Monday, October 27

The South African pebble bed reactor is about to hit the big time, according to AllAfrica:

SA Nuke Plant is a Hit With US Power Giant
SA's proposed nuclear reactor is set to become the first plant in the world to produce both electricity and large quantities of hydrogen for commercial purposes, a US-based energy company said at the weekend.

If it can be shown the reactor is safe and can produce hydrogen at promised commercial levels, Eskom, which is the main driver behind the pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR) project, stands to get a foot in the door of the new hydrogenbased US energy drive, offering opportunities for SA and the company.

Eskom has invested heavily in the pebble bed technology, and has been hugely successfully. So successfully in fact it calls for a redefinition of safety standards for Nuclear reactors. The required safety zone for the reactor is only 400 meters. It physically cannot experience a melt down.

Another important aspect of this technology is the speed with which it can be constructed, with the time between the first cement being poured and the first Watt generated being only 2 years. (Compared with 7 to 10 years for traditional nuclear reactors.)

The Modular design, and physics of the plant, also make it possible to conduct maintanance while the plant is in operation. Shutting down plants for lengthy and expensive maintenance is not necessary.

The Christian Science Monitor carried an article some time back, giving attention to the opposition of environmentalists too the project. Their opposition is particularly blind for being in a country that uses coal for the majority of its power, one of the worst poluters.
The article gets it wrong however in saying that the government supports the opposition.

A good non-technical discussion can be found here.


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