[Idea] Generational Nuclear Power

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[Idea] Generational Nuclear Power

Post by Kingdud » Sat Dec 29, 2018 3:16 am

My current map has 136 hours or so on it, and a few mods to improve QoL (who thinks placing 500+ electric mining drills is fun? Nobody! So Big Drills mod go go!). Right now I'm at around 12+4GW (nuclear + solar) power and the thought of building another 4 GW of solar, and then another 4...I'd rather stab myself in the gut.

Looking online at existing mods, all of them scale up Solar because, well, Solar is the best for UPS and putting a bigger multiplier on it is easy! I, however, want some semblance of sanity or realism in my mods. For example, I redid the recipe for Nuclear Artillery to make it use materials that were far more realistic (spent nuclear fuel, sulfuric acid, existing nuclear bomb, explosives, etc). And with that in mind, I said "How much power does the sun put on the earth per cubic meter?"

Turns out the answer is around 1 kW/m2. So our solar panels, which are about 9m2, should output (at 100% efficiency) 9kw, not 60. So these mods that make them output 600kw or more are just...hilariously overpowered.

But what about nuclear? Power density depends on technology used, but more modern/advanced designs can hit some truly stupid numbers. For example, 96m3 for 50MW electric. This means that the nuclear reactors in Factorio are, more or less, 1:1 size with modern reactor designs, whereas solar is 60x more dense than real world. So...Nuclear is 1/60th as good as it should be (compared to solar), size for size!

With that in mind, we come to the idea for a mod I have, and there are a few directions I can see it going, all of which would be interesting for their own reasons. But first, some universal trends shared by all directions:
  1. All research into advanced reactor designs will require space science packs in order to progress. These are really high-tech stuff, and should be reserved for ultra-late game megabasing.
  2. The basic idea is to increase the power density of existing nuclear setups.
  3. The mechanics of temperature control and meltdowns are already done by other mods, so if you want that gameplay, go use those mods.
  4. More than one reactor design would be available (PWR, BWR, Molten Salt, Molten Metal). Some Directions would make better use of this than others.
  5. The goals of all directions are to reduce the UPS impact of nuclear. We won't ever match Solar, but if we can do 10 GW of power with 100 updates/tick, that's worth the UPS cost versus the space and annoyance of building a massive solar farm.
  6. The goal is NOT to reduce the amount of power extracted from nuclear in a significant way. Currently a Nuclear Fuel unit lasts 200 seconds in a 40MWe reactor. If we made a 160MWe reactor, I'd expect that same Nuclear Fuel unit to only last 50 seconds. For larger (500MW+ class) reactors, we'll need to make 'fuel assemblies' which contain dozens or hundreds of fuel bundles, since loading and unloading hundreds of individual fuel units becomes impractical (and an UPS hit itself).
  7. One of the first technologies to research/unlock will be 'closed loop systems'. No longer will we need armies of offshore pumps to keep heat exchangers fed. Instead, we will replace the (UPS expensive) water and steam mechanics by making the blueprints for various components require hundreds of thousands of units of water as part of their construction. And, if possible, cooling towers linked via an offshoot of the electrical system (since heat pipes use fluid flow mechanics just like steam?). True, cooling towers IRL use water, but we're cheating here because liquid flows are such a massive UPS impact.
Direction 1 - Factorissimo / EVE: Online Capital Ship model.

With this direction, Nuclear setups become modular by having standard size 'Secondary Containment' buildings for all further reactor designs, but having those designs take a monumental amount of sub-assemblies to complete. Similar to how Capital Ships in EVE: Online are built. (I can't find a good flowchart, but basically, you take raw materials and build intermediate components, then those intermediate components are assembled into the final ship). Similar to how science packs work, but where each item represents hundreds of thousands or millions of units of ore.

In this model, a nuclear reactor would be comprised of 2-4 buildings.
  • For light water reactor designs, you'd have the reactor building (stored in secondary containment) with an outflow directly attached to the Heat Exchanger Hall (imagine a bar with slots for 5/10/20+ offshore pumps), which outflows into the Turbine Hall.
  • Molten Salt Reactors would have Secondary Containment and a turbine hall, but the secondary containment for a Molten Salt reactor would also have a fluid link coming out and would need to be connected to a Reprocessing Plant. This plant would need a constant supply of stone, coal, and uranium 235/238 and would, essentially, replace Nuclear Fuel with a liquid form. Pollution from this building (or rather the reduction of) would be the primary upgrade.
  • Liquid Metal reactors would not need the online reprocessing facility. They would accept normal fuel bundles. In Direction 1, liquid metal reactors would be the top tier design, offering the most power density and least headache/lowest UPS usage.
In all of these designs, upgrading from one style of reactor, and one power grade within that style, would not require physically altering your nuclear site layout; all the connections would be in the same spots (though you wouldn't need offshore pumps anymore after moving past light water reactors -- assuming you'd also upgraded your turbine tech to the point that you were using closed-circuit gas turbines, instead of steam turbines).

Direction 2 - Rip and Replace existing modules with 'better' ones.

As part of writing this section I realized that while cool, it falls on its face for the real goal, which is saving UPS. So this direction is scrapped.

