Nuclear Micro-reactors In Case of Apocalypse

In Case of Zombie Apocalypse You’ll Want One of These

Ordinary nuclear power plants require massive containment structures, take years to build, and typically produce about 1 GW of power per reactor. Micro-reactors are relatively small, and produce between 1 MW and 25 MW of power. They will be built in factories using tight quality control, will take about a month to build, and will be small enough to fit in an ordinary cargo container.

Micro-reactors are a source of resilient energy that can enable a wide range of installations to enhance their range, endurance, agility and mission assurance. Micro-reactors are being designed with island-mode operations, black-start capabilities, an ability to protect against severe natural phenomena as well as man-made physical and cybersecurity threats, and to operate for several years without the need to shut down for refueling. __ Nuclear Energy Institute

In case of Zombie Apocalypse or a World-Ending Solar Event, you will need a well-shielded small nuclear reactor capable of powering a small isolated community for a decade or more before refueling. Black-start capabilities allow the tiny power plant to power-up in the context of a totally crashed power grid.

Westinghouse eVinci Microreactor

The US Department of Energy has agreed to fund a project to prepare a 25 MWe eVinci micro-reactor for demonstration by 2022.

Westinghouse says that it could develop and demonstrate the eVinci micro-reactor in less than six years, owing to its size and “high technology readiness level of individual components.” For now, it wants to… build an integral test with nuclear fuel, aiming for commercial deployment by 2024. __ Powermag

Westinghouse is hoping that micro-reactor projects will be more quickly approved by governments, more affordable to build and install, and better accepted by the public at large than giant nuclear power plants have been.

The key benefits of the eVinci micro reactor are attributed to its solid core and advanced heat pipes. The core encapsulates fuel to significantly reduce proliferation risk and enhances overall safety for the user. The heat pipes enable passive core heat extraction and inherent power regulation, allowing autonomous operation and inherent load following capabilities. These advanced technologies together make the eVinci micro reactor a pseudo “solid-state” reactor with minimal moving parts… The reactor core is designed to run for more than 10 years, eliminating the need for frequent refueling. __

Oklo’s Aurora Reactor Burns “Nuclear Waste” as Fuel

Oklo Inc. Aurora Microreactor

“The plant is designed to be a metal block containing uranium based metallic fuel in a heat pipe configuration that uses liquid sodium. The power conversion system is not final, but consideration is being given to organic Rankine cycle, steam, or super-critical CO2. There is insufficient technical information available publicly to put together a table of key parameters.”

“The design is such that the nuclear plant can ft into a standard shipping container. Two additional containers would house the power conversion system. With mass manufacturing of these small modules, designers claim they can produce electricity for $0.03/kWh. While the design is only in very preliminary stages, they have received venture capital funding to move the design forward.” __ Dan Yurman

The A-frame above is what the containment building for an Oklo Aurora nuclear microreactor will look like. The micro-reactor will run on spent nuclear fuel, producing roughly 1.5 MW of power.

Oklo is currently preparing an application to build its first Aurora reactor and plans to submit it to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for review next month. DeWitte says he expects the approval process to take two years and construction of the reactor to take another. Assuming everything goes according to plan, Oklo’s Aurora would be the first American reactor to run on Haleu derived from spent nuclear fuel. __ Wired

NuGen Micro-Reactor

The NuGen micro-reactor is expected to have power ratings up to 20MWe.

The microreactor called the NuGen Engine has a patented revolutionary helical fuel core, which results in a shorter fuel core and higher efficiency. The helical fuel core and other components are fully integrated and enclosed in a single module.

It is a direct-cycle gas-cooled microreactor enclosed in a single module. Using a direct-cycle concept eliminates the “balance of plant” infrastructure, such as the secondary loop, allowing for a simpler design. The firm is focusing on the simplicity of its design to minimize licensing costs, operational requirements, maintenance costs and the risk of damage during transportation and siting.

… The design is adaptable for space applications. It could serve as a lunar reactor at a permanent outpost or habitat on the moon and provide heat and electricity for in situ resource utilization (e.g., for water extraction, fuel production and 3-D printing). It could also serve as the electricity generator to power an electric propulsion rocket for travel to Mars. __ Dan Yurman

More micro-reactor projects are discussed in this NEI PDF report.

