Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PMBR)

The press has recently carried a number of stories about the potential resurgence of nuclear power as an option to deal with both generation shortages and global climate/emissions concerns. Most recently, of course, the Vice-President has raised it.
[e.g., Boston Globe, 11 Feb; Business Week, 23 Apr; WSJ, 2 May — I have copies]

One of the more remarkable “new” technologies mentioned is the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PMBR), actually an old idea. In the heyday of reactor development, helium gas cooled designs were pursued by the U.S. (using a fuel block concept) and by the Germans, who used a “pebble” fuel configuration. The US program fell apart in the mid-90’s, though General Atomics kept pushing it as a means to burn up Soviet plutonium stockpiles. The Japanese and Chinese also continue to have programs, each with operating developmental reactors.

While the Germans dropped their program, their pebble idea later took hold with research in China and Indonesia, and finally in South Africa, where the story picks up speed. Eskom, the huge utility there, faced serious pollution problems with bad coal, and they needed smaller power plants that could be located near the coast, closer to population centers. The country also wanted to create high tech industry and jobs.

Eskom set up a new venture called PBMR (Pty) Ltd, and attracted development funds from the their government, British Nuclear Fuel (BNFL), and Exelon.
BNFL 22.5%
Eskom 30%
Exelon 12.5%
Industrial Development Corp of S. Africa (IDC) 25%
(the remaining 10% is reserved for black empowerment investment)

What is PBMR? From the company’s website:

“The PBMR is a helium-cooled, graphite-moderated high temperature reactor (HTR).

The PBMR consists of a vertical steel pressure vessel, 6m (19,7 ft) in diameter and about 20m (65 ft) high. It is lined with a 100cm (39 inch) thick layer of graphite bricks, which serves as a reflector and a passive heat transfer medium. The graphite brick lining is drilled with vertical holes to house the control rods.

The PBMR uses silicon carbide and pyrolitic carbon coated particles of enriched uranium oxide encased in graphite to form a fuel sphere or pebble about the size of a billiard ball. Helium is used as the coolant and energy transfer medium to a closed cycle gas turbine and generator system. When fully loaded, the core would contain 330 000 fuel spheres and 110 000 pure graphite spheres. The latter serve as an additional nuclear moderator.”

A major appeal is the inherent passive safety of the design. From the website:

“How safe is the PBMR? The PBMR is based on a simple design, with passive safety features that require no human intervention and that cannot be bypassed or rendered ineffective in any way. In all existing power reactors, safety objectives are achieved by means of custom-engineered, active safety systems. In contrast, the Pebble Modular Reactor (PBMR) is inherently safe as a result of the design, the materials used, the fuel and the physics involved. This means that, should a worst case scenario occur, no human intervention is required in the short or medium term.”

Another is “modularity”, at a scale of ~100 MW. Also, without the huge burden of auxiliary systems and containment, it should be relatively cheap to build.


The website is very comprehensive, so no need to try to paraphrase it here.


Questions remain, of course. The fuel elements must be well made, and the problem of spent fuel disposal is still hugely unresolved, especially in the US. On the regulatory front, the NRC is being urged to move rapidly to develop a new unique set of licensing criteria that would be appropriate for this inherently safe design, as the old framework simply doesn’t apply. One has to wonder, though, if not-invented-here will hinder progress in the US.

Here’s an Feb 2001 NRC “Fact Sheet” about the many different “next-generation reactors” on their plate:

The DOE Office of Nuclear Energy has it’s Generation IV Initiative, which seems to be taking the view that certification (much less deployment) of some yet-unidentified new small modular reactor technology won’t happen til 2030. A two-year “Roadmap” effort was announced last November. Argonne and Idaho are the lead labs in the program.


Exelon has started the process of education in Washington and around the country. See their congressional testimony available on the Nuclear Energy Institute’s website:

Meanwhile, in March PBMR let a contract for the design of the fuel fabrication plant:

Contact: Ward Sproat, Exelon Nuclear

Argonne Visit notes

This is a quick highlights memo about the UFTO visit to Argonne, July 15, 16. A full report will be forthcoming early this Fall.

For the first time, a sizable contingent of UFTO member companies was present for the whole visit. I hope this can become our standard practice, with even a bigger attendance. Argonne made excellent presentations for us. We all agreed that it was a good *beginning* of what must become an ongoing dialogue.

