BRIGID project: project overview
BRIGID Project overview
BRIGID strategy vis-a-vis energy
Until nuclear fusion is a fact, fertilisation of fertile elements is man kinds only long term and large scale energy solution.
Our planet contains very limited resources of fissile elements uranium-235, but fertile elements uranium-238 and thorium-232 are abundant, as they significantly less radioactive.
Traditionally, all nuclear fission power plants use either fissile uranium-235, or fertilise uranium-238 into fissile plutonium-239.
From the very beginning of civil nuclear power plant design, it was the intention to close the nuclear fuel cycle by breeding uranium-238
into plutonium-239 to be used as nuclear fuel. A closed fuel cycle produces far less nuclear waste, and uses natural resources much more efficiently, therefore lasting for many centuries on our natural fuel reserves rather than a few decades. However, this requires fast breeding reactors. These reactors use fast, say unmoderated, neutrons to convert uranium-238 into plutonium-239, which can be extracted and used as fuel component in traditional thermal-neutron fission reactors.
Anno 2021, virtually all developments of fast-neutron plutonium breeder reactors have been abandonned, for a combination of political, technological and economical reasons. It looked good. We got nowhere.
However, on the long term, mankind does not have the luxury of abandoning the concept of breeding nuclear fuel. So we selected a different approach. We have a new narraive. So we simply have to do it properly this time.
BRIGID avoids a substantial amount of legacy problems by using liquid thorium-232 as fertile material, and fertilise it into liquid, fissile uranium-233 fuel. And it creates new problems, for sure. But easier ones, we claim.
Although abundant, the stock of thorium is indeed also limited, and it's man kind's last resort in the trick book, besides nuclear fusion obviously. Therefore, BRIGID does not compromise, and is designing the most efficient nuclear reactor type conceivable, and combines it with the safest and most efficient closed fuel cycle. With a closed fuel cycle we mean: no fuel left after burning, no excited unburned fuel in the waste.
The design of a nuclear reactor is also determined by the way it's going to be used.
The BRIGID reactor AnnevoieTM is designed not to produce electricity, but rather to produce the highest enthalpy steam that is technologically feasible, in a continuousbase load mode. We'll see later why this is of utmost importance.
Moreover, as time is pressing, due to climate uncertainties and progressing pollution, BRIGID has defined a clear focus to obtain the goal of operating reactors by 2030. We research only required features in a breath-first research strategy. Instead of persuing many interesting R&D trajectories, BRIGID follows a depth-first implementation strategy, while carrying out only mandatory R&D efforts.
BRIGID technical base line
No beating around the bush: the essence of BRIGID is a high-power nuclear power plant. BRIGID consumes thorium,
which is not a renewable material. The world's reserve of monazite, the thorium ore, is very large, but hey, so is the world's energy need. So it is mandatory to use thorium as efficiently as possible.
The fysics to generate high temperature steam and consequently hydrogen efficiently from a thorium energy cycle are known since decades. So are the basic physics to burn the nuclear waste from the past. The essence is however the practical implementation.
Up to this day, nuclear energy has been produced in a very inefficient way, producing way too much decommisioned fuel.
In the mean time, E = mc2 is about 115 years old. Let's start to understand what it really means and use it properly instead of opportunisticly.
BRIGID is a radically new way of using old fysics. It leaps over all Generation-IV nuclear proposals, skips all backward compatibilities with both existing nuclear power plants and existing fuel cycles, and heads directly to an uncompromised efficiency and safety. Instead of waiting for a long-tern foreign development, BRIGID aims at geopolitical independance, and taylors the design specifically in a Belgian context.
BRIGID has selected an ADS-controlled Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) architecture as its focus. The MSR architecture is potentially by far the simplest reactor vessel technology, at least if it's done well. It is atmospheric and compact. It comprises no mechanical or chemical potential able to disperse nuclear material in the environment. It comprises an inherently safe operational cooling mechanism. It has a passive decay cooling system. It runs inherently subcritical. Yet it operates at a very high temperature, opening huge opprtunities in the non-nuclear part we call ALVINTN. But most important: it has a 100% closed fuel cycle.
