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Comment Re:Typical Liberal Thinking (Score 1) 109

The worrying thing is that, as you say, there are several competing consortia which is good for competition but it will probably mean the UK will end up with a range of different reactor designs rather than one or two standard models. This will cause problems for fuel manufacture, operations, staff training, ancillary equipment procurement and so on.

The existing French reactor fleet is mostly a standardised M910 design with some tweaks here and there -- they're in the process of replacing a lot of steam generators in a fleet-wide mid-life maintenance operation and they've been able to pre-order more than forty identical steam generators to be manufactured in a rolling contract, meaning big savings and some flexibility in the replacement tempo.

In contrast the UK is planning to build a couple of EPRs, some first-of-their-kind ESBWRs, a couple of AP-1400s and maybe even some Hualong-1s, the Chinese home-sourced reactors (based on the ACPR-1000 design which has its roots in the French M910 design). That means mid-life kickers in thirty or forty years will be a dog's breakfast of replacement hardware, different for each class of reactor.

Comment Re:Typical Liberal Thinking (Score 1) 109

Who the fuck do you think will be paying for the electricity from this power station?

Industries, folks on low income who don't pay taxes, Irish people (via one of the interconnectors that feeds British electricity to Ireland) and regular consumers here in the UK. The construction and operating costs don't come out of taxes so "taxpayers" don't have any financial skin in the game.

Comment Re:Typical Liberal Thinking (Score 2) 109

The going rate in the UK for unpredictable and variable onshore wind generation, guaranteed by law, is about £95 per MWhr or a little over the asking price for new baseload nuclear. Offshore wind in the UK is guaranteed about £145 per MWhr. The folks planning to build new nuclear plants in the UK simply want price parity with the other non-carbon generators. At least one large offshore wind project was recently cancelled because £145 per MWhr wasn't thought to be enough return for the construction and operating costs and predicted profit over the project's lifespan.

The headline strike price of £92.50 per MWHr for the new nuclear plants is a maximum; it may well be reduced in the future depending on operating costs etc. and the deal runs out in 35 years time. At that point the plants will have been paid for and fresh price negotiations will ensue since those plants will still have an operating life of more than 30 years ahead of them. The initial high strike price is to ensure that if the reactors are built and deliver the non-carbon electricity they are supposed to the reactor builders won't lose out financially in the medium term.

As for taxpayers they are not involved. The funding and construction will be carried out independently of the British government and no tax monies will be used. In return the builders want a price guarantee to build generating capacity which will supply baseload electricity for most of the next hundred years or so.

Comment Re:And Apple is wrong (Score 1) 337

I'd be stunned to discover Apple ISN'T working on a touch-screen version of OS/X. Whether that ever makes it out of the labs into the shops is another matter, more due to marketing, user satisfaction and a number of other factors and if it doesn't we'll never know. Whether it bears any resemblance to iOS internally or in the UX is another matter. MS has pushed hard for an integrated UX for Windows, Apple might decide to diverge the UX experience instead to maintain usability.

Th Old Fogies assembled here will remember the G5 processor Apple machines and how it seemed there would never be an Intel version of an Apple computer, and then suddenly one day there is was, ready to go on sale. It was obvious in hindsight Apple had been working on porting their OS to Intel hardware for years, just in case and when the G5 got too far behind the curve they were ready (unlike the Altivec fanbois who swore they'd never buy an Intel Apple...). I'd even bet there's iOS builds for Intel Atom platforms in the back offices just in case the ARM designs powering their tablets and phablets run out of steam.

Comment Re:So which is it? (Score 1) 115

Most servers don't need anything near 6TB of storage, let alone 6TB of (D)RAM.

Many servers do need access to that sort of storage (and a hundred times more) and it would help if those servers run the same OS on similar hardware as other servers with less demand do. The alternative is for the sort of species differentiation that hobbles High Performance Computing (HPC) because there are few standards and a lot of hand-written system code flying in close formation, different on each machine.

I expect, if anything comes of this 3D flash RAM that there will be a flurry of Good Intentions by assorted BigCorps and LittleStartups which will evolve into two or three usable hardware and OS implementations that everyone coalesces around and then we move forward from there. The intervening period will be fun to observe, from a safe distance at least.

Oh, and are you claiming that 6TB should be enough RAM for anyone? There's a Slashdot meme for that...

