[Vision2020] Liquid-Metal Fast-Breeder Reactor: Twice as Much Energy in World Uranium Reserves (!) as in Fossil Fuel Reserves

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Sat Sep 18 14:01:41 PDT 2010

Safety, cost and security are all objections to fast breeder reactors.  But
the *long term availability* of reactor fuel to render nuclear reactors a
major contributor to the mix of energy sources needed to largely replace
fossil fuels, *for a century of more on an international scale*, is perhaps
the main reason to give fast breeder reactors consideration.  New reactor
designs, according to scientific sources (given below), are available for
fast breeder reactors, that have the potential to completely replace coal
for electricity generation in the US, for a century or morel; and the safety
and security issues can be managed, according to credible sources.

The efficiency of the use of nuclear fuel in most current nuclear reactor
designs now in operation cannot support a century of more of major expansion
of nuclear power on an international scale, if I understand the facts
correctly.  Fast breeder reactors use fuel much more efficiently, and can
use nuclear waste as fuel.  The subject heading of this post indicates the
vast energy potential of fast breeder reactors.

I am addressing the promise of fast breeder reactors in the context of a
future where accelerating climate change induces a major shift in the
economics of energy production.  If climate change due to how we generate
energy has huge negative economic impacts, even if fast breeder reactors are
more costly than, for example, coal, for energy generation, if they reduce
what may be massive negative economic impacts of climate change, by lowering
greenhouse gas emissions, they may be viewed as cost effective.

There are numerous options for largely replacing fossil fuels for energy:
bio fuels, geothermal, solar (both photovoltaic and thermal), wind, wave and
tidal, nuclear, hydrogen, hydro power and CCS (carbon capture and storage),
if fossil fuels cannot be avoided, for some fossil fuel applications.  Some
of these energy sources may not live up to optimistic claims, but they may
all be needed to address energy needs.  Fast breeder reactors have
advantages over many of the other options, as discussed in the sources given
lower down.

I would rather see a world where energy use is reduced so dramatically that
a massive increase in energy demand does not occur. But realistically, as
the world's population increases to 8-9 billion (or more?), with
industrialized energy intensive development, energy demands will place
incredible pressures for expansion of energy supply.  If energy replacements
for fossil fuels are not ready, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels may
increase dramatically, with potentially disastrous results from climate
change.  There is too much "smiley face" optimism, it seems to me, that
alternative energy and energy conservation will allow significant reduction
in global fossil fuel use.

The science and engineering involved in fast breeder reactors is very
complex, and I can only defer to those who are qualified to understand the
issues in depth.  From my reading, I gather there is a credible debate, both
pro and con, for expansion of deployment of fast breeder reactors.

I previously in this thread mentioned Tom Blees' book "Prescription of the
Planet," which advocates expansion of fast breeder reactors.  The Union of
Concerned Scientists' David Lochbaum critiqued Blees' book, and Blees
responded, the details of which can be read at website below.  This document
is sourced from Steve Kirsch's website (Kirsch's impressive bio is here:
http://www.skirsch.com/misc/bio.htm ), where he addresses arguments and
objections to expanding fast breeder reactors, specifically in the context
of addressing climate change, at another website below.

UNC's David Lochbaum critiques Blees' "Prescription for the Planet, with
responses from Blees included:

Tom Blees' or Kirsch's scientific expertise to specifically address nuclear
technology can be called into question, but other very qualified scientists
are also advocating fast reactors.

In fact, not only are they being advocated, they are now under construction,
or being planned for construction, in Japan and India, as discussed in the
following technical journals referenced below.  The reference immediately
below from June 22, 2010, discusses new Generation IV reactor design
developments, indicating there are six types of Generation IV fast reactors:
 Preliminary Design Study of Medium Sized Gas Cooled Fast Reactor with
Natural Uranium as Fuel Cycle Input AIP Conf.
Proc.<http://scitation.aip.org/proceedings>-- June 22, 2010 -- Volume
1244 <http://scitation.aip.org/dbt/dbt.jsp?KEY=APCPCS&Volume=1244>, pp.
In this study a feasibility design study of medium sized (1000 MWt) gas
cooled fast reactors which can utilize natural uranium as fuel cycle input
has been conducted. Gas Cooled Fast Reactor (GFR) is among six types of
Generation IV Nuclear Power Plants.
Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbines and Power:


ASME Conference Proceedings


Again, here is a website for a Scientific American article that argues that
"Fast neutron reactors could extract much more energy from recycled nuclear
fuel, minimize the risks of weapons proliferation, and markedly reduce the
time nuclear waste must be isolated."


