Supercritical CO2

If you have been reading about advanced nuclear reactors, including molten salt reactors, it won’t be long before you start hearing about supercritial CO2.

After I explain what is meant by supercritical CO2, you will understand why they are a match made in heaven.

Supercritical CO2 is just carbon dioxide at a temperature and pressure where it continues to act like a gas, but has the density of a liquid.

Watch this video for the first 30 seconds and then at 3:30 for a minute

Why is this property of CO2 important?

Because it means that turbo-machinery that uses CO2 can be made much smaller than conventional steam turbines.Rankine vs Brayton turbine_0

The low pressure section of a typical steam turbine is about 12 feet in diameter, while a similar power supercritical CO2 turbine would be about 1 foot in diameter.  You can imagine the precision metallurgy in both turbines, with a lot less material in the supercritical CO2 turbine!

Nuclear power plants produce heat that is turned into mechanical energy usually by heating water into steam, which then spins a turbine connected to a electrical generator.

Coal-fired power plants produce heat by combusting carbon with atmospheric oxygen to produce heat.  The heat is turned into mechanical energy and then electrical energy using the same technology of steam turbine and electrical generator.

The maximum conversion efficiency of heat to mechanical energy is limited by Carnot’s theorem

Efficiency = 1 – Tc/Th, where Tc is the cold temperature where heat is exhausted and Th is the hottest temperature in the turbine (without getting into a lot of geek talk)

Since molten salt reactors operate hotter than most typical solid fueled reactors, they can turn more of the heat into useful energy. This coupled with much smaller supercritical CO2 turbines can lead to considerable savings and increased efficiency.

Check out this video of research that Sandia is conducting:

Energy from Thorium also as a good explanation of supercritical CO2.



New York

I really like this picture of the New York Skyline.  It reminds me of human creativity and society. Millions of people live and breathe and have lives in this city, as reflected by the photo. The new World Trade Tower One (on the left) has since been completed.Downtown_Manhattan_from_heli-April2012 I guess the electrical service to that building alone is 30 MW and probably lower Manhattan maybe totals 500 MW, maybe even 1 GW. (Maybe someone out there knows what the electrical load is and can comment.)

New York is a very concentrated, urban city. I snicker to myself when alternative types talk about powering society with wind or solar power.  Can you imagine the number of windmills, solar panels, and battery backups it would take to power New York 24/7?  Probably about the land area of New Jersey for solar, with the coast plastered 5 rows deep with windmills!

Human society requires concentrated, clean, safe, abundant, reliable energy like that contained in the nucleus of thorium, uranium, and plutonium.

So, if you are a green, please ask yourself if you’re really just advocating a much smaller human population when you talk about wind and solar, or maybe you’re not bright enough to know that’s what the alternatives will lead to?

Musings on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century

The last couple of weeks have given me a Christmas break from the normal routine of work, work, and more work. The mental pause has allowed me to reflect on nuclear power and wonder if I will ever see it flourish? There are many reasons why it is not doing so now and I could list them if I had the time or the inclination, but it mostly boils down to the hot and cold warriors wanting every atom of U235 for bomb making and the entrenched fossil fuel purveyors and their paid stooges in Congress.

Be that as it may, a million eV is still more than one eV and no amount of lying, exaggeration, distortion, obfuscation, fear mongering, etc. can change that, so I still think that nuclear power is the future. But, when?

I don’t expect this website to convert the whole of California to my way of thinking before we have a nuclear renaissance. Actually, I don’t expect to convert any one in California. I’ve pondered about that too. I suspect that there are those in CA that want everything to be more expensive in the CA so that fewer people come and fewer still stay. Getting rid of base load nuclear power is one way to achieve that, while funneling money to those entrenched fossil fuel interests.

