats sailed.

I do wonder what the ROI would be if the money was spend on wind solar and battery storage.
 
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Lots of legacy for sodium cooled reactors, mostly breeder type.

A fun article about how that work in the 60s was later abandoned:


Apparently the early sodium test reactors were a bit accident prone.

Fun fact: one person, Al Crewe, named in the article was on my PhD thesis cmte. He clearly never read my thesis, and only looked at the graphs and their captions.
 
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Lots of legacy for sodium cooled reactors, mostly breeder type.

A fun article about how that work in the 60s was later abandoned:


Apparently the early sodium test reactors were a bit accident prone.

Fun fact: one person, Al Crewe, named in the article was on my PhD thesis cmte. He clearly never read my thesis, and only looked at the graphs and their captions.
I've noticed my professors don't even check my references. After going back to grab older references for new work I noticed every once in a while the link is wrong. I'm sure that nobody cares about my undergrad citations for random assignments, it just makes me chuckle when the assignment got a 100.
 
Do you really want the the "father of Windows" in charge of nuclear power plant project? The tech industry specializes in "good enough" to get it out the door. A nuclear power plant needs to work the first time.

My guess is the new Westinghouse AP 300 mini nuke plants have a lot better chance of going than an entirely new plant concept.
 
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I've noticed my professors don't even check my references. After going back to grab older references for new work I noticed every once in a while the link is wrong. I'm sure that nobody cares about my undergrad citations for random assignments, it just makes me chuckle when the assignment got a 100.
No one checks links. I do check the important ones (important for the reasoning) for accuracy on volume and page or article numbers.
 
Do you really want the the "father of Windows" in charge of nuclear power plant project? The tech industry specializes in "good enough" to get it out the door. A nuclear power plant needs to work the first time.

My guess is the new Westinghouse AP 300 mini nuke plants have a lot better chance of going than an entirely new plant concept.

The article I linked talked about how the developers of power reactors wanted them built far from population centers, and intentionally tested their model reactors to failure. BC they assumed that loss of coolant failures and meltdowns would happen. Duh.

Looks like the suits then came in with the idea of putting them in containment vessels and sticking them in the suburbs... to reduce costs with transmission lines?

I am sure those early nuke engineers would not have planned on decades of spent fuel sitting in swimming pools on site, also in the suburbs.

The problem here is that when the big money came along, the engineers got pushed aside.
 
No one checks links. I do check the important ones (important for the reasoning) for accuracy on volume and page or article numbers.

Most journals now do an automatic reference scan when you submit your paper. And many writing tools pull them from online databases anyway, so numerical errors are rare. Actually the Google biblio database (Scholar) has correct data, but janky formatting/capitalization... so the refs are correct but need to be manually reformatted.

Progress.
 
No one checks links. I do check the important ones (important for the reasoning) for accuracy on volume and page or article numbers.
I don't expect them to click every link, but the text of the link/source didn't match the citation at all in a few cases. Just a copy/paste error on my part, but still funny. I also get a chuckle when I submit an assignment and the plagiarism checker comes back and says that I've plagiarized myself.
 
Most journals now do an automatic reference scan when you submit your paper. And many writing tools pull them from online databases anyway, so numerical errors are rare. Actually the Google biblio database (Scholar) has correct data, but janky formatting/capitalization... so the refs are correct but need to be manually reformatted.

Progress.
Yes but he was talking about assignments, not journal papers.

I know my go-to journals (Physical Review) don't check upon submission, but do so in proof stage , using CrossRef.
 
Yes but he was talking about assignments, not journal papers.

I know my go-to journals (Physical Review) don't check upon submission, but do so in proof stage , using CrossRef.
Last few times I submitted to PR they had an (optional) ref check on the submission page.
 
Last few times I submitted to PR they had an (optional) ref check on the submission page.
Yes, but it's optional and they won't send it back to you if something is wrong in there. They fix things up after acceptance. Which is nice as it avoids wasting time on formatting etc if the paper gets rejected and you have to go elsewhere.
 
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What fuel is this plant using???
I don't think its bomb-grade. According to the website:
"The Natrium reactor uses high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) metallic fuel. HALEU is a new class of nuclear fuel where the uranium-235 isotope content is above 5% but less than 20%. Many advanced reactors, including the Natrium technology, use HALEU because it improves reactor performance. HALEU allows the Natrium reactor to more efficiently produce energy and reduces the volume of waste produced from the reactor, when compared to today’s operating nuclear fleet."
 
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I feel like the same argument could be made about a lot of energy investments
 
Better to have some nasty waste that is localized than the crap we shoot in the atmosphere (CO2 and other byproducts).
Valid point, and one I hadn't considered.
Of course, keeping the nasty stuff local is the challenge when an unplanned release occurs.
 
Valid point, and one I hadn't considered.
Of course, keeping the nasty stuff local is the challenge when an unplanned release occurs.
Letting the nasty alternative emissions collect to the point where they are a global, unsolvable problem is a far worse alternative IMO.
 
FInland just put in a nuclear plant that supplies a third of the baseload power. They built a very secure waste repository in a remote area way underground and the country seems to be fine with it. The US has plenty of areas to put nuclear waste, its not a technical issue its a political issue. No one wants it in their backyard.