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June 17, 2011

Smaller and Cheaper particle accelerator prototype could enable 600-megawatts thorium-fueled reactor

EMMA (Electron Model of Many Applications) is the first non- scaling, fixed-field, alternating-gradient (NS-FFAG) particle accelerator prototype of a new generation of nuclear energy solutions that will be significantly smaller and cheaper than its predecessors.

UK Daily Mail - The Electron Model of Many Applications – is an object of scientific beauty, a shiny blue-and-red metallic ring bristling with cables and flat, octagonal quadrupole magnets (magnets arranged in groups of four). Emma is a particle accelerator, the first of an entirely new type. Since the first such machines were built nearly 80 years ago, accelerators – devices that propel beams of electrons, protons or other particles to high speeds – have played a vital role in experimental physics, opening up fresh insights into the origins of the universe and the nature of matter. But most are big and expensive. The best known and biggest of all is the Large Hadron Collider operated by CERN in Switzerland, an underground ring 17 miles in circumference, which cost billions to construct.

Emma is different. She is the world’s first ‘non- scaling, fixed-field, alternating-gradient’ (NS-FFAG) accelerator. In layman’s terms, says Bliss, this means she is a ‘pocket-sized’ machine, the prototype of a new generation that will be significantly smaller and cheaper than its predecessors.



ThorEA published a 72 page report, Towards An Alternative Nuclear Future, which concluded it should be possible to build the first 600MW power plant fueled by thorium with three attached ‘pocket-sized’ NS-FFAG accelerators within 15 years, at a cost of about £2 billion – making it highly competitive in relation to fossil-fuel or conventional nuclear alternatives.

EMMA operates at 20 million electron volts (MeV) and utilizes an alternating magnetic field gradient. Tevatron accelerate particles to 1 tera electron volts and use alternating electric fields, which require special safety measures to guard against microwave exposure.

The same group of scientists that designed and built Emma have already come up with detailed plans for her successor, Pamela, the Particle Accelerator for Medical Applications. Pamela would fire protons at 400 MeV.

Thorium ADSR cost estimate

The LINAC accelerator complex cost is based on predictions performed under the Euratom programme (European Commission, 2001). A 600MeV 20mA accelerator is predicted to cost €210 million, assuming zero cost increase for cryogenics, the superconducting LINAC cost has been linearly scaled), accounting for increasing the beam energy from 600MeV to 1 GeV. This gives cost of construction of €290 million (excluding the cost of financing) for a LINAC accelerator complex. An exchange rate of €1=£1 has been used. Preliminary projections indicate that the cost of ns-FFAGs will be £60 million (excluding the cost of financing). It is considered that it might be advantageous to employ three ns-FFAGs to drive an ADSR. Accelerator O&M costs for LINACS and ns-FFAGs are derived from those reported by the existing high-powered accelerator facilities, the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge and the European Synchrotron Radiation source. The added costs of the accelerators are estimated to be £14/MWh for a LINA and £10/MWh for the ns-FFAG option.

In terms of the fuel costs, uranium mining makes up approximately a quarter of the uranium cycle fuel cost (WNO, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf22.html). It requires enrichment, which accounts for approximately 50 % of the uranium cycle fuel cost (WNO, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf28.html); the remaining fuel cost is dominated by fuel rod fabrication. The efficiency of the thorium once-through fuel cycle is greater than for uranium. Over 8 times more uranium ore is required per MWe of electricity produced compared to thorium. Thorium does not require enrichment. The contemporary uranium fuel cycle costs £3.9/MWh, thorium is expected to cost only £1.1/MWh. The savings associated with a thorium fuel cycle therefore amount to almost £3/MWh.


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