Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Nukes In The Tar Sands: Deja Vu

From The Daily Yomiuri:

Toshiba Corp. has been developing a small nuclear reactor for mining oil sands at the request of a firm engaged in such mining projects in Alberta Province, Canada, and aims to begin operating the reactor by 2020, it has been learned.


The output of Toshiba's new small reactor will be 10,000 kilowatts to 50,000 kilowatts, about 1 percent-5 percent that of a regular nuclear reactor, according to the sources.

Steam generated in the reactor will be sent to strata located at a depth of about 300 meters, where oil sands are found, to turn the sand into slurry. The slurry will then be extracted from the strata using a separate pipe.

To ensure the reactor's safety, Toshiba reportedly plans to construct a nuclear reactor building underground, while the building itself will be equipped with an earthquake-absorbing structure.

This is hardly a new idea, and I've covered it a couple of times previously.  For our current purposes, the most important bit is this passage out of a Rand Corporation study from several years back:

But Would Nukes Even Work

Nuclear power could be used to produce electricity, steam, and hydrogen for oil-sand
projects. However, in addition to concerns about radioactive-waste management and proliferation, there may be limitations on the use of nuclear power in the oil-sand industry. Oil-sand projects are generally dispersed, whereas nuclear plants generally provide a large amount of power at a single site. Piping steam over great distances would not be practical, 21 and electricity transmission would require significant infrastructure investments to reach many small, often remote oil-sand sites. H2 production via electrolysis today is expensive, and, again, there is no existing infrastructure for moving large amounts of H2 to remote oil-sand sites (NPC, 2007). At present, there is insufficient information to provide cost estimates if nuclear power were used in oil-sand projects.

So, what this implies, and what the pic from the Yomiuri story implies...
...is that each of these new mini reactors would serve a single project.  You want to power The Tar Sands per se with these things, you need to build a whole whack of them.


crf said...

You'd have to build quite a few, if you wanted to do some large denting into natural gas usage. But it would start at one site just to see what was what. (They are planning on developing the tar sands over centuries.)

It is better for the climate, and for local emissions of pollutants, than the de facto alternative, which is continuing to use copious amounts of natural gas.

But it won't likely happen, since the Alberta PC party is now ideologically opposed to nuclear power. Allison Redford said that nuclear energy is something "Albertans rightly fear", and that Albertans "do not require" nuclear energy. This was said during the PC's leadership debate, and all the other candidates took similar stances.

double nickel said...

@crf, Cons are always against something....until they're for it.

Terrence said...

Aw, come on. This is wussy stuff. Back in the 1950s, there was a proposal to use nuclear bombs to unlock the oil.

Edstock said...

AECL developed minimal-service reactor tech 25 years ago, for the Far North, called SLOWPOKE.


The Tar Sands could have been using this from day 1