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Wednesday, December 19

New Nuclear Technology to Produce Inexpensive Diesel Fuel from Natural Gas and Renewable Carbon

Dr. Rolland P. Johnson, Muons, Inc. and Muplus, Inc.,
Reactor and Nuclear Systems Division Seminar
11:00 AM — 12:00 PM, Joint Institute for Computational Sciences (JICS/NICS), (Building 5100), Lecture Hall (Room 128)
Contact: Jess Gehin (gehinjc@ornl.gov), 865.576.5093

Abstract

The 75,000 tons of US stored spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from conventional reactors is a resource that could, without reprocessing or MOX preparation, provide 60 percent of all US electrical power for 40 years. Alternatively, it could provide a great amount of process heat for many applications like producing green diesel fuel from natural gas and renewable carbon. An accelerator system like the SNS at ORNL can provide neutrons to convert SNF into fissile isotopes to provide high temperature heat using technology developed at the ORNL Molten Salt Reactor Experiment. In the GEM*STAR [1] accelerator-driven subcritical reactor that we wish to build, the accelerator allows subcritical operation (no Chernobyls), the molten salt fuel allows radioactive volatiles to be continuously removed (no Fukushimas), and the SNF does not need to be enriched or reprocessed (to minimize weapons proliferation concerns). The molten salt fuel and the relaxed availability requirements of process heat applications imply that the required accelerator technology is available now. The first proposed GEM*STAR application turns natural gas into drop-in synthetic diesel fuel using the Fischer-Tropsch process, where possible nuclear fuels include SNF, natural uranium, and 34 metric tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium slated to be destroyed by the troubled 2000 U.S.-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA)[2]. One 10 MW proton accelerator feeding four GEM*STAR units could burn and destroy that much plutonium to provide the US DOD with green diesel fuel to satisfy most of its needs for the next 30 years. We anticipate that large renewable diesel profits (production cost<$2.00/gallon) from the PMDA opportunity and from SNF burning will drive funding for a Conceptual Design Report prior to a 3-year demo construction project. DOD interest in 40 billion gallons of green diesel from burning 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium on a DOE site could expedite the project.

[1] Charles D. Bowman, R. Bruce Vogelaar, Edward G. Bilpuch, Calvin R. Howell, Anton P. Tonchev, Werner Tornow, R.L. Walter, "GEM*STAR: The Alternative Reactor Technology Comprising Graphite, Molten Salt, and Accelerators," Handbook of Nuclear Engineering, Springer Science+Business Media LLC (2010).
[2] http://www.armscontrol.org/print/2326