If you want a headstart on some of Argonne’s work, here are a few things we heard about that really piqued the group’s interest:

Comprehensive GIS with massive data on gas system. See separate NOTE, or go to this webpage:
**User Access is available on request, on a collegial basis.** The limitation is server capacity, so ANL is not in a position to throw it wide open. They are also very open to any companies that want to provide better data on their own gas T&D systems–which can be kept confidential.
Contact Ron Fisher, 630-252-3508,

— Ice Slurry District Cooling
UFTO reported on this back in 93/94. It is now privately funded, and has advanced considerably. Ice slush dramatically increases the capacity of new or retrofitted central cooling distribution systems.
Contact Ken Kasza, 630-252-5224,

— On-Line Plant Transient Diagnostic
Uses thermal-hydraulic first principles, along with generic equipment data, in a two-level knowledge system. Neural net models of the system can rapidly indicate what’s causing a transient, e.g. water loss, heat added, etc., and identify where in the system the problem lies. The system wouldn’t need to be custom built for each plant, except to incorporate the plant’s schematics. It’s been run in blind tests at a nuclear plant. Next step is to hook it up to a full scale simulator, and then go for NRC approval. A fossil application would be much easier.
Contact Tom Wei, 630-252-4688,
or Jaques Reifman 630-252-4685,

— Advanced NOx Control with Gas Co-firing
Closed-loop controller adjusts furnace control variables to get optimal distribution of gas injection to yield greatest NOx reduction. Typical systems use gas at 20% of heat input, but this system gets same or better NOx levels with only 7%. Joint effort with ComEd, GRI, and Energy Systems Assoc.
Contact Jaques Reifman 630-252-4685,
or Tom Wei, 630-252-4688,

Sensor monitor and fault detection system knows if the system is misbehaving or the sensor is wrong. Can see slow drift, signal dropout, and noise, giving early indicators of sensor failure, and providing assurance that the process itself is operating normally, thus reducing unneeded shutdowns. It also can monitor the process itself, for wide ranging quality control applications. MSET stands for Multivariate State Estimation Technique. A model learns expected relationships among dozens or hundreds of sensor inputs, and makes predictions for what each sensor should say, and this is compared with the actual sensor signal. Argonne has patented a unique statistical test for residual error (the difference) which replaces the usual setting of fixed limit levels. There are also important innovations in the neural net modeling, which is completely non-parametric.

Applications range from the NASA shuttle engine, to several power plants, to the stock market.
ANL contacts are Ralph Singer, 630-252-4500,
Kenny Gross 630-252-6689,

A spin off company is doing applications in everything else but electric generation. (Think of the possibilities in T&D!!) They call the product ProSSense. Website is at http//
Contact Alan Wilks, Smart Signal Corp, Mt. Prospect IL 847-758-8418,


Here is the text of ANL’s overview “Topic Capability Sheet”. Many of you got hardcopies of the complete set in the mail. They’re still available from Tom Wolsko ( I’ve also posted them on the UFTO website, until Argonne puts a final verion up on their own website.

Argonne National Laboratory:
A Science and Technology Partner for the Energy Industry

Argonne is a multidisciplinary science and technology organization that
offers innovative and cost-effective solutions to the energy industry.

— Introduction
Argonne National Laboratory understands that energy companies must meet growing customer demand by creating, storing, and distributing energy and using the most efficient, cost-effective, environmentally benign technologies available to provide those services. We also understand that they must use increasingly more complex information for decision-making, comply with a multitude of environmental regulations, and adjust to a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Argonne has more than 50 years of experience in solving energy problems and addressing related issues, for both its customers and its own needs. Combining specialities such as materials science, advanced computing, power engineering, and environmental science, Argonne researchers apply cutting-edge science and advanced technologies to create innovative solutions to complex problems.

— Argonne Solutions
Recent applications of that expertise include
– A Spot Market Network model that simulates and evaluates short-term energy transactions.
– A “fuel reformer” that allows fuel cells to use a wide variety of hydrocarbon fuels to make electricity.
– Advisory systems for plant diagnostics and management based on sensors, neural networks, and expert systems.
– MSET, a real-time sensor validation system that provides early warning of sensor malfunction.
– Decontamination and decommissioning techniques developed for Argonne’s own facilities.
– Advanced materials for system components, batteries, ultracapacitors, flywheels, and hazardous waste encapsulation.

