20 February 2009 – The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor company has put certain of its contracts with contractors on hold as they are considering changing their design strategy.
The fourth generation, high-temperature, gas-cooled pebble bed modular reactor is intended to be built at a demonstration plant at the Koeberg nuclear power plant. This technology uses reactive uranium oxide coated with silicon carbide and pyrolytic carbon and the same reactor concept can be used for process heat purposes. A process heat machine may be developed at a later stage, thus allowing for the production of electricity as well as process heat. The temperatures of up to 950Ëš C will be able to produce the super-heated gases which are necessary for a number of industrial processes.
The design strategy is being changed to incorporate the same machine for executing both functions but no final decisions have been made regarding these design changes. The current PBMR components may have to be altered to integrate the proposed features and the company is in talks with prominent South African and Canadian companies specialising in process heat applications.
PBMR also plans to submit a tender to the US New Generation Nuclear Power programme initiated by the US Department of Energy, as they are seeking designs for reactors which may apply to both electricity generation and process heat production.
The proposed design would be well suited to this project for a number of reasons. The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor could produce up to 500MW and could be co-located with an industrial plant in need of process heat because of its compact size and safety. There would also be no need to burn fossil fuels, thus reducing greenhouse emissions.