It passively stirrs a molten salt-fuel mixture that combines both nuclear fuel and primary salt. The salt is chemically stable, cannot burn or explode, and cooling water or steam is nowhere around the nuclear reactor itself. Emergency systems are inherent and therefore rather straightforward, as compared to classical PWR plants. However, the complexity resides in the integrated reprocessing facility: it's function is to keep the furnace burning by removing the ashes. This is new technology.
From a maintenance point of view, the reactor vessel and the auxiliary equipment are sufficiently simple. A BRIGID reactor contains no moving parts. That is in fact a requirement, as the reactor and its fuel load will operate continuously over several decades. This operating efficiency is needed to obtain the energy extration efficiency that we envision, and to avoid any unnecessary production of radiotoxic waste altogether.
In order to operate for decades on a permanent fuel content, the fuel must be uncladded, liquid, and resolved in a cooling salt that is on-line reprocessable. MSR supports these requirements. Once irradiated, the fuel will never leave the reactor containment building. The BRIGID reactor does not produce any spent nuclear fuel, only unavoidable fission products (FP) and activation products (AP).
An MSR is by no means backward compatible with existing commercial nuclear reactors, and as a consequence of operating temperatures, it is not even compatible with existing electric power plants, nor with current fuel fabrication. Backward compatibility of any kind is NOT a BRIGID requirement: it would only compromise the BRIGID focus.
The BRIGID MSR architecture is paricularly suited for a closed thorium (Th-U233) fuel cycle.
MSR is not SMR - fortunately
To avoid confusion:
MSR stands for Molten Salt Reactor. That's what we do.
SMR stands for Small Modular Reactor. That's what we don't do. Here's why.
SMR are a marketing hoax. SMR are smaller, transportable versions of traditional nuclear reactors. They are a desperate attempt of the traditional nuclear industry to recycle their technology and the connected open fuel cycle in a fading market. They are claimed to be safer (why?) and to produce less waste (a lie). They are so compact they cannot be safely serviced. They are mass-produced throw-away reactors. They fit into a short-sighted neo-liberal concept. They require long-haul transport of activated reactors containing spent nuclear fuel. They are a security risk. They are motivated on false economic grounds. They are a bad idea. And they are being licensed.
BRIGID reactors are evidently modular, but not small. For a large base load energy conversion, small makes no sense.
thorium fuel cycle
BRIGID selected fertile thorium as the primary fluel. The fuel preparation is incompatible with the current nuclear fuel fabrication flow, albeit simpler.
The preparation of the primary, very-low-radioactive fuel is limited to the surface mining and rather trivial low-radioactive chemical and mechanical preparation of fertile thorium metal. In concreto, only the natural daughter activity has to be controlled while the material is being handled and stored. This storage is relevant, as it is very long (say 300 years).
The initial activation only happens inside the reactor vessel, by adding an external ADS neutron flux, slowly breeding the non-fissile thorium primarily into fissile U-233. This U-233 fully fissions without ever leaving the reactor vessel. The neutron economy is so tight that fast fissions are possible.
Thermal energy is effeciently harvested from the primary coolant salt, and transferred through the vessel wall cooling fins to a secondary high-temperature lead coolant tub. BRIGID is a tub-in-tub design. It avoids coolant piping and pumping.
Thorium can theoritically be used in several forms in most present commercial PWR or BWR nuclear reactors. Today, R&D activities are conducted in many countries concerning the introduction of thorium fuel. However, for obvious commercial reasons, most thorium related R&D is focused on ways to process thoriumoxide in cladded fuel to be loaded into classical reactors. In contrast, BRIGID does not consider any of these options, and avoids cladding and fuel assembly manufacturing altogether.
Instead, the BRIGID thorium fuel cycle is by no means backward compatible with existing commercial nuclear reactors.
Again, backward compatibility of any kind is not a BRIGID requirement. Instead, it is a requirement to exploit the full potential of thorium fuel, and that requires a radical noval architecture of both the reactor and the fuel cycle. You will learn it is well worth the development effort.
An MSR can in principle also run on uranium or plutonium fuel. However, these materials require a much more complicated fuel cycle, and require a substantially longer burn cycle to avoid radiotoxic waste. It is not a primary design goal for BRIGID. It is considered in a later stage to validate both the legacy SNF and the stock of depleted uranium tails.