— Contacts
Argonne’s Working Group on Utilities:
– Dick Weeks, 630-252-9710,
– Tom Wolsko, 630-252-3733,

For technical information, contact the person listed under the category of interest.

Nuclear Technology
David Weber, 630/252-8175,
– Operations and Maintenance
– Materials
– Reactor Analysis
– Safety
– Spent-Fuel Disposition

Fossil Technology
David Schmalzer, 630/252-7723,
– Basic and Applied Research
– Technology Research and Development
– Market, Resource, and Policy Assessments

Transmission and Distribution
John Hull, 630/252-8580,
– System Components
– Energy Storage
– Distributed Generation
– Data Gathering and Analysis
– Biological Effects

Energy Systems and Components Research
Richard Valentin, 630/252-4483,
– Component Reliability
– Sensors
– Systems Analysis

Materials Science and Technology
Roger Poeppel, 630/252-5118,
– Materials Characterization
– Modeling and Performance
– Advanced and Environmental Materials
– Materials Properties
– Superconductivity

Fuel Cell Research and Development
Walter Podolski, 630/252-7558,
– Fuel Processing
– System Design, Modeling, and Analysis
– Testing
– Energy-Use Pattern Analysis

Advanced Concepts in Energy Storage
K. Michael Myles, 630/252-4329,
– Secondary Batteries
– Ultracapacitors and High-Power Energy Storage
– Flywheels
– Superconducting Magnets

Information Technology
Craig Swietlik, 630/252-8912,
– Computer Security and Protection
– Independent Verification and Validation
– Information Management
– Advanced Computing Technologies

Environmental Science and Technology
Don Johnson, 630/252-3392,
– Environmental Characterization
– Process Modifications
– Emissions Controls
– Waste Management
– Site Management

Environmental and Economic Analysis
Jerry Gillette, 630/252-7475,
– Electric System Modeling and Analysis
– Risk Assessment and Management
– Environmental Assessment
– Cost and Economic Analysis
– Legal and Regulatory Analysis

Decontamination and Decommissioning
Tom Yule, 630/252-6740,
– Operations
– Technology
– Technical Analysis

End-Use Technologies
William Schertz, 630/252-6230,
– Plasma Processes
– Ultrasonic Processing
– Electrodialysis Separation Processes
– Recycling Technologies
– Aluminum and Magnesium Production

Thermal Energy Utilization Technologies
Kenneth Kasza, 630/252-5224,
– Compact Heat Exchangers
– Ice Slurry District Cooling
– Advanced Thermal Fluids

For information on working with Argonne, contact Paul Eichamer, Industrial Technology Development Center, Argonne National Laboratory, Bldg. 201, 9700 South Cass Avenue, Argonne, Illinois 60439; phone: 800/627-2596; fax: 630/252-5230,

NACE – Int’l Corrosion Society

NACE Annual Conference and Exposition — CORROSION/98
March 22 – 27, 1998 San Diego, CA

See website at

A brochure for this conference came in the mail recently.


In the unlikely event that there could be people in your company who ought to be involved with NACE and aren’t, some background information is included below. (I checked with the NACE membership office, and several UFTO companies do have individuals who are members, though some have only one or two, and some have none.)

NACE is to corrosion what IEEE is to electrical engineering, and is one of those exceptional independent resources in a particular technical area of importance to the industry.

UFTO is developing information on other such resources as well.

(excerpts from the NACE website)

NACE International – The International Corrosion Society
1440 South Creek Drive
Houston, Texas 77084
281-228-6200 fax 281-228-6300

Mission ——–
NACE International is a professional technical society dedicated to reducing the economic impact of corrosion, promoting public safety, and protecting the environment by advancing the knowledge of corrosion engineering and science. With more than fifty years of experience in developing corrosion prevention and control standards, NACE International has become the largest organization in the world committed to the study of corrosion.

Membership ——–
NACE’s membership has grown to more than 15,000 professionals from eighty nations representing virtually every major industry. NACE’s membership is comprised of: engineers, inspectors, and technicians; presidents, business owners, and consultants; managers, supervisors, and sales representatives; scientists, chemists, and researchers; and educators and students.

Organizational Structure ——–
NACE is organized into four Areas in North America and four Regions outside the continent. More than eighty sections within these Areas and Regions sponsor local programs to promote the exchange of corrosion information throughout the world.

