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CLRR: Mega Research Reactor Tutorial


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When I first got into researching reactors, I was very confused with all the missing and conflicting information on reactors, so I decided I would analyze the game code and document it as best as I could for others to come. With the info I learned, I built this beast I like to call a CLRR (Coolant-Limited Research Reactor).

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But to get there, let's clarify some key points about reactors first so we're all on the same page:

  • Fuel consumption is constant: No matter how hot or cold your reactor is, the fuel consumption will always be the same while it's running.
  • Coolant absorbs fuel heat: Heat exchange happens between the fuel and its coolant. The greater the difference, the greater the heat transfer.
  • More fuel = more heat: The reactor increases the temperature of the entire stack of fuel, no matter the mass. This means a reactor with 60 kg of fuel is producing 6 times more heat than a reactor with 10 kg.
  • Less coolant = more heat: Nuclear waste is created at the current temperature of the fuel. Having less coolant means the fuel can rise to a higher temperature. More on that later.
  • Meltdown at 3000 °K: (~2727 °C or ~4940 °F) Reactors expel coolant when it reaches >400 °C, which means the fuel barely reaches above that much and so reactors are way safer than one might expect at first.

For more details on the numbers, I advise looking them up on the wiki page. I've made sure to update the page with all the details I could figure out.

So with these key points, let's get onto the 3 main types of research reactors there are:

Type A: Standard Research Reactors

Basic reactor setup. Supports 8-10 steam turbines for ~7.5 kW or so. Simple to build. Somewhat inefficient. I won't cover those here since Francis John has a fairly decent tutorial on them.

Type B: Fuel-Limited Research Reactors (FLRR)

Or "economy class" reactor, FLRRs let you lower reactor output in case you don't have the resources or space available for a standard reactor. You can control the fuel intake with a thermo sensor and let the reactor regulate itself without wasting energy on steam turbine heat runoff or running too cold. This tutorial won't cover those, but let me know if you'd be interested in it.

Side note: One thing I noticed people misunderstand (including in Francis John's tutorial) about FLRRs is when the fuel falls under 10kg it should spike up and then completely stop in order to save fuel. That's because reactors will use up 10 kg/cycle of fuel anyways, so feeding a reactor 10 times 1 kg a day to keep it at a constant 5 kg, for example, is worse than giving it 10 kg at the start of the day and letting it die at night. But a 10 kg fuel reactor is barely enough for 2 max steam turbines so I'm not sure why anyone would bother anyways...

Type C: Coolant-Limited Research Reactors (CLRR)

Now this is where the real fun starts. As mentioned before, nuclear waste is created at the same temperature as its fuel, but with 744 times more heat energy. This means that if you limit coolant intake to inch slowly towards a meltdown, you're also producing MUCH more heat. The higher the heat rises, the quicker the heat exchange with coolant, until we reach this "sweet spot" where temperature stabilizes inside the reactor.

Typically, a normal reactor hovers around 300 °C (around 3,720 kDTU/s), but in a CLRR, heat can safely reach 2000 °C (around 24,800 kDTU/s).

This build produces a stable 28.7 kW and outputs 1000 kg/cycle of nuclear waste at around 99 °C.

Important note: The following build depends on the Rotate Everything mod. It's definitely possible to build without the mod, but it looks much cleaner this way.

The final build:

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Plumbing overlay:

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  • The coolant feed valve is the most important part of this build and what splits the CLRR apart from other reactors. Because of the weird nature of heat exchange, you must set the flow rate to something your game can support. Start with a safe flow rate and gradually lower the rate until the fuel stabilizes around 2000 °C while on fast speed (make sure the reserve of coolant in the reactor is empty if the temperature is staying below 400 °C). Increasing game speed increases coolant demand.
  • Steam turbine coolant loops:
    • Coolants can be any liquid, but I recommend starting with water and replacing it with nuclear waste as the reactor runs. Nuclear waste has amazing TC and SHC, only beaten by super coolant so you'll spend less power running ATs and need less space for them.
    • Nuclear waste as coolant requires about 1 AT per 11 ST, water/p.water requires 1 AT per 6 ST and SC requires 1 AT per 14 ST.
    • The radiant pipes can be any metal and you honestly don't need as many as shown. Experiment to save on resources or just spam it like I did to be safe.
  • The coolant loop in the center is NOT optional. I found tempshifts plates are not enough to pull the heat out of the nuclear waste. Aluminum radiant pipes is a good way to pull the heat from the waste and into the steam chamber.
    • User Abynthe found that steel conveyor bridges placed vertically sitting in the nuclear waste act as a good conductor. I have not tested it myself but the weird properties of bridges might be able to have the same effect as a radiant loop.
  • The heat reclamation in the lower chamber uses aluminum pipes. This is to pull out as much heat from the waste and into the turbines. Using ATs to cool it lower than 99 °C won't be net positive on energy unless you use Tune-ups on turbines along nuclear waste or super coolant.
  • The reason the reactor coolant feed comes from the bottom row is for safety. During construction (or if something goes wrong), we don't want the reactor to stop getting coolant, and the lower turbines are the first to get enough steam.