Comment Re:So which is it? (Score 0) 115

Seems like we're going to find out soon, 6TB of addressable non-volatile ram sounds like a game changer

A server system really needs to be able to address hundreds or thousands of terabytes of storage, not just six. That's what I meant by the server system designers having to revamp the basic concepts of a computer with RAM separate from secondary storage (HDDs or SSDs on a separate bus) to one with a "flat" storage architecture. The OS will have to change too to take account of the blurring or total elimination of the difference between addressable RAM space and secondary storage, and getting that to work reliably and efficiently will take some time and involve some serious mistakes too, I expect. Sharing storage over a network will also be a challenge, as will backup processes.

Comment Re:So which is it? (Score 3, Insightful) 115

If this tech makes it into the marketplace at reasonable prices it's not going to be hanging off SAS-12 cables or any other serial links at that rate, it will be more tightly integrated with the CPU bus to deliver on the R/W and access speed improvements. Even PCI is a possible bottleneck if this 3D flash can deliver what Intel are claiming for it. Comparing its performance to DRAM is a "tell" and shows what they're thinking; this may be the fabled "non-volatile RAM" solution that's been the Holy Grail researchers have been trying to develop pretty much ever since RAM was invented. (Yes, I know there are battery-backed-up RAM solutions that claim to be non-volatile but they're only non-volatile until the battery power runs out).

Comment Re:So which is it? (Score 4, Interesting) 115

There's a whole raft of other things to consider before this tech changes the IT world -- how much does it cost, how many separate fabs can produce it so there's no single-point-of-failure that could constrain supply, how much redesign of existing chipsets is required to integrate it into current server/workstation/mobile phone designs, what's the failure rate in service, power dissipation and cooling requirements etc.

Saying that the demo suggests it can be implemented into existing platforms with little difficulty. Of course as Napoleon once said, "There are lies, damned lies and rigged demos." Time will tell.

Comment Re:Am I the only one that... (Score 1) 67

Hundreds actually, if you're only counting atmospheric tests although some were underwater and a handful in the stratosphere. The US fired off about 220 atmospheric tests, going to underground testing after the Sunbeam series of tests in Nevada in 1962. The Soviets did a lot fewer; the US has carried out more than half of all the nuclear tests by all nations.

Comment The LFTR Fairy (Score 1) 167

Actually, no China isn't putting a crapton of resources into LFTR. It's actually putting about a hundred billion bucks into building a lot of PWRs with more to come in the next ten years or so if they continue the way they're going. Chinese researchers are looking at molten-salt reactor technologies but no significant money has been spent, same with fast-spectrum reactors like the Russian BN-series designs which at least exist in the real world. They're not building any molten-salt reactors, they have no plans to build such a reactor, there are no components for such a reactor being ordered or manufactured. There is some theoretical research and computer modelling being carried out, that's all. The only experimental reactor they're actually spending money on building is a pebble-bed design, the HTR-PM.

The Oak Ridge molten-salt reactor never used thorium, ever. It ran with U-233 and later with U-235 but never thorium. I blame the Powerpoint Rangers for conflating the purely theoretical LFTR with the Oak Ridge reactor (which was only one of many possible reactor concepts being tried out back in the 1960s).

Comment Re:No one wants a beta reactor (Score 2) 167

No-one wants a beta reactor, they want something that will predictably generate electricity at a reasonable cost. That's why virtually every reactor being built today, including the four new-build AP-1000s at Vogtle and Summer as well as the dozens of reactors under construction in China and elsewhere are an evolutionary development of the PWR/BWR concept. The design effort has been concentrated in ever greater cost efficiencies and safety enhancements in larger and more efficient designs generating more electricity per reactor unit.

There are a couple of new power reactor designs not based on the well-tested PWR/BWR concept but even they are evolutionary; the new Russian BN-800 fast reactor which started up last year is an offshoot of the BN-350 and BN-600 reactors built in the 1970s and the Chinese modular pebble-bed HTR-PM now being built is using technology licenced from the Germans who had the ill-fated AVR and HTHR-300 pebble-bed reactors operating in the 1980s.

Comment Expensive but worth it in the long run (Score 1) 167

The capital costs of a reactor build are high because it's an expensive piece of construction, not simply because of delays etc. Every other large project including coal-fired and natural-gas generating plants also have to spend money up front preparing plans, covering the likely environmental impacts and dealing with protests.

