The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

UK govt spurns the success of renewable energy, follows the dodgy chimera of “Small Nuclear reactors”

SMRs-mirageflag-UKnuClearNews No 82 Feb 16  Progress on Small Modular Reactors as renewables head off the cliff , In response to a letter about energy policy in The Times on 26th January 2016, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd listed the top 10 things the government is doing to secure investment in clean secure energy. Besides committing to Hinkley Point C, Rudd also mentioned spending £250m for nuclear innovation and Small Modular Reactors. (1) Oddly enough there was no mention of the rest of the 19GW of new reactors proposed – (up from 16GW now that Bradwell B has been added to the theoretical list)…….

UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd told Parliament in November 2015 that SMRs have “excellent” potential and that the current government “is doing as much as it can” to support the technology. To that end it announced £250m funding over the next five years for nuclear research and development including a competition to identify the “best value small modular reactor design for the UK.” The UK is doubling funding for the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC’s) energy innovation program to £500m over five years, including research into SMRs. (3)
Both NuScale (part of Fluor) and Westinghouse are hoping to build their first-of-a-kind SMRs in the UK by 2025. But the real challenge will be to get enough orders so they can build factories to turn out SMRs on a cost effective production line basis. There isn’t enough of a market within the UK itself to generate these orders. Both firms see the UK as a launch pad to gain market share in Europe and the Middle East.
The UK wants to develop a major export market for SMRs. Everything depends on both NuScale and Westinghouse passing through the gauntlet of the UK’s notoriously complicated and expensive generic design review process to certify the safety of their reactors. Both firms have made optimistic estimates of how long this will take. In order to break ground by 2025 a new land speed record for bureaucratic action will have to be achieved.
NuScale plans to submit its 50-megawatt reactor design for approval by U.S. nuclear authorities towards the end of 2016. That would leave it well-placed to seek the U.K. equivalent, called Generic Design Assessment, in 2017. (4)
Meanwhile, Britain’s renewable energy industry is about to “fall off a cliff” just at the point it was coming into its own according to The Independent reveals. The dour forecast comes as the industry celebrated a record-breaking year in 2015, with billions of pounds poured into solar and wind energy and more homes powered by nature than ever before.
 But experts have warned this is all about to grind to a halt as the Government abandons its commitment to green energy and instead invests in fracking and nuclear power. Figures from Bloomberg forecast that over the next five years the country will lose at least 1 gigawatt of renewable energy generation
– enough to power 660,000 homes. After 2020, the new renewables infrastructure will collapse to almost nothing because of a lack of investment and the blossoming industry could wither, the figures suggest. (5)

February 10, 2016 Posted by | technology, UK | Leave a comment

China’s nuclear fusion experiment – it’s still decades away from practical application

nuclear-fusion-pie-SmChinese Fusion Test Hits A Milestone By Creating 90 Million °F For 102 Seconds  B ON FEBRUARY 9, 2016 

Chinese scientists create record by hitting 90 Million °F For 102 Seconds which is three times hotter than the Sun

Scientists in China were able to heat plasma to three times the temperature of the core of our sun using nuclear fusion – a temperature of 90 million °F – for an impressive 102 seconds, as they continued their search to derive energy from nuclear fusion.

They have surpassed the nuclear fusion experimental device referred to as the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) stellerator developed by a team of German researchers from the Max Planck Institute that managed to heat hydrogen gas to 80 million degrees Celsius, and sustain a cloud of hydrogen plasma for a quarter of a second.

According to a statement on the institute’s website last Wednesday, the experiment was conducted on a magnetic fusion reactor at the Institute of Physical Science in Hefei, capital of Jiangsu province.

The experiments were carried out in a donut-shaped reactor, officially known as the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). The reactor was able to heat a hydrogen gas – a hot ionised gas called plasma – to about 50 million Kelvins (49.999 million degrees Celsius). The interior of our sun is calculated to be around 15 million Kelvins.

The plasma can be contained by careful control of intense magnetic fields in a tight ring by running through the center of the donut’s circular cross section. In other words, the walls of the structure are never directly exposed to the high temperatures of the plasma.

