Using radioactive decay to power heating networks

An innovative solution involving radioactive decay has been developed by researchers at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen and the Czech Technical University in Prague. The radical new solution proposed by the Czech research team uses the heat produced by the radioactive decay of spent fuel rods to heat water.

The team, led by Professor Radek Skoda, has already patented their new technology under the name Teplator. Skoda claims that the dimensions of Teplator are similar to those of research reactors already commonplace in Europe but that Teplator is simpler in design and technology and only generates heat, not electricity.

Skoda believes that all major Czech cities could be heated solely from the used fuel reserves already available in the Czech Republic today. The spent fuel could also be used by Teplator to heat Halle or Leipzig in Germany and all this at only half the cost of a gas plant.

The simpler version of the Teplator was designed to operate at normal atmospheric pressure and a temperature of 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit), requiring fewer technical solutions and complex materials.

Teplator’s design does not yet have the required permits but despite this the team is looking for a site on which to build its first factory. The team claim that the facility would have a thermal power range of 50 to 200 MW, while the construction investment cost comes in at less than 30 million euros with a heating cost of less than 4 euros per gigajoule.

Skoda’s Teplator solution is particularly suited to countries which have thousands of fuel assemblies (AFs) stored in either intermediate storage drums or in spent fuel pools.

The Teplator demo has the following characteristics:

operates at atmospheric pressure,
three heavy water loop design,
three primary heat exchangers,
three circulation pumps,
55 fuel elements in the heart of the system.

The entire system includes the Teplator core and intermediate circuit with the added option of including an energy storage system. The primary coolant, after leaving the fuel, enters the primary heat exchanger (HE I), where the heat is transferred to the coolant in the internal circuit. This then transfers heat from the primary heat exchanger (HE I) through the internal circuit to the secondary heat exchanger (HE II), where the heat enters the end user heating circuit.

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