Scalable Nuclear Electric Power & Heat Changes The Outlook

The availability of safe, clean, affordable, abundant nuclear electricity & heat from micro-reactors makes a lot of things possible. Theoretically, one could put a colony of people on Antarctica and provide the power & heat to grow crops and keep everyone warm and well-lit year round. The same would be possible for floating ocean colonies, isolated island settlements, seafloor colonies, or colonies in space.

The combination of nuclear micro-reactors with advanced micro-grid technologies would provide a great deal of backup resilience and robustness to larger power-grids. This would be a particular help in places like Australia and Germany, where power grids have been steadily weakened by the growing use of unreliable junk electricity from big wind and big solar.

After a large scale solar event, EMP attack, or cyber-attack, a backup micro-reactor capable of black start could form the local micro-grid power nucleus around which the macro-grid might be re-formed and re-started in time. Bright lights at night can have an almost mystical ability to lift the spirits and restore confidence in difficult times. As in your zombie apocalypse, for example.

Just be sure to sharpen those machetes and war axes.

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6 Responses to Nuclear Micro-reactors In Case of Apocalypse

  1. Joe Wooten says:

    The liquid sodium reactor is a non-starter. Sodium is just too corrosive to be used as a coolant despite its superior heat transfer properties. We need a breakthrough in materials to enable those type of reactors to operate.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Yes. It will probably take years longer than they suggest, with a number of design changes likely.

      Nuclear power is crucial to advanced societies, but younger generations don’t appreciate it for the most part. The demographic shrinkage of most nations of the advanced world means that a scale-down of new nuclear reactor designs is needed — but any change at all to nuclear reactor designs will take a long time to perfect and get approved.

      Too bad so much time was wasted over the past 40 years.

      • Joe Wooten says:

        Yep! I have been working as an engineer in the nuclear power business since February 1980 when I transferred from a gas fired plant in west Texas to Comanche Peak. Since then I have spent significant time at quite a few of the nukes in the US. I have worked on all the different types, Westinghouse 2, 3, 4 loop and AP1000 PWR, GE BWR 3/4/5, CE 2 loop PWR, and B&W types. All of them have their good points. I hate to see the steep learning curve we have had on nuclear power being slowly scrapped in favor of other types of generation,

        That being said, there seems to be a small kernel of talent staying in the business that will keep it alive. The small reactors will help there.

  2. bob sykes says:

    A claimed power cost of 3 cents per kwh is already an order of magnitude larger than a conventional power plant:


    we get,

    Nuclear energy averages 0.4 euro cents/kWh, much the same as hydro; coal is over 4.0 c/kWh (4.1-7.3), gas ranges 1.3-2.3 c/kWh and only wind shows up better than nuclear, at 0.1-0.2 c/kWh average.

    The micro plants range in size from 1/1000th to 1/40th of the size of conventional plants. For facilities of similar technology there is an economy of scale exponent that ranges from 0.6 to 0.8. For and exponent of 0.7, every doubling of the plant size raises total production costs by about 60%. Unit costs go down by 20%. I expect the cost claims made by the proponents are outright lies, and the costs should be raised by an order of magnitude. A dollar per kwh seems more likely.

    There is a market for micro plants, but it is for electricity demands that are isolated from electrical transmission grids and that cannot be economically connected to one. The South Pole is a good example. But the idea that each small town will have its own micro nuclear plant does not make economic sense. The costs per khw is simply prohibitive.

  3. Rudolf Huber says:

    I hear all kinds of things about those microreactors. This ranges from “the greatest thing since sliced bread” to “absolute folly and waste of money”. I find the concept very enchanting and loved it from the onset. But I am not an expert in nuclear so who can weight in on those. If this is as good as it looks, I am a massive fan.

    • alfin2101 says:

      It will take longer than they say to get the technology perfected, approved, and built. Some designs may never be practical. But these things have to be tried, and must fight it out among themselves to find the winners, over time. The alternative is to waste time with ancient inefficient and unreliable energy technologies that will only set us back.

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