A MSR reactor loaded with salt-dissolved thorium is called a Liquid Fuel Thorium Reactor (LFTR), pronounced "lifter". And that's the heart of the BRIGID concept. The reactor combined with its reprocessing inside an underground sealed containment building is called AnnevoieTM.
There are a number of LFTR design proposals floating around. However we reject all of them, for reasons of efficiency, proliferation, maintainability. We think we can do better.
BRIGID is designing the most simple, practical, maintainable LFTR variant that is still able to operate inherently safe in an extremely long burn cycle.
This means amongst others that BRIGID reactors will both breed and burn all fuel internally. There is no breeing blanket, nor shall there be a channel to extract uranium, or any other product for that matter.
size and features
All BRIGID reactors will be identical, compact, confined, high power 3GW modules. The concept is to crank out a relatively cheap mass product: a confined black box with a high power, high temperature secondary steam output.
BRIGID will NOT consider small reactor versions,
as they are intended to continuously produce an oversized base load.
Also, BRIGID will not provide ALVINTM steam plants or direct hydrogen synthesis. ALVINTM is the BRIGID industry interface concept. It's a standardised steam interface. It's an artificial geothermal source. To use this steam source, we will leave the initiative to the open market.
BRIGID reactors do not provide any flexibility features for the marketing department. They do however provide extensive state-of-the-art measuring facilities, to continuously monitor the reactor status. The reactor status and operating mode is controlled
and fine tuned over its entire fuel life time
by a controlled spallation neutron source, for both safety and efficiency reasons. Instead of wasting neutron energy by absorbtion and extensive moderation, BRIGID will run essentially subcritical controlled by an ADS control loop.
The ADS is also used to start the breeder, thus avoiding the need of a permanent neutron source inside the reactor. Such a source is both a nuisance and a safety risk and a regulatory issue.
For reasons of efficiency, reliability and development time, the ADS will be a low-power ADS. This means the initial reactor startup takes a very long time. Also, the blanket-less breeding is a very slow process.
This is however compatible with the very long fuel cycle.
BRIGID reactors should be considered as nuclear geothermal batteries: fuel is
provided once, and they burn 300 years at full power until exhausted. They are never re-fueled. A reactor is entombed by sealing its entrance immediately after fueling. The entombment period however is orders of magnitude shorter than the geological disposal times of legacy nuclear waste, and of the same length as the productive phase of the reactor, say 300 years.
As the fuel cycle is closed, the fuel and salt regeneration plant is included in the design.
Although thorium can be fertilised in a thermal neutron spectrum, unlike plutonium breeders that require a fast spectrum,
BRIGID mainly operates in the fast spectrum. It relies on thermal fission only as an unavoidable side effect.
The BRIGID reactor is situated in the extreme corner of high-power and neutron energy.
It contains liquid fertile fuel dissolved in non-moderaring molten salt. A BRIGID vessel is very large, reflection is hard, and explicitely moderating materials are avoided to eliminate fire hazards and to avoid degradation problems. Initially, the fertile fuel is
activated by irradiating it with neutrons obtained from an external neutron source.
It provides walk-away safety, as it contains no excess reactivity and it runs slightly subcritical as soon as the source is cut.
The BRIGID architecture allows breeding civil fuel, by
meticulously maintaining its neutron efficiency and economy. Resonance absorbtion, control rod absorbtion, and sterile capture in structural materials, other than the salt and the reflector, are avoided. Idem with excess reactivity absorbers. And physics are helping us by limiting fast neutron absobtion by fission products.
finally, finally solving the nuclear waste problem
However, also consider this: there are two distinct ways BRIGID will solve the nuclear waste problem.
Firstly, a BRIGID reactor generates inherently far less waste than the classical PWR nuclear plants in Doel (Kern Centrale Doel or KCD) and Tihange (Centrale Nucleaire Tihange or CNT), and this waste is in turn far less toxic and, with some notable exceptions requiring special care, needs to be cooled and consequently stored for 300 years instead of 100,000 years or more. BRIGID is the way to stop the nuclear waste production almost entirely, without having to refrain from nuclear energy production. Instead, it steps it up from 6 GW to 30+ GW.
