by Will Davis
Illustration from Will Davis library courtesy US AEC.
This week’s (thinly veiled and early) Matinee feature, augmented by my rambling and some illustrations from my library, is a short AEC film made to describe and explain the long-since-shut-down Piqua Nuclear Power Facility, in Piqua, Ohio.
The early atomic era’s quest for economic nuclear power saw organic coolant – that is to say, chains of hydrocarbons – come briefly to the forefront for a variety of reasons.  Some of those are:
•Organic coolants did not require the primary system to be highly pressurized.  This led to orders of magnitude less potential energy release in case of a primary leak or rupture, shrinking and in theory potentially eliminating vapor barrier containment as previously known.
•Because of the noncorrosive and low pressure characteristics inherent in conceptual organically cooled reactor systems, it was possible to manufacture primary coolant systems more to the standard of petrochemical plants than to the then-standard for nuclear plants, saving a great deal of cost.
•Organically cooled nuclear plants were able to achieve superheat to a significant degree, unlike existing light water cooled plants.  Attempts to produce superheat in water cooled plants at Pathfinder and BONUS essentially failed, leaving organic coolant well ahead in the low cost reactor field in terms of steam condition compatibility with existing steam plants.  This was taken advantage of at Piqua where the reactor supplied superheated steam to an existing municipal plant.
Illustration from Will Davis library courtesy Atomics International.
The new “hook on” facility at Piqua was also set up to operate as a load follower, and demonstrated an ability to follow load on the local grid quite well.  The primary plant was set up to provide full primary coolant flow to the superheaters at all times but then could variably bypass the steam generator portion of the system

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