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[cdn-nucl-l] Ontario's Dilemma
Ontario wants some new nuclear reactors. If they don't buy CANDU
reactors from AECL I think AECL will go out of business. And the
Ontario government does not want to be labeled with killing AECL. The
Federal Conservatives killed Avro many years ago and the Canadian
economy suffered terribly. The Ontario Liberals don't want to kill
hundreds of jobs in Ontario.
However, CANDU reactors are second generation technology in an era when
fourth generation technology is being deployed in India, Russia, Japan,
and China. Canada is having a tough time staying competitive with these
growing giants so Ontario cannot afford to load itself down with energy
technology that is not competitive. Somehow, the new reactors in
Ontario have to move Canada ahead in the energy domain.
There will be some backlash from the enviro-alarmists when the new
reactors are actually contracted. The main argument will be about
"waste". All the lies about used once CANDU fuel will be dressed up and
paraded around in a desperate attempt to scare the ignorant. So the
government has to be able to claim that the waste problem is solved by
these new reactors. The fuel cycle has to use up the accumulated CANDU
used once fuel and produce a minimal amount of final fission products.
Liquid metal and molten salt fast reactors can do this.
Terrorism is another factor. Again, it is a phony issue in that the
realities are never discussed, only the most extreme possibilities.
Even so, it will affect votes. So the new reactors have to be
underground. This is desirable from other points of view too, such as
aesthetics and land use.
The reactors have to be cooled. This is currently done with water which
restricts the placement of new reactors. Air cooling is a mandatory
requirement. The hot air should be used to heat buildings and green
houses. It could also be used to purify water. The new reactors should
be located in the middle of towns and cities to facilitate these
secondary levels of efficiency. Another reason for placing the reactors
in the cities is to reduce the number of power lines needed to get the
energy to the users. This benefits the environment since fewer trees
have to be killed for power line corridors. It also benefits the look
of the countryside - power lines are ugly.
The new reactors should be small so we can start getting power from them
quickly. We need to use an assembly line process to build them
cheaply. They should be built in one place where the workers are, and
then moved to their location for energy generation. This approach
reduces financial risks since returns will begin early in the whole
project. The financial people sleep better when money is coming in.
This approach is being used in Russia today.
We need a significant reason to build these reactors, more than
replacing dirty coal. So the new reactors should be associated with a
government sponsored initiative for electric cars. Plugin hybrid cars
should be encouraged and built in Ontario. We need 15,000 MW of new
nuclear energy to power these cars. Again, this will neutralize the
enviro-alarmist opposition. The air will be a lot cleaner in Ontario if
electric cars are plentiful. And the car construction work could be all
So is all this possible? I think so. Ontario should order ten CANDU
reactors immediately from AECL. The first five should be built
concurrently, and construction should start now. They could be small to
minimize the financial management issues, i.e. so they can come into use
quickly. The order for the second five should be contingent on AECL
proposing a fourth generation design for all subsequent reactors after
these initial ten. The subsequent reactors must meet all the
In a previous posting I noted that the Gas Turbine - Modular Helium
Reactor from General Atomics could be a candidate for the subsequent
reactors. However, it is fueled by TRISO coated particle fuel. This
fuel has a number of advantages in terms of safety and handling, but the
burn-up is not complete and the spent fuel is both hot and radioactive
and impossible to reuse. It represents a huge step forward compared to
present day CANDU systems, but we can do better.
Another candidate for these subsequent reactors is the nuclear battery
Encapsulated Nuclear Heat Source (ENHS)
These ENHS devices are self regulating so no operators are needed. They
run for twenty years, at which time the old one is taken out and
replaced with a new one. And the fuel burn up rate is high. So we can
claim that the waste problem is solved with a bit of reprocessing work
So it appears reasonable to ask AECL to come up with something modern -
an underground, air cooled, self-regulating nuclear battery that
consumes CANDU used once fuel. Perhaps a molten salt design could be
proposed as a uniquely Canadian solution.
Randal Leavitt ---------- gnupg public key: bbbad04d