The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

China to develop small floating nuclear reactors


Chinese oil, nuclear companies to develop floating atomic platforms for offshore drilling TOKYO/HONG KONG – China National Offshore Oil Corp. and China General Nuclear Power Corp. will work together to develop nuclear technology for use in sea-based oil fields, the country’s biggest offshore explorer announced on Friday.

The state-owned companies signed the strategic cooperation framework on Jan. 14, China National Offshore said on its official Weibo account on Friday. CGN, China’s biggest nuclear power operator, announced on Jan. 12 that the government had approved construction of a demonstration floating nuclear reactor that could be used for offshore oil production.

“This partnership will push forward the organic integration of the offshore oil industry and the nuclear power industry,” China National Offshore said in the statement.

The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s economic planner, has urged CGN to speed up the pace of development of the floating reactor, known as the ACPR50S, the company said in its Jan. 12 statement. Construction of the demonstration reactor is expected to start next year, with it powering up by 2020, according to CGN.

January 15, 2016 Posted by | China, technology | 1 Comment

For China,nuclear reprocessing is both too costly and too dangerous

While reprocessing reduces the level of radioactivity in nuclear waste, The Union of Concerned Scientists – an advocacy group that was founded by scientists and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – says it does not reduce the need for storage and secure disposal of waste.

Some within China’s own nuclear establishment are also questioning the merits of reprocessing as the nation mulls huge capital investments in the sector, U.S.-based experts say.

China is an important market for the world’s nuclear industry giants, including the United States. The U.S. last year eased restrictions on its civilian nuclear cooperation with China to allow the reprocessing of fuel from U.S.-designed reactors

Book Cost of Reprocessing in ChinaChina faces nuclear energy choice: reprocess or not? WT, By MATTHEW PENNINGTON – Associated Press – Thursday, January 14, 2016 WASHINGTON (AP) – China is coming to a crossroads as it hurriedly increases nuclear power production to cope with rising electricity demand and cut carbon emissions: Should it reprocess its nuclear waste or store it?

Nonproliferation advocates warn that recycling waste would generate weapons-usable plutonium, posing a security risk and potentially stirring a nuclear rivalry in East Asia. A new Harvard University study, co-authored by a senior Chinese nuclear engineer, gives another reason against reprocessing – it doesn’t make economic sense. Continue reading

January 15, 2016 Posted by | China, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Was North Korea’s nuclear test really and H-Bomb: Science can tell

questionflag-N-KoreaSCIENCE CAN TELL IF NORTH KOREA’S TEST WAS REALLY AN H-BOMB, Wired,  7 Jan 16, “……North Korea has a history of exaggerating its military claims to achieve its political ends. (South Korea, the US, and Japan are typically named…… because North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is unlikely to let international inspectors anywhere near the test site, the only real way to tell whether North Korea’s big boom was the big H is by analyzing data collected from a suite of global sensors……

 “normal” atomic bombs rely solely on fission—that is, splitting an atom (typically plutonium or enriched uranium), which releases a bunch of energy and creates a big boom. Big enough to level the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, killing over 200,000 civilians and military personnel.

Hydrogen bombs, on the other hand, use nuclear fusion—melding atoms together—to release way more explosive energy. These “thermonuclear” weapons are so powerful that they actually need atomic fission to kickstart the fusion process. That’s right, H-bombs use an A-bomb just to get going. American scientists detonated the first H-bomb in 1952, on a Pacific atoll. It was over 500 times more powerful than the bomb the US dropped on Nagasaki. Modern H-bombs are at least twice as powerful. Which is why everyone is so freaked out about whether North Korea, the world’s most famous renegade nation, has a hydrogen bomb…….

why seismologists take recordings from multiple sensors. The agency responsible for monitoring atomic blasts, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, currently has 42 certified seismic stations distributed around the globe (plus over 100 auxiliary stations). Because seismic signals bounce through the Earth, not only did Russia and Japan pick up North Korea’s event, but so did the US……….

The smoking gun can only really come by detecting radioactive material. To that end, CTBTO has radionuclide detection stations scattered throughout the globe. These come in two flavors. The first looks for radioactive dust—fallout. These systems use suction pumps to pull air through a filter, which then goes through a radiation counter. The types of particles present, and their radioactivity, would give a lot of clues as to the bomb’s type. Let’s say you have a typical atom bomb: Its fallout particles would be decayed bits of uranium or plutonium.

