IEER REPORT: Small Modular Reactors a “Poor Bet” to Revive Failed Nuclear Renaissance in U.S. AUDIO: Light Water Designs of Small Modular Reactors: Facts and Analysis http://ieer.org/resource/nuclear-power/light-water-designs-of-small-modular-reactors-facts-and-analysis/By Dr. Arjun Makhijani
Download the report, updated September 2013
$90 Billion in Initial Manufacturing Order Book Needed, Requiring Massive Involvement by the Chinese or Taxpayer-Backed Federal Subsidies;
Major Implications Seen for Companies and SMR Test Sites in FL, MO, NC, OR, PA, SC, and TN.
WASHINGTON, D.C.///August 8, 2013///A shift to “small modular reactors” (SMRs) is unlikely to breathe new life into the increasingly moribund U.S. nuclear power industry, since SMRs will likely require tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies or government purchase orders, create new reliability vulnerabilities, as well as serious concerns in relation to both safety and proliferation, according a report issued today by the nonprofit Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) think tank .
The IEER report has implications for SMR companies headquartered or with planned test sites in Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Titled “Light Water Designs of Small Modular Reactors: Facts and Analysis the IEER report focuses on light water reactor (LWR) SMR designs, the development and certification of which the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is already subsidizing at taxpayer expense. Continue reading
Small reactors just compound the waste problem because you generate more radioactive components (aside from all the nuclear fuel that turns into nuclear waste too) than a large nuclear reactor does per unit of energy generated. And placing them underground, while making them less tempting targets for terrorists, brings up issues of groundwater contamination and greater earthquake vulnerability in affected areas. The fact that you could use ground-source cooling to condense your cooling water a lot easier with these reactors is a benefit, so they aren’t completely a bad idea.
However, it should be made abundantly clear why some in the nuclear industry see these reactors as a way forward. As the article mentions, building large 1GW+ reactors has become an immensely risky undertaking from a financial perspective. Forget all the crap people harp on about Fukushima, the price tags on these reactors are the real killer. The new reactor under construction in Finland (Olkiluoto Unit 3) is coming in at 8.5B euros ($11.55B), or almost 3 TIMES it’s initial cost estimate. In dollar terms, that amounts to over $7.21 per watt!
New reactors going up in the US are posting similar figures, although the massive web of government supports and insulation from market forces that the nuclear industry benefits from makes true cost figures for these reactors hard to pin down.
This is in the face of wind power getting INSTALLED for $1 – $2 per watt:
In short, the nuclear industry is scrambling for solutions before it becomes clear to everybody how irrelevant they are. Much like typewriters got really fancy and sophisticated in the 1990′s before going the way of the buggy whip and the rotary phone.
The company aims to complete the plant in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, in October, expecting that tests by the Nuclear Regulation Authority will be concluded in about six months. The company is determined to do whatever it can to ensure the screening goes smoothly, Senior Executive Vice President Kazuhiro Matsumura said.
The NRA last month drew up new safety standards for key facilities used in the country’s nuclear fuel cycle, such as fuel reprocessing plants.
Under the new rules, operators of these facilities must take steps to ensure they can deal with severe accidents caused by earthquakes, tsunami and terrorist attacks.
The operators are also required to take a stricter approach in research to determine whether faults running near or directly under their facilities are active or not.
Japan Nuclear Fuel previously planned to finish construction of the plant in October 2013. But the firm put off the planned completion by about one year to meet the new standards………
The ¥2.2 trillion plant has seen its scheduled completion date moved back as many as 20 times due to a series of problems. Initially, the plant was slated to be completed in 1997, four years after the start of construction.
It is uncertain whether the NRA can complete its safety screening of the plant in six months as expected……
Japan Nuclear Fuel also filed for safety screening tests of other facilities, such as a low-level radioactive waste management center and a plant to make mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel from extracted uranium and plutonium.http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000921892
US uranium laser enrichment technology threatens Nuclear Non-Proliferation TreatyVoice of Russia, 26 Dec 13, The uranium laser enrichment technology that has been given a new impetus in the US is capable of knocking the bottom out of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The technology consists in uranium isotope separation with laser stimulation (SILEX). Optimists put a great deal of trust in this and pessimists warn about negative consequences……..
SPECIAL REPORT-The U.S. government lab behind China’s nuclear power push Dec 20, 2013 Dec 20 (Reuters) – Scientists in Shanghai are attempting a breakthrough in nuclear energy: reactors powered by thorium, an alternative to uranium.
The project is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a government body with close military ties that coordinates the country’s science-and-technology strategy. The academy has designated thorium as a priority for China’s top laboratories. The program has a budget of $350 million. And it’s being spearheaded by the influential son of a former Chinese president.
But even as China bulks up its military muscle through means ranging from espionage to heavy spending, it is pursuing this aspect of its technology game plan with the blessing – and the help – of the United States. Read more »
Potential fire and explosion hazards……
Potential flooding hazards:……
Limited access for conducting inspections of pressure vessels…
Safety and Security Concerns about Small Modular Reactors: NuScale’s Design http://allthingsnuclear.org/safety-and-security-concerns-about-small-modular-reactors-nuscales-design/ Ed Lyman, senior scientist December 17, 2013 Late last week the Department of Energy finally announced its decision to provide the small modular reactor (SMR) design NuScale with a matching grant of up to $226 million under its Licensing Technical Support program intended to speed the development of SMRs.
But the real news is not that DOE awarded a second grant under the program, but that it took so long to do so. NuScale, along with three other reactor vendors, originally applied for the funds in early 2012 with the expectation that two designs would receive grants. However, later that year DOE surprised many observers by only awarding a grant to one design, the Generation mPower.
Safety and Security Concerns
As discussed in detail in my September 2013 report “Small Isn’t Always Beautiful,” UCS has safety and security concerns about small modular reactors in general and about the NuScale design in particular
SMR vendors are pushing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken its regulations regarding operator staffing, security staffing, and emergency planning, based on highly optimistic assertions that their reactors will be significantly safer than larger reactors. Continue reading
Ameren/Westinghouse passed over again for small modular reactor funding By JACOB BARKER December 13, 2013 Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse Electric again were passed over by the U.S. Department of Energy, which announced Thursday that its final funding award under a small modular nuclear reactor program would go to NuScale Power of Portland, Ore.
The announcement was the second disappointment for a coalition built around Westinghouse’s nuclear reactor design and St. Louis-based Ameren, which had indicated it would build a new reactor near its existing nuclear power plant in Callaway County if it could secure a federal investment….. the department said it would enter into a five-year cost-share agreement with NuScale and invest as much as half of the total project cost. The department did not release the final amount it would put up for the project, saying that sum would be negotiated with NuScale and come from a $452 million fund established for the SMR program.
…….[In 2012] DOE said then it would open future funding opportunities, but this time, it isn’t planning any more…..
“As a result of the DOE’s decision, we are stepping back and considering our alternatives as we continue to focus on maintaining all generation options for a cleaner energy portfolio to meet Missouri’s energy needs in the future,” Ameren said in its statement. ……
The Missouri Coalition for the Environment responded to the decision with a news release saying Missouri should focus on “clean renewable energy,” excluding nuclear power, in line with a 2008 statewide vote requiring utilities to generate more power from renewable sources. http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/local/ameren-westinghouse-passed-over-again-for-small-modular-reactor-funding/article_8141670c-637c-11e3-8c67-001a4bcf6878.html?comments=focus
DOE Drops the Ball on Nuclear Design Funding The Motley Fool, By John Licata December 13, 2013 …The Department of Energy (DOE) was expected to announce two winners of the first round of small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) design funding which was delayed several times in 2012. However, only one award was announced last November and that award went to Babcox & Wllcox (NYSE: BWC ) . Now over one year later and past the most recent deadline of September 2013 for two more design award announcements, the DOE continues to delay further commitment to SMR designs….
NRA to approve restart of reprocessing facility http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131211_29.html Japan’s nuclear regulator plans to approve a partial restart of a facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel before it clears safety screening under new regulations.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority says it’s allowing the restart to make plutonium and other highly radioactive waste in the facility solid and more stable.
The authority said on Wednesday that it plans to allow the government-backed Japan Atomic Energy Agency to operate part of the plant in Tokai Village, about 100 kilometers north of Tokyo.
The decision comes after the agency sought permission to restart the facility soon, saying that keeping the waste in liquid form involves high risks.
NRA commissioners said the facility’s stockpiles of plutonium solutions and other liquid waste will be made safer when reprocessed into solids.
They came up with a plan to allow part of the facility to run for 5 years before checking is done under the enhanced regulations.
The facility stores 3.5 cubic meters of solutions containing plutonium and more than 400 cubic meters of highly radioactive liquid waste. NRA secretariat officials say reprocessing the plutonium solutions into powder will take about 2 years, and turning other liquid waste into glass 21 years.
The new regulations are to take effect on December 18th. The NRA is to give formal approval after confirming that the agency can ensure stable reprocessing at the plant.
Small Oregon Nuclear Power Plant Company Gets Massive Federal Backing OPB | Dec. 12, 2013 Portland, Oregon NuScale Power, a spin-off business out of Oregon State University, will receive up to $226 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.
NuScale Power is designing a small nuclear reactor — about the size of a semi-trailer standing on its head.
Chief commercial officer Mike McGough says the money will be spent getting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to certify the design — a task that’s expected to cost about $1 billion……
If NuScale secures certification, a reactor isn’t expected to be up and running until at least 2023.It would be built in Idaho.
Oregon has tight restrictions on the construction of nuclear power facilities. For example, it would have to be approved by voters and builders would need to be able to demonstrate the safe disposal of high level waste….http://www.opb.org/news/article/small-oregon-nuclear-power-plant-company-gets-massive-federal-backing/
The plutonium stockpile poses enormous problems for the government. Not only is it highly radioactive and an immense potential danger to health, it is also a target for terrorist attacks and for anyone interested in stealing nuclear weapons-grade material.
The NDA’s report to DECC is understood to conclude that the Prism fast reactor is as credible as the two other options based on Mox fuel, even though GE-Hitachi has not yet built a commercial-scale plant for burning plutonium waste. DECC, however, has refused to release the report under a Freedom of Information request
It is understood that the NDA has been impressed by proposals from GE-Hitachi to build a pair of its Prism fast reactors on the Sellafield site,
Revealed: UK Government’s radical plan to ‘burn up’ UK’s mountain of plutonium http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/revealed-uk-governments-radical-plan-to-burn-up-uks-mountain-of-plutonium-8967535.html 28 Nove 13 A radical plan to dispose of Britain’s huge store of civil plutonium – the biggest in the world – by “burning” it in a new type of fast reactor is now officially one of three “credible options” being considered by the Government, The Independent understands. However, further delays have hit attempts to make a final decision on what to do with the growing plutonium stockpile which has been a recurring headache for successive governments over the past three decades.
The stock of plutonium, one of the most dangerous radioactive substances and the element of nuclear bombs, has already exceeded 100 tonnes and is likely to grow to as much as 140 tonnes by 2020, bolstered by a recent decision to include foreign plutonium from imported nuclear waste.
Ministers had pledged to resolve the plutonium problem in a public consultation but are sitting on a secret report by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) which is believed to confirm that there are now three “credible options” for dealing with the plutonium stored at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria. Continue reading
Why TEPCO is Risking the Removal of Fukushima Fuel Rods. The Dangers of Uncontrolled Global Nuclear Radiation, Global Research, 24 Nov 13 By Yoichi Shimatsu After repeated delays since the summer of 2011, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has launched a high-risk operation to empty the spent-fuel pool atop Reactor 4 at the Dai-ichi (No.1) Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
The urgency attached to this particular site, as compared with reactors damaged in meltdowns, arises from several factors:
- over 400 tons of nuclear material in the pool could reignite
- the fire-damaged tank is tilting badly and may topple over sooner than later
- collapse of the structure could trigger a chain reaction and nuclear blast, and
- consequent radioactive releases would heavily contaminate much of the world.
The potential for disaster at the Unit 4 SFP is probably of a higher magnitude than suspected due to the presence of fresh fuel rods, which were delivered during the technical upgrade of Reactor 4 under completion at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The details of that reactor overhaul by GE and Hitachi have yet to be disclosed by TEPCO and the Economy Ministry and continue to be treated as a national-security matter. Here, the few clues from whistleblowers will be pieced together to decipher the nature of the clandestine activity at Fukushima No.1. Continue reading
MOX nuclear fuel – the secret and so dangerous ingredient in the Fukushima No 4 nuclear cooling pond
The un-irradiated rods inside the Unit 4 spent-fuel pool are, in all probability, made of a new type of MOX fuel containing highly enriched plutonium.
“…….Mystery of MOX super-fuel A Mainichi Shimbun editorial mentions in passing that the Reactor 4 pool contains 202 fresh fuel assemblies.(3) The presence of new fuel rods was confirmed in the TEPCO press release, which described the first assembly lifted into the transfer cask as an “un-irradiated fuel rod.” Why were new rods being stored inside a spent-fuel pool, which is designed to hold expended rods? What threat of criticality do these fresh rods pose if the steel frame collapses or if crane operators drop one by accident onto other assemblies, as opposed to a spent rod?
