20 episodes

The Atomic Show Podcast includes interviews, roundtable discussions and atomic geeks all centered around the idea that nuclear energy is an amazing boon for human society.

The Atomic Show Rod Adams - Atomic Insights

    • Science
    • 4.2 • 24 Ratings

The Atomic Show Podcast includes interviews, roundtable discussions and atomic geeks all centered around the idea that nuclear energy is an amazing boon for human society.

    Atomic Show #297 – Krusty – The Kilopower reactor that worked

    Atomic Show #297 – Krusty – The Kilopower reactor that worked

    Krusty Core showing heat pipe arrangement

    Patrick McClure and David Poston successfully developed, obtained funding, constructed and operated a new atomic fission power source that produced useful quantities of electricity during the period from 2014-2018. That puts them into a rarified, perhaps unique position. Few US-based technologists have been through that process in the past 40 years.

    Aside: Without some way to frame the statement so it excludes the US Navy it isn't accurate to say no one else has accomplished this feat. End Aside

    Patrick and David – and their supporting team – developed and operated the Kilopower reactor, also known as KRUSTY. That name comes from a creatively framed acronym – Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling TechnologY.

    The proposed application for the system is to produce power for space missions that cannot be accomplished using either solar collectors or radioisotope thermal generators. The former imposes operational constraints with both intermittency factors and increasing distance from the sun. The later uses rare isotopes with limited heat production that constrain individual power devices to a thermal output of approximately 300 W when the device is new.

    In brief, Krusty was a tiny reactor that was operated at a power level of 5 kWth to produce the equivalent of 1 kWe using Stirling Engines qualified for space travel. Heat pipes arranged around a solid UMO alloy annular core transferred heat from the reactor to the hot end of the Stirling engines. The cold side of the engines were designed to radiate heat into the vacuum of space. Reactor reactivity was adjusted using a movable beryllium reflector on the outside of the core. A boron carbide rod in the center of the annular core provided a second means of controlling the reactor. The core was 10 inches tall and had an outside diameter of 4 inches. The center annulus for 2 inches in diameter.

    Aside: Past tense is the accurate way to describe Krusty. The system, including the core used, no longer exists. End Aside.

    The program cost $18 M and took 3.5 years from initiation to final testing. It was funded partly by NASA and partly by NNSA.

    We will be publishing a more detailed description of the technology and the development process in the near future, but for now, please listen to the show. If the audio program stimulates questions or comments, please join in a conversation here.

    If you are intensely curious and cannot wait for our coming post, you can learn more about Krusty by visiting Space Nukes Technical Papers.

    • 1 hr
    Atomic Show #296 – Julia Pyke, Director of Finance Sizewell C

    Atomic Show #296 – Julia Pyke, Director of Finance Sizewell C

    Julia Pyke, Director of Finance, Sizewell C

    Sizewell C is a project to build a 3,200 MWe power station consisting of two EPR units on the site that currently hosts a single large pressurized water reactor (Sizewell B). With the exception of site-specific foundations and structures, the new power station will be a copy of the station currently under construction at Hinkley Point C.

    Like Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C will be capable of supplying approximately 7% of the UK's annual electricity requirement. It will be able to run at full power for 90% (or more) of the hours in the year.

    By following Hinkley Point, Sizewell will be a much less risky project. Trades have been trained, construction kinks have been worked out, supply chains have been created, managers have gained experience, and designs have been completed and tested. As a result of this "derisking" (using the lingo of project managers) Sizewell C will be a more affordable endeavor that should begin saving customers money from the time it first begins operating.

    But that expectation is unlikely to be fulfilled if the project has to be financed in the same way as Hinkley Point C, where the long construction duration and the inability to recover financing costs during construction has resulted in a situation where 70% or more of the total project cost is paid out in interest and return on investor risk capital.

    On this episode of the Atomic Show, Julia Pyke, the Director of Finance for the Sizewell C project, explains how the regulated asset base (RAB) model will enable Sizewell C to be economically financed and built.

    In the weeks since we recorded this episode of the Atomic Show, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has increased the importance of making it possible for Sizewell C participants to reach a final investment decision. Approval of the RAB model will be a major step forward in moving this project towards completion.

    It is a shovel-ready project that will help fill growing vulnerabilities in the UK's energy supply. It's not a quick fix, but it will be a durable one.

    Please participate in the discussion here. I hope you enjoy the show.

    • 36 min
    Atomic Show #295 – Liz Muller, Co-founder and CEO of Deep Isolation

    Atomic Show #295 – Liz Muller, Co-founder and CEO of Deep Isolation

    Liz Muller, CEO Deep Isolation

    Deep Isolation is a young company developing solutions for "the nuclear waste issue." They have built their solution option based on highly developed technologies used in the oil and gas drilling sector.

    Several decades ago, after discussing and evaluating several options, the world's scientific and political communities came to a general consensus around the notion that certain categories of byproducts from nuclear technologies in power, industry, medicine and defense should be permanently isolated from the human environment in deep geological formations.

    Nearly all of the specific solution concepts evolving from that consensus involved large mined repositories. As envisioned in most countries, deep geologic repositories would be large enough to store a large portion of their waste. They planned to develop just one or a very small number of repositories.

    For many reasons, most countries have had difficulty implementing their envisioned solution. Only a handful have progressed to the point of choosing a location and only one, Finland, is nearing the point of commissioning their facility and starting to dispose of their nuclear waste.