For the long term goal of such fusion reactors, it is very necessary to make sure that those temperatures can be sustained for long period of time, as a huge input of energy is required to get them started. But, if they end up stopping too soon, the reaction is net negative in energy terms. Such high energies cause great instabilities making it difficult to confine them, as controlling such intense heat is tough. Therefore, it is a positive step indeed for running an experiment at such temperatures for 102 seconds.

It’s not the hottest temperature ever created on Earth. So far, the hottest temperature to have been created artificially in the lab remains that reached by the gargantuan Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, which managed to achieve temperatures of 4 trillion degrees Celsius back in 2012. However, those conditions last for the sheer flicker of time, which is inadequate for creating energy.

The ultimate goal of China’s team is to hit 100 million degrees Celsius now, and sustain the resulting hydrogen plasma for over 1,000 seconds, or 17 minutes. In the meantime, now that their ‘proof of concept’ experiment is out of the way, the German team says it could possibly sustain its plasma for as long as 30 minutes.

However, most scientists who are in agreement advocate that the long-yet-intense burn required for fusion needs to be around 180 million °F, which means we are likely decades away from actually connecting nuclear fusion to solve humanity’s energy problems.

February 10, 2016 Posted by | China, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

The decline of the South Carolina Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication (MOX) Nuclear Reprocessing Facility

MOXHalf-Built Nuclear Fuel Plant in South Carolina Faces Test on Its Future, NYT, By JAMES RISEN FEB. 8, 2016 WASHINGTON — Time may finally be running out on the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, a multibillion-dollar, over-budget federal project that has been hard to kill.

The Energy Department has already spent about $4.5 billion on the half-built plant near Aiken, S.C., designed to make commercial reactor fuel out of plutonium from nuclear bombs. New estimates place the ultimate cost of the facility at between $9.4 billion and $21 billion, and the outlay for the overall program, including related costs, could go as high as $30 billion.

Officials warn that the delays in the so-called MOX program are so bad that the plant may not be ready to turn the first warhead into fuel until 2040.

So in the budget that the Obama administration will present on Tuesday, the Energy Department proposes abandoning it. Energy officials want to spend only the money necessary to wind down the MOX program while the government shifts to a different method of disposing of the plutonium……..

The struggle is a case study in the difficulty of cutting unnecessary or wasteful federal programs, with the added twist that proponents of keeping the plant include some of the Republican Party’s most determined opponents of government spending, like Representative Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican whose district includes Aiken……..

Two companies involved with the plant’s construction are among Mr. Wilson’s biggest contributors, according to campaign records. Chicago Bridge and Iron, one of the two companies that own the main contractor for the facility, gave $10,000 to Mr. Wilson’s 2014 re-election campaign, and the other owner, Areva Group, donated $8,000, according to campaign records.

“Programs like this stay in the budget when they become jobs programs, and then senior members of Congress try to protect them, even if they have no redeeming value,” said David Hobson, a former Republican congressman from Ohio who said he tried and failed to kill the MOX program while he was in the House. “Where are all the budget hawks on this?”……..

The Obama administration has wanted to get rid of the program for years. In a budget request three years ago, it said the idea of making reactor fuel “may be unaffordable.” But Congress has repeatedly restored funding.

The plant is being built to comply with an agreement with Russia in 2000, when both countries said they would eliminate 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium from their nuclear arsenals. Construction started during the George W. Bush administration, but has been plagued by long delays, cost overruns and little interest from commercial nuclear plants in buying the fuel that the plant was designed to produce.

Even proponents of the program have long said the Energy Department badly managed it………..

Giving up on the plant means the administration will abandon plans to turn the weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors, and will instead switch to a process that dilutes the plutonium into nuclear waste.

The Energy Department would like to move that nuclear waste to a facility near Carlsbad, N.M., where it would be stored deep underground in salt formations. The administration says it can get rid of the weapons material under the alternative approach for about $300 million to $400 million a year, compared with $800 million to $1 billion a year under MOX……….

