In an exclusive interview, Götz Ruprecht explains the novel process behind a new type of nuclear reactor that provides more efficient emission-free electricity and hydrogen
Receiving increasing attention as an alternative to burning fossil fuels, nuclear energy has several advantages, including the delivery of carbon-free electricity, a small land footprint, high power output, and reliability. However, today’s light-water technology converts only a tiny fraction of the energy-rich uranium fuel into electricity, prompting the development of more effective methods of nuclear fission.
Dual Fluid is developing a new reactor with the aim of reducing the cost for electricity, hydrogen and synthetic fuels to a fraction while being inherently safe and emission-free. The reactor is based on the company’s own method of nuclear fission, that it claims is more effective than current processes.
“The innovation is in the combination of liquid fuel and lead cooling,” explains Götz Ruprecht, the CEO of Dual Fluid. “This is a patented development in nuclear technology; we believe it’s not comparable to anything that has ever been designed. The decisive improvement lies in the multiple increases in power density: nuclear fuel can be fully utilised, unlike in today’s reactors. Meanwhile, the very high operating temperatures of 1,000°C enable highly efficient production of electricity and synthetic fuels.”
The firm’s ‘Generation V’ nuclear fission process leverages two fluids in the reactor core; the liquid fuel circulates as slowly as needed for optimal burn-up, while the coolant circulates as quickly as is necessary for optimal heat removal. This results in maximum power density, high operating temperatures and a neutron surplus. According to Dual Fluid, its reactor can burn any fissionable material, including thorium or natural uranium, while a core meltdown or uncontrolled power excursion is ‘impossible.’
For context, the firm’s small DF300 reactor core with a capacity of 300MW is capable of powering 500,000 homes and requires fuel replacements only every 25 years. As such, the core generates electricity at around half the cost of fossil fuel plants and operates about eight to 10 times more efficiently than current light water reactors. As the size of the cores increase, so does the power density and efficiency of the nuclear fission process.
Additionally, due to the reactor’s compact size and small amounts of fuel needed, the total emissions of a Dual Fluid power plant are estimated to fall below current nuclear power and even wind power.
When asked how far along the commercialisation process the company is with its Generation V nuclear process, Ruprecht says, “At the moment, we are looking for a site for a critical experiment that will show how our reactor works in reality. We are talking about a scaled-down, simplified model of our reactor core, which will run with the materials and substances provided in the commercial reactor.
“This will prove the new operating principle by 2025. In parallel, we are working on the licensing of our first DF300 power reactor with an electrical output of 300MW,” he adds.
Two New Models
The company is planning to demonstrate two power plant models: its smaller, modular DF300 reactor; and its larger DF1500 core. In the DF300 model, fuel will delivered to the power plant in a sealed cartridge that is then heated and pumped in liquid form into the reactor core, where it can produce heat for around 25 years. Several cores together could be capable of replacing a large power plant. At the end of the combustion cycle, the spent fuel is returned to the cartridge and transported to Dual Fluid’s recycling plant before a new combustion cycle can begin.
Power plants featuring the larger DF1500 cores will benefit from a higher fuel throughput and the option of being combined directly with a recycling unit to enable permanent fuel processing on-site. The DF1500 is particularly suitable for energy-intensive heat applications such as the production of hydrogen and synthetic fuels.
Hydrogen and synthetic fuels could potentially help to overcome our dependence on fossil fuels, although their production remains considerably energy- and cost-intensive. Dual Fluid’s new reactor design, however, could offer an inexpensive source of temperatures of between 900-1,000°C to allow the application of high-temperature steam electrolysis, a far more efficient alternative to current methods. Through this, hydrogen could potentially be produced at a price that undercuts the present cost of green hydrogen from wind power several times over. The company also claims its reactors could allow the production of emission-free synthetic fuels at a price competitive with petroleum-based fuels.
According to Ruprecht, the combination of low-cost, low-emission energy and the high temperatures offered by a future Dual Fluid power plant could lead to the complete decarbonisation of the energy and mobility sectors within a matter of decades.
“We believe our invention to be truly disruptive because its high efficiency and power density can dramatically reduce energy costs to half of what they are today,” he says. “This could usher in a new wave of global prosperity, giving even developing countries a reliable and low-cost alternative to fossil fuels that really works.”