Recent Articles of Interest
Advancements in Nuclear Powerplants
The following are announcements (advertisements) by TerraPower about the sole advanced fission powerplant to receive any government funding this year. The website is:
BELLEVUE, Washington – March 14, 2022 – TerraPower announced today that it was selected to receive $8.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). The funding is part of the ARPA-E Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems (ONWARDS) program. The program is focused on increasing the deployment and use of nuclear power as a reliable source of clean energy and limiting the amount of waste produced from advanced nuclear reactors.
Through the grant, TerraPower will research an experimental method for the recovery of uranium from used nuclear fuel with integrated safeguards that harness the volatility of chloride salts at high temperatures.
“TerraPower continues to advance nuclear energy’s promise for our country and the world,” said TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque. “As a nuclear innovation company, we are actively exploring new solutions across the fuel cycle, including the best way to address used fuel. This aligns with our mission to develop groundbreaking technologies for some of the most pressing challenges of this generation.”
“In addition to the used fuel research, the company is building its first Natrium™ reactor, a TerraPower and GE Hitachi technology, as part of DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). TerraPower is further demonstrating, through the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE), a uranium chloride salt-fueled concept with the DOE, Southern Company and other partners, and advancing medical research and innovation through its TerraPower Isotopes® subsidiary.”
ABOUT TERRAPOWER TerraPower is a leading nuclear innovation company that strives to improve the world through nuclear energy and science. Since it was founded by Bill Gates and a group of like-minded visionaries, TerraPower has emerged as an incubator and developer of ideas and technologies that offer energy independence, environmental sustainability, medical advancement and other cutting-edge opportunities. It accepts and tackles some of the world’s most difficult challenges. Behind each of its innovations and programs, TerraPower actively works to bring together the strengths and experiences of the world’s public and private sectors to answer pressing global needs. Learn more at terrapower.com.
KEMMERER WYOMING FISSION POWERPLANT
“Last year, TerraPower was excited to announce Kemmerer, Wyoming as the location for our first NatriumTM plant, a technology that we developed with GE Hitachi. This 345 MWe sodium fast reactor also features an energy storage system that can boost output to 500 MWe during peak demand. Today, this innovative design is leading the pack of proposed advanced reactors with a projected in-service date within this decade.
The opportunity to build near one of PacifiCorp’s retiring coal plants in Wyoming and add our technology to Kemmerer’s rich history of energy production, is something we continue to be proud of. Wyoming has a lot to offer as a national energy leader for more than 100 years. Wyoming communities understand what it takes to produce energy, and its highly skilled workforce is experienced in building and operating complex projects.”
“Large, first-of-a-kind, energy generation projects like the Natrium project take years to come to fruition. There is an incredible amount of work that goes into meeting each milestone long before a plant is operational.
For the first three years of this project, TerraPower is focused on advancing the plant design and submitting the construction permit application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). We have completed our first year of planning work and have met all our internal milestones.
TerraPower currently has more than 600 engineers working diligently on the final design and development of the Natrium reactor. This design work will generate the plant specifications that will enable TerraPower and our contractors to outline our exact needs during the procurement phase of the project. “
WORK IN KEMMERER
“Crews also have been on the site of the future Natrium plant in Kemmerer for the last several months conducting a subsurface, or geotechnical, investigation. The property, which is owned by PacifiCorp, is a greenfield site without a lot of information about what’s beneath the surface.
Crews drilled more than 100 boreholes to evaluate the underlying soil and rock. These investigations are done prior to most construction projects to help understand things such as the makeup of the soil, the depth of the bedrock and the makeup the local water table. Soil and rock samples from various depths will be sent to specialty laboratories for testing to evaluate the material properties. One of the labs TerraPower is working with is the University of Wyoming’s geology laboratory.
All of the information from this process will be used in the design and construction of the project. It will contribute to helping build a stable and safe foundation for Natrium’s two main operational areas: the nuclear island, where the reactor will be, and the energy island, where the molten salt energy storage system, turbine and generating facilities will be.
TerraPower will also be using this information in our NRC permit application. The NRC requires a detailed site investigation to establish the geologic and geotechnical conditions that could affect the design, performance and safety of the plant.”
“Field activities in Kemmerer are scheduled to be complete in early July 2022 and the trailers onsite will be removed. Several groundwater monitoring wells will remain in place for long-term groundwater monitoring.
Once this work is completed, our team’s attention turns to laboratory testing and analysis. Early construction activities will likely begin in 2024.
There is still much work to be done. Progress to date has been encouraging and we are grateful for the continued support we receive from Kemmerer and the State of Wyoming.”