A hydrogen bomb also uses those materials, but they’d be mostly burned away by the super hot fusion reaction. According to this 1991 analysis of a Chinese explosionpublished in Science and Global Security, an H-bomb’s radioactive particulate signature would have a lot less decayed plutonium and uranium, and also different ratios of their various decayed isotopes. But if someone knew the exact particles found after an H-bomb went off, they could use that knowledge to build their own H-bomb (that’s probably one of the ways the Soviets copied the US’s weapon). Which is why Wallace told me the details of the analysis are secret. But if the blast is underground, as this one seems to have been, radionuclide detection is little help—the particles get contained.

The other type of detector looks for radioactive gases, rather than particles. Xenon gas is the most potent of these, partly because it is a noble gas that doesn’t interact with other substances. Xenon can, however, decay. And the rate of decay tells scientists the gas atoms’ exact age. For instance, after North Korea’s 2013 test, a Japanese sensor picked up xenon isotopes that scientists deduced were exactly 55 days old. The exact same day as North Korea’s test…….

it matters not just what kind of bomb North Korea detonated, but that the country detonated one at all.

January 7, 2016 Posted by | North Korea, Reference, technology, weapons and war | Leave a comment

28 years later Japan’s costly nuclear recycling complex is still not working

Rokkkasho-reprocessing-planJapan’s $25 Billion Nuclear Recycling Quest Enters 28th Year, Bloomberg   sstapczynski  January 5, 2016 It’s designed to recycle spent uranium from Japan’s nuclear power plants, consists of more than three dozen buildings spread over 740 hectares (1,829 acres), costs almost $25 billion and has been under construction for nearly three decades. Amount of fuel successfully reprocessed for commercial use: zero.

Under construction since the late 1980s, the complex is designed to turn nuclear waste into fuel by separating out plutonium and usable uranium. The start date of the project has now been pushed back for the 23rd time, with operations set to commence in 2018.

The money continuing to pour into the Rokkasho reprocessing complex in a northeast corner of Japan’s main island of Honshu is raising speculation that attention is being diverted from more-promising avenues of energy development, including renewables.

 “Reprocessing is an idea that seemed good to many in the nuclear industry when it was first proposed, but with time and experience has proven to be uneconomical,” M. V. Ramana, a professor at Princeton University’s Nuclear Futures Laboratory, said by e-mail. “There is a lot of sense in the idea that Japan should just cut its losses and stop trying to get this plant to operate.”……..

Construction on Rokkasho, the heart of the endeavor, was supposed to be completed by 1997. Delays due to technical and safety issues have kept it from operating commercially while costs ballooned to an estimated 2.94 trillion yen ($24.6 billion), according to Japan Nuclear Fuel. The Japanese government and the country’s power industry view fuel reprocessing generally, and Rokkasho specifically, as one of the only ways to lower import dependence and find a home for thousands of tons of highly radioactive spent fuel. Japan has about 17,000 metric tons of spent fuel, almost 3,000 tons of which are stored at Rokkasho.
The facility was originally intended to separate plutonium from spent fuel for use in so-called fast-breeder reactors — plants that produce more fuel than they consume.

While the nation’s first prototype fast-breeder reactor has remained closed due to its own technical issues, Rokkasho expanded construction to include a facility that processes plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide fuel, known as MOX, that can be used in some of Japan’s existing reactors……

January 6, 2016 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Japan’s controversial Takahama nuclear reactor loaded with problematic MOX fuel

The Problems With Takahama, Simply Info, December 29th, 2015

Takahama unit 3 is the most recent nuclear reactor to attempt a restart in Japan. It is also one of the more controversial. The reactor restart had been blocked by the courts for being unsafe until another judge overturned that decision. On December 25th 157 fuel assemblies including 24 MOX  assemblies were loaded into the reactor. The power company plans to restart the reactor by the end of January.

The impact of MOX on the meltdown and explosion of unit 3 at Fukushima Daiichi is still not understood yet Japanese authorities allowed this unit to be loaded with this controversial plutonium fuel.

The plan to restart reactors in this area of Fukui prefecture has raised concerns about the ability to evacuate and respond to a nuclear disaster……..

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Japan, technology | Leave a comment

The nuclear snake oil salesmen now pitching Small Reactors as “green”

SMR green painted

The Sierra Club says it has all the makings of a snake-oil sale.  The organization would prefer the Obama administration abandon the extremely costly pursuit of advanced nuclear power in favor of greater investment in renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

Small-scale nuclear plants being pitched as new green, Albuquerque Journal, December 20th, 2015“……….State leaders aren’t necessarily rushing to embrace the vision in a place where all but one nuclear plant have been mothballed and where old-guard nuclear safety advocates warn that so-called advanced nuclear technologies are an attempt to put shiny earrings on the same old pig.