Conferences ——–
Each year, NACE sponsors a number of conferences, regional symposia, and expositions. NACE’s annual conference is the world’s largest gathering dedicated to the control and prevention of corrosion. This event attracts more than 5,000 attendees each year and is comprised of technical symposia, research sessions, technical committee meetings, current issue presentations, informative lectures, and a comprehensive four-day exhibition.

Education Courses ——–
NACE offers education programs for both members and nonmembers in the US, Canada, and a variety of international locations. Intensive week-long courses are developed and taught by corrosion professionals with years of practical experience in the field. A variety of other corrosion topics are covered in short courses, TechEdge programs, in-house training programs, and video courses.

Coating Inspector Training and Certification Program ——–
NACE’s Coating Inspector Training and Certification Program was developed to meet the coatings industry need for recognized professional training standards and application guidelines.

Professional Recognition Program ——–
More than 4,500 individuals worldwide have been certified in corrosion science and technology

Public Affairs ——–
NACE raises the awareness of corrosion control and prevention technology among government agencies and legislators, businesses, professional societies, and the general public.

Standards ——–
NACE’s Technical Practices Committee oversees more than 300 technical committees that research, study, and recommend state-of-the-art corrosion technologies to both the public and private sectors. These committees produce consensus industry standards in the form of test methods, recommended practices, and material requirements. Industries and governments across the globe rely on NACE standards for materials preservation and corrosion control information.

Publications ——–
– Materials Performance, a monthly journal that publishes practical corrosion control applications and case histories for solving corrosion-related problems affecting all industries.

– Corrosion Journal, a monthly technical research journal devoted to taking a critical look at the causes and effects of corrosion processes and the protection of materials in corrosive environments.

– Corrosion Abstracts, a bimonthly reference periodical providing more than 500 abstracts of corrosion-related publications per issue from the world’s leading technical journals and book publishers.

Software ——–
NACE packages the latest in corrosion technology in easy-to-use desktop software programs. Data selection and reference software programs assist engineers with researching, analyzing, and developing advanced corrosion control systems.


Energy Technology Committees

Corrosion and materials degradation control in the generation, conversion, and utilization of energy.

— T-2-4 Material Performance in Power T&D Systems
To facilitate identification and resolution of corrosion-related problems with components of power transmission and distribution systems. The components to be considered are: hardware, conductors, insulators, structures, stations, and other aboveground equipment.

— T-2A Nuclear Systems
To provide scientific and engineering information concerning the performance of materials exposed to environments related to any phase of the generation of energy originating from a nuclear source, and of materials used for disposal of spent nuclear fuels and radioactive wastes.

— T-2A-2 Interim Storage of Radioactive Liquid Waste
To examine corrosion of radioactive liquid waste storage and transfer systems. This assignment includes material selection, corrosion monitoring, control, and research activities associated with the interim storage of radioactive liquid wastes and their impact on safety and the environment. Specific areas of interest include: life prediction, corrosion surveillance, corrosion control, degradation mechanisms, and tank structural integrity.

— T-2E Geothermal Systems
To identify methods and materials for the control of degradation proceses in the extraction, conversion, and utilization of geothermal resources.

— T-2F Fossil Fuel Combustion and Conversion
Materials performance in the generation and utilization of energy derived from combustion of fossil fuels and in systems converting fossil fuels into gaseous and liquid products. Areas of coverage are fireside combustion systems, including waste incineration. In the synfuels sector, areas covered are coal conversion (gasification; liquefaction) and extraction of oil from tar sands (bitumens) and shale.

T-2F-1/T-5-1 Materials Problems in Waste Incinerator Fireside and Air Pollution Control Equipment
To provide a forum for exchange of information on the performance of materials in incineration facilities for chemical, municipal, and toxic wastes, and combustion facilities for low-grade and biomass fuels. Scope encompasses associated energy recovery and emission control systems.

DD&D Conference

Subject: UFTO Note – DD&D Conference
Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 12:15:16 -0700
From: Ed Beardsworth

This is a follow up to the May 12 UFTO Note on Nuclear Decommissioning.