Secondly, a LFTR can burn decomissioned nuclear fuel obtained from classical nuclear plants that use a U-Pu or MOX fuel cycle. This historical waste inventory contains almost all inherent nuclear binding energy and large contents of highly radiotoxic trans-U elements or Minor Actinides (MA). For BRIGID, this is not waste, but rather secondary fuel or fertiliser.
This MSR waste burning processes transmutes the waste into more manageable waste, while harvesting all the remaining energy from it. It only takes lots and lots of processing time, but BRIGID is designed to provide precisely that.
closed fuel cycle
BRIGID avoids the transportation of radioactive materials. Provided the natural thorium decay daughters are properly managed, the input of the reactor is only very low-radioactive. The reactor waste output never leaves the containment building unless properly decayed and bound. Nonetheless, the BRIGID reactor is a breeder reactor, as near-100% fuel efficiency and near-unavoidable waste are amongst our prime goals.
However, a BRIGID reactor can and should at one time be used as a waste burner, burning decomissioned fuel from Doel or Tihange.
Since the decomissioned solid fuel pellets have to be decladded and reprocessed before they can be used in a BRIGID reactor, nuclear transport will be necessary. This is an issue to be taken into account when deciding where to position the BRIGID plants on the Belgian grid.
Therefore, some BRIGID reactors must be positioned on the Doel and Tihange sites, in order to avoid hazardous transports.
ALVINTM produces synfuels
Even taking rising demands into account, thorium is sufficiently abundant and affordable and not used on any industrial scale for any application, unlike lithium, where there is a compitition in the making between fusion and batteries. Thorium can replace all classical nuclear plants in Doel and Tihange for electricity production on the long term, and at the same time generate all required synfuels. The concept of using BRIGID steam to generate secondary energy carriers, is called ALVINTM.
This does however not mean society should not avoid wasting energy.
how about Doel and Tihange?
To be short: keep them running till BRIGID takes over. All of them.
The PWR plants in Doel and Tihange running a U-Pu or MOX fuel cycle are a legacy. They constitute both a problem and an opportunity.
Compared to BRIGID, they are very inefficient in fuel use, waste generation and thermal handling.
However, they are reasonably safe, and can be operational for at least another decade, provided they are well maintained and cautiously operated. Operatores will need to conserve their know-how.
This requirement comprises they are not to be reconfigured to allow load following to comply with intermittant renewables on the grid.
Also, it makes no sense to narrow down operating margins to gain a small percentage in operating efficiency, as the overall efficiency is extremely low anyway. The additional R&D and safety (FSAR) study costs are hardly motivating the marginal gains.
It is often stated that NPP's prohibit the full scale transistion to renewables. This is contradicted by the observation that none are willing to invest on a nation-wide scale in renewables if they are not funded, that is, by ecological motivation only. This means renewables are inherently not yet economically viable. They need scale to become viable. It even indicates that investors do no longer believe they are ecologically sound or relevant.
One could state just as easily that intermittant renewables make the life of the nuclear operators and the grid controller ever more difficult, and add up to the cost of maintaining NPP's and investments in the grid. Lost of grid sync in a Euopean context is an unavoidable risk these days. It was a close call already a few times. It will only get worse. Damage to the grid infrastructure and production units can no longer be excluded.
The safety of the Belgian NPPs is partially a result from a very conservative reactor design strategy, based on ASME guidelines, which aimed at flawless operation of all the essential parts for 40 years, basically the reactor pressure vessels (RPV) which are the only parts that are considered irreplaceable. Many other parts have been replaced and even optimised in the past decades.
At this point in time, the classical surveilance programs indicate that the conservative safety margins allow life time extensions of the non-replaceable parts with several decades. At the same time, reasearch shows these surveilance programs are conservative.
The safety is enhanced by careful operation, improved fuel design and optimised loading cycles.
The safety is however also obtained at a huge cost in mandatory emergency equipment and procedures, in an incremental requirements race which is stepped-up after each nuclear accident or incident, obeying both national and international regulations.
The fact that they were a relatively cheap and easy spin-off of military developments, is an excuse, but it should not geopardise the development of inherently better and incompatible technology, such as BRIGID.