But the investors and nuclear scientists opening startup labs in the office parks of California’s technology hubs and within the research centers of universities see a more influential ally in the White House.

‘All of the above’ strategy Nuclear power is at the nub of the Obama administration’s “all of the above” strategy for reinventing the energy industry in an era of climate change, and its faith in the fraught power source has captured the imagination of some notable and deep-pocketed West Coast thinkers.

Investors, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, have poured about $2 billion into a few dozen small outfits, many of which are concentrated in the West. …….

Nuclear déjà vu That may all be possible someday, say the nuclear experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists, but that day is probably several decades and many tens of billions of dollars away. The sudden excitement around nuclear makes them nervous. They say they have seen this before. Continue reading

December 21, 2015 Posted by | spinbuster, technology, USA | 2 Comments

Germany abandoning nuclear fission, but has developed research nuclear fusion reactor

flag_germanyGermany Tests Fusion Reactor, But Will Abandon Nuclear By 2022 The Daily Caller ANDREW FOLLETT , 18 Dec 15  Germany tested an experimental fusion reactor last week, but the country is set to abandon conventional nuclear fission power entirely by 2022 in favor of solar and wind.

German engineers from the Max Planck Institute have successfully activated an experimental nuclear fusion reactor and successfully managed to suspend plasma for the first time. The reactor took 19 years and €1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to build, and contains over 470 tons of superconducting magnets, all of which need to be cooled to absolute zero.The reactor passed the major technical milestone of generating its first plasma, which had a duration of one-tenth of a second and achieved a temperature of around one million degrees Celsius. If the reactor fulfills the research team’s expectations, it could demonstrate the first stable artificial nuclear fusion reaction within the next year.

fusion reactor Germany

The reactor will allow German researchers to study high energy plasma under stable conditions.

December 19, 2015 Posted by | Germany, technology | Leave a comment

World’s largest nuclear fusion reactor launched by Germany

flag_germanyGermany launches world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor  The rocky road to nuclear fusion power, DW, 18 Dec 15   Innovative designs using modern superconductors are supposed to bring us nuclear fusion power plants soon – some optimists say. Fusion experts predict, however, that a practical application will take many more decades. Nuclear fusion is considered a potential energy source of the future. It’s clean nuclear energy. But what is it, exactly and why is it so difficult to generate? Let’s start with the difference between classical nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.

Nuclear fission means that radioactive isotopes, like uranium or plutonium are being split up and turned into other highly radioactive isotopes that then have to be deposited or reprocessed.

Nuclear fusion means that two isotopes of hydrogen – called deuterium and tritium – merge together – they “fuse.” And that leaves behind only non-poisonous helium and one single neutron, but no nuclear waste.

Huge amounts of energy caught in a plasma

Nuclear fusion takes place in the sun for example – or in a hydrogen bomb – and that’s the big challenge for engineers – how do you control the high energy fusion process in a power plant?

That’s what scientists have been working on since the 1960s. One model-fusion-reactor called Wendelstein 7-X has just started operating in the northern German town of Greifswald. It is not designed to generate a nuclear fusion reaction yet – so far it’s just a specific reactor design that’s being tested.

What all fusion reactors have in common is a ring-shaped form. The idea behind it is to take powerful electromagnets and create a strong electromagnetic field, which is shaped somewhat like an inflated bicycle tube.

That electromagnetic field must be so dense that when it is being heated by a microwave oven to about one million degrees centigrade, a plasma will emerge in the very center of the ring. And that plasma can then be ignited to start the nuclear fusion process.

Research reactors show what’s possible

In Europe, two prominent fusion experiments are under way. One is Wendelstein 7-X, which just generated its first helium plasma last week – albeit without actually going into nuclear fusion. The other one is ITER – a huge experimental project in southern France, which is still under construction and won’t be ready to run before 2023.

ITER is supposed to do real nuclear fusion – but only for short periods of time, certainly not for any longer than 60 minutes. And ITER is just one of many steps towards turning the idea of nuclear fusion into a practical application.

Are smaller, alternative designs feasible?………

Hot, hot, hot

The heat is also problematic. In the core of the nuclear-fusion plasma, the temperature would be around 150 million centigrade. This extreme heat stays put – right there in the center of the plasma. But even around it, it still gets seriously hot – 500 to 700 degrees at the breeding blanket – which is the inner layer of the metal tube that contains the plasma and which will serve to “breed” the tritium that is needed for the fusion reaction.

