The Generation IV nuclear reactor is designed to operate, by the bed being filled with uranium enriched graphite spheres, that are about the size of a tennis ball. Testing is still being done to try and bring the economic side of this equation into balance. While engineers at Japan’s stricken nuclear power plant struggle to keep its uranium fuel rods from melting down, engineers in China are building a radically different type of reactor that some experts say offers a safer nuclear alternative.
The technology will be used in two reactors here on a peninsula jutting into the Yellow Sea, where the Chinese government is expected to let construction proceed — even as the world debates the wisdom of nuclear power.
Rather than using conventional fuel rod assemblies of the sort leaking radiation in Japan, each packed with nearly 400 pounds of uranium, the Chinese reactors will use hundreds of thousands of billiard ball-size fuel elements, each cloaked in its own protective layer of graphite.
The coating moderates the pace of nuclear reactions and is meant to ensure that if the plant had to be shut down in an emergency, the reaction would slowly stop on its own and not lead to a meltdown.
The reactors will also be cooled by nonexplosive helium gas instead of depending on a steady source of water — a critical problem with the damaged reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. And unlike those reactors, the Chinese reactors are designed to gradually dissipate heat on their own, even if coolant is lost.
If the new plants here prove viable, China plans to build dozens more of them in coming years.
The technology under construction here, known as a pebble-bed reactor, is not new. Germany, South Africa and the United States have all experimented with it, before abandoning it over technical problems or a lack of financing.
But as in many other areas of alternative energy, including solar panels and wind turbines, China is now taking the lead in actually building the next-generation technology. The government has paid for all of the research and development costs for the two pebble-bed reactors being built here, and will cover 30 percent of the construction costs.
Despite Japan’s crisis, China still plans to build as many as 50 nuclear reactors over the next five years — more than the rest of the world combined. I think this definitely paves the way for a full realization of just how extremely difficult, if not impossible, it would be for the world to simply abandon nuclear energy. The crisis in Japan, it seems, will cause great concern all around the world in nuclear power circles, but I think that as technology becomes more enhanced we will see many breakthroughs in these newest generation of nuclear reactors.
This technology is, as most technologies are, a work in progress. For a rough comparison, let us consider the automobile, which while it was first invented well over a century ago, still undergoes enormous amounts of testing. This is because of the ever increasing breakthroughs in technology.
There is also a huge increase in the amount of study and testing being performed on graphene. The discovery of graphene is not that new, but little testing was done as the technology to work with a product only one atom thick did not exist to the extent we see today. Graphene has started to be looked at by everybody from the medical field to the highest tech electronics companies. With all of these technological advances it comes as no surprise that graphene will undoubtedly find its way into many more areas of our lives than it already has. Industry at large will continue to push research and testing of graphene, since the viability of successfully incorporating into our daily lives seems unavoidable.
This article from Science Daily, shows just how far this research has progressed. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110512150731.htm
These are only a couple of the reasons I see a very bright potential for Focus Metals. In a future post I will attempt to address further reasons. For those who have found this post to have piqued your interest, I suggest going to the companies website at www.focusmetals.ca
For disclosure purposes I have received no compensation of any kind for this post. I do own shares of Focus Metals.