Currently, from an economical point of view, these Belgian plants are considered end-of-life: licenses are expiring, the equipment needs to be refurbished, the fuel supply is no longer organised, the SNF handling is saturated, and the waste solution ramains an open question. Also, the operating expertise is not guaranteed. Even worse is that the decision center is not unique nor focussed. At this point in time, the operator is clearly more interested in government-funded gas-fired plants than in their nuclear park, which is limited to the 7 Belgian plants. Moth-balling the plants is expensive and not considered.
So, at some time these 7 nuclear power plants will inevitably be shut down and dismantled. Hence the time pressure on BRIGID. In the mean time, it is technically possible to keep them up and running safely, in order to bridge the gap to the first BRIGID plant. Moreover, it will soon prove to be a necessity.
Again, a BRIGID Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is not backward compatible
with the existing power plants,
as a consequence of its very high operating temperature. It requires a complete redesign of both steam generators, turbines and alternators, in order to exploit the increased efficiency. It also requires new facilities to produce hydrogen from steam directly and efficiently. And large scale facilities to produce synfuels to consume the excess heat production.
However, in view of the international climate commitments, and taking into account outages and reburbishments, it is easily shown that ALL Belgian nuclear plants have to be kept operational for at least another decade, or at least till BRIGID is deployed in full.
The additional amount of nuclear waste produced by our open fuel cycles in this bridging period is largely time-proportional to the waste that has already been produced, and therefore shall not substancially influence this decision.
The Belgian NPPs are currently owned by Engie. Since Engie is basically a gas company, and owns no other NPP's than the 7 Belgian plants, and stated the plants will be closed, and persue CRM funding for gas-fired power plants, they are no longer a viable partner to maintain the Belgian nuclear plants. Therefore we hereby advice the Belgian government to purchase the amortised plants for a symbolic amount of EUR 1.00, claim the full amount of decommisioning and waste provisions, recycle the human capital and know-how, upgrade the plants as needed, license them, maintain the SNF, acquire the tails as a strategic energy reserve, and maintain the NPP operation for as long as required by society. This assures a carbon-free 4 to 6 GW electricity supply, outages taken into account.
how about nuclear waste?
As output from NPPs with an open fuel cycle, one should consider the following types of nuclear waste: spent nuclear fuel (SNF), fission products (FP), and all other operational waste, including activated parts (AP) from reprocessing operations, repairs, demolitions, handling tools, protective products, cleaning agents, resins, accidental spills and effluents. Moreover, the main waste form the fuel production cycle is depleted uranium, known as the tails.
BRIGID does not consider spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from the Belgian NPPs as waste. As most of the energy is still contained in the SNF, it should be re-used. However, the classical methods to reprocess the SNF to ERU fuel, MOX fuel or fuel that was originally intended for fast reactors with solid fuel, are not the only possibilities, and surely not the most energy efficient solutions.
According Belgian legislation, SNF is not waste until declared as waste. Up to now, this has not happened, except for exotic fuel assemblies from decommisioned reactors, such as BR3 and Thetis. For NPP SNF, this obviously should never happen, considering the amount of energy that could still be harvested from the SNF, provided a suitable reprocessing method would be deployed on an industrial scale. At this point in time, no official decision has been taken, neither has a serious research effort been granted to solve this re-use issue. In the mean time, the SNF has to be safely stored and maintained, and it inevitable evolves in a rather complex way to a new composition. This is the worst option from a safety point of view, as well from a technical and economical point of view.
The large amount of Minor Actinides (MA) in the legacy PWR SNF motivates the development of the MYRRHA reactor, which is essentially a prototype of a fast neutron spectrum nuclear waste burner.
Alternatively, the solid SNF can be de-clad and dissolved into a fuel salt, for direct re-use and 100% burn-up in a fast-spectrum MSR.
Several countries abroad carry research projects targeting the MSR technology to be a legacy waste burner for SNF.
However, BRIGID reactors will NOT be designed to burn legacy SNF. The focus of BRIGID is on the fastest realisation of a safe and efficient reactor to produce hydrogen. This means that BRIGID does not compete with MYRRHA or foreign waste burner developments in the foreseeable future. Instead, BRIGID will rely on research results of MYRRHA.