The detailed agenda for the Conference at Argonne is now available. The first page is shown below. I have an electronic copy of the whole document that I can forward on request.

| ** UFTO ** Edward Beardsworth ** Consultant
| 951 Lincoln Ave. tel 415-328-5670
| Palo Alto CA 94301-3041 fax 415-328-5675

The Fourth Annual Nuclear Decommissioning Decisionmakers’ Forum
A Monitor Publications & Forums Event
Co-sponsored by: Commonwealth Edison

Argonne National Laboratory
Executive Conference Center
Chicago, Illinois
June 24-27, 1997

Melding Government, Utilities & University DD&D Programs
. . . to Get Real World Solutions

. . . A gathering of Who’s Who in the federal & commercial decommissioning arena where one is able to raise key concerns with key decisionmakers

– James J. O’Connor, CEO and Chairman, Commonwealth Edison
– Dr. Dean Eastman, Director, Argonne National Laboratory
– Cherri Langenfeld, Manager, Chicago Operations Office – DOE
– Dr. Clyde Frank, Dpty Assist Scrtry for Sci. & Technol, DOE – EM
– Rita Bajura, Director, DOE Federal Energy Technology Center

… plus other senior utility executives and top officials from DOE, EPA, NRC; and executives from decommissioning service firms

Special On-Site Visits. . . See Actual DD&D at Argonne’s CP-5 and ComEd’s Dresden-1 Reactors. View the actual opening of the CP-5 reactor containment vessel utilizing new robotics technology


Nuclear Decommissioning

Subject: UFTO Note — Nuclear Decommissioning
Date: Mon, 12 May 1997
From: Ed Beardsworth

| ** UFTO ** Edward Beardsworth ** Consultant
| 951 Lincoln Ave. tel 415-328-5670
| Palo Alto CA 94301-3041 fax 415-328-5675

Nuclear Decommissioning and the Strategic Alliance

Major programs are underway in the Federal sector to begin D&D — decommissioning and decontamination (and dismantlement!) — of nuclear facilities. DOE’s efforts are focused on the many contaminated weapons facilities and lab sites around the country, but much of the technology being developed and applied will be directly relevant to the decommissioning of civilian power reactors.

Only a few civilian reactors have been shut down so far, but eventually this huge issue will have to be addressed (maybe sooner rather than later, with industry restructuring). Some utilities are already paying close attention. The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has industry working groups dealing with the government on policy issues, but there’s been little attention so far to the technologies to be used. (EPRI has a new initiative in this area, just getting started.)

With so much at stake, utilities already dealing with shut-down plants are understandably wary of new technology, so the government’s efforts to “prove” new technology could prove to be quite valuable.


Of immediate potential interest–an upcoming conference, June 24-27 in Chicago, featuring a special on site tour of the CP-5 at Argonne National Lab, where new robotics technology is being used in the large scale demonstration project there.

For more information on the conference, contact Eileen Schmitz, Weapons Complex Monitor Forums Office. 847-234-2353 The registration package and agenda should be available after May 19.


There will also be a major international conference in Miami, December 1-5, 1997, sponsored by DOE, on the theme of cost reduction for D&D, and technology transfer “across the oceans”. To get on the mailing list for further details as they become available, contact Chuck Broom, ICF Consulting, 630-778-0972,



Since this is such a complicated topic, with so many programs and players, here’s a very quick overview, presented as a series of definitions:

–> “D&D” —

Decommissioning and Decontamination (and Dismantlement!) of nuclear facilities

–> “EM” — Environmental Management —

This is the DOE Office responsible for dealing with management and cleanup of sites within the DOE complex. EM-40, the Office of Environmental Restoration; has line management responsibility for clean up. EM-50 is Office of Science and Technology. EM-60 handles deactivation of facilities (done long before D&D can begin). EM sponsors a great deal of work in remediation for both radioactive and other hazards and contamination.

At FETC in Morgantown (METC and PETC have merged into FETC), there’s a group (not connected to Fossil) that manages part of the EM D&D program.
More information is available at:

“The mission of the D&D Focus Area is to develop, demonstrate, and deploy improved technologies and systems; to solve customer-identified needs; to decontaminate and decommission DOE’s radiologically contaminated surplus facilities and their contents; and to facilitate the acceptance, approval, transfer, commercialization, and implementation of these technologies and systems.”

–> “LSDP” — Large Scale Demonstration Projects —

Major projects sponsored by EM to integrate the ongoing D&D of specific government facilities with the deployment of a number of new technologies in real conditions, and evaluate their performance. Four such projects are currently underway.

The mission is “to select innovative, ‘field test ready’ decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) technologies, demonstrate those technologies in a large scale demonstration environment, and compare the results against existing commercial technologies with the intent of showing that significant benefits can be achieved through the utilization of enhanced D&D technologies or verify existing technology practices are the most cost effective.”