I don’t claim to have a crystal ball on what needs to be done to bring about the nuclear renaissance, I only have a few ideas that I believe will help. I feel slightly motivated as I write this in the evening before I go back to work after my two week break. I like lists and so here it goes:

  1. Move your company to Canada where there is legislation that supports licensing of new reactor designs
  2. Move to other off shore locations
  3. Start a massive and expensive lobbying campaign for new US laws that support licensing of new reactor designs. (This reminds me of what Lew Rockwell once said, “Political victories are hard won and easily reversed.” Needless to say, I don’t favor this one.)
  4. Develop your new reactor design under the authority of the US Army, so the NRC doesn’t have a say in what you do. (This is the path chosen by Flibe.)
  5. Pray for the feddle gummint to default on its financial obligations. Then when they aren’t looking, build your new reactor. Give the electrical power at cut rates to some big local cities to get them in your good graces. This should buy their support if Uncle Sam comes calling.
  6. Ask Barrack to sign an executive order stating that licenses are not needed for experimental reactors, but are under the auspices of the DOE and the national labs.
  7. Lobby your congressperson to defund the NRC and turn the regulations of nuclear over to the states.
  8. Have Texas pave the way for the rest of us by trying number 7.
  9. Have a drug cartel in Mexico build a nuclear power plant in Tijuana and sell the power at loan shark rates to the Californians. (Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Oregon take note.)
  10. Vote California out of the union and then stage a legislative takeover of the NRC. (I know, I’m a hater, or so I’m told. I really don’t have anything against CA other than scorn for shutting down a $13 billion asset just because they don’t like nuklear.)
  11. Have Congress pass a simple law (an oxymoron, I know) that says the NRC “must issue” a license after filing out a one page application, similar to concealed carry permits.
  12. Defund the NRC, EPA, and DOE. Heaven knows we could use the money elsewhere.
  13. Do nothing and wait for gasoline to someday hit $20 per gallon. Maybe then, Americans will accept nuclear power at 4 cents per kWh.
  14. Get rid of FERC (defund) and let other political entities (cities, towns, counties, etc. contract with providers of nuclear power directly on their own terms)
  15. Regulatory arbitrage similar to what Elon Musk is doing with his “Gigafactory”.

I know, some of these ideas are a bit tongue in cheek (or outright offensive), but progress is made (sometimes) by thinking outside the box.

Kirk Sorensen in Utah!!!

Kirk Sorensen will be presenting a lecture on LFTR technology at the University of Utah on Tuesday, January 13th at 2pm local time. Interested parties are invited to attend.

Intermountain Network and Scientific Computation Center (INSCC) at the University of Utah, 155 South 1452 East – Salt Lake City, UT 84112



“…the already mined depleted uranium in the United States alone is enough to supply the entire energy demand of all of humanity for almost a century if converted to plutonium.”

So concludes an excellent and detailed article by guest commenter, NNadir on I highly recommend the website and the article.

There are so many solutions to the problem of supplying energy to humanity that it reminds me of a scene from the comedy movie, “Bruce Almighty”. Jim Carrey’s character is praying for sign.  God sends him sign after sign, but he doesn’t recognize them or respond to them in any way.

Are we stuck in the same “scene” with so many different ways of obtaining energy from nuclear binding energy, but refusing to see or use any of them?



Winter Arrives

20141003_185800After and long, mild and beautiful fall, winter came with a vengeance. The wind blew for three straight days out of the canyon and the overnight temps were in the single digits.  Then, on Thursday, the snow came.  It has since warmed up and now it is raining gently.

So, what you say? Unless you live in the Sun Belt, the weather probably sucks were you are too.  In fact, it may suck even worse, like in the Dakotas or Wisconsin or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.IMG_0999The point that I want to make is that so called alternative energy sources like wind and solar are unable to deliver when the energy is most needed, in winter on a cold, cloudy day.

Utah is famous for winter inversions where the overcast traps cold air in the windless valleys for weeks at a time.  Of what use are solar panels and wind turbines then? Can the energy they sometimes produce be stored for weeks to be delivered on those gloomy days?

One small modular reactor of any flavor you prefer (molten salt, thorium, uranium, plutonium, light water, heavy water, fast, slow, or epithermal, etc.) could provide my entire town with electricity and even heat a substantial portion of it, day and night, for decades without refueling.

Most of the US has similarly harsh winters.  They are only endurable because we have access to relatively cheap fossil fuels, but for how much longer?  And, there is no reason why the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of humans can’t be unlocked to make energy even cheaper and more abundant.  Just get the incumbents and their paid federal obfuscators out of the way.


PS. I wrote this back in November.