Note that BRIGID does not produce any SNF itself, provides it is allowed to rcomplete its cycle once it has been activated. BRIGID only generates fission products (FP) and activation products (AP).
Fission products are a fundamentally different form of nuclear waste: they can be considered the ashes of the nuclear furnace.
Fission products are unavoidable
in any nuclear fission process. The FP nuclides are per definition excited and radioactive. They need to be contained and decayed safely.
BRIGID is designed to autonomeously and internally contain, handle, decay and store all fissions products, as long as they are radiotoxic.
However, compared to SNF, the volume and radiotoxicity is orders of magnitude smaller than the current SNF.
The tails originating from the enriched natural uranium (ENU) fuel produced for the Belgian NPPs are also stored and constitute a huge potential for fertilising. This
also requires a breeding reactor, more particularly with a fast neutron spectrum. The research on fast neutron Pu breeders with sodium coolant (SCFR) has however
lost all momentum. MSR technology offers a safer reactor type to use these tails. However, BRIGID's AnnevoieTM reactor is NOT designed for this, in order not to geoperdise the fast development trajectory. Once BRIGID is operational, there is plenty of time to validate the legacy tails.
Note that BRIGID fuel preparation does not produce tails.
It is a BRIGID requirement to limit the amount of Class B waste to the bare minimum. This will be obtained by the design and maintenance strategy of BRIGID.
Class B activation products are unavoidable. In BRIGID, careful design ensures a minimum of activation products: minimal number of parts, no serviceable parts inside, full neutron reflection, lead coolant.
Finally, BRIGID produces as much operational waste as any nuclear installation. This type of waste is mostly Class A waste. This waste can be handled in the same way as current production. The amount is in the order of 30 cm3 per citizen per year.
BRIGID redefines the Belgian power grid
Here are some consequences arising from the BRIGID philosophy...
BRIGID considers the Belgian power grid as a SOL (Safety-Of-Life) application. Grid stability, availability, frequency and tension are key objectives.
The first major European blackout happened November 4, 2006. Since then, enormous efforts have been done to interconnect Europe's grid in an international context, including ENTSO-E. Nonetheless we escaped major failures on Januari 8, 2021, and again on July 24, 2021. One during winter. One during summer. The grid is not to be triffled with. Renewables are the culprit. This has to stop.
A consequence of the BRIGID project is that the Belgian power grid will be fully stabilised by a limited number of large power plants.
These BRIGID power plants will permanently supply more than the instantaneous electricity consumption by normal grid loads: industry and households.
The excess power will be consumed, not by illuminating highways during night time as we did in the past,
nor by pumping water uphill in the Coo plant, and frankly not even by charging car batteries.
Instead, excess electrical or thermal power will be chemically stored by central synfuel production facilities,
producing hydrogen H2, ammonia NH3, hydrazine N2H4, methane CH4 and dimethylether CH3-O-CH3.
Electric power generated by renewable sources can be seamlessly used to synthesise NH3. It is much easier to combine the NH3 production of nuclear plants and intermittant and distant renewable sources, than to combine electrical power of both sources in a "smart" grid.
BRIGID therefore does not require a "smart" grid, designed to activate local electricity consumption based on local and intermittent production availability.
BRIGID is not incompatible with local, small scale and renewable electricity production. It is also not incompatible with a "smart" grid concept.
However, it does not need it nor does it rely on it or interfere with it.
Because BRIGID permanently produces an oversized base load, all intermittent renewable energy, that is injected in the grid locally, can be consumed locally, while the grid excess is consumed in industrial-scale synfuel facilities. This reduces the grid transport power to a mere zero. And therfore also minimises the grid losses.
Consequently, the grid links to our neighbouring countries can be reserved and managed for emergancy situations. So they still remain very useful as a safeguard rather than as a structural element in Belgiums energy management. A message for politicians: a power transmission line is not an energy source.
Once BRIGID is running, the regulation of the grid is no longer an issue at the electricity production side. It becomes an issue at the electricity consumption side.