Aquatuners bypass:

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Power overlay:

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Automation overlay:

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  • The coolant is set to 80 °C to minimize heat exchange between the gas and insulated tiles.
  • The middle basin should always have some amount of nuclear waste to have the super heated waste merge with. If that tile goes over 1000 kg and a new layer starts, dumped waste has a very high chance of melting pipes and creating nuclear fallout and we obviously don't want that.
  • The heat reclamation is fine tuned to work with 2000-2200 °C internal fuel temperature and the pump should always have access to waste under 210 °C a few seconds after it's ejected from the reactor. If something went wrong or if your reactor is working harder, you'll have to increase this threshold.

Elements:

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  • Insulated tiles and pipes in contact with hot steam should be made of ceramic or insulation.
  • The aquatuners are bathed in liquid in order to prevent them from getting leaking nuclear waste and getting corrosive damage. I found that while liquid shutoff stopped the damage, they would still leak a bit, but leaks can be prevented if the lower tiles of the aquatuner have 1000 kg or more of mass. Obviously, if you aren't using nuclear waste as coolant, you don't need the metal tiles and liquid chambers.
  • Everything inside the steam chamber should be made of steel or better, obviously.
  • Lower chamber counter-flow:
    • If the turbines are overheating, it could be a number of factors but usually it's because the heat buffer is too low. Adding more steam or spacing out the turbines from the coldest/hottest points helps with this.
    • I'm not sure if the oil on the SCST is required, but I added it when I was having issues with overheating. Probably depends on the gas used.

Construction tips:

  • You should start the reactor as a regular reactor, while feeling the coolant loops with water and maybe even having a secondary pipe dump in more water into the chamber.
  • Once you have a basin above 800 kg of nuclear waste, you can start limiting coolant and let the temperatures rise. As you add more water to the chamber, the steam should be able to reach further out and into more turbines. Stop adding water once the middle area is pressurized at 100 kg/tile (the upper chamber can reach as low as 20 kg/tile and the lower chamber as high as 160 kg/tile).
  • Note that nuclear waste freezes at 27 °C and can damage your radiant pipes if they aren't warmed up enough. I'd suggest passing water through them first, especially in the lower chamber if part of it is still sitting in a vacuum.
  • You might prefer passing the nuclear waste through the heat reclamation chamber before inserting it into the loop, unlike the piping shown above. It would save up a little bit of power while the system is still powering up.

Other minor details:

  • Liquid vents are slightly to the left to cool the waste as much as possible before it is reclaimed by the pump (and also apparently to avoid a heat-deletion bug..?).
  • I know waste output is 1667 g/s, but the reclamation valve is set to 2000 anyways for when large influx come along. As long as you have something set so it doesn't come into packets of 10 kg.
  • It's possible to have dupes deliver uranium instead of auto-sweepers, but you'd end up with a longer time with lower amounts of uranium, limiting your output.
  • You could easily make it so each aquatuner is its own loop. I just find it easier to fill up if it's in a mega loop like this.
  • I think the main chamber has 1 extra turbine that isn't needed... but without it, temperatures become unstable and might reach over 200 °C in some areas.

I tried doing the math for the exact output, but I just gave up before converting the game code equation into an integral because of how much the results varie with game speed. If you have a way to properly calculate the heat output produced by the nuclear waste, please let me know.

Bonus: Because CLRR have such a massive energy output, they can actually replace volcanoes in petroleum boiler setups :)

Edits:

  • 24/01/2022: Added missing steam quantity in the element picture for the lower chamber counter-flow and added tips if those turbines keep overheating.
  • 30/12/2021: Added mention to how many ATs to use in case water is used as coolant.
  • 26/12/2021: Thermo sensor should've been set to below not above and added bridges conductor tip, thanks to Abynthe. Also added savefile.

