Pebble-bed Reactors by James Jaeger
The Chinese are probably going to come up with the solution to Earth's energy problems.
Has anyone heard of the new pebble bed reactors they have planned for China? 30 of them, delivering over 300 gigawatts of power?
We invented the pebble bed around the 40's however the bozos running the gov and Navy opted for rods, water and waste.
How Does a Pebble-bed Reactor Work?
Thousands of billiard ball-sized "pebbles" are circulated through a reactor vessel. Each "pebble" contains about 15,000 flecks of uranium dioxide and is coated with an impermeable silicon carbide outer shell. The pebbles, in close proximity to each other, heat up and, while they are hot, HELIUM (not water) is circulated over them. The hot helium then flows into a turbine which generates electricity. The helium exits the generator and flows back into the pebble-bed reactor. As pebbles are spent, they migrate to the bottom of the reactor vessel and are collected and easily discarded by placing them into lead-lined steel bins. Fresh pebbles are fed into the reactor as needed.
If the reactor's container wall is busted and the pebbles fall out, they automatically cool because they need to be in close proximity to each other in order to maintain a critical heat mass. Since there is no super hot water -- there is no high radioactivity and corrosion. The gas can actually reach a much higher temperature than the water without busting pipes thus more energy to push the turbine. And since there IS no water involved in the system, there is no steam thus you don't need a billion-dollar pressure dome to contain a leak.
30 of these reactors will generate as much as 300 gigawatts, almost as much as the entire output of the world's current nuclear reactors today.
These reactors are small and can be assembled from mass-produced parts. They are also relatively CHEAP. Leave it to the Chinese to exploit an invention that was actually created in the West but we were too stupid to put it into action, thanks to Hyman Rickover of the U.S. Navy.(1)
Granted this isn't the ultimate solution like plasma fusion, but it DOES sound more sane than burning up endless amounts of fossil fuels. Plus these pebble-bed reactors can be used to directly crack open water, thus getting the hydrogen out for use in fuel cells. Cool.
(1) The pebble-bed reactor was invented by Farrington Daniels and its design was taken seriously enough that Oak Ridge National Lab commissioned Monsanto to design a working version in 1945. But before it could be built, Rickover pushed for the sloppy, expensive and dangerous fuel-rod reactor design we still have today and the pebble-bed fell by the wayside. Ho hum.
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