Even more problematic is the so called “power-exhaust.” That is the part of the system, where the used-up fuel from the fusion process is being extracted – mostly helium. The first metal components hit by hot gases are called the “diverter.” It can get hotter than 2,000 degrees centigrade.

The engineers are trying to use the metal tungsten, used in old-fashioned light bulbs – to withstand such temperatures. They have a melting point of around 3,000 degrees. But there are limits.

“In the case of ITER we can do it, because the heat is not there constantly. Only one to three percent of the time, ITER will eventually be running.” Hesch says. “But that is not an option for a power plant, which has to run 24/7. And if someone pretends to build a smaller reactor with the same power as ITER, I can definitely say – there is no solution for that diverter-problem.”

Several decades to build a real power plant

Nonetheless Hesch is optimistic that the development of nuclear fusion power reactors will go ahead – but not quite as fast as some of the industry optimists predict.

“With ITER we want to show that fusion can actually deliver more energy than we have to put into it to heat the plasma. The next step would be to build an entirely new fusion demonstrator power plant, which will actually generate electricity.”

The engineers are already working on the designs now. They will have to learn lessons from ITER, which is scheduled to start operating in 2023. Taking the necessary time for design, planning and construction into account, it looks very unlikely the first nuclear-fusion power plant will be up and running much before the middle of the century.

December 19, 2015 Posted by | Germany, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Mission Innovation should not send tax-payer money to Bill Gates’ nuclear dream

We cannot trust billionaire philanthropists to lead the way on climate action, Online Opinion, By Noel Wauchope , 16 December 2015  “…….At the opening of the Paris Climate Summit (COP21), with the blessing of the White House, Bill Gates announced the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEA), with an ambitious goal to deal with climate change. 24 billionaire philanthropists have joined in the BEA. They include Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos.

Simultaneously 19 governments, including the United States, China and India, announce “Mission Innovation”, a project that will involve tax-payer money to explore and invent new ways to develop low carbon energy.

Not surprisingly, the two organisations will work in tandem. The billionaire philanthropists plan a public-private partnership between governments, research institutions, and investors that will focus on new energy methods especially for developing countries……

For a start, this twin project is directed at researching new forms of low carbon energy. A lot of money therefore is to go into trying out new plans, that exist at best, only in blueprint form. Yet already there are in operation large scale and small scale renewable energy projects that could be deployed. In particular, small scale solar energy is very well suited to being deployed in rural India, Africa, and other developing nations, as well as in Australia and other developed nations. It is happening now. Projects such as Barefoot Power have operated for years now, bringing affordable solar power to millions of rural poor in Africa, Asia Pacific, India and the Americas.

The energy need now for poor countries is deployment of existing technologies, not years of research and testing of so far non-existent ones………

  • The one and only University that has joined BEA is the University of California, which runs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, well known for its nuclear research.
  • Bill Gates is co-founder and current Chairman of the innovative nuclear energy company TerraPower Gates has a long term history of enthusiasm for small nuclear power reactors. Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission has tightened the rules for new reactors. Fortunately for Mr Gates, China is less fussy about this, so Gates has been able to do a deal with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). TerraPower and CNNC will build the first small 600 MW unit in China, and later deploy these nuclear reactors globally.

Gates and Branson

I don’t doubt that Bill Gates is sincere in his goal of reducing greenhouse gases. It’s just that I have reservations about Small Nuclear Reactors having any impact on global warming.

If Small Nuclear Reactors did in fact reduce greenhouse gases, the world would need thousands of them to be up and running quickly, but they’re still at the planning stage. They’re supposed to be much safer than conventional nuclear reactors, but still produce radioactive wastes, and are targets for terrorism. Each and every one of them would need 24 hour guarding. It gets expensive………

The term selected “Breakthrough Energy Initiative” gives the game away. For many years now, America’s Breakthrough Institute has lobbied and publicised “new nuclear” as the solution for climate change. The Breakthrough Institute has many well-meaning and enthusiastic environmentalists as members. Its philosophy, expressed in “The Ecomodernist Manifesto” is full of beautiful motherhood statements about climate and environment, and only a few paragraphs about new nuclear technology.

This Manifesto, by the way, appears as a Submission to the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.

The effect of the Breakthrough Institute, over the years, has been to slow down action on reducing the use of fossil fuels. It has also aimed to discredit renewable energy……..