CLRR.sav

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to you cheat somehow? there is no way that i was able feed 20 steam turbines directly from reactor, i can use leftover waste use for extra steam turbines but i not see how i can todo that right away from start like you have at there

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this is been run stable for me over 100 cycles.

left over liquid is bottom what i could use for extra steam turbines if i want

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5 minutes ago, gabberworld said:

to you cheat somehow? there is no way that i was able feed 20 steam turbines directly from reactor, i can use leftover waste use for extra steam turbines but i not see how i can todo that right away from start like you have at there

The only voluntary cheat used here is the infinite storage at the end. I think limiting coolant this way was an intended use of the reactor, otherwise why make the meltdown temperature so high if not to be exploited?

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14 hours ago, gabberworld said:

to you cheat somehow? there is no way that i was able feed 20 steam turbines directly from reactor, i can use leftover waste use for extra steam turbines but i not see how i can todo that right away from start like you have

They explained exactly how they did it. They limited the rate of coolant into the reactor, so the steam/waste comes out hotter

 

Excellent work on this! I'm guessing you might get limited responses for the next few days though...

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1 hour ago, thegroundbelow said:

They explained exactly how they did it. They limited the rate of coolant into the reactor, so the steam/waste comes out hotter

 

but he not tell if it works at long run, he does have 20 steam turbines, those generate kind off allot waste cooled water. if it works like it says then indeed good work

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6 hours ago, thegroundbelow said:

Excellent work on this! I'm guessing you might get limited responses for the next few days though...

Thanks! Somehow, the date completely escaped my mind and I didn't realize there might be less people browsing... xD

4 hours ago, gabberworld said:

but he not tell if it works at long run, he does have 20 steam turbines, those generate kind off allot waste cooled water. if it works like it says then indeed good work

Of course I tested this build for 100s of cycles too, otherwise it would make for pretty terrible tutorial if it ends up breaking a few cycles in. :)

The 40 running turbines are all actively cooled by ATs and the temperature throughout the steam chamber stabilizes around 190 °C eventually.

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6 hours ago, gabberworld said:

if it works like it says then indeed good work

It does work. I made a similar design that was quite stable:

 

22 hours ago, Nedigo said:

Steam turbine coolant loops:

I see you're refilling the coolant loop continuously. How do you plan to deal with the build up of nuclear waste in the AT chambers? They periodically emit 10kg drops of nuclear waste, you'll get pressure damage eventually.

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2 hours ago, ghkbrew said:

I see you're refilling the coolant loop continuously. How do you plan to deal with the build up of nuclear waste in the AT chambers? They periodically emit 10kg drops of nuclear waste, you'll get pressure damage eventually.

The coolant feed into the main loop was to help fill up the loop without intruding into the steam chambre once the reactor is started... but on hindsight it might be best to feed it with the cooled output waste instead.

The AT chambers exist to prevent them from leaking in the first place. I took a peak at the code and tested with reservoirs and no leak or corrosion damage happened if all tiles were at 200 kg or above. Similar with ATs, I don't notice any leaks or increased pressure... but I wouldn't be surprised if there's still somehow a way for them to bug out after a game reload.

EDIT: Okay, I just did the test again and looks like 200 kg is completely wrong. Instead, it should be 1000 kg.

Here's the simple test I just ran: Pump waste into each reservoir, each in a room filled with steam with increasing amounts of steam. In this case, it started with 200 kg and increased by 100 kg until 1300 kg. Conclusion is that the 4 reservoirs with > 1000 kg steam don't get corrosion damage.

During this whole test, one AT has been idle with 10 kg of waste inside and it didn't get any damage... so it's probably safe to say only the lower tile of the AT needs to be above 1000 kg.

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43 minutes ago, Artorias36 said:

What about the uranium? Does the game still have a finite amount of them or is somehow renewable now? Else after X cycles, the reactor will run out of fuel eventualy.

I haven't gotten that far yet, but apparently you can find space POIs with uranium ore in them. Otherwise, in my game on radioactive ocean, the beetas haven't harvested a quarter of the ores yet and I have enough for a reactor to last over 1000 cycles.

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14 minutes ago, silentdeth said:

One thing you left out, the initial temperature of the enriched uranium matters. Preheating the fuel can help reduce the temperature fluctuation.

