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Climate change needs an Operation Warp Speed
The government of the United States should throw its muscle behind ramping up a mammoth, rapid rollout of all forms of renewable energy through Operation Warp Speed, similar to what is being done with COVID-19, Clive Thompson writes in an Ideas column for Wired.
The rollout should include energy sources that we already know how to build—like solar and wind — but also experimental emerging sources such as geothermal and small nuclear, and cutting-edge forms of energy storage or transmission.
Timothy Ault, Steven Krahn, Andrew Worrall, Allen Croff
Nuclear Technology | Volume 204 | Number 1 | October 2018 | Pages 41-58
Technical Paper | dx.doi.org/10.1080/00295450.2018.1468702
Articles are hosted by Taylor and Francis Online.
Certain characteristics of heavy water reactors (HWRs), such as a more flexible neutron economy compared to light water (due to reduced absorptions in hydrogen), online refueling capability, and having a thermal neutron spectrum, make them potentially attractive for use with a thorium fuel cycle. Three options that combine HWRs with thorium-based fuels are considered in this paper: a Near-Term option with minimal advanced technology requirements, an Actinide Management option that incorporates the recycle of minor actinides (MAs), and a Thorium-Only option that uses two reactor stages to breed and consume 233U, respectively. Simplified, steady-state simulations and corresponding material flow analyses are used to elucidate the properties of these fuel cycle options. The Near-Term option begins with a low-enriched uranium oxide pressurized water reactor (PWR) that discharges spent nuclear fuel, from which uranium and plutonium are recovered to fabricate the driver fuel for an HWR that uses thorium oxide as a blanket fuel. This option uses 28% less natural uranium (NU) and sends 33% less plutonium to disposal than the conventional once-through uranium fuel cycle on an energy-normalized basis. The Actinide Management option also uses spent nuclear fuel from a PWR using enriched uranium oxide fuel (both a low- and high-enrichment variant are considered), but the uranium is recycled for reuse in the PWR while the plutonium and MAs are recycled and used in conjunction with thorium in an HWR with full recycle. Both enrichment variants of this option achieve a more than 95% reduction in transuranic actinide disposal rates compared to the once-through option and a more than 60% reduction compared to closed transuranic recycle in a uranium-plutonium–fueled sodium fast reactor. The Thorium-Only option breeds a surplus of 233U in a thorium-based HWR to supply fissile material to a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, both of which recycle uranium and thorium. This option requires no NU and produces few transuranic actinides at steady state, although it would require a greater technology maturation effort than the other options studied. Collectively, the options considered in this study are intended to illustrate the range of operational missions that could be supported by fleets that integrate thorium and HWRs.