Nearly all modern-build Gen-IIa and Gen-III reactors like the AP-1400, the EPR, ESBWR etc. are significantly larger than the original Gen-1 and Gen-II designs, each generating well over 1GW of electricity (the EPRs when they are complete will produce 1.6GW). That takes a lot of concrete and steel for containment, bigger turbine-generator sets, a larger reactor vessel etc. Putting that all together takes longer to complete even if everything goes right first time -- the Chinese are turning out their enhanced Gen-II APR-1000s in about 6 years from breaking ground to first grid connection but they've got a tested production line in place for groundworks, components and construction.

The good long-term news is that new-build Gen-IIIs will operate for more than 60 years; the Russians just produced a reactor vessel that they claim will last in service for a century and more. This improves the financial viability of a reactor project even though they cost a chunk of money up front.

Comment Re:I don't understand the big deal here. (Score 1) 139

Putting all these technologies together in one design is nearly trivial.

I'm sorry but that statement makes me die a little inside. That sort of reasoning is why I call the thorium boosters Powerpoint Rangers.

Yes I didn't watch any of the thirty or forty half-hour-long Powerpoint presentations on Youtube because none of them actually show hardware in operation, they show TED talks by graduate students and Twue Beweivers with glossy brochures, simplified diagrams and wishful thinking and a lot of "and then a miracle occurs" in the middle. I've seen some of the early attempts to convince folks that thorium was the Answer to non-existent problems before I decided life was too short and went TL;DR on the subject. To engage my interest it will take working hardware, a real molten-salt mostly-thorium reactor that runs for a year or more continuously (or at least 90% uptime) with significant thermal output (10 MW would be a good start, even 7 MW like the ORNL uranium-fuelled reactor produced) and a plan to decommission such a reactor in the future after 50 or 60 years of neutron irradiation and radiochemical contamination of components in direct contact with molten fuel (not something that causes a problem with existing solid-fuel reactors, even breeders).

the people that are making it happen

Until they have funding to build and operate a complete operational test reactor for at least a few years nobody is "making it happen", they're selling dreams. Sorry.

Comment Re:I don't understand the big deal here. (Score 1) 139

I hate to break it to you but China is not building any kind of a molten salt reactor (MSR) never mind one where thorium makes up part of the fuel stream. They've talked about it, yes but then again a lot of Powerpoint Rangers have done so over the past ten years and more. They're not funding, pouring concrete or bending metal on an MSR, the one true sign that anyone is taking the production of a prototype reactor seriously. They have discussed building a BN-series fast-spectrum reactor as well but no funding, no metal bent, no concrete poured on that project either which is a shame as it's a very interesting concept with the ability to burn waste actinides with minimal fuel reprocessing.

India's interest in thorium is as an adjunct fuel for their heavy-water reactors mixed in with a lot of 20%-medium-enriched uranium and plutonium. There are geopolitical reasons for this decision to work on using thorium as an adjunct fuel but at the moment they're building out several PWRs, mostly Russian VVER-series designs. Their fast-breeder is a conventional sodium-cooled design, not speciafically built to use thorium. It is outside NPT and IAEA safeguards so fuelling it could be a problem.

Experimental reactor designs actually being funded, built and operated in the real world are the Chinese HTR-PM helium-cooled pebble-bed reactor and the Russian BN-800 fast-spectrum reactor, both based on existing engineering predecessors (the ill-fated German HTHR-300, the Chinese HTR-10 and the ex-Soviet sodium-cooled BN-350 and BN-600).

Just so other folks understand, no-one has built and operated a thorium-fuelled molten salt breeder reactor so the design hasn't been tested as you claim. There was a molten-salt reactor fuelled with U-233 and later on U-235 at Oak Ridge but it never used thorium in any way. The Powerpoint Rangers pushing thorium claim it would be easy to add a breeding core to such a design and there would be no serious technical challenges involved despite the very high temperatures involved, the intense radiation environment required for the breeding process and its effects on structures carrying molten fuel. That last factor was not something plutonium breeder reactors have had to put up with and their success record is not good even using fixed arrays of solid fuel.

Yes, we will be going to OSI, Mars, and Pluto, but not necessarily in that order. -- Jeffrey Honig