Advanced Manufacturing of Embedded Heat Pipe Nuclear Hybrid Reactor
Today’s commercial nuclear industry is based on technologies developed in the 1950s and 60s, with no significant technological updates taking place from their initial development to the present. While there have been improvements in safety and performance by integration of modern technologies over the years, economic improvements have not been radical enough to stay competitive with reductions in the price of natural gas and renewables. For example, nuclear plants still tend to have complicated designs, uncertain construction timelines, high operating and financing costs, and low energy efficiency.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Los Alamos National Laboratory will develop a scalable, compact, high-temperature, heat pipe reactor (HPR) to provide heat and electricity to remote areas. A 15MWth HPR could be built on-site in less than a month and self-regulate its power to plug into microgrids. The team will use high temperature materials via advanced manufacturing to reduce costs, and further cost reduction will be achieved from novel sensors embedded in the reactor core for continuous monitoring, reducing the number of operational staff needed.
All the internals of the reactor system, including the reactor core structures, the reflector, radiation shields, and heat exchangers, could be constructed of controlled expansion ceramics that possess superior neutronic and thermal properties.
The HPR will be developed to meet energy needs at remote locations (e.g., mining), decentralized microgrids (e.g., remote towns in Alaska), and niche applications in centralized grids (e.g., replacing diesel generators at light water reactors).
Nuclear power has low life-cycle emissions, making it a key source of clean electricity.
Pre-fabricated ceramic components can be pieced together into a single block, which considerably reduces fabrication and installation costs and improves safety.