NOTE – Originally Written for some of my Nuclear Engineering friends on Thorium Energy Alliance.
A Little Hump Day Fun. Lighter Weight and Stronger Pressure Vessels/Systems using Composite Wraps for the Nuclear Industry. This one is a little long and many of the facts are Wiki-sourced.
I remember a few years back Americans got all huffy about not being able to forge reactor vessels anymore. We had the skills, but didn’t want the environmental thrills that came along with it (I know dumb rhyme).
But I say, why resurrect the old vessels at all? I know Molten Salt don’t need a main pressure vessel (the steam system will need a pressurized system so my idea still counts). But we haven’t got those approved yet and swaps of old reactor vessels could be worth it.
So what to do? A Reactor Vessel needs to withstand over 150 Bar, as well as handle over 600 F, along with corrosive elements in the water. Instead of using specialized 300 Series Steel Cladding and Liners, why not use some lighter alloys and composite wraps?
Average CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) Tank is rated at 2900 psi (199.95 Bar), while in the USA, CNG Tanks are rated for 3600 psi (248.21 Bar). What are these tanks made of you say? Usually Aluminum or Plastic/Rubber liners with a Carbon Fiber Composite Wrap (Hoop and Helical wrapping).
Modern Reactor Vessels can weigh in the 500 ton range and beyond. Those would be some large factories.
(Dresden-2 reactor SOURCE)
The Stainless Steel cladding that helps prevent corrosion are usually around 1/4 inch. There is also Neutron reflectors made of Graphite, Beryllium, Tungsten Carbide, or other materials around the core to help wrangle in those wild neutrons while also protecting the reactor vessel from “belt” embrittlement.
The first CNG Tanks were in the mid thousand pound range. As the metal was replaced with lighter ones, or even plastic/rubber liners, along with the carbon fiber wraps a tank that used to weigh 1200 pounds could now weigh just over 100 with the same ratings.
So my plan, pick the correct materials for the temperature flux, corrosion, and neutron reflecting materials for the tank liner, then wrap that baby up in some appropriately rated Carbon Fiber/Other Fibers which should reduce the weight of those suckers to the 21st century.
As you can see, geometries are not really limited.
Again, I know the MSR reactors won’t need giant pressurized reactor vessels, but applying the same concepts to the pressurized piping in the steam loops could help cheapen or at least strengthen the system.
Now the fun part! Discuss, Refine, and get the Creative Juices going. Good, Bad, or even ugly let it be known in the comments.
PROMPT – I haven’t done one of these in a while, so write a letter to your local congress person (from a fictional person POV) about a technology that could benefit from Carbon Fiber Wrapping.