UK government proposes trials of high-temperature gas reactors

Posted: July 29, 2021 by oldbrew in Energy, government, net zero, Nuclear power
Tags: ,

Rolls-Royce’s revised reactor building design.

An obvious problem here is that the latest nuclear ‘plan’ looks a long way behind the closure dates of most of the UK’s existing nuclear facilities. What happens in the meantime is anyone’s guess but a yawning gap in electricity production is on the horizon, if not nearer. The government can waffle about ‘carbon emissions’, but sensible people are likely to be more interested in their lights and appliances etc. coming on when required.
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The UK government has published a call for evidence setting out its suggested approach for building the first advanced modular reactor (AMR) demonstrator: part of its plan for a zero-carbon economy.

The plan proposes exploring high-temperature gas reactors (HTGRs) as the most promising route forward, says E&T.

The £170m AMR demonstration programme aims to explore the potential for AMRs to play a part in the UK’s energy future; it will be delivered by the early 2030s. it is part of a larger £385m package to accelerate the development of more flexible nuclear technologies.

AMRs – of which there are six main categories – are smaller than typical nuclear reactors and designed such that sections can be fabricated in a factory environment and transported to site, significantly lowering risk and cost. Some AMRs could re-use spent nuclear materials as new fuel.

The government hopes AMRs could, by the 2040s, produce hydrogen and heat for heavy industry in addition to low-carbon electricity for the grid.

More than a third (37 per cent) of UK carbon emissions are derived from heat, with a significant proportion from heavy industrial processes.

HTGRs could generate heat between 500 and 950°C: significantly higher than other types of AMR. This would make them a powerful element of cutting emissions from carbon-intensive processes such as cement, paper, glass, and chemical production.

The energy minister Anne Marie Trevelyan commented: “While renewables like wind and solar will become an integral part of where our electricity will come from by 2050, they will always require a stable low-carbon baseload from nuclear. That is why, alongside negotiations with the developers of Sizewell C in Suffolk, we are pressing ahead with harnessing new and exciting advanced nuclear technology.”

“Advanced modular reactors are the next level of modern nuclear technology and have the potential to play a crucial role not only in tackling carbon emissions, but also in powering industry and driving forward Britain’s economic growth.”

Full article here.

  1. Graeme No.3 says:

    Not just modular reactors but Advanced Modular ones, and in 6 different colours.
    There’s the FGM (Fairy GodMother ) Pink,
    The FGM green.
    And the TF AMR (Tooth Fairy) purple and the EB (Easter Bunny) Red one with white spots etc.
    And are any of these running now? Sounds like somebody read somthing in the New Scientist and turned it into a Press Release.
    And I must be out of date, I didn’t realise that paper production required temperatures of 500℃.

  2. Gamecock says:

    I share your skepticism, Graeme. HTGR technology is SEVENTY-FIVE years old. But, suddenly, it’s THE ANSWER.

  3. Trainspotter says:

    We have been down this road before. AGRs [Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors] were the choice of the UK years ago because it is possible to refuel them without taking them off – line. The pipes, made of stainless steel, carrying the gas at high velocity developed cracks due to vibration and they were scrapped.

  4. oldbrew says:

    Brief overview of HTGR history and current developments, if they can be called that.

  5. Colin says:

    It took less than 10years from the Brent discovery to the UK becoming self sufficient in Oil and Gas. Nearly all of the infrastructure was built in Scotland. Hard to believe we could do something similar today, we’ve lost the ability to do big engineering, technology now means an app for your phone. That’s why nobody can just knock out an SMR, you spend about 10years on planning and due diligence and another 10years building the thing.

  6. pochas94 says:

    Japan and China have the jump on HTGR. Thermodynamics and safety are great, but apparently there is some problem with scaling to larger sizes.

  7. tom0mason says:

    Great, the government has finally found a use for the UK’s High Temperature Gas Reactor, aka PM Bozo Johnson.

  8. Phil Salmon says:

    Nice to see gas-cooled making a comeback.

  9. It doesn't add up... says:

    How many different designs are they proposing to trial?

    You never get anywhere like that. Set a design, and build many of them to get the cost down and develop an export market.

  10. oldbrew says:

    Chinese nuclear reactor shutdown may be ‘a sign of caution over new design’

    The Taishan plant is the first to use an EPR reactor that is meant to be safer
    Developer could be trying to find source of fuel rod damage to alter design in the future, analyst says
    31 Jul, 2021

    The plant opened in 2018 and was the first in the world to use a Generation III+ reactor, also known as a European pressurised water reactor (EPR).

  11. Gamecock says:

    You’ll never get anywhere with nuclear til you get the politics out of it.

    You’ll never get the politics out of nuclear.

  12. Stuart Brown says:

    “You’ll never get the politics out of nuclear.”

    That’s for certain, Gamecock. But we would never have got into nuclear in the first place except for political willy waving. Which will lead us to building yet another ‘first of a kind’, ‘Britain will lead the world’, design.

    In 1965, Fred Lee, Minister of Power, said ‘We have made the greatest breakthrough of all time… We have hit the jackpot this time’ He was committing us to the AGR over the Canadian CANDU or US BWR designs. How many AGRs did we sell worldwide? And now we presumably intend to resurrect Dragon, which was quietly laid to rest in 1975.

    It’s not like we don’t have an embarrassing lack of power biting right now. Or a UK company with a track record of making military PWR reactors just up the road from me, poised to start the approval process for their commercial version!
    I wonder if they’ll bother.

  13. oldbrew says:

    Expensive nuclear to make expensive hydrogen?

    Sizewell – nuclear hydrogen
    1st August 2021

    The $28 billion Sizewell C nuclear station is touted as an anchor for Britain reaching net-zero emissions, yet its reactors will compete with wind farms over the North Sea horizon. On gusty days, where will the plant’s excess power go? Toward making hydrogen. Nuclear developers in Europe, North America and Russia are looking at the clean gas as an outlet for their low-carbon power to maximize revenue from one of the most expensive energy assets on the planet.

  14. It doesn't add up... says:

    On gusty days wind farms will be trying to export into a limited market, competing with all the other wind farms. The problem is that the duration curves for wind surpluses don’t look like a reliable power source for hydrogen. Surplus for a few hours overnight, but must switch off the electrolyser at dawn for the rush hour. Or pay rush hour shortage prices. End result: hard to justify enough capacity to absorb the surpluses, leaving significant amounts of curtailment.

    If you ditch the wind and have cheap enough nuclear (NOT $28bn for Sizewell C EPRS) you could run the nuclear plant continuously and divert some of its output in a much more predictable way (because it would only depend on demand fluctuations, not windiness or cloudiness) to hydrogen. But it’s still more expensive than using methane for peaky heating demand and as a balancing fuel.

    Kathryn Porter has a good write-up of the implications of the Taishan problems: