The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Fukushima’s ice wall – a hazardous and dubious operation

ice-wall-FukushimaDoubts over ice wall to keep Fukushima safe from damaged nuclear reactors Frozen barrier, costing £185m, being built around Fukushima Daiichi’s four damaged reactors to contain irradiated water The Guardian, Monday 14 July 2014 “…..f all goes to plan, by next March Fukushima Daiichi’s four damaged reactors will be surrounded by an underground frozen wall that will be a barrier between highly toxic water used to cool melted fuel inside reactor basements and clean groundwater flowing in from surrounding hills.

Up to 400 tonnes of groundwater that flows into the basements each day must be pumped out, stored and treated – and on-site storage is edging closer to capacity. Decommissioning the plant will be impossible until its operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] addresses the water crisis.

Last month workers from Tepco and the construction firm Kajima Corp began inserting 1,550 pipes 33 metres vertically into the ground to form a rectangular cordon around the reactors. Coolant set at -30C will be fed into the pipes, eventually freezing the surrounding earth to create an impermeable barrier.

“We started work a month ago and have installed more than 100 pipes, so it is all going according to plan to meet our deadline,” Tadafumi Asamura, a Kajima manager who is supervising the ice wall construction, said as workers braved rain, humidity and radiation to bore holes in the ground outside reactor No 4, scene of one of three hydrogen explosions at the plant in the early days of the crisis.

But sealing off the four reactors – three of which melted down in the March 2011 disaster – is costly and not without risks. The 32bn-yen (£185m) wall will be built with technology that has never been used on such a large scale.

“I’m not convinced the freeze wall is the best option,” Dale Klein, former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a senior adviser to Tepco, recently told Kyodo News. “What I’m concerned about is unintended consequences. Where does that water go and what are the consequences of that? I think they need more testing and more analysis.”

The 1,500-metre wall will stay in use until 2020, using enough electricity every year to power 13,000 households, according to officials.
Over the next eight months, 360 workers from Tepco and Kajima will work in rotating shifts of up to four hours a day, with each shift beginning in the early evening to combat heat exhaustion. Each worker is wrapped in hazardous materials suits and full-face masks, along with tungsten-lined rubber torso bibs for added protection against radiation.Tepco’s record of mishaps in the three years since Fukushima Daiichi suffered a triple meltdown suggests the wall project will not be trouble free. The firm has had problems freezing irradiated water – using the same method being used to build the underground wall – that has accumulated in underground trenches, raising concerns that the ice technology is flawed…….

July 14, 2014 Posted by | Fukushima 2014, Japan, technology | Leave a comment

Freezing ducts very slowly built for Fukushima’s ice wall 90 built. 1460 more to go

TEPCO: 90 out of 1,550 freezing ducts built so far The Yomiuri Shimbun 10 July 14  Tokyo Electric Power Co. unveiled on Tuesday the construction site of the ice wall at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant for the first time since work began last month.

As a measure to halt the increase of contaminated water, the ice walls are aimed at freezing the ground around the Nos. 1 to 4 reactor buildings of the plant to block groundwater from flowing into reactor buildings and becoming contaminated.

Contaminated water at the nuclear plant currently amounts to about 500,000 tons. The government and TEPCO have been working on the construction in the hope of completing it early next fiscal year.

On Tuesday evening, about 30 workers drilled small holes about 30 meters deep around the No. 4 reactor building. Ducts to freeze underground soil are to be installed in the holes.

A total of 1,550 freezing ducts must be installed to surround the Nos. 1 to 4 reactor building area, measuring about 1.5 kilometers. However, TEPCO said only about 90 freezing ducts have been installed so far.


Due to heat exhaustion concerns during summer, workers at the construction site wear vests containing blue ice.

Meanwhile, the task of freezing tunnels filled with contaminated water using the same method involving the construction of an ice wall has been facing difficulties. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has therefore been calling on TEPCO to fundamentally revise construction plans.

Akira Ono, the chief of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, said: “We’ve already confirmed the effectiveness of ice walls through an on-site experiment. We will push ahead with the construction work forward as fast as we can.”