–> “CP-5” —

The first LSDP has been underway for some time at Argonne National Lab, at the CP-5 reactor (“Chicago Pile 5”).

–> “Strategic Alliance for Environmental Restoration” —

The consortia of contractors for the CP-5 LSDP, comprised of Duke Engineering and Services, 3M, ICF Inc., Florida International University, and Commonwealth Edison. The contract is a cooperative agreement with DOE, but not a CRADA — all results will public information, and the group is just now gearing up to tell the story more widely in the utility industry.

The “deliverables” of the Strategic Alliance will take the form of additional titles in the “Green Books” series — reports documenting proven technology for environmental remediation. (See separate UFTO Note)

The Alliance has a very detailed web site at:

To find detailed descriptions of the technologies being tested, click on “Demonstration Projects”, and then “Technology Demonstrations”. Use the “guest” log on feature.


For more information:

There are many institutions and people involved (e.g., several offices of DOE, Argonne, and all of the Alliance participants), and many of them can be hard to get a hold of. I can provide more contacts if you want them.

Mr. Rock AKER, Com Ed’s representative in the Alliance, has kindly offered to serve as a point of contact for UFTO members. He can be reached at Tel 630-663-5491 email:

Followup on SC CO2/concrete

Subject: UFTO-followup on sc CO2/concrete
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 09:51:49 -0800
From: Ed Beardsworth

Here’s the Los Alamos Press release, issued today (it was delayed a week). The web site for Materials Technology Ltd. I gave in my earlier note had a typo — the correct address is (I left out the ‘s’)

Suggest you get the Nov 96 Sci American article, also avail. online at

When someone’s ready, I recommend a call to Roger Jones, the principal at Materials Tech… he’s great to talk to. Keep me posted!
| ** UFTO ** Edward Beardsworth ** Consultant
| 951 Lincoln Ave. tel 415-328-5670
| Palo Alto CA 94301-3041 fax 415-328-5675

Los Alamos paves the way for better cement

Laboratory researchers are developing an environmentally friendly process that hardens cement and creates a new class of strong and lightweight building and fabrication materials.

The Laboratory process transforms common portland or lime cemented materials and clays by treatment with carbon dioxide under high pressure, making them chemically stable, nearly impermeable and stronger. The process also makes inexpensive building products out of waste materials, including fly ash from coal-burning power plants, alum sludge from water treatment plants and blast furnace slag. Treated cement also may improve the safe storage of radioactive waste.

The process, patented by Roger Jones Jr. of Materials Technology Limited of Reno, Nev., may lead to new building materials, consumer goods, auto parts and other products. According to Jones, the process creates recyclable materials that will be competitive with certain metals, plastics and wood products.

Under increasing pressure and temperature, carbon dioxide gas first reaches a liquid phase, then enters a region called “supercritical” where it has useful properties of both gas and liquid. Supercritical carbon dioxide expands to fill its container and diffuses into the tiniest pores like a gas. On the other hand, because supercritical carbon dioxide has a high density like a liquid, it can dissolve substances and carry them. In this case, it grabs water molecules and pulls them out of the cement.

Chemically, the process converts the hydroxide of cement to a carbonate, with water as the byproduct. This chemical reaction occurs naturally, too, but may take thousands of years.

“The cement in the Great Wall of China has not yet reached a chemically neutral state,” said Craig Taylor, principal investigator for the Labortory’s Supercritical Fluids Development Center in Organic Chemistry (CST-12). “But the supercritical carbon dioxide treatment achieves the chemically stable condition in minutes or hours. It’s not really cement anymore, but a whole new material. It is really pourable limestone.”

Taylor demonstrates the effect of supercritical carbon dioxide with two chunks of bonded fly ash, a waste product from coal-burning power plants. Set in a pan of water, the untreated sample quickly crumbles and dissolves, obviously useless as a building material. The treated sample, however, remains impervious to the water. Treated fly ash could make a strong, lightweight and economically attractive material for wall board, flooring and other construction products.

Large-scale use of supercritical carbon dioxide is not new to industry. For example, commercial operations have applied the same technology for years to make vegetable oils and to decaffeinate coffee. So Taylor does not foresee difficulties treating large volumes of cement blocks or massive columns and slabs. Even the U.S. Air Force has expressed interest in the technology — for building high-strength concrete slabs for runways.

