Does a reactor’s auxiliary power requirements affect its economics?

To answer the question, I had to look up the definition of “auxiliary power requirements” in in a 1958 trade journal article titled “A Thermodynamic Comparison,” written by an engineer from a consulting firm. A glance at the diagram shows that this is just the percentage of a reactor power plant’s power that goes into running its many pumps. The lower the better, for then more of the reactor’s oomph goes into making electricity. Eight different reactor designs (with their confusing acronyms) competing in 1958 are compared in the table. Design EBWR has an auxiliary power requirement of 5%, the Calder Hall design has 17%. In this technical article Baron defines and compares four such technical parameters. Is he on a winner in terms of helping 1958 power companies choose between the eight designs?

The answer is: no. The four technical numbers, familiar to power companies, may well elucidate some aspects of reactor performance between one design and another, but by 1958 reactors were showing themselves to be very different beasts to coal-fired plants, for example. What matters in the end is the cost of generation of electricity over a reactor’s lifetime, compared to what a coal plant costs, and the two energy sources’ financial dynamics are very different. Baron was trying hard to come up with a magical answer before too many reactors were up and running, and his numbers meant little in the end.


Baron, S. 1958. “Eight reactor types – A thermodynamic comparison.” Nucleonics, 16, Jun., pp. 65-67.