July 10, 2014 Posted by | Fukushima 2014, Japan, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Economics, Time, and Terrorism make a thorium nuclear industry unlikely to happen

Thorium-dreamWriting in Oil Price, Andrew Topf 18 June 2014 discusses the very real impediments to starting a thorium nuclear reactor industry

“One large hole that can be punched in the argument for thorium involves the economics of thorium reactors. Experts say compared to uranium, the thorium fuel cycle is more costly and would require extensive taxpayer subsidies.

Another issue is time. With a viable thorium reactor at least a decade away if not more, the cost of renewable alternatives like solar and wind may come down to a point where thorium reactors won’t be economical. Critics also point out that the nuclear industry has invested too much in uranium reactors – along with government buy-in and a set of regulations around them – to be supplanted by thorium.

As for the “green nuclear” argument, thorium’s detractors say that isn’t necessarily the case. While thorium reactors produce less waste, they also produce other radioactive by-products that will need safe disposal, including U-232, which has a half-life of 160,000 years.

“It will create a whole new volume of radioactive waste from previously radio-inert thorium, on top of the waste from uranium reactors. Looked at in these terms, it’s a way of multiplying the volume of radioactive waste humanity can create several times over,” said Oliver Tickell, author of Kyoto2, speaking to The Guardian.”

July 7, 2014 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology, Uranium | Leave a comment

Unanswered questions about OSMRs (Offshore Small Modular Reactors)

reactors-floatingAndrew Topf writes in Oil Price 06 July 2014there are some unanswered questions. One is what would happen to the surrounding marine life should an uncontained nuclear meltdown occur at sea. Who can forget the Google Earth map depicting a yellow-green plume of radiation stretching half-way across the Pacific? While the authenticity of the map was later questioned, scientists have discovered trace amounts of radiation on the North American West Coast, a full three years after the event.

Another is the threat of terrorism. The MIT researchers claim that offshore nukes would be harder to attack, but on the other hand, they would also be tough to defend. Todd Woody, writing for The Atlantic, observed that defending these “nuclear islands” from terrorist assault, by ships and submarines, “would require some James Bond-like machinations,” including early detection systems, barriers to vital access points, and the use of automatic weaponry”

July 7, 2014 Posted by | Reference, technology | Leave a comment

New nuclear power, especially Small Modular Reactors, are the most costly of the low carbon energy options

nuclear-costsThe EPA carbon plan: Coal loses, but nuclear doesn’t win  , Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Mark Cooper. 19 June 14 “………New nuclear capacity would be expensive. The day before the EPA carbon plan was proposed, efficiency was the least costly way to meet the need for electricity. Gas and onshore wind were next. The cost of solar was dropping like a rock, and load factors for wind and solar—the so-called intermittent resources—were rising dramatically, due to technological improvements, the rapidly falling cost of energy storage, and information and control technologies that make it possible to manage fluctuating energy sources on a minute-by-minute basis. The EPA plan does nothing to change the fundamental economics of low-carbon resources in the mid- and long term.

As a result of this economic reality, a boatload of independent analysts—including Lazard, Citi, Credit Suisse, McKinsey & Company, Sanford C. Bernstein, The Motley Fool, Morningstar, and Barclays—not only had concluded that efficiency, renewables, and natural gas would account for the vast majority of resources deployed to meet the need for electricity over the next decade, but also that the model of the electric utility that dominated the 20th century has become obsolete.

The adoption of the climate change rule is likely to reinforce the pressure to modernize the electricity system and, to the extent that it requires more low-carbon resources, it will accelerate this process. In the short term, this might have the effect of raising the cost of electricity slightly, because resources with slightly higher costs will be pulled into the market. On the other hand, because many of the alternative energy sources have not been dominant in the past, accelerating their adoption might actually lower electricity costs, because these energy sources are still at the stage of development where innovation, learning by doing, and increases in economies of scale are dramatically cutting the price.