February 10, 2016 Posted by | reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Costly, not available for decades, but Germany steps forward in nuclear fusion development

How Germany took big step toward nuclear fusion  German scientists working on the Wendelstein 7-X fusion device started a series of experiments that could eventually prove the superiority of the stellarator-type fusion devices. By Corey Fedde, Christian Science Monitor Staff FEBRUARY 3, 2016 

Nuclear fusion power has been the dream of many since the 1950s and on Wednesday German scientists took one step closer to making it possible.
fusion reactor Germany
German scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Greifswald, joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, injected hydrogen into the Wendelstein 7-X fusion device and heated the gas into plasma for a moment, according to the press release.

The device will not produce energy from the plasma, but the experiment is the first of many that could prove whether the design is capable of being used as a power plant. If so, it could answer one of the many questions surrounding nuclear fusion.

Two different designs for fusion power plants have shown promise: the tokamak, such as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor being constructed in France, and the stellarator. The Wendelstein 7-X is the world’s largest stellarator.

Only the ITER project, a tokamak, is thought to be able to produce plasma that supplies energy, according to the press release. The experiments begun Wednesday could prove that stellarator designs could produce comparable heat- and plasma-confinement.

Scientists working on the Wendelstein 7-X will perform similar experiments, heating gas to plasma and holding it in stasis, over the next four years, slowly increasing the temperature and the time of the discharges, according to the press release.

Eventually, in about four years, the Wendelstein 7-X will test its full heating power (20 megawatts) and discharges lasting 30 minutes………

Nuclear fusion is seen as a safe, efficient form of nuclear power and has been proposed as an eventual replacement for oil and fossil fuels, according to the press release.

But critics have pointed to the mounting cost of a technology that is still under development and likely remain unavailable for decades. Investments for the Greifswald fusion device have surpassed €1 billion over the last 20 years, CBS News reported.

The ITER project recently announced in November that it would take six years longer to construct than previously thought and would require additional funding from the €5 billion estimate in 2006. Science reports current estimates place the ITER project needing €15 billion.

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Germany, technology | 4 Comments

Nuclear waste repositary still needed: reprocessing is no answer to radioactive trash problem

EU paints challenging picture of Europe’s nuclear future, Energy  Post. February 2, 2016 by  “……….Limited prospects for recycling nuclear fuel

France is the only country in Europe that is still working towards a fully closed fuel cycle with fast neutron reactors and advanced reprocessing technology. Other countries use open cycles.

France will be the only country to operate reprocessing facilities after 2018 (when those in the UK are shut down). The partially closed cycle that technology currently permits “is not expected to give a major reduction of the final disposal solution footprint in comparison to an open cycle”.

The future of recycled nuclear fuel is limited by the lack of fast-breeder reactors, more safety requirements, a higher risk of proliferation, lower competitiveness, and the fact that it still requires a final waste depository…….


February 3, 2016 Posted by | EUROPE, reprocessing | Leave a comment

USA govt funds “new nukes’

emperor new clothes

Energy Department Funds Two Advanced Nuclear Programs MIT Technology Review, 21 Jan 16,  In the latest sign of the U.S. government’s determination to help push nuclear power technology beyond conventional reactors, the Department of Energy is providing $80 million in funding to two advanced reactor programs. At $40 million each in matching funds over the next five years, the grants will go to X-energy, a little-known Maryland-based startup that is developing a new version of a pebble-bed reactor, and to Southern Company, the Atlanta-based utility that is working with TerraPower on molten-salt reactors.   ……

February 3, 2016 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear industry crisis: Generation IV reactors to the rescue?

Nuclear renaissance? Failing industry is running flat out to stand still Jim Green, 30 Jan 2016, The Ecologist, “………Rhetoric about ‘super safe’ Generation IV reactors will likely continue unabated. That said, critical reports released by the US and French governments last year may signal a slow shift away from Generation IV reactor rhetoric.

The report by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) – a government authority under the Ministries of Defense, the Environment, Industry, Research, and Health – states: “There is still much R&D to be done to develop the Generation IV nuclear reactors, as well as for the fuel cycle and the associated waste management which depends on the system chosen.”