This means that the synfuel production plants have to be designed as facility with varying input of electricity and raw materials (CO2 and N2), and a varying output of synfuels. But, hey, that's perfectly ok, since synfuels can be stored in the existing strategic reserve and fuel and gas distribution system.
BRIGID also eliminates the need for peak production plants entirely. As these plants operate on mineral fuels to generate electricity, and at the highest marginal cost, that's a good thing for society, both economically and from a climate point of view.
Use the PV cells on your roof top to run your airco in island mode, directly powering a low voltage DC motor. Also, charge your batteries locally with power from wind turbines and PV cells as much as you want, if you think this is an economically and ecologically viable solution for you. No more government funding, however.
BRIGID redefines the Belgian power plants
Unlike the old nuclear power plants in Doel and Tihange, BRIGID produces steam with a very high enthalpy.
BRIGID allows to generate electricity with a Brayton cycle working on sCO2, instead of the less efficient Rankine cycle.
Therefore, the heat exchangers, the cooling systems, the turbines and the electrical generators in the BRIGID power plants will be very different from todays equipment: more compact, cheaper, easier to maintain, but above all: much more efficient. BRIGID aims at a conversion efficiency of 40% to 48%, depending on the complexity of the installation, instead of the mere 32% we accepted for decades in the past.
On the production scale of BRIGID, this is a huge gain, and well worth the investment of the non-nuclear part of the plant.
Some synfuel conversion plants may produce sufficient heat waste to be recycled in classical Rankine cycles to produce a part of the base load electricity.
BRIGID redefines the Belgian automotive scene
An important consequence of BRIGID is that excess production of heat will be used for synfuel synthesis, and not for electricity.
But realise that synfuel production also comes at a cost: the energy efficiency decreases by the conversion process.
Therefore, synfuel may only be used in applications that cannot operate otherwise: that is not an economical, but rather an ecological decision. Imagine you are a farmer, and you have to rely on an electrical, battery powered tractor, of which the batteries are charged by an artifical intelligence controlled "smart" grid. If the grid decides when to plough, rather than the weather conditions, you may as well quit farming right now.
The market will decide on the various applications for the various synfuels: H2 can be directly used in hydrogen fuel cells to power electrical cars. But it can also be burned cleanly in a combustion engine. NH3 can also be burned cleanly in combustion engines, but it can also converted to H2 inside a car engine to feed hydrogen fuel cells.
CH4 can be fed directly into the Belgian Fluxys piping.
Synthetic dimethylether can be burned CO2-neutral in existing heavy Diesel engines.
BRIGID redefines the aviation sector
Clean and CO2-neutral synfuels should sound like a blessing for the airline companies. No need to develop an electrical battery powered 747.
Airlines will have to be taxed properly, though, as BRIGID does not produce renewable energy, just clean energy.
BRIGID redefines the Belgian chemical industry
As BRIGID eliminates the need for mineral fuel production, Belgium's petrochemical industry must make a transition.
Mineral oil can still be used to produce plastics or other useful products in the classical way, but no more to produce gas for heating or fuel for cars.
Therefore, the world reserves of crude oil can be recalibrated, in order to extend the useful applications, instead of simply burning it.
The same arguments hold for natural gas applications. No longer needed for heating, no longer used for NH3 production, which is the basis of the fertiliser industry.
In return for providing electricity on a stable and affordable basis to the Belgian industry,
BRIGID requires investments to produce synfuels. These production facilities serve 2 distinct purposes: to produce CO2-neutral and clean synfuel, and to stabilise the power grid.
BRIGID recalibrates R&D focus
BRIGID is an omni-problem approach: technically viable, socially honest, financially realistic.
It does focus R&D efforts for the next 10 years in both energy supply, climate change, and air pollution solutions.
Climate change redirects R&D.
BRIGID eliminates the need for scattered and exotic research plans, such as CO2 removal by storing it underground.
Instead, CO2 now becomes a resource to produce synfuels. BRIGID turns CO2 into an asset, that can be recycled over and over again in a carbon neutral fuel cycle. But BRIGID does not remove CO2. It just gives the means to not increase the CO2 level any further.
So we will need to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere as well. We have a very simple, elegant and cheap solution: plant lots of trees. And prevent them from burning every year. Also viable: oceanographic research to increase CO2 capture.
BRIGID also revisits an important part of the legacy nuclear waste problem. Decommisioned nuclear fuel is way too dangerous to store over a projected period of 100,000 years. But it is also way too valuable to destroy. So, complementary to researching storage or destruction of decomissioned fuel,
BRIGID aims at recycling this waste completely.
However, the need of hazardous transportation to a complex recycling factory producing BRIGID compliant fuel, as well as the neutronic complexity due to
the uncertain composition of the fuel, recycling it is not the short term goal of BRIGID.
The same remark holds for existing tails, a.k.a. the waste of the legacy uranium enrichment industry. Their energy potential is huge,
and already mined stocks are gigantic.
These tails have been consistently stored as the original
goal was to close the uranium fuel cycle by converting the tails into fuel in a sodium-cooled fast-spectrum breeder reactor. But this reasearch has been abandonned
in Europe. BRIGID avoids sodium cooling on account of the fire hazzard.
BRIGID feels using the tails in an MSR complicates the design of AnnevoieTM, and is therfore degraded into a secondary and long term goal. In fact, we have all the time of the world: the tails and the SNF are going nowhere any time soon...
BRIGID redefines international relations
Belgium owns no primary energy sources worth mentioning.
In 2018, Belgium imported €56 billion worth of mineral fuels,
and exported €39 billion refined products.
It also imported electricity from our neighbouring countries worth
This money had better been spent on developing our own national production of secondary energy.
It requires a strategic supply of monazite, besides our own legacy spent nuclear fuel.
BRIGID makes Belgium effectively independent from foreign mineral oil and natural gas suppliers.
Since the world supply of thorium is definitely limited, now is actually the time for a world-wide energy budget agreement. This budget will be determined by the number of people worldwide, the allowed applications that consume energy, and the time we need to bridge to develop nuclear fusion plants. Failing to do so may be a direct route into World War III. More thoughts on this are here:
By the way, there is plenty of monazite on the moon surface too, so this may be a good time to internationally agree on moon exploitation rules. In view of the energetic potential of thorium, monazite may be the first mining target in space, that makes actually sense.
BRIGID redefines Belgian politics
Belgian politics have sofar:
- imported a nuclear technology which was developed in the US and later in France, with a military aim and economical targets instead of an ecological concern
- sold the Belgian nuclear electricity production to a foreign commercial company
- failed to offer investment security to develop both nuclear and renewable energy sectors
- failed to establish proper financial insurance for the Belgian nuclear power plant hazards
- built up a nuclear passive which may very well be improperly financed for decommisioning
- stored a nuclear waste volume that is supposed to be an unsolved problem for the next 100,000 years
- failed to invest in future NPP R&D, education, or even to maintain an excellent expertise level in nuclear energy production in the future
- succeeded very well in taxing both producers and consumers in a non-deterministic manner and evaporate the tax revenues in ... yes, in what, really?
- no realistic or executable plan to stop or slow down the climate change in any resonable way
- shown no sense of urgency to solve the air pollution problem in a short time frame, other than changing tax rules and imposing government regulations of which engineers can tell they can never be met - not even with cheating software.
This is not a track record that deserves continuation.
Therefore, in view of the pressing time constraints, basically pointed out by climate specialists, politics will have no say in the BRIGID developments.
While BRIGID is working hard to develop a global solution spanning energy, climate and waste, politicians could pick up the following responsabilities:
- to keep all current nuclear plants operational in order to allow BRIGID to be deployed
- to keep the legacy spent nuclear fuel intact for reprocessing in BRIGID
- to issue the required licenses of proven solutions promptly and untaxed
- to not obstruct R&D
- to plant lots of trees so we can build ecologically sound and fully renewable wooden houses, and enjoy the fresh air in the mean time
- to see to it that BRIGIDs carbon-neutral, cheap "golden energy" is not wasted, because it's still not renewable... It's just very valuable.
In the BRIGID scenario, there is no need to build power plants fired with natural gas.
In the BRIGID scenario, we will need the enitre Belgian surface area to cool down secondary energy production plants.
BRIGIDs horizon is 2050. Politicians are worried about 2024. There is no match.
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Last update: 2021-10-14