Nuclear China and Peak-Oil ?

China (a big factor in overall global economic growth and fossil fuel supply and demand issues) has been involved in development (and safety proving tests) of a new generation of High Temperature Nuclear Reactors (HTR Technology) and the first production power plant project has just started. The technology is inherently safer and more compact than previous generation water and gas-cooled designs. (One reason is the local small-scale containment of the fissile material in carbide “pebbles” (PBMR), the second is the self-limiting physics of its “strong negative temperature coefficient”, which means the reaction slows as it gets hotter. No more Three-Mile-Island or Chernobyl ?)
[See here] [here] [here] [and here].

Pebble bed furnaces ?
Takes me back to my power boiler days at FW ….

Anyway, as most of China’s power generation is coal and hydro anyway, what does this have to do with Peak-Oil ? Well – reading between the lines – it’s like this.

These are high-temeperature reactors, hot enough to do more than raise steam (to drive power turbines), the hot gas can itself be used to drive gas turbines before (raising steam and/or) recycling through the reactor bed. What’s more the heat can be used to gassify coal and drive other hyrdocarbon processes, like Hydrogen-Cracking and Synthetic-Gasoline production – both of which take the load off Oil and Natural Gas fuel and raw material demands. Not surprisingly, South Africa which originally bought German technologies for synfuels and pebble-bed reactors, is a partner with both Chinergy and US Nuclear consortia for next generation (cleaner, greener, safer) nuclear power. [Post note : For the Chinese production projects, the focus, after power, is thermo-electric generation of hydrogen from water, made feasibly efficient at the temperatures involved. See later post.]

The significance of South Africa and Germany ? Both countries that in recent history (second world war and apartheid sanctions), had reason to find real alternatives to not having natural oil and gas supplies available for their industrial and/or military might. Real practical crises, not just hypothetical ones.

It’s an ill wind, etc.

(Vested interest ? The s/w company mentioned in the press-release is my employer, but we’re into all aspects of power and oil & gas, and a lot more, so business-wise we’re ultimately neutral on which energy and feedstock resources, or efficiency measures people choose.)

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