Perhaps refuting the points in this article is necessary to argue
compellingly against fast reactors?

Below is Steve Kirch's long question and answer discussion, with numerous
references and technical information, regarding fast reactors:

The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) project: Q&A


On 9/16/10, Ron Force <rforce2003 at yahoo.com> wrote:
>  Thanks, Ted,
> The problem is, as I understand it, is that the near-term issue is not the
> availability or cost of nuclear fuel; it's the capital costs of
> construction, which are 1/3 higher for LMFBRs vs. PWRs. They've also had a
> checkered history, with many operational and maintenance problems, sodium
> fires & leaks, etc.
> The US program was canceled in the 80's because of cost over runs and
> pressure from the nuclear nonproliferation community. It was felt that the
> controls at that time weren't adequate to prevent possible diversions from
> the amount of bomb-grade plutonium that would be produced in large-scale
> reactor operation.  That was under the Regan administration. President
> Regan, despite his "warrior" image was quite concerned with the issues of
> nuclear weapons and their proliferation.
> Ron Force
> Moscow ID USA
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* Ted Moffett <starbliss at gmail.com>
> *To:* Moscow Vision 2020 <vision2020 at moscow.com>
> *Sent:* Wed, September 15, 2010 7:44:21 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [Vision2020] Liquid-Metal Fast-Breeder Reactor: Twice as
> Much Energy in World Uranium Reserves (!) as in Fossil Fuel Reserves
>  To "Off list" respondent:
>  You may very well be correct.  Perhaps the ALMR (Advanced Liquid Metal
>> Reactor) that is discussed in the following 2005 article from Scientific
>> American is not as promising as it appears the authors indicate:
>> http://www.nationalcenter.org/NuclearFastReactorsSA1205.pdf
>> The advantages, unless I misunderstand, are that much much more energy can
>> be derived given uranium resources, and nuclear waste can be reduced given
>> it can be used as fuel.  Existing PWR reactor designs, if I have my facts
>> straight, cannot supply enough energy from uranium over many decades, to
>> largely replace fossil fuels, given the low efficencies of how PWRs use
>> fuel.
>> Thorium is another option for powering nuclear reactors, more abundant
>> than uranium; but with fast breeder reactors using uranium thorium is not as
>> necessary, given uranium could supply a lot of energy for many decades.
>> Info on thorium as a nuclear fuel at website below:
>> http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.html
> -------------------
> More information on fast neutron reactors with a list of fast reactors that
> have already been in operation at website below:
> http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf98.html
> -------------------
> Tom Blees' "Prescription for the Planet" advocates use of fast breeder
> reactors to partially solve the anthropogenic climate warming crisis:
> http://prescriptionfortheplanet.com/
> The website below, "Science Council for Global Initiatives," presented on
> the "Prescription for the Planet" website above, also endorses use of
> "Integral Fast Reactors (using nuclear waste as fuel)" with a positive
> suggestion that nuclear weapons be used to generate peaceful (my wording)
> energy:
> http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/
>>     ------------------------------
>>> *From:* Ted Moffett <starbliss at gmail.com>
>>> *To:* Moscow Vision 2020 <vision2020 at moscow.com>
>>> *Sent:* Mon, September 13, 2010 4:48:20 PM
>>> *Subject:* [Vision2020] Liquid-Metal Fast-Breeder Reactor: Twice as Much
>>> Energy in World Uranium Reserves (!) as in Fossil Fuel Reserves
>>> Perhaps environmentalists who are opposed to peaceful nuclear power
>>> should consider the technology proposed below, given it has the potential to
>>> greatly reduce reliance on fossil fuels, dependence on which (especially
>>> coal) has polluted the environment and caused more premature human death
>>> than peaceful nuclear power, many times over.  The nuclear genie is out of
>>> the bottle anyway, and those determined to abuse nuclear technology for
>>> nefarious ends will not be deterred by environmentalists who oppose nuclear
>>> power for peaceful energy generation.
>>> Read document "Resource Limitations on Earth-Energy," Kulcinski, 2004,
>>> University of Wisconsin-Madison, on page 28, regarding the claim in the
>>> subject heading:
>>> http://fti.neep.wisc.edu/neep533/SPRING2004/lecture3.pdf
>>> -------------------
>>> HyperPhysics website (way cool one stop shop for Physics science) from
>>> Georgia State University, with info on liquid metal fast breeder reactors::
>>> http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/hframe.html
>>> http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/fasbre.html#c4
>>> http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/reactor.html#c5
>>> ------------------------------------------
>>> Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett
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