IRSN is also sceptical about safety claims: “At the present stage of development, IRSN does not notice evidence that leads to conclude that the systems under review are likely to offer a significantly improved level of safety compared with Generation III reactors … “


The US Government Accountability Office released a report in July 2015 on the status of small modular reactors (SMRs) and other ‘advanced’ reactor concepts in the US. The report concluded:

“While light water SMRs and advanced reactors may provide some benefits, their development and deployment face a number of challenges … Depending on how they are resolved, these technical challenges may result in higher-cost reactors than anticipated, making them less competitive with large LWRs [light water reactors] or power plants using other fuels … Both light water SMRs and advanced reactors face additional challenges related to the time, cost, and uncertainty associated with developing, certifying or licensing, and deploying new reactor technology, with advanced reactor designs generally facing greater challenges than light water SMR designs. It is a multi-decade process, with costs up to $1 billion to $2 billion, to design and certify or license the reactor design, and there is an additional construction cost of several billion dollars more per power plant.”

SMRs-mirage Even SMR boosters are struggling to put a positive spin on the situation. Launching a Nuclear Energy Insider report on SMRs, lead author Kerr Jeferies said: “From the outside it will seem that SMR development has hit a brick wall, but to lump the sector’s difficulties together with the death of the so-called nuclear renaissance would be missing the point.”

According to a US think tank, 48 companies in north America, backed by more than US$1.6 billion (€1.5b) in private capital, are developing plans for advanced nuclear reactors. But even if all that capital was invested in a single R&D project, it would not suffice to commercialise a new reactor type.

The UK government also sees a big future for SMRs and has even promised to spend £250 million on “nuclear innovation and Small Modular Reactors”. But it will face two big problems. First, the money won’t go far. And second, nuclear power is already being outcompeted by wind and solar, which are getting cheaper all the time.

Dan Yurman notes in his review of nuclear developments in 2015: “Efforts by start-up type firms to build advanced reactors will continue to generate a lot of media hype, but questions are abundant as to whether this activity will result in prototypes.

“For venture capital firms that have invested in advanced designs, cashing out may mean licensing a design to an established reactor vendor rather than building a first-of-a-kind unit.”

Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter, where this article was originally published. Nuclear Monitor is published 20 times a year. It has been publishing deeply researched, often strongly critical articles on all aspects of the nuclear cycle since 1978. A must-read for all those who work on this issue! disaster…….

February 1, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, technology | 1 Comment

Dangerous and toxic – Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

SMR green paintedSMR – Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Meltdown And Explosion  SL-1  – Idaho, United States, And Lucens Switzerland; MOX Or Thorium Fueled Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Too Dangerous, Toxic.

Some people claim that the future should be filled with small modular nuclear reactors. They see a vision of thousands of small modular nuclear reactors all across the world. A nuclear reactor will be built every ten blocks, in every city and town. Is that really a good idea? For an in depth look at SMR reactors, click on link..

What are the downsides to this fantasmic plan to populate the whole world with toxic, heavy metal radiation emitting small buried nuclear reactors and why are they too dangerous to put in the ground, basically anywhere in the world?



Small modular reactors must be filled with radioactive fuel, just like large reactors. They have things go wrong, and they melt down or blow up, just like large nuclear reactors do. Any machine built by man is subject to breaking or wearing out, and then what happens?

They emit radioactive heavy metal poisonous gases and liquids, just like large ones do.

Radioactive fuel such as thorium and uranium must still be mined, which then causes radioactive tailing piles, just like the large nuclear reactors.

Zero Rads Extraction Project; Uranium Mining, Enrichment, Nuclear Fuel Chain, Open Air Testing

The small modular reactors produce radioactive heavy metal poison garbage that no one has a solution for, and no one wants in their backyard, just like the large ones do.

Zero Rad Waste Project; Long Term Storage Of Nuclear Waste, Decommissioning, Ocean Dumping, Incineration, Decontamination, Water Contamination, Dry Cask Storage   …..

February 1, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology | 1 Comment

Exploding the false claims of the thorium nuclear lobby

Thorium-cultThe mythologies of thorium and uranium, Greenpeace,  by Jan Beránek – 24 March, 2014 Thorium and uranium represent the heaviest naturally occurring elements on Earth. Both were named after ancient gods: Uranus was the principal Greek god of the sky while Thor was the Norse (and broadly Germanic) god of a thunder.