Using supercritical carbon dioxide through a high pressure nozzle, large surfaces of existing concrete structures might be hardened and sealed against penetration of chemicals, improving wear-resistance and durability. The treated surfaces will resist chipping or scaling because the transition from the thin, very hard exterior to normal strength interior concrete would be gradual.

Large amounts of carbon dioxide produced by coal and oil burning power plants and by gasoline burning cars are blamed in part for a trend toward global warming, called the greenhouse effect. But the cement treatment process, by permanently removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it into building products, actually helps reduce the impact of coal and petrochemical use. (Total curing of 2.2 pounds of cement permanently removes about 25 gallons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.) Research is under way to use both the fly ash and carbon dioxide expelled by coal-burning plants to produce construction materials.

“Like living coral, now we can take carbon dioxide out of the environment and build our houses with it. The process is good for ourselves and good for the environment,” said Taylor.

The Lab’s continuing role in development of the improved cement will be to optimize treatment conditions and help design a treatment facility. And researchers see a major new area of materials science to pursue.

“It’s a new bulk material not well characterized,” said Taylor. “Materials scientists will be busy with this for decades.”

Since supercritical carbon dioxide readily dissolves many polymers, the process can be used to drive polymers into the surfaces of products made from cements, ceramics or other water-based pastes. Polymer-impregnated structures are better able to resist shock and impact forces and could be useful for a range of products from buildings to auto bodies.

The Laboratory, with the only operational plutonium facility in the country, also is interested in the chemistry of cement because radioactive waste often is mixed with cement for long-term storage and disposal. Because regular cement contains water, however, chemical reactions occur inside these cemented wastes, sometimes resulting in a hazardous buildup of hydrogen gas. If the cemented waste could be treated with the supercritical carbon dioxide process, dangerous chemical reactions would be eliminated.

The Lab’s supercritical carbon dioxide research is funded internally through the Nuclear Materials Stabilization Technologies group. Commercial research continues through agreements with Materials Technology Limited and Custom Building Products of Seal Beach, Calif.

TECH NUGGET–Knowledge Preservation

Subject: UFTO TECH NUGGET–Knowledge Preservation
Date: Tue, 06 Aug 1996 14:42:43 -0700
From: Ed Beardsworth <>

(Dear UFTO members: A number of you have urged me to send items electronically instead of by mail (the monthly “Bulletins”). Please let me know if you agree, or if you still want the hardcopy in the mail…)



Utilities have been looking for this one for quite a while. The Knowledge Preservation Project at Sandia National Labs is a method of preserving and retrieving video recorded knowledge of key soon-to-retire personnel. Sandia developed the methodology and software to help protect vital know-how regarding the nuclear weapons stockpile, and are getting interest in industries ranging from medical to legal to chip-making (where the problem is employee burn-out!), to provide access to the information and for use in training.

Sandia has put together the whole package, from how to do the interview preparation and recording to the database management system. They’re in discussions with a probable commercializer, and welcome opportunities to explore new applications.

Contacts: Keith Johnstone, (505) 844-7633
Carmen Ward, Project Leader (505) 845-9824

(The attached file repeats the above text and gives more details–suitable for electronic forwarding. Let me know if you have any trouble downloading it.)

| *** UFTO *** Edward Beardsworth * Consultant |

| 951 Lincoln Ave. tel 415-328-5670 |

| Palo Alto CA 94301-3041 fax 415-328-5675 |


Utilities have been looking for this one for quite a while. TheKnowledge Preservation Project at Sandia National Labs is a method of preserving and retrieving video recorded knowledge of key soon-to-retire personnel. Sandia developed the methodology and software to help protect vital know-how regarding the nuclear weapons stockpile, and are getting interest in industries ranging from medical to legal to chip-making (where the problem is employee burn-out!), to provide access to the information and for use in training

Sandia has put together the whole package, from how to do the interview preparation and recording to the database management system. They’re in discussions with a probable commercializer, and welcome opportunities to explore new applications.


