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Technical Lecture - The U-Battery, providing local low carbon energy?

On Tuesday 15th October we had the benefit of an excellent talk by John Eldridge.

The subject was the U- Battery. This is a concept for a low carbon energy generating plant based on nuclear Fission. John explained some of the challenges of conventional nuclear builds, much of which revolves around the complexity of building such large plants. Some of the issues mentioned included extensive ground works whose costs are hard to accurately predict and the logistics of co-ordinating a huge range of tasks within relatively confined areas. The result being significant time delays and cost over runs.

U Battery aims to overcome these issues by proposing small scale plants, using conventional technology and crucially modular construction. The aim being to have as much of the U Battery as possible built tested and commissioned in the factory prior to shipping to site (plug and play). John used the recent example of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers to illustrate how this could be done.

The U-Battery could be configured to be either an Electricity Generator (10MW) or a Combined Heat and Power Plant, delivering ~ 4MW of electricity along with process steam. Such a plant could be used as the power plant for a large energy intensive industrial plant. It is envisioned that U-Battery (the company) would operate the plant with the (adjacent) industrial plant as the customer. An example of where interest has been expressed is in Canada where there is a significant issue with supplying energy to industrial operations eg. Mines in remote areas. Currently this has to be done by (ice) trucking large quantities of Diesel.

The U Battery is a small nuclear reactor, small enough to be trucked, (meaning full commissioning prior to arrival on site). The reactor is gas cooled using Helium, with a secondary circuit using Nitrogen. John then explained a series of ways in which all of the traditionally difficult issues associated with Nuclear Power plants (eg. Refuelling, Storage of spent fuel etc.) could be overcome given the advantages of a small scale plant, modular construction and the use of known and conventional technology.

There followed a lively question and answer session from a very engaged audience from a variety of backgrounds. This had to be terminated in order to ensure that John got home at a reasonable hour.

The event was clearly enjoyed by all, Feedback was excellent. Many thanks to John

John Pollard 
I.Mech.E. Regional Chairman – Merseyside and N Wale

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