……What are the chances that replacing the Greek god with a Germanic one will help? Would Thor take his powerful hammer and nail it all down? Not likely….

Let’s look more closely at some of the hopeful claims around thorium.

Safer reactors? The risks inherent in nuclear reactors are due to the massive concentrations of radioactive materials and the huge amount of heat they produce (which is actually needed to generate electricity). No matter if the fuel is based on uranium or thorium, if it’s solid or liquid, this characteristic alone will inevitably continue to be the Achilles heel of any nuclear reactor. As you can read in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ briefing on this issue, the truth is that the U.S. Department of Energy concluded in 2009 after a review that “the choice between uranium-based fuel and thorium-based fuel is seen basically as one of preference, with no fundamental difference in addressing the nuclear power issues [of waste management, proliferation risk, safety, security, economics, and sustainability].”

Less nuclear waste? It’s obvious that fission applied to different nuclear fuel results in a different composition of radioactive waste. But it’s still radioactive waste and whether the waste produced by thorium reactors is less problematic (because there’s no plutonium in it) remains a question. Spent thorium fuel still contains long-lived isotopes such as proactinium-231 (with a half-life 32,000 years which is even longer than plutonium Pu-239) which implies the need for long term management in timescales comparable to typical high level waste from uranium reactors. Not surprisingly, a chart published in Nuclear Engineering International magazine in November 2009 shows that the radiotoxicity of spent thorium fuel is actually higher than uranium spent fuel over the long term, ie after first 10,000 years:

graph Torium toxicity

No proliferation? Yes, thorium can’t itself be used to build nuclear weapons but it can’t be used directly as a nuclear fuel either. In fact, it has to be first converted into the fissile uranium isotope, U-233. That’s an isotope that is suitable for nuclear weapons. The US successfully detonated a nuclear bomb containing U-233 in 1955.

Even the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change commissioned a report which concluded in 2012  that the claims by thorium proponents who say that the radioactive chemical element makes it impossible to build a bomb from nuclear waste, leaves less hazardous waste than uranium reactors, and that it runs more efficiently, are “overstated”.

Thorium reactors exist only in blueprints and early experiments, which means there could be other issues not yet detected that would complicate their large scale implementation. In any case, this also means that it would take much longer than a decade before thorium reactors would potentially become available for a larger commercial deployment…….

February 1, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Risky Plutonium-Mixed Fuel used in Japan’s new nuclear reactor restart

plutonium_04Japan Restarts Nuclear Reactor Using Plutonium-Mixed Fuel, By MARI YAMAGUCHI, ASSOCIATED PRESS, 29 Jan 16, Japan on Friday restarted a nuclear reactor that uses riskier plutonium-based MOX fuel, the first of that type to resume operations under stricter safety rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Japan’s large stockpile of plutonium has raised international nuclear security concerns, and the government has come up with the idea of burning it in reactors to reduce the amount.

The No. 3 reactor at Takahama nuclear plant in western Japan, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., went back online Friday. Dozens of people protested outside the plant in Fukui prefecture, where preparations for a restart of another reactor, No. 4, are also underway.

Fukui has more than a dozen reactors, the biggest concentration in one prefecture, causing safety concerns for neighbors including Kyoto and Shiga, whose Lake Biwa is a major source of drinking water for western Japan.

Two reactors that use conventional uranium fuel were restarted last year in southern Japan. Japan started burning MOX, a plutonium-uranium hybrid fuel, in some of its conventional reactors in 2009. Experts say conventional reactors can safely burn MOX for up to one-third of their fuel, but it emits more radiation and could interfere with control rods when they are needed to suppress the nuclear chain reaction.

Japan has enough plutonium, mostly from reprocessed spent fuel, to make 6,000 bombs.

Nearly five years since a massive earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, about 100,000 people still cannot return to nearby areas. Workers at the plant continue to struggle with its decommissioning, which will take decades.

Aiming to help business by generating energy, Japan’s government is pushing to restart as many reactors as possible after they are deemed safe. Forty remaining workable reactors are still offline for safety checks.

Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at

Her work can be found at

    January 30, 2016 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan, technology | Leave a comment

    Local medical cyclotrons, not nuclear reactors, best for producing medical isotopes

    This production method for Tc-99m can be used by retrofitting various brands of conventional cyclotrons already in use in hospitals and health centres across Canada.
     Depending on the machine capability, a large metropolitan area could be supplied by a single dedicated, or a handful of partially dedicated, medical cyclotrons.
    cyclotron - small partcle accelerator, CanadaMedical isotope production in Australia: Should we be using reactor based or cyclotron technology? 15th January 2016  Dr Margaret Beavis MBBS FRACGP MPH Medical Association for Prevention of War, Australia Health Professionals Promoting Peace  “…….Cyclotron isotope production A cyclotron is an electromagnetic device (about the size of a four wheel drive car) used to accelerate charged particles (ions) to sufficiently high speed (energy) so that when it impinges upon a target the atoms in the target are transformed into another element. 10 In other words, it uses electricity and magnets to shoot a narrow beam of energy at elements, e.g. molybdenum-100, a natural material, and this produces technetium-99.
    A cyclotron differs from a linear accelerator in that the particles are accelerated in an expanding spiral rather than in a straight line.
    The Canadian approach In 2009 the Canadian Government Expert Review Panel on Medical Isotope Production recognised that cyclotron technology could readily be adapted to produce isotopes.
    Drawing from expertise in physics, chemistry, and nuclear medicine, the team of Canadian researchers (Triumf Cyclomed99 group11 ) set out to develop a reliable, alternative means of production for a key medical isotope Technetium-99m (Tc-99m). In early 2015 they announced they had developed technology that uses medical cyclotrons already installed and operational in major hospitals across Canada to produce enough Tc-99m on a daily basis. They also successfully addressed issues for several other less commonly used isotopes.12
    This production method for Tc-99m can be used by retrofitting various brands of conventional cyclotrons already in use in hospitals and health centres across Canada. They state proposed upgrades to existing medical cyclotrons and production sites can be done quickly and cost effectively. This allows for rapid deployment of the technology which can be scaled to meet regional demands.
     Depending on the machine capability, a large metropolitan area could be supplied by a single dedicated, or a handful of partially dedicated, medical cyclotrons. By enabling regional hospitals to produce  and distribute isotopes to local clinics, widespread supply disruptions can be avoided.
    The Canadians also believe cyclotrons create new opportunities to export technology to international partners and across multiple business sectors. Other uses exist for nearly all aspects of this technology, with potential applications that have benefits toward other aspects of nuclear medicine, molecular imaging and non-related fields.
    By the completion of the project, the research team will be producing Tc-99m on three different brands of medical cyclotrons at a commercial scale. Production and distribution of this most commonly used isotope from a regional supply hub will de-centralize the process, helping to avoid future isotope shortages.
    Clinical trials began in Canada in early 2015. 13 In Canada there are plans to have 24 cyclotrons operating by 2018. But it is likely to be several years before cyclotron production is able to fully substitute for the reactor based isotope production. The Canadian example is useful given some similarities in population, geographic size and city size.
    Worldwide many hospitals in major urban centres operate cyclotrons. There are currently over 950 small medical cyclotrons manufactured by several companies (ACSI, GE, IBA, Siemens, Sumitomo, Best, etc.) installed around the world. Approximately 550 of these machines operate above 16 MeV and are capable of producing appreciable quantities of Tc- 99m. Existing cyclotrons would need to be upgraded to maximize beam current onto a single target. It is important to note that cyclotron production still needs considerable work to become mainstream……..

    January 22, 2016 Posted by | Canada, health, technology | Leave a comment

    Big anxieties with China and Russia’s plans for floating nuclear reactors

    reactors-floatingChina and Russia plan to cover the oceans with floating nuclear power plants By  JURICADUJMOVIC  Jan 21, 2016

    And the big problem: Human memory is short, even when it comes to disaster

    In an effort to become the largest exporter of nuclear-energy technology, China has started building a reactor housed in a floating vessel, which is scheduled to be finished by 2020. If that sounds alarming, brace yourself: More than 100 additional nuclear reactors are planned for the next decade.