Direction 3 - Mo powa, Mo Space!

It's simple physics, a 1GWe reactor is larger than a 10MWe reactor. So the nuclear buildings themselves become physically larger as the power outputs grow. A 1GWe reactor might be 20x20 grid squares or larger. The turbine hall for that may be equally as massive. The difference between this and what we have now is that lots of small buildings are easier to weave around terrain features. Massive, monolithic buildings present their own challenges, but mostly, it's an excuse to have a realistic material cost for a 1 GWe high pressure turbine, say, 100,000 iron plates, and a (massive) specialized factory to build the turbine in.

What makes it generational?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GE_BWR <--They list the generations of GE BWR reactor there. Each generation offers more power output (and safety) than the previous generation. This is due to many factors.
  1. The first tier you'd unlock would be light water reactors with a power density of around 500 MWe per core, but it would still use an open loop, meaning that a tilable design that also had neighbor bonuses would be nearly impossible because getting that much water into the heat exchangers would be nearly impossible.
  2. The next research would be a massive (20x40, or maybe 20x60/80) 'heat exchanger facility'. This would have inputs for water, but would be a single, massive, heat exchanger. This would be an UPS saving on its own, and that would be the reason to research and use it.
  3. From there the player would have a choice:
    1. Turbine Halls. Generation 1 (1 high pressure turbine, 15% efficiency), Generation 2 (1 HP turbine, 1 intermediate pressure turbine, 22% efficiency), Generation 3 (1 HP turbine, 1 IM Turbine, 1 Low pressure turbine, 31% efficiency), Generation 4 (requires gas-cooled turbines / gas-cooled heat exchangers; 3 turbines in total, but 45% efficient).
    2. Closed-Loop Heat Exchangers (no more need for offshore pumps and water!)
    3. Nuclear Fuel: (Generation 1: Bundling, for use in high-output light water reactors. Generation 2: Liquid fuels, for use in molten salt reactors. Generation 3: High-temperature fuel, for use in molten metal reactors).
    4. Reactor Generation upgrades: Either upgrading to a higher tech tier (Light Water -> Molten Salt -> Liquid Metal) or upgrading their existing cores within that technology to a higher output design (you'd need to research generation 3 light water before you went to molten salt, and you'd need to research generation 2 molten salt (two-fluid design + online reprocessing) before you went to liquid metal.
When I speak about turbine efficiency, we'd basically make it so that the reactor + heat exchanger produced, say, enough steam to make 1 GW, but a 15% efficient turbine would consume that much steam and only produce 150MW of power. A 45% efficient turbine would produce 450MW. Thus, our truly large 1.5 GWe reactors will actually (at the reactor core) probably produce something like 3.3GW.

Closing statements

I feel like I have a great idea and a compelling mod, but I don't have the skill to write it myself. I can modify other people's mods (barely, simple stuff, like tweaking recipies or spelling errors) but I am out of my depth to write something as complex as what I have in mind (or at least I think I am, I'm still going to take a stab at it; probably direction 1). The artwork is the thing I really have 0 skill with. In terms of digital art, I may as well be a kid with crayons. Does anyone have questions or feedback?

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Re: [Idea] Generational Nuclear Power

Post by mrudat » Thu Mar 14, 2019 11:55 am

Edit: with 0.17 it is now possible to have a generator that runs directly off burning fuel, burning oil, steam or heat, and have it produce electricity; this was not possible in 0.16, when the first post was made.

The only thing I see that looks like it would be difficult to do is the closed-loop heat-exchangers as a separate entity. Everything else should be able to be built using existing entity prototypes.

If you had heat-exchanger, turbine and cooling tower as a single block, you could have something that consumed heat and produced electricity as a single entity, which is something that fits withing the generator prototype.

I'd suggest having a look at the advanced electric mod; it provides higher tiers of nuclear power, including better heat exchangers and bigger steam turbines.

You'd need to do some graphics work for the various tiers of buildings to look the part, but it should be a reasonable first step to just fiddle with the statistics of the vanilla entities.


I think that it would be best to create a series of generator entities, heat exchangers and nuclear reactors based on your proposed numbers, and the associated recipes and technologies, so that you have something that runs so you can get feedback on how things work. If things work okay, there is a section of the forum for requesting artwork.

I'd suggest for your first try that you don't fiddle with the size of things, as relocating heat pipe connections is fiddly if you want everything to line up correctly. eg. making the generators an even number of tiles wide either means having the pipe connection offset from the centre line (which doesn't match the graphics), or having the pipe connection on the border between two tiles.

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Re: [Idea] Generational Nuclear Power

Post by mrvn » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:54 pm

How about adding a fusion reactor that require Helium-3, which you get from sending a rocket to the moon to collect some?

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Re: [Idea] Generational Nuclear Power

Post by darkfrei » Thu Mar 14, 2019 7:31 pm

Kingdud wrote:
Sat Dec 29, 2018 3:16 am
Looking online at existing mods, all of them scale up Solar because, well, Solar is the best for UPS and putting a bigger multiplier on it is easy!
It's mod Tiers 32, it's enough energy for all factories.

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