As I have shown in a number of reports over the past five years, most recently a May 2014 report on small modular reactors, nuclear power in not one of the technologies that will benefit from the emergence of an integrated, two-way electricity system that accommodates decentralized energy production. It remains among the most costly of the low-carbon options and will become relatively more costly as the other technologies develop. The target reduction in carbon emissions under the EPA plan is well within the capacity of the lower-cost alternatives……

June 26, 2014 Posted by | business and costs, technology | Leave a comment

America’s MOX nuclear waste recycling boondoggle




they must stop making this radioactive trash

Failed Nuclear Weapons Recycling Program Could Put Us All in Danger io9, Mark Strauss, 7 June 14, Some government screw-ups are so epic that they require decades of effort. Such was the case for the recently cancelled plan to convert surplus weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel. Not only did the U.S. waste $4 billion dollars, it increased the likelihood that terrorists could obtain bomb-making materials.

It sounded like a good idea at the beginning. Let’s turn megatons into megawatts!

In 2000, the United States and Russia signed the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA). Each country pledged to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of plutonium from their nuclear weapons programs. U.S. nuclear weapons contain less than four kilograms of plutonium, so the combined total of 68 metric tons is enough for some 17,000 nuclear weapons. Disposing of this plutonium would make it more difficult to reverse U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons reductions and would prevent terrorists from gaining access to the material.

The United States settled on a plan to convert most of its surplus plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors. A massive reprocessing plant would be built at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which, during the Cold War, had refined nuclear material for deployment in warheads. Now, the site would have a new mission: creating nuclear fuel from a mixture of plutonium and uranium oxide, otherwise known as mixed oxide fuel, or MOX. Although nuclear power plants in the U.S. use fuel made from low-enriched uranium (LEU), other countries had demonstrated that MOX was a viable alternative.


Instead, the final outcome was a mothballed facility and a still-increasing supply of surplus plutonium. Like I said, this isn’t your typical government boondoggle. It was twenty years in the making………. Continue reading

June 7, 2014 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Questioning the economics of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

Christian Science Monitor, Small-scale nuclear plants can be strung together and might save utilities on capital costs. But critics question the efficiency and operating costs of small-scale nuclear plants. By ,  June 1, 2014 The Obama administration wants to seed the United States with pint-size nuclear reactors, and this week it backed a new developer to do it. The US Department of Energy (DOE) said it would provide $217 million in matching funds over five years to NuScale, which builds small, ready-made reactors that can be strung together.SMRs-mirage

But NuScale only gets the federal funds if it can match them with money from private investors, who so far have been leery of the technology. In April, Babcock & Wilcox said it would scale back its DOE-backed plans to build modular reactors for the Tennessee Valley Authority because it failed to secure venture capital. Will NuScale do any better?

NuScale says its advantage is that 12 of its modular reactors can be combined to form a 540 megawatt unit. When one of the modules goes down, it could easily be maintained while the rest of the reactors continue to operate, so that whole facilities are not knocked off the grid. Each individual module could be refueled in relatively short order.

The cost of a 540 megawatt unit would be between $2.2 billion and $2.5 billion. That’s marginally less expensive per unit of output than a traditional nuclear plant. And at that price, utilities would not be taking the kind of financial risks they might otherwise have to if they built a $15 billion to $20 billion central nuclear facility.

As a first step, Oregon-based NuScale is opening a manufacturing plant in Charlotte, N.C., where it will hire 70 employees.

“This expansion … is critical to completing NuScale’s design and submitting our design certification application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” writes Mike McGough, chief commercial officer of NuScale, in an e-mail. The company hopes to submit its design certification in the latter half of 2016. And it plans to begin signing commercial contracts by 2023.

That’s a long and arduous process – just as it is for a larger nuclear plant. Typically, investors don’t want to tie up their money for that long. The Department of Energy’s involvement is aimed at trying to create some legal and financial certainties so they can invest with more confidence. While NuScale says that its units are more affordable than larger centrally located nuclear facilities and that they can replace retiring coal plants, its critics say that the technology lacks efficiencies and cannot compete against combined-cycled natural gas facilities.

“I wish them luck but the economics don’t make sense,” says Mike Keller, president of Kansas-based Hybrid Power Technologies, in an interview regarding both NuScale and Babcock & Wilcox. He adds that the smaller units are inefficient, which means that they produce more nuclear waste than their larger nuclear cousins while they would generate power at three times the current cost of a combined cycle natural gas plant.

“Having a big chunk of money [from the government] does not equal commercial success,” adds Mr. Keller. “The US government should do more due diligence.”………

June 2, 2014 Posted by | Reference, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Countering the misinformation promoting Thorium Nuclear Reactors

Thorium Nuclear Information Resources    There is a rash of misinformation on the net about the supposed merits of the ‘new’ nuclear energy source on the block, thorium. I am sure that in a perfect world where nobody lies, thorium would be the perfect answer to the world’s energy needs as is claimed. This is unfortunately not the case.

Apparently, every time there is a new nuclear catastrophe, the thorium ‘miracle’ is promoted again as the ‘savior’ for the world. The Fukushima nuclear radiation catastrophe was not unique and the thorium misinformation artists have come out in droves. It’s the nuclear industry’s defense mechanism – create a new ‘safety myth’ that regular people can latch onto.

In reality, the thorium nuclear fuel cycle has been under development since the very early days of the nuclear industry. India, for example, has spent decades trying to commercialize it, and has failed. The US, Russia, Germany, and many others tried and failed as well. At best, thorium based nuclear power generation may be commercialized in a few decades.

I doubt it.

Fortunately, there are a number of independent trustworthy and expert sources of information on the internet regarding thorium nuclear. Here they are: Continue reading

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Reference, technology, Uranium | 1 Comment

USA’s Westinghouse taking over nuclear fuel supplies to Ukraine, despite problems in those fuel assemblies

flag-UkraineChernobyl memories faded? Kiev turns blind eye to disaster risk in nuclear deal with US May 19, 2014 In order to alleviate energy dependence on Moscow, the coup-imposed government in Kiev has resurrected a contract Buy-US-nukeswith a US company to supply fuel to Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. Using US fuel rods was banned in 2012 due to dangerous incompatibility.

The rivalry for nuclear fuel supply to Ukraine between Russia’s nuclear fuel cycle company TVEL and America’s Westinghouse took a twist when in April 2014, shortly after the armed coup, Kiev signed a new deal with America’s leading nuclear fuel producer, Westinghouse Electric Company, instead of the Russian TVEL company that has been supplying fuel rods to Ukraine for years.

Russian-BearUkraine’s 4 nuclear power plants constitute a huge part of the country’s energy system. The country’s 15 nuclear reactors produce at least 50 percent (over 13 megawatt) of all electric power generation in Ukraine. All nuclear fuel for Ukrainian reactors (worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year) has been produced in Russia, which also recycles Ukraine’s nuclear waste.

Moreover, Russia’s Rosatom state-owned nuclear monopoly is currently constructing a nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Ukraine, where nuclear fuel rods will be assembled using uranium enriched in Russia.

All in all, Ukraine has relied on Russia in all atomic matters – but the West has muscled in on the relationship.

The Westinghouse Electric Company has been trying to ‘ease’ the former Soviet-bloc countries energy reliance on Russia and enter the market in Eastern Europe for over a decade. For that purpose the company was also using political leverage. Back in 2012, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attempted to convince Czech leaders to pick up America’s Westinghouse as a primary nuclear fuel supply partner instead of Russia, which would create thousands of new jobs in the US.

Actually, Westinghouse has already supplied nuclear fuel to Ukraine’s Energoatom nuclear power generator company. In 2005, six experimental Westinghouse fuel assemblies, adopted for use in USSR-developed reactors, were tried at the South Ukraine plant in one reactor together with Russian fuel rods.

Though nuclear engineers were skeptical of the pilot probe, the government of former president Viktor Yushchenko signed a deal in 2008 with Westinghouse on fuel rod supply, despite the fact that American nuclear fuel is significantly more expensive and technologically different: Russian nuclear fuel rods are hexagonal in section, while Americans produce fuel assemblies of square section

This time a batch of 42 fuel assemblies was loaded into three reactors at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant for a standard three-year period of commercial operation.

When in 2012 the time came to replace the fuel assemblies, Ukrainian nuclear engineers found that Westinghouse assemblies deformed during exploitation and got stuck in the core.

Energoatom accused Westinghouse of producing poorly engineered assemblies, whereas Westinghouse countered, accusing the Ukrainian engineers of installing the rods badly.

After the incident the use of American nuclear fuel was banned in Ukraine fuel rods were returned to the producer ‘to get fixed’ and Russian experts were summoned to help with the repair of the equipment produced in the USSR. The Energoatom Company lost an estimated $175 million.

Similar problems with Westinghouse fuel assemblies occurred at a number of other USSR-constructed nuclear power plants: NPP Krško in Slovenia, NPP Loviisa in Finland and NPP Temelin in the Czech Republic. All these countries opted to return to time-proved fuel assemblies produced by Russia’s TVEL Company.

Now Ukraine appears to be ready to fall into the same trap twice. The coup-imposed Kiev regime has renewed the 2008 nuclear fuel deal till 2020, to replace 25 percent of the Russian-made fuel rods with an option to “provide more if needed,” reported the Associated Press in April – all this for the sole purpose of ‘diversifying’ supply.

Kiev’s interim authorities may be not familiar with nuclear energy technologies, but they surely have a clue about theconsequences of a Chernobyl-like tragedy.

What happened back in 2012 at Zaporozhskaya NPP could have potentially ended with another Chernobyl, because having unextractable fuel assemblies loaded means a potential loss of control over the fission processes inside the reactor.

But the new Kiev authorities, supported by Washington, are making every effort to cut Ukraine’s economic ties with Russia, so crossing over from Russian nuclear fuel to American sounds attractive to Arseny Yatsenyuk’s government despite the 2012 incident.

Furthermore, Westinghouse won’t recycle its fuel rods when they ‘burn out’, so Ukraine will be spending even more budget money to prepare special storage facilities for nuclear waste. Also, the company may have its sights set on a much-hotter prize.

“This move by Westinghouse is really to secure not just a fuel contract, which will go on for many years, but to put its foot in the door to build a fuel fabrication plant in eastern Ukraine. And that’s what’s most important and that’s what they’re after,” John Large, an independent nuclear analyst from London, told RT.

Experts generally agree that nuclear power plants are constructions that should not undergo drastic transitions. A nuclear reactor demands a coherent structure of operations. The active reactor core is the most dangerous when it comes to the impact it may have on people and the environment. All reactors differ in smallest details, and toying around with them leads to no good,” Evgeny Akimov of the International Union of Nuclear Energy Veterans told RT.

And if something goes wrong, Kiev may find that they are lonely in facing the consequences.

“As far as I know, Westinghouse signs contracts in which the company bears no responsibility, so the burden will lie with Ukraine,” said Rafael Arutyunyan, a nuclear security expert and professor at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

With Chernobyl and Fukushima being the prime examples, nuclear power is a force to be handled with great care. Yet, Kiev’s actions seem to be dictated by politics rather than risks, even when the consequences may affect not just Ukraine, but the entire European continent.

When the Chernobyl tragedy occurred back in 1986, it was a pure coincidence that Ukraine’s wind direction, usually directed into Europe, changed, sending radioactive fallout in the direction of Russia and Belarus.

In this over-politicized case, European capitals would do well to learn how the wind blows beforehand.


May 20, 2014 Posted by | technology, Ukraine | 1 Comment

Today’s Small Modular Nuclear Reactor (SMR) plans are retreads of old failed technologies

NOT THE SOLUTION  Mark Cooper, Ph.D.  Senior Fellow for Economic Analysis  Institute for Energy and the Environment  Vermont Law School  May 2014 


Shifts in General Approach
Preapproval and limited review
Static approach v. evolving standards
Wide Dispersal
Proliferation concerns
Close proximity to population centers
 requires increased margins
Reduction of Safety Margins
Shrinking containment
Limitations of staff for safety and security
Consolidation of control reduces redundancy
Evacuation zones
Unique Challenges for Safety Oversight
 Manufacturing facilities problems and costs
 Foreign sources
 Access to below ground facilities
Integrated systems
Waste Management and Retrieval
Potentially higher levels of radiation
Flooding for below ground facilities
Common design creates potential “epidemic” failure
This section has examined the problems that affected the two major efforts to deploy
commercial scale nuclear reactors and has evaluated the prospect for the next technology that the industry wants to deploy at commercial scale. There are other technologies that the industry has touted that never reached commercial deployment. Some of these never got off the drawing board; others failed at the prototype phase. In fact, many of the concepts that have been incorporated into the design of SMRs are retreads of ideas that have been put forward over more than half a century, but failed to advance due to safety and economics problems. The failure of these technologies should also be recognized as part of the background for assessing the future prospects of nuclear
power and how much weight to put on it in the response to climate change, particularly where thesetechnologies exhibit characteristics or challenges that are similar to those of SMR technologies …,%20Not%20the%20Solution%20FINAL2.pd

May 19, 2014 Posted by | technology | 2 Comments

Fukushima’s ice wall – massive cost, massive drain on electricity

Record high radiation in seawater off Fukushima plant, Japan Times, 17 May 14 “………..Tepco is struggling to reduce contamination at the poorly protected plant, which was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Measures include plans to build a gigantic underground ice wall around the plant to keep the daily flow of groundwater from entering the cracked reactor buildings and mingling with the highly radioactive cooling water in their basements.

ice-wall-FukushimaThe ice wall project is expected to cost ¥31.9 billion and will put a massive burden on the power grid when completed: It will need about 45.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to operate, equal to annual power consumption of 13,000 average households.

The project involves freezing the soil into barricades 30 meters deep and 2 meters thick for a distance of 1,500 meters around the buildings housing reactors 1 through 4.

The soil will be frozen by sinking pipes into the ground and running liquids through them at a temperature of minus 30 degrees.

On Friday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and contractor Kajima Corp. demonstrated a miniature ice wall to reporters at the site.

“We can confirm the frozen soil’s effect in blocking water,” a ministry official said afterwards.

The department aims to begin construction next month. But the Nuclear Regulation Authority has not approved the plan, saying its backers have so far provided insufficient reassurances about public safety. International nuclear experts have also expressed concern about the effectiveness of the plan.

May 19, 2014 Posted by | Fukushima 2014, Japan, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Unfounded and irresponsible claims in favour of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

Small-modular-reactor-dudWHY SMALL MODULAR REACTORS ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM,  NOT THE SOLUTION  Mark Cooper, Ph.D.  Senior Fellow for Economic Analysis  Institute for Energy and the Environment  Vermont Law School  May 2014 

“………..Unachievable assumptions about cost: Even industry executives and regulators believe the SMR technology will have costs that are substantially higher than the failed “nuclear renaissance” technology on a per unit of output. The higher costs result from

• lost economies of scale in containment structures, dedicated systems for control,

management and emergency response, and the cost of licensing and security,

• operating costs between one-fifth and one-quarter higher, and

• decommissioning costs between two and three times as high.

Irresponsible assumptions about a rush to market: To reduce the cost disadvantage and meet the urgent need for climate policy, advocates of SMR technology propose to deploy large numbers of reactors (50 or more), close to population centers, over a short period of time. This compressed RD&D schedule embodies a rush to market that does not make proper provision for early analysis, testing, and demonstration to provide an opportunity for experience-based design modifications. This is exactly the problem that arose in the 1970s, when utilities ordered 250 reactors and ended up cancelling more than half of them when the technology proved to be expensive and flawed.

Unrealistic assumptions about the scale of the sector: While each individual reactor would be smaller, the idea of creating an assembly line for SMR technology would require a massive financial commitment. If two designs and assembly lines are funded to ensure competition, by 2020 an optimistic cost scenario suggests a cost of more than $72 billion; a more realistic level would be over $90 billion. This massive commitment reinforces the traditional concern that nuclear power will crowd out the alternatives. Compared to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimatesof U.S. spending on generation over the same period, these huge sums are equal to

• three-quarters of the total projected investment in electricity generation and

• substantially more than the total projected investment in renewables.

Radical changes in licensing and safety regulation: SMR technologies raise unique safety challenges including inspection of manufacturing and foreign plants, access to below ground facilities, integrated systems, waste management, retrieval of materials with potentially higher levels of radiation, flooding for below-ground facilities, and common designs that create potential “epidemic” failure. Yet ,SMR advocates want pre-approval and limited review of widely dispersed reactors located in close proximity to population centers and reductions in safety margins, including shrinking containment structures, limitations of staff for safety and security, consolidation of control to reduce redundancy, and much smaller evacuation zones. In the wake of global post-Fukushima

Calls for more rigorous safety regulation, policymakers and safety regulators are likely to look askance at proposals to dramatically relax safety oversight.

Unfounded claims of unique supply and demand advantages: Despite their high costs, advocates argue that smaller reactors are more attractive than large reactors because they are moreflexible, requiring smaller capital commitments and shorter construction times.

• By these same criteria, non-nuclear alternatives are far more attractive – smaller, less

costly, quicker to market, and already scalable.

• The alternatives also do not possess the security and proliferation risks and environmental problems that attach to nuclear power. ……..,%20Not%20the%20Solution%20FINAL2.pdf

May 17, 2014 Posted by | Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Why Small Modular Nuclear Reactors are not viable, and no cure for climate change

NOT THE SOLUTION  Mark Cooper, Ph.D.  Senior Fellow for Economic Analysis  Institute for Energy and the Environment  Vermont Law School  May 2014  “…..: When it comes to making the case for SMRs as one of the cornerstones of the 21st century, low carbon electricity sector is remarkably weak.

First, the viability of SMRs is dependent on the very economic processes that have eluded  the industry in the past. The ability of the small modular reactor technology to reverse the cost  trajectory of the industry is subject to considerable doubt. The empirical analysis of learning  processes in the “Great Bandwagon Market” discussed in Section I and the failure of regulatory  streamlining, advanced design and standardization in the “nuclear renaissance” certainly question the  ability of the new technology to produce such a dramatic turnaround. As a result, even under the  best of circumstances, the SMR technology will need massive subsidies in the early stages to get off the ground and take a significant amount of time to achieve the modest economic goal set for it.

Second, even if these economic processes work as hoped, nuclear power will still be more costly than many alternatives. Over the past two decades wind and solar have been experiencing the  cost reducing processes of innovation, learning and economies of scale that nuclear advocate hoped  would benefit the “Renaissance” technology and claim will affect the small modular technology.  Nuclear cost curves are so far behind the other technologies that they will never catch up, even if  the small modular technology performs as hoped.

Third, the extreme relaxation of safety margins and other changes in safety oversight is likely to receive a very skeptical response from policymakers. This is just the latest skirmish in a 50 year  battle over safety. The push to deploy large numbers of reactors quickly with a new safety regime recalls the mistake of the early “Great Bandwagon Market.”

Fourth, the type of massive effort that would be necessary to drive nuclear costs down over the next couple of decades would be an extremely large bet on a highly risky technology that would  foreclose alternatives that are much more attractive at present. Even if the technology could be deployed at scale at the currently projected costs, without undermining safety, it would be an  unnecessarily expensive solution to the problem that would waste a great deal of time and resources, given past experience.

Finally, giving nuclear power a central role in climate change policy would not only drain away resources from the more promising alternatives, it would undermine the effort to create the physical and institutional infrastructure needed to support the emerging electricity systems based on  renewables, distributed generation and intensive system and demand management.