    The idea behind this “micro” 200-megawatt reactor (1 megawatt can power 1,000 homes) was to create a mobile energy source for offshore oil and gas exploration, as well as provide electricity, heating, and facilitate desalination for islands and coastal areas.

    I don’t know about you, but this certainly gets my Geiger counter beeping with unease. While some dismiss the danger, saying floating nuclear reactors aren’t all that dangerous — nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers basically fit that description — the truth remains that it’s still a freaking nuclear reactor. History taught us the price we have to pay every time “highly unlikely” disasters happen, and now that another 100 of these will be built in the coming decade, the likelihood of yet another nuclear disaster will increase.

     A grim foreshadowing of what might happen is the horrific explosion at a chemical-storage facility in Chinese port Tianjin, where a blast eerily similar to a nuclear explosion took place in August. The accident killed 173 and injured 797, both from the shocking blast and the hazardous material that rained down on the area The explosion generated seismic shock waves with an energy equivalent of 21 tons of TNT.

    The Chinese government did its best to cover up the disaster, silencing local and foreign journalists. Now imagine if it were a floating nuclear reactor. Nothing would change, apart from more dire consequences and even more censorship.

    Also looking to join the fun in the radioactive sun is Russia’s Akademik Lomonosov. This floating nuclear power plant will be ready for deployment in October. It’s going to be used to power port cities, industrial infrastructure, and oil and gas drilling rigs and refineries, which, according to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, will prove to be a great asset in Arctic exploration. The ship is 144 meters long with two reactors capable of producing 70 megawatts of electricity.

    Although they have their fair share of nuclear “mishaps,” the Russians are kicking their nuclear efforts up a notch: Akademik Lomonosov is only the first of many floating nuclear power plants that will be built. Vessels will also be available to rent. So far, 15 countries have shown interest in having these power plants for their own use.

    Here’s where things get scary: Imagine that out of hundreds of these floating nuclear power plants, just a dozen or so become targeted by terrorists or a military force. Regardless of the scenario, the resulting tragedy would be felt worldwide.

    Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps we’re ushering in a sort of a nuclear renaissance, an age in which nuclear energy really proves to be a safer and better solution than fossil-fuel sources.

    But I doubt it. Humanity has proven that it understands the dangers of something only when the worst has already happened, and even then just for a brief while. ..

    You can thank the Chernobyl disaster for 20 years of stagnation (1986-2006) during which time fewer nuclear power plants were built. In 2007, however, humanity tried its luck with nuclear energy again. Following a short increase, we saw yet another decline in 2011. Why? You guessed it: That was the year of the Fukushima disaster, and it took the world less than five years to forget the effects of the meltdown. It’s time for another adventure!

    But what of Fukushima? As of 2013, the site in Japan remained highly radioactive, with some 160,000 evacuees still living in temporary housing, and tracts of land that will likely remain unsuitable for farming for centuries. The difficult cleanup job will take 40 years or longer to complete, and will cost tens of billions of dollars. Following the disaster, Japan shut down 54 nuclear power plants.

    We’ve seen what happens when things go awry with just one nuclear power plant. Now, with hundreds in the making, will we live long enough to finally learn from our mistakes? Let’s hope so.

    January 22, 2016 Posted by | China, Russia, technology | Leave a comment

    NuScale revs up its marketing propaganda for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

    nuclear-marketing-crapMini-nuclear plants in UK by 2025, Fluor’s NuScale Says by Alex Morales, Financial Review, 18 Jan 16  

    UK ambitions to build small modular nuclear plants may be realised as soon as 2025, according to Fluor Corp’s NuScale unit, which is seeking to be a pioneer in the market.

    emperor new clothesNuScale plans to submit its 50-megawatt reactor design for approval by US nuclear authorities towards the end of 2016. That would leave it well placed to seek the UK equivalent, called Generic Design Assessment, in 2017, Tom Mundy, executive vice-president for program development at the US company, said in an interview in London.

    “Assuming the GDA is submitted and takes four years, we’d be looking at approval in 2021,” Mr Mundy said. “There’s then a 36- month construction time, so it’s plausible to expect that if all things line up, we could have a UK plant built by 2025.”