Hmm good point, that's something I wasn't looking at while testing. Although, I'm not sure if it's really worth it. Fuel gets added at most twice a cycle but only increases mass by about 9% so temperature doesn't dip down too much.

That might explain the 200 °C fluctuations I was seeing though, and it would indeed lower the output while in this dip.

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@Nedigo ONI players are greatful ambitious :beguiled:

I still have not built a single reactor yet in the game, but I`m looking forward to it since 1 year ! :ghost: Recently my only colony nearly went extinct again...I lost 60 natural born dupes within 3 seconds ! Once I regain power, the great Dupista Colony will be like:

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If we had multiplayer, then I would come by with the flying dupe van and bring you some fresh Plutonium for your reactors, some cold beers and hot coffees :lol::cheerful:

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1 hour ago, babba said:

@Nedigo ONI players are greatful ambitious :beguiled:

I still have not built a single reactor yet in the game, but I`m looking forward to it since 1 year ! :ghost: Recently my only colony nearly went extinct again...I lost 60 natural born dupes within 3 seconds ! Once I regain power, the great Dupista Colony will be like:

image.png.5f211a74fc0e93f9252d4c4a467157ee.pngimage.png.c919e5fc298078ecbe98b6f5bea31af4.pngimage.png.32bdff5e361a9267dc0ca80c3549108f.png

If we had multiplayer, then I would come by with the flying dupe van and bring you some fresh Plutonium for your reactors, some cold beers and hot coffees :lol::cheerful:

back to the future, one off my fav movies, they to-do right choice about make Christopher Lloyd as professor, he match 100% with his character

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A visual comparaison between a regular reactor and a CLRR in a survival game:

Spoiler

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I can safely say this is probably the only source of power I'll ever need for that single planetoid.

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On 1/7/2022 at 4:42 AM, Gurgel said:

Somewhat related question: Given the diamond, can you actually fully automate getting the fuel replenished?

Short answer: Yes. Harvest rockets can be launched automatically to POIs and collect uranium ore.

Long answer: I had to dig through the game files to get these numbers (planning to update the wiki page now too), but for the sake of knowing how many reactors can be indefinitely kept:

  • Both Radioactive Gas Clouds and Radioactive Asteroid Fields have 18.18% uranium ore and between 5 t and 10 t in mass, so they regenerate 50 kg to 200 kg per cycle (~9.1 kg to ~36.4 kg in uranium ore).

Knowing a reactor uses 10 kg per cycle in enriched uranium:

  • Each radioactive POI can support about 0.18 to 0.73 reactors if using centrifuges;
  • Each radioactive POI can support about 0.82 to 3.28 reactors if using Beeta hives;

Clusters can have multiple of or neither of the types. My game just so happened to have 2 radioactive fields and 1 gas cloud.

EDIT: Oops, it was late and I was looking at Sandy Ore Field instead of Radioactive Field. Both radioactive POIs have the same uranium production.

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I am nub and I build this on my survival rime game classic. I modified it a bit used the nuclear waste as a salt water boiler. This design is probably the most easiest power source in this game. With radbolt engine you can surive without geyser on the map. 

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Hey what about changing the coolant? the reactor actually accepts all types of water, does the shc or tc of different waters change anything? in this case it wouldn't work unless you turn the water from the turbines into polluted water but maybe a reactor being cooled with salt water, brine or polluted water from geysers might give a different result.

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On 1/22/2022 at 1:32 PM, blueberry pi said:

Hey what about changing the coolant? the reactor actually accepts all types of water, does the shc or tc of different waters change anything? in this case it wouldn't work unless you turn the water from the turbines into polluted water but maybe a reactor being cooled with salt water, brine or polluted water from geysers might give a different result.

It did cross my mind, but this setup works great as a general application because it's on a closed loop (water goes in, turns to steam, goes back in as water).

P. Water, S. Water and Brine also all have lower TC or SHC compared to water which means you'll need a higher coolant intake than water. You'll also need to manage the salt and dirt/sand output and since it's impossible to cool down completely, you're also losing energy output through those debris.

It could still be useful in some specialized CLRR builds where you trade energy output for water conversion and salt/dirt/sand creation. The 95 C water output could even be used in a counterflow with the higher rate of coolant intake so you don't lose energy there.

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1 hour ago, Pedro_L said:

I wish we could get other coolants other than water for research reactors, it would make them even more interesting

Molten salt would be nice for that.

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