December 16, 2015 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Unpalatable news for nuclear industry: reprocessing may be found to be ‘wasteful spending’

flag-japanJapan may review spending on plutonium fuel cycle By Aaron Sheldrick and Linda Sieg DEC. 11, 2015  TOKYO —

Japan may review spending on reprocessing plutonium for use in nuclear reactors, a minister appointed to identify wasteful spending told Reuters, following years of government outlays on the controversial program that has yielded no results.

The minister’s comments come after the operator of Japan’s fast breeder reactor, designed to use plutonium extracted from spent reactor fuel, was declared unfit following decades of accidents, missteps and falsification of documents.

fast-breeder-MonjuCosts for the Monju breeder reactor have ballooned to about 1 trillion yen ($8 billion) while Japan’s public debt is the highest among industrialized nations. Taro Kono, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party member who is a critic of the Monju facility and the nuclear industry in general, was appointed to examine government spending in a recent cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

While Kono emphasized he cannot overturn government policy, he can review public projects and said Abe had told the cabinet that wasteful spending had to be taken “out of the budget.”

He has been reviewing part of the government budget request of 102 trillion yen for the fiscal year starting March, including a little-used ship carrying nuclear fuel and subsidies to towns that host nuclear power plants. “In my portfolio, I can ask them if the money is spent wisely and that’s what I have been doing and the nuclear fuel cycle is no exception,” the U.S.-educated Kono said.

He said next year’s review could be widened to include all government spending on nuclear projects, something that might resonate with voters after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 turned the public against atomic power. “If they are not doing a good job, the review next year will be all nuclear, maybe,” Kono said.

His comments could have implications for another costly nuclear project that is mostly in private hands but has strong government support and receives some public funds. The Rokkasho plutonium reprocessing facility in northern Japan is meant to provide fuel for Monju and some of Japan’s nuclear reactors, but completion was delayed for a 23rd time last month.

The plant has been beset with problems since the first concrete was laid in 1993 and costs have ballooned to 2.2 trillion yen ($18 billion) from 760 billion yen.

text-wise-owlMeanwhile, Japan’s plutonium stockpile has expanded to nearly 50 tons, with stocks held in Britain and France as well as in Japan. Recently, a group of 31 scientists wrote to Abe urging him to abandon reprocessing.

With all but two of Japan’s reactors shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster and no immediate use for the plutonium, there is little meaning to the costly exercise of extracting more from spent fuel, critics say.

“The PM’s directive is very clear. If we point out any items that are not spent well it has to be out of the budget,” Kono said. “That’s why a few ministers are not speaking to me right now,” he added, with a laugh.

December 12, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, politics, reprocessing | Leave a comment

The push for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors goes on in Idaho

E. Idaho eyed as site for small commercial nuclear reactors, Idaho Statesman,  BY KEITH RIDLER Associated Press BOISE, IDAHO , 11 Dec 15 

U.S. Department of Energy officials and an energy cooperative with members in eight states are negotiating a plan that could lead to the construction of small commercial nuclear reactors at an eastern Idaho federal nuclear site.


Officials with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems said the 890-square-mile site containing the Idaho National Laboratory is their preferred choice for what are called small modular reactors…….

The Energy Department on Wednesday confirmed that the area is being considered but offered no details. The agency contracts with Battelle Energy Alliance to run the Idaho National Laboratory….

Oregon-based NuScale Power would build the reactors……. NuScale Chief Commercial Officer Mike McGough said said the company is in the process of completing an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the reactors. He described the application as a 12,000-page book that will undergo a 40-month review. If everything advances, work on the modules could begin before 2020…..

Cost is a big concern for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, said LaVarr Webb, company spokesman, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems , noting that the group is relatively small compared to larger power suppliers in the region…..

December 12, 2015 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Tax-payer funding to go to Britain’s small nuclear reactor companies!

flag-UKIn pursuit of partners: the UK doubles down on small modular reactors, Power Technology  9 December 2015  At the end of November, the UK Treasury announced a doubling of nuclear funding alongside a design competition to “revive the UK’s nuclear expertise and position the UK as a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies”. With small modular reactors a particular focus, Taylor Heyman profiles the companies that will be looking to throw their hat in the ring.

In the run-up to the 2015 Paris climate talks, UK chancellor George Osborne announced funding of £250m over five years to put the UK at the forefront of world research and development of small nuclear reactors (SMRs)….