    Britain is trying to secure new baseload power as it closes down all its coal-fired plants by 2025. Conventional nuclear power is proving expensive and time-consuming, while most companies don’t think it’s profitable to build new gas-fired stations. The Treasury in November said it will plow £250 million ($515 million) into research and development over the next five years aimed at building one of the world’s first small modular nuclear reactors in the 2020s………..

    The global market for small modular reactors may total as much as £400 billion by 2035, according to a report in late 2014 by the National Nuclear Laboratory, which advises the UK government. It identified reactor designs that may meet UK requirements coming from NuScale, Toshiba.’s Westinghouse unit, China National Nuclear and the mPower venture by Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises. and Bechtel Group.

    NuScale won’t manufacture its own reactors and has investigated the UK supply chain, according to Mr Mundy. Once established in Britain, the company could then export its modules to other European countries, he said………

    When Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the R&D funding for modular reactors, it  was stated that a competition for funding will be held “early next year”. The Department of Energy and Climate Change said no fixed timetable has been set. Mr Mundy said he doesn’t doubt the government’s intentions.

    “Nuclear power has a long legacy in this country, and our reactors are based on tried-and-tested light-water technology,” Mr Mundy said. “I’m optimistic that with what the chancellor said and the indications from DECC we’re going to continue to move forward.”

    January 19, 2016 Posted by | marketing, technology, UK | Leave a comment

    Anything to make nuclear look good – Russia’s asteroid plan

    Scientists plan nuclear strike to save earth  MARC BENNETTS THE TIMES JANUARY 18, 2016

    Russian scientists have come up with plans to protect the planet from asteroids heading towards Earth by launching nuclear missiles.

    Although the use of nuclear weapons in outer space is prohibited under a 1967 treaty, Russian scientists say that the ban would be lifted if the planet was in genuine danger. “If the asteroid threat becomes a matter of massive destruction or even the very existence of life on the planet, that ban would naturally be lifted,” they said.

    The plan would not be to destroy the asteroid but to deflect it off course to a safe distance from Earth.

    The strategy was formulated as part of the 2012-15 European Union-funded NEOShield project. Researchers from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said: “Work was distributed among participants from different countries and organisations, and work on deflecting dangerous space objects with nuclear explosions was conducted by Russia.”

    NEOShield, which received most of its funding from the EU, brought together researchers from Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Russia and the US. A three-year follow-up programme, NEOShield-2, began last March.

    Other proposals developed as part of the project include a “kinetic impactor”, deflecting asteroids by crashing small unmanned spacecraft into them.

    January 19, 2016 Posted by | Russia, technology, weapons and war | Leave a comment

    Obama funding “new nuclear”

    President Obama’s 2016 budget includes more than $900 million for the DOE to support U.S. civilian nuclear energy. The DOE also has $12.5 billion in remaining loan guarantee authority for advanced nuclear projects through Title 17. 

    Emperor's New Clothes 3

    DOE Funds Advanced Pebble-Bed and Molten-Salt Nuclear Reactor Development  The DOE pushes nuclear research, deployments and some regulatory reform.GreenTech Media by Eric Wesoff  January 15, 2016 Last week, small modular reactor startup Terrestrial Energy closed $8 millionin funding for its proprietary Integral Molten Salt Reactor design.

    Earlier this week, a bipartisan bill won approval by the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Science, Space and Technology to drive R&D funding for nuclear power in the U.S. According to The Hill, “The bill directs the Department of Energy to prioritize nuclear energy research that utilizes private sector funding.” The legislation encourages private firms to partner with the national labs to study nuclear reactor technology, and calls for the DOE to “complete a research reactor within the next 10 years.”

    And this morning, the DOE announced the selection of two companies, X-energy and Southern Company, “to further develop advanced nuclear reactor designs.” These awards originate from the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear(GAIN) program.

    DOE’s initial funding will be $6 million for each project, with both firms providing cost-share. The potential “multi-year cost-share value for this research is up to $80 million,” and it is aiming for a demonstration project in about 20 years, according to the DOE.

    The advanced nuclear power projects receiving awards are:  Continue reading

    January 15, 2016 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | Leave a comment


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