The HTGR is a game changer

August 1, 2011, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeFred Moore

In spite of Japan's Fukushima nuclear crisis and negative reverberations around the world, there is some good news about nuclear-the helium-cooled High Temperature Gas Reactor (HTGR).

On behalf of the NGNP Industry Alliance, Ltd., I would like to share some compelling facts. First, let's look at a few of the major policy issues facing the United States and other nations today, namely energy security, jobs, long-term stable energy prices, and climate change.

It is the Alliance's view that the HTGR technology can have a significant and positive game-changing impact on these critical policy goals. (See video resources at NGNP homepage.)

The HTGR, first and foremost in light of the Fukushima crisis, stands out due to its inherent safety characteristics that include no water cooling, low-power density and consequently the inability to overheat the fuel to the point of failure under any accident conditions (no reliance on active equipment and/or operator actions), air cooling of spent fuel, and, as a result, no need for offsite evacuation or sheltering plans.

Why is it a game changer?

  1. It produces high-temperature process heat and is the only nuclear technology on the horizon that can address this industrial sector need, which accounts for as much as 20 percent of the U.S. carbon footprint.
  2. It produces electricity competitively with light water reactors and provides yet another carbon footprint offset.
  3. The most recent Idaho National Laboratory cost estimate provided to the Department of Energy places its competitiveness with natural gas in the $6 to $9/MMBTU range, well within the likelihood of gas prices in the 2020+ time frame.
  4. When used to co-produce hydrogen, it can be used in the clean gasification of indigenous sources of carbon (from coal to pet coke to other renewable) to produce synthetic fuels (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel) via the Fischer-Tropsch process with virtually no CO2 production by using the hydrogen to avoid the water shift reaction.
  5. The Alliance's most recent study identified the market for this technology at 600 reactors. Even a 25-percent market penetration in the next 25 years will produce in excess of $1 trillion in GDP, and tens of thousands of high paying construction jobs.
  6. Help stop migration of the high-paying manufacturing overseas by addressing our energy policy and providing a low-volatility energy source as more than 70 percent of the cost of energy is tied to the capital versus a natural gas plant where it is just the opposite.
  7. After the initial 20-year depreciation period, including the accruing of cost for decommissioning of the plant, these assets will likely be dispatched first in the electricity market even if the site specific process heat need no longer exists.
  8. This technology, combined with a long-term purchase agreement with a major process heat user, allows for a new financial model that likely obviates any need for loan guarantees for the mature plants as the owner/operator can take the 20-year term sheet to the bank to secure the loan. Further, this commercial arrangement lends itself to multiple owners and different financing (e.g., 80/20 debt to equity) that substantially improves the economics

More good news. Europe is in the process of pulling together a similar alliance and we are hopeful that we can work in concert across the pond to bring this technology to commercialization.

Please visit our Web site and learn more about the Alliance and the technology.


Fred Moore is the executive director of NGNP Industry Alliance, Ltd. He is also the global director of manufacturing and technology for the energy business of The Dow Chemical Company, where he is responsible for the safe and reliable production of power, steam, and other utilities for Dow globally.

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