The paper concludes that the prudent approach to resource acquisition is to build the institutional and physical infrastructure that achieves the maximum contribution from the more attractive resources available in the near and mid-term. With a clear path of more attractive  resources, we do not have to engage in the hundred year debate today, although there is growing  evidence that prospects for high penetration renewable scenarios for the long terms are quite good.  The available and emerging alternatives can certainly carry the effort to meet the demand for  electricity with low carbon resources a long way down the road, certainly long enough that the  terrain of technologies available may be much broader before we have to settle for inferior options like nuclear power…


May 17, 2014 Posted by | Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Russia tried floating nuclear plants – costly and risky

reactors-floatingRussia’s Plans for Floating Nuclear Power  Motley Fool, By Maxx Chatsko  May 4, 2014 |  “………. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have proposed building a floating nuclear power plant roughly five to nine miles offshore. Huh? Is that even possible?

I’m all about American innovation, but the idea was not originally conceived by MIT researchers, although their designs are novel. The original idea for floating nuclear power plants was actually developed in Russia. More surprising is that its more than just an idea — designs are being constructed and commercialized as you read this article. Is the world really ready for floating nuclear power?

Russia’s plans
The Russian designs for floating nuclear power plants were created by Rosatom, which originally planned to build up to eight facilities by 2015. Those plans were proven overly ambitious, but the first two reactors were installed (non-operable) last October and are expected to be deployed in Pevek. Each power plant will consist of two nuclear reactors ranging from capacities of 35 MWe to 325 MWe each and boasting a lifetime of 38 years. The plan is to tow the facility back to port every 12 years for one year of maintenance and fuel reloading. Some will produce power exclusively for the grid in remote locations lacking access to Russia’s abundant natural gas reserves and extensive pipeline network through underwater transmission cables, while others will act as cogeneration facilities capable of feeding the grid and desalinating large quantities of seawater. Meanwhile, the ship hulls are being constructed in Russia, although South Korea and China have been rumored to be possible partners in future facilities.

It’s not difficult to imagine the ambitious and pioneering projects experiencing cost overruns — and that’s exactly what has happened. Planned facilities have been canceled, moved, sold, bought, and resold in their relatively short existence. Whether the floating nuclear power plants can produce power economically remains to be demonstrated, although the cost is expected to drop with each new facility………

The potential risks are numerous,….Unfortunately, the risk increases for unproven and unverified designs. There would be unique threats such as terrorists, pirates, or stray tankers, as well as familiar threats such as equipment malfunctions…. environmentalists would be sure to interpret proposed designs as humanity’s disregard for marine life,

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Russia, technology | Leave a comment

Mixed Oxide Nuclear Fuel (MOX) program is a dud

MOXMOX project of little value By Victor J. ReillyAiken, S.C. Thursday, May 1, 2014 MOX is a mix of oxides of uranium and plutonium that can be used as fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. It removes some plutonium from the sticky fingers of terrorists. Sound good? Yes, until the cost of doing this soared.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has recently said that if MOX is shelved, she wants the plutonium out of South Carolina. That is silly, but it reflects a 2002 federal law that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham had demanded.

Apparently, idiocy is endemic.

First, our plutonium problem. With welcome reductions in our nuclear arsenal, we now have about a hundred tons of plutonium in storage. In the wrong hands, less than 20 pounds of it could make a nuclear bomb. That would be a catastrophe. We must store it securely for decades. Savannah River Site would be logical for this job, with its huge area and a staff experienced in handling plutonium. This would provide good jobs that the governor should have jumped at.

MOX’s design capacity is to disable one ton of plutonium per year, so if MOX were the way to work it off, it would take more than a hundred years. A stock of one ton requires as much protection as for 100 tons.


With the huge increase in fixed costs from construction, would it be profitable? If we plan to cancel the program, we would end up writing off the sunk costs, so why not do it anyway? Would it then be profitable? If MOX fuel can’t be sold at a profit, why continue with it?

In summary, MOX has no value in ridding us of our stored plutonium.

Alternatives must be sought for that. The United States will need to have one or several plutonium storage sites, indefinitely. South Carolina should accept the job for one of them.

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 827 other followers