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Posted by Mark Halper

DFR Lesson Weibach

Molten salt seminar. Nico Bernt of Berlin’s Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physics gives a tutorial on the Dual Fluid Reactor, which is a molten salt reactor that he advocates as a source of industrial process heat, as well as for electricity.

A funny thing happened on the way to the final round of Germany’s prestigious GreenTec Awards. A molten salt reactor that the public had voted into the August 30th gala gathering vanished from the competition, muscled out by none other than the contest’s organizers.

It seemed like an odd turn of events, considering that GreenTec exists to honor “ecological and economic consciousness and commitment,” as it says on its website.

What could be more ecologically sound than the Dual-Fluid Reactor, an MSR entered into the contest by Berlin’s Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physics. MSRs and other advanced nuclear designs auger a CO2-free energy future and represent clear improvements in nuclear safety, efficiency, and waste management when compared to conventional nuclear. The Dual-Fluid Reactor (DFR) is no exception (click on the video below to learn more about it, including how it can be used as a source of industrial process heat to make hydrogen and synthetic fuels).

Clearly, a significant portion of the German public understands this. The Dual-Fluid Reactor (DFR)  made it to the finals on the strength of an open, online voting round. Under the rules of the competition, GreenTec judges select two finalists in each of the contest’s eight categories, and the public selects the third.

PUBLIC APPROVAL

While the judges did not send the DFR to Berlin, some sensible common folks did, bestowing the DFR as one of the three shortlisted contenders for the vaunted Galileo category, a science-oriented award sponsored by German media company Pro-Sieben.

But this is Germany, where the energy lords extol renewables like solar and wind, and where the government decided two years ago to walk away from nuclear in the aftermath of Fukushima. GreenTec, backed by clean technology company VKPartners GmbH, counts Germany’s energy minister Peter Altmaier as its patron. Altmaier will be participating on the Berlin awards stage (where it might have been a tad uncomfortable for an anti-nuclear government to potentially salute a nuclear energy technology).

So GreenTec took swift action, and disqualified the DFR. Airbrushed it right out of the picture.

DFR Comparison Weibach

Economic case. The DFR compared to conventional reactors, or “LWRs” (light water reactors), according to developer Daniel Weibach.

The development stunned the Institute.

“On June 4, we have been disqualified and denominated by the jury, with no explanation,” it wrote on its website. “Rules have been changed afterwards to allow for a denomination of the online voting.”

Outrage ensued, as DFR supporters accused GreenTec of changing the voting rules to suit their own interests.

German blogger Rainer Klute - a regular commenter on Weinberg blogs -  noted:

“People who had campaigned for the award and for the DFR were heavily shocked. Not only they found the decision as such completely incomprehensible, but also the procedure to make it. Changing rules in the course of the game is something that is usually considered less than fair. Most of us (but obviously not all) learned this early in our childhood. No wonder the award’s makers were criticized violently in blogs and social media, especially on their own Facebook page.”

GreenTec has posted an explanation on Facebook. It’s in German which I unfortunately don’t read. I asked GreenTec to clarify its actions for me in English. A spokeswoman replied via email that, “Indeed, it is true that our jury disqualified the project Dual Fluid Reactor (DFR) in the Galileo category. However, it is not true that we in any way changed the rules of participation for this specific case!”

VIOLATION

The spokeswoman said that the Institute had violated a clause in the application process “which obliges participants to provide truthful information about their projects, ensuring an objective evaluation process.” She also noted that “The organizers are authorized to disqualify the applicant as well as take away his/her rights to the title.” They also stripped another finalist, called Care Energy.

She did not elaborate on the violation in the DFR application. I asked her to provide more details, which had not arrived at the time of publishing this blog.

Meanwhile, GreenTec is looking forward to its glitzy Aug. 30 evening, sans nuclear, when they will anoint winners in the Galileo category as well as in production, energy, mobility, aviation, recycling, communication, and building and living.

On that night, GreenTec says, stars will step out “demonstrating their enthusiasm for climate protection.”

Attention stars: You could shine brighter with MSR power.

Go to DFR class with the designers Nico Bernt and Daniel Weibach in this YouTube video:

Images are screen grabs from the Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physic’s DFR video, via YouTube.