    Addressing nuclear waste using oil and gas drilling technology

    About a half a dozen years ago, Richard and Elizabeth Muller looked at the world's nuclear waste problem through a new lens. Richard knew about the rapid developments in drilling technologies that had enabled the US natural gas industry to become most productive supplier in the world.

    He thought about the ability to steer drill bits into selected layers of rock and about the long horizontal laterals being created, some with lengths measured in miles. It seem to Richard and Liz that modern drilling techniques could be applied to reduce the complexity of developing mined repositories for nuclear waste.

    Additional research led the pair to form Deep Isolation, a world leader in the concept of using directional drilling to create small modular repositories (SMRs, if you will) that could be a right-sized solution for countries with small waste inventories and for distributed solutions in countries with large inventories.

    One of the major advantages of using distributed deep boreholes is that they can be developed in locations that minimize the number of ton-miles needed to move the material from its current safe resting place to a permanent (but retrievable) disposal location.

    Transportation is not only costly, but it's an activity that provides opponents with multiple opportunities to interfere, insert delays, add costs and tie up processes in legal battles.

    Developing a complete solution set

    Deep Isolation knows that many of the challenges that have slowed the development of nuclear waste repositories will not disappear as a result of their technological development. It's not a magic wand that will eliminate opposition or convince communities that they should meekly accept the role of storing used nuclear fuel – aka nuclear waste.

    They recognize that one or more deep boreholes are only components of a complete solution.

    Though steadily developing the physical and technical capacity to license and build modular repositories, Deep Isolation is focusing on engagement activities that will build trust, understanding and perhaps acceptance. In the best case, full understanding and trust could result in open invitations from a welcoming community that sees benefits in hosting their facilities.

    • 41 min
    Atomic Show #294 – Mikal Boe, Core Power Founder and CEO

    Atomic Show #294 – Mikal Boe, Core Power Founder and CEO

    Rod Adams talks with Mikal Boe, CEO of Core Power, about his company's plans for commercializing nuclear powered ships. Includes a brief description of the technology and an extensive description of the business model, stakeholder engagement and efforts to increase public understanding of the benefits provided.

    • 56 min
    Atomic Show #293 – Robert Bryce – Journalist and Bird Watcher

    Atomic Show #293 – Robert Bryce – Journalist and Bird Watcher

    Robert Bryce talking about Power Hungry

    Robert Bryce is an admired journalist, book author, filmmaker, public speaker, Congressional witness and podcaster who has focused on energy, power and its implications for mankind's prosperity. In his free time, he loves to watch birds.

    He recognizes that electricity is the lifeblood of modernity. He is saddened by knowing that there are billions of humans on Earth who have such limited access to electricity that their consumption each year is less than an average American refrigerator.

    Starting with Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego and the Death of Enron in early 2004, Robert has published six books on energy with the latest being A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations. He wrote that last book while he was also recording and producing Juice: How Electricity Explains the World.

    He would like everyone to watch his movie and has made it freely available through several outlets. He also asks that people buy his books – he excuses everyone from reading the books as long as they buy them.

    In June of 2020, Robert started the Power Hungry podcast and continues to release new episodes with fascinating guests at a furious pace.

    Robert and I talk about his work, his passions, and the difficulty of writing a book and creating a movie at the same time. We talked about his recent testimony at Congressional hearings about the growing fragility of our energy system due to what our mutual friend, Meredith Angwin, has labeled the fatal trifecta of energy policy decisions – oo much reliance on imports, too much reliance on gas and too much reliance on renewables.

    I think you will enjoy this discussion. Please leave a comment and engage in discussion about the important points that Robert made.

    PS - there is a point in the show when Robert turns the tables and begins to interview me about recent progress at Nucleation Capital. We are bullish about the growing recognition that nuclear energy is a vital tool and that advanced nuclear energy development is an enormous opportunity for solving many sticky problems.

    • 1 hr 14 min
    Atomic Show #292 – Andrew Crabtree, Founder, “Get Into Nuclear”

    Atomic Show #292 – Andrew Crabtree, Founder, “Get Into Nuclear”

    Andrew Crabtree is a former professional rugby player and banker who decided to transition to the nuclear industry in 2007. He had recognized that the banking industry was going to be in for a rough time. In other words, he was able to read the handwriting on the wall just before the financial crisis that everyone else began to notice by mid 2008.

    Andrew tells us about his choice to get into nuclear, skills he brought from banking and professional rugby and about his recognition of the professionally welcoming nature of the nuclear technology profession.

    He describes what motivated him to create Get Into Nuclear, initially as a web site but now a growing and vibrant community that provides visitors with abundant information and employers with ways to reach prospective employees.

    As a UK-based nuclear project manager who has also spent a good deal of time working in other European countries, Andrew has seen a number of different nuclear programs. He is happy to be working in a country that has an active program for building new reactors, event though his personal career path has involved more decommissioning support work than work in supporting new nuclear power stations.

    He praises the work of young generation groups, the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG), the Nuclear Industry Association – UK (NIAUK) and individuals who are investing time, energy and money into telling others about nuclear energy and the benefits it brings to people, regions, countries and humanity.

    We hope you enjoy this show. It's been far too long since the last Atomic Show. As always, your comments are appreciated. We wouldn't bother to do this show if we thought that no one was listening.

    • 57 min

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