Against the official silence and disinformation, a few whistleblowers have come forward with clues to answer these questions. Former GE nuclear worker Kei Sugaoka disclosed in a video interview that a joint team from Hitachi and General Electric was inside Reactor 4 at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake. By that fateful afternoon, the GE contractors were finishing the job of installing a new shroud, the heat-resistant metal shield lining the reactor interior.(4)
TEPCO inadvertently admitted to the presence of foreign contractors at Fukushima No.1 up until March 12, 2012, when the management ordered their evacuation in event of a massive explosion during the rapid meltdown of Reactor 2. So far, leaks indicate the presence of the GE team and of a Israeli nuclear security team with Magna BSP, a company based in Dimona.(5)
Another break came in April 2012, when a Japanese humor magazine published a brief interview of a Fukushima worker who disclosed that radioactive pieces of a broken shroud were left inside a device-storage pool at rooftop level behind the Reactor 4 spent-fuel pool.(6) This undoubtedly is the used shroud removed by the GE-H workers in February-March 2011.
A curious point here is that the previous shroud had been in use for only 15 months. Why would TEPCO and the Japanese government expend an enormous sum on a new lining when the existing one was still good for many years of service?
Obviously, the installation of a new shroud was not a mere replacement of a worn predecessor. It was an upgrade. The refit of Reactor 4 was, therefore, similar to the 2010 conversion of Reactor 3 to pluthermal or MOX fuel. The same model of GE Mark 1 reactor was being revamped to burn MOX fuel (mixed oxide of uranium and plutonium).
The un-irradiated rods inside the Unit 4 spent-fuel pool are, in all probability, made of a new type of MOX fuel containing highly enriched plutonium. If the frame collapses, triggering fire or explosion inside the spent-fuel pool, the plutonium would pulse powerful neutron bursts that may well possibly ignite distant nuclear power plants, starting with the Fukushima No.2 plant, 10 kilometers to the south…..
The upgrade of the Reactor 4 shroud may well have involved the test-fitting of some MOX rods, which abandoned on the floor next to the reactor when the tsunami reached shore. In other words, in early March 2011 crane operators completely filled space inside the spent-fuel pool with new MOX rods and then simply left casks of assemblies on the roof and lowered more into the basement. That is the simplest explanation for the damage to the structural integrity of the reactor building. GE is not about to disclose its role in this disaster………. http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-tepco-is-risking-the-removal-of-fukushima-fuel-rods-the-dangers-of-uncontrolled-global-nuclear-radiation/5359188…..http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-tepco-is-risking-the-removal-of-fukushima-fuel-rods-the-dangers-of-uncontrolled-global-nuclear-radiation/535918
First batch of fuel from Fukushima reactor 4 pool now in different storage site, Japan Times, KYODO NOV 22, 2013 Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday that it has finished transferring the first batch of fuel rod assemblies from the Fukushima No. 1 plants reactor 4 spent fuel pool to another building with more stable storage conditions.
“All of the fuel assemblies have been placed in the storage rack (inside the common pool), meaning the first fuel transfer work effectively ended,” Tepco official Noriyuki Imaizumi told a press conference.
Common Pool Fukushima Daiichi Unloading Unit 4 Fuel Unloading
After reviewing the work flow that started Monday, the utility will move on to retrieve the next batch of fuel assemblies from the spent fuel pool of the damaged reactor 4 building.
The pool contains over 1,000 fuel assemblies and the process is expected to continue through the end of next year. To get used to the operation, workers commenced with the removal of unused fuel assemblies, but they will also have to take out spent fuel, which is more difficult to handle because it is highly radioactive and emits heat as radioactive elements in the fuel decay.
The process starts with the transfer of fuel assemblies inside the water-filled spent fuel pool one by one into a transport container also placed inside the pool.
Once the container is filled with 22 fuel assemblies, workers lower it by crane from the fifth floor of the building where the pool is located so that it can be taken to the common pool about 100 meters away…… http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/22/national/first-batch-of-fuel-from-fukushima-reactor-4-pool-now-in-different-storage-site/#.UpJtYdJwo7o
NASA Halts Work on its New Nuclear Generator for Deep Space Exploration
Universe Today by DAVID DICKINSON on NOVEMBER 21, 2013 “……. The announcement comes from Jim Green, NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director. The statement outlines some key changes in NASA’s radioisotope program, and will have implications for the future exploration of the outer solar system……
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