As I have pointed out in numerous previous blogs nuclear powerplants (either fission or fusion) are absolutely essential to eliminating fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the U.S. and most European governments are currently controlled by factions totally opposed to nuclear power. Therefore, our opponents in Russia, China, and elsewhere are advancing fission while we ignore fission and strive to raise the price of fossil fuels. Totally unbelievable, and we will pay a steep price for this mistake down the road. We are spending private money on fusion power equivalent to what the Chinese are spending and this maybe, just maybe, could save our bacon if things work out.
ARTEMIS has a competitor
The following is an article out of Inverse Horizons, a blog that just appeared in my email. It seems real so I’m including it in this week’s blog.
In the next decade, an international coalition plans to build a lunar research station to transform humanity’s exploration and observation of the Moon. The planning phase is already underway, and it is going well. Construction is slated for 2026 through 2035, and crews could start operating from the base by 2036. The station will feature a lunar orbiter, a large, multi-level, habitat to enable surface-based activities, and play host to several lunar rovers. If this sounds a lot like the NASA Lunar Gateway program, think again. The station, called the International Lunar Research Station, is a rival to the U.S. space agency’s plans to put humans permanently on the surface of the Moon within a similar time frame. Instead, the ILRS is the brainchild of China and Russia — two of the U.S.’ greatest rivals on Earth.
“IF YOU COULD ACCESS THAT WATER AND PROCESS IT, IT HAS ALL KINDS OF USES”
“There is the speculation that there is a valuable resource at the south pole of frozen water in craters that are never in sunlight,” says John Logsdon, Founder and Former Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and a former member of the NASA Advisory board. “If you could access that water and process it, it has all kinds of uses, including support water, hydrogen, and oxygen. So, the oxygen can be used to support people over the Moon, the hydrogen can be used as rocket fuel,” he explains. The next launch is on August 22, 2022: Russia is launching the Luna 25 mission to the Moon to land at the Moon’s south pole. There, it could join Yutu 2, a rover brought to the Moon in 2019 by China’s Chang’e 4 lander (which was also the first successful landing on the far side of the Moon). Chang’e 4 contained potatoes, silkworms, and plant seeds to study how they might all survive the cold aphotic conditions. Meanwhile, Yutu 2 is currently exploring the Von Kármán crater. This large surface feature at the lunar south pole may contain subsurface water and could even yield crucial clues to the history of the Solar System.
2036 – When both China and Russia hope to open to up their lunar station
NASA’s Lunar Gateway, the final stage of Artemis, is itself just one stage in a longer-term goal to send humans to Mars. According to NASA, a manned lunar station will, “serve as a gateway to deep space and the lunar service.” Its earliest components are set to be completed by 2024. If it goes ahead, the space station may become the most expensive space project ever, surpassing the ISS, which has cumulatively cost $100 billion so far. Previously, the U.S. excluded China from participating in the ISS as part of the 2011 Wolf Amendment, which prohibits China from working with NASA on any joint agreement unless special approval is given by Congress. Since its inception 20 years ago, no Chinese national has ever spent time on the ISS, which is operated by five space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA (Japan), ESA, and CSA (Canada). This legislation may be what ultimately pushed CNSA to start building their own orbital space station, Tiangong (meaning ‘heavenly palace’ in English). The first module launched in 2021, and on April 16, 2022, a crew that spent six months on the Chinese station successfully returned to Earth. But China wants to go beyond our orbit, it seems. In another parallel to NASA, it is going to the Moon, specifically, to the south pole.
uld enable a more industrial and practical future for space research and development.
ON THE HORIZON… Russia and China on and off Earth. The two countries already host monitoring stations for each other’s global positioning systems, GLONASS (Russia), and BeiDou (China). Last June, Putin confirmed the undeniable in an NBC interview, “We have been working and will continue to work with China, which applies to all kinds of programs, including exploring deep space.” This is all coming to a head now with the ongoing invasion of Ukraine: In a febrile global political context, Russia’s interest in collaborating with NASA in any capacity has waned. In turn, Russia has moved closer to China, strengthening the pair’s ongoing scientific endeavors. China has already come to Russia’s aid: In February of 2022, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, said Western sanctions might affect spacecraft production because of the scarcity of microelectronics. But Rogozin pointed out at the time that Russia’s ties to China meant these problems would be short-lived. As the war continues, the divisions between NASA and its long-time collaborator Roscosmos may only widen. Logsdon suggests that this isn’t necessarily a surprise. “The politics on Earth drive what happens in space,” he says.
What do I think about this article? I think is mostly speculation because returning to the moon is expensive and no one is budgeting for it right now. This might change is a few years, but I don’t see the monies in the near future. There are many good reasons to mine the moon and asteroids but to do it to challenge the Chinese is not one of them.
Thanks for Reading and Stay Safe,