Comments

  1. Ben says:

    I can give you a a translation if you want:
    In our opinion, the project DFR content is not compatible with the objectives of the awards. Contrary to the presentation it provides no environmental contribution but increases risks of nuclear waste disposal uncontrollable. The project promotes turning away from a central repository in decentralized “nuclear power plants” – ie radioactive waste is used decentralized in its decay at operative temperatures of over 1,000 degrees Celsius using liquid metal for cooling to produce energy. In the presentation of the application, it was however suppressed, that the materials used are highly toxic and radioactively contaminate their environment . Since it is impossible that such facilities have lifetimes of hundreds of years, they produce new radioactive waste. We assume that the problem is thus larger than the final disposal is today and that the radioactive waste is harder to control. It seems impossible to make sure, with several hundred plants, that no accidents happen or intentional attacks are successful.

    We don’t want to have such facilities in our city and also don’t want to burden them on anyone else.
    All of this is our personal opinion.

    Arguments from the image(the red lines):
    Other than stated in the application it is not inherently safe, because it works with highly toxic/radioactive materials and at high operational temperatures with liquid metals.

    Other than stated in the application, we do need active active security systems due to the process parameters(I think they don’t get the difference between active and passive security systems).

    Other than stated in the application it does produce new waste since the Facility itself is contaminated.

    While there is no need for a central waste depository anymore, now we have many (contaminated) Nuclear Reactors instead.

    Why is the use of highly toxic and radioactive materials, with new decentralized reactors now be environmental friendly?

    Is the achievable Energy production and that it makes a final depot unnecessary truly cheaper than the construction, use, security and restoration of many decentralized DFR facilities including the possible Risks like in case of failure like drinking water contamination?

    They doubt that as the application claims that such a system could be as safe as solar or wind power.

    They doubt that the calculated cost include the risks and followup costs.

    It is mostly just the typical response you get from german eco-activists: Atomkraft Nein, Danke. Nuclear power, no thanks. They’ve got no clue what they are talking about and are categorical against anything which has anything to do with nuclear power.

  2. John Preedy says:

    I agree that many eco-activists are categorically against nuclear power and don’t wish to consider safer nuclear plant designs, which produce several orders of magnitude less nuclear waste material and eliminate the risk of explosion. In Germany they prefer to be reliant on Russian gas rather than face the inherent political and energy security risks. Germany can’t afford to upset Putin because he can always shutdown the pipelines, like he did with Ukraine.
    The GreenTec judges did, however, have a valid point when it comes to the dispersal of smaller nuclear plants, which some of the proposed new nuclear designs make viable. Even if the quantities of waste, and the risk of proliferation, are greatly reduced as a result of these technologies, more smaller more widespread nuclear installations will present more difficulties concerning security and waste simply as a result of the greater number of sites that will need to be managed.
    Of course the eco-activists in Germany believe that nuclear plants can be replaced with renewable energy from wind and solar. They ignore the fact that solar power is only available during daylight, and wind power is only available when the wind blows. As yet there is no viable energy storage technology which can overcome these fundamental limitations. Renewable sources can only ever be a part of the energy supply mix, not the whole solution. If Germany really does turn its back on nuclear energy, and close down all its existing nuclear plants, they are inevitably going to continue burning fossil fuels to satisfy the base load and as a backup to renewables, probably in greater quantities than before Fukushima. That is not a “Green” solution to the problem of rising atmospheric global carbon dioxide levels, which I consider is a much greater problem than any quantity of nuclear waste, the management of which is essentially a local issue.

  3. Rainer Klute says:

    As decided by the Berlin Court of Appeal, the expulsion of the Dual-Fluid Reactor from the GreenTec Awards was unlawful. The environmental competition has to undo the reactor’s denomination. Here’s the full story: http://rainerklute.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/injunction-dual-fluid-reactor-nominated-for-greentec-awards-nevertheless/.

  4. ROBERTM says:

    As much I want “pro-solar/pro-wind/pro-coal/anti-nuclear germany” to be cursed to buy energy from nuclear france and nuclear russia for all eternity , I hope germany can make this project, and in the process solve the worlds energy problem once and for all.

    Any one think germany might beat china to MSR?

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