Summary Description (prepared by Sandia)

The Knowledge Preservation Project is designed to record on video tape the knowledge and experience of key nuclear weapon design engineers. The project attempts to capture all aspects of perishable, undocumented, nuclear weapon design, testing, and manufacturing information. Areas of discussion include technologies, components, materials, systems, and management/political interactions (as they impacted the weapons program). During the course of an interview, we attempt to define the state of technology and the technical challenges at a point in time. We probe into how problems were solved, how many solutions were proposed, what they were, and why one was selected over the others. We explore the reasons that various solutions failed and elicit suggestions for the future. We frequently ask individuals to discuss the best ideas they had that no one would listen to. The process is as follows;

Information is obtained during individual interviews and panel discussions. For individual interviews, the interviewee is asked to include 2 colleagues of his choice in the interview. The dialog established among them stimulates recollection and provides a measure of information quality control. The video taping takes place in a studio environment. Individual interviews have lasted from 2 to 18 hours (in 2 hour increments). Panel discussions focus on technologies and systems (e.g., radiation hardened electronics, B-61 safety and electrical system, etc.). A panel may consist of up to 8 individuals and is video taped before an audience. Audience participation is encouraged and also video taped. Panel discussions generally last for about 6 hours.

To date we have completed approximately 60 individual interviews and 11 panels for a total of nearly 400 hours of video. Nearly all the video is classified. The project is ongoing. DOE/HQ has asked us to consider including key Headquarters personnel and production facility personnel in the project.

We have developed the means to manage and instantly access any specific information contained within the 100’s or 1000’s of hours of video. The process is called Relevant Point of Access Video (RePAV). Following is a brief description of the process;

The video tape is digitized and compressed (200:1) according to the MPEG-1 Standard, and stored on a network server. The audio track is transcribed to a text document, and full-text indexed by any information management system — we used ìfree-wareî taken off the Internet. The audio text is linked to the digital video files in 2 minute time code intervals. Access to the video information is provided by the information management system. The user simply queries the system. Any videos that meet the search criteria are identified to the user who can access the video with a mouse click. The VHS quality video is displayed immediately on the users PC and the key search words will be spoken within 2 minutes. (The 2 minute interval is arbitrary at this point and has not been optimized.)

The full potential of this system will emerge when it is integrated into a central knowledge base with hyper-links to reports, memos, engineering drawings, other video, data, computer codes, etc. We have completed the development of the time and image dependent hyper-linking tools.

Contacts: Keith Johnstone, (505) 844-7633
Carmen Ward, Project Leader (505) 845-9824


SUBJECT: INEL NDE method applies to Fossil too!
A quick note to emphasize that the method described in the note I just sent you ALSO APPLIES TO NON-IRRADIATED COMPONENTS and therefore is a candidate for evaluating anything on a fossil plant. Many of you identified a major concern with high-energy steam piping….maybe we really have something here if it checks out.
SUBJECT: Possible breakthru — In-situ NDE of Nuclear components
“In Situ Nondestructive Examination Method for Characterization of Material Damage in Nuclear Power Plant Components”
Idaho National Engineering Laboratory November 1995
Capability and Relevance
The Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL) is developing a unique application of a nondestructive examination method for aging assessment and life extension of nuclear power plant primary pressure boundary components.
A specific application is being developed for direct in situ measurements of fatigue damage in the components without knowing the prior operational history. The initial laboratory results show that this method can estimate fatigue damage ranging from a few percent to about 60 to 80 per cent of the fatigue life. We are now expanding the scope of this application to in situ estimate of radiation embrittlement damage in the pressure vessel steel materials (base metal, weld, heat affected zone) and of radiation damage in the stainless steel and Alloy 600 vessel internals.
What do we need from utilities?
We are seeking cooperative research and development agreements with nuclear power plant utilities for performing measurements to validate the capabilities and limitations of this application. The measurements would
also help to establish the correlations between the measurements and the mechanical properties of the irradiated pressure vessel materials.
Specific measurements to be performed include the following:
1. In situ measurements of fatigue damage in the light water reactor primary pressure boundary components, including primary coolant piping,
surge and spray line, other branch lines in PWR plants, and feedwater piping and nozzles in BWR plants.
2. In situ measurements of radiation embrittlement damage at the outside surface of reactor pressure vessel.
3. Measurements of radiation embrittlement damage in the surveillance capsules. These measurements will be correlated with the available measured data from the utility for reference nil-ductility transition temperature, Charpy upper shelf energy, and fracture toughness.
Contact Persons – Dr. V. N. Shah (Aging and Life Extension,
Lockheed Martin Idaho Technol Materials Characterization)
Idaho Falls, ID 83415-3870
Tel. No. (208)526-8639
Mr. D. W. Akers (NDE Method)
Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies
Idaho Falls, ID 83415-2114
Tel. No. (208)526-6118