The autumn statement also included details of a design competition to be launched in early 2016 to find the “best value small modular reactor design for the UK”, the Treasury said in the spending review policy paper. The competition is the beginning of a government strategy to complete an SMR sometime in the 2020s…

UK SMR: the contenders

There are bound to be a number of big players clamouring for the opportunity to work with the UK government in developing the UK’s first SMRs. Last December, the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), in conjunction with a range of research organisations and companies, released a feasibility study focusing on SMRs in the UK, commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The review found four financially and techically viable options for SMR designs, by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), B&W and Bechtel, Westinghouse and NuScale.

CNNC’s ACP100 design is a 310MWt pressurised water reactor designed to produce between 100 and 150MWe. The IAEA began a safety review of the design in July 2015, assessing the reactor’s safety, environmental impact and other elements of the design.

The BWXT mPower™ from B&W and Bechtel is an integral 530MWt pressurised water reactor which will produce around 180MWe. The team won the first round of funding from the cost-sharing funding initiative with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Bechtel, but decided to scale back their funding in April 2014. This considerably slowed the pace and scale of development.

Westinghouse, a company well-established and employing over 1,000 people in the UK has already presented the British Government with its proposal to partner in deploying SMR technology throughout the UK. The Westinghouse SMR design is a 225MWe integral pressurized water reactor with all primary components located inside the reactor vessel.

The NuScale offering is a 160MWt reactor which operates using the principles of natural circulation rather than traditional pumps. It can produce 50MWA. The idea behind the smaller design is scalability; reactor units can be added or taken away depending on demand. NuScale Power won the second round of DOE funding in 2013, receiving $217m over five years in cost-share funds to develop, license and commercialise its SMR technology. The first is projected for 2024 in Idaho, US.

No doubt other contenders for the partnership will come to the fore once details of the January competition are released by DECC. Whichever company is chosen, NNL hopes to play a role in the development of SMRs for the UK. “We have a strong capability in reactor design, including SMRs,” says NNL’s director of external relations Adrian Bull. “So we feel we would be well-placed to carry out significant scope within the overall programme.”

December 12, 2015 Posted by | politics, technology, UK | Leave a comment

Nuclear fusion – a super expensive pipedream

nuclear-fusion-pie-SmThe challenges that make fusion potentially permanently decades away have been identified as threefold. The first is for the reactor to generate more energy than it takes to produce it. The second is for the reactor to produce more energy than the facility as a whole uses to make it. And the third is to actually make electricity in this fashion without going completely broke.

The False Promise of Nuclear Fusion by LINDA PENTZ GUNTER There have been some pretty radioactive climate change ideas making the rounds at the COP21 talks in Paris. Team Hansen’s wildly unrealistic notion of switching on 61 new nuclear reactors a year was taking the cake until an even fruitier one reared its familiar head: the nuclear chimera known as ITER.

ITER was originally called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, with ‘experimental’ being the operative word in that lofty title. Which is perhaps why today they refer to it only by acronym (apparently the word ‘thermonuclear’ also had some rather explosive connotations.) The official website equates ITER with its coincidental Latin meaning, ‘The Way’.

ITER was initiated in 1985 by then presidents Reagan and Gorbachev. The multi-nation project included not only the United States and the already crumbling Soviet Union, but the European Union and Japan. Today there are 35 countries in the partnership.

If it ever gets completed and actually works, ITER will be a fusion reactor known as a Tokomak. Fusion is the physicists’ wet dream, and they’ve been hallucinating about ITER for precisely three decades and Tokomaks and fusion itself for even longer.

ITER itself isn’t even the final step to electricity-producing fusion power plants. Its purpose is in “preparing the way for the fusion power plants of tomorrow.” A tomorrow that is heralded as ten years away, decade after decade. Continue reading

December 12, 2015 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

At least 50 years before nuclear fusion power might become areality

Nuclear fusion in the shadows of clean energy debate, Will Mumford, SBS, 6 Dec 15 “……..’A big mistake’ To create a fusion reaction, the 23,000-tonne ITER reactor will contain temperatures of up to 150 million degrees Celsius – hotter than the core of the sun.

The reactor, which is being built in the south of France, began site preparation in 2007 with plans to begin trials around 2019. However due to delays, reports suggest this timetable is increasingly unlikely, and ITER has pledged to release a revised schedule for the project mid-2016.

But not everyone believes governments should be investing in an unproven technology.

Greenpeace nuclear and energy campaigner, Sebastien Blavier, said the cost and uncertainty of fusion mean investing in thermonuclear reactors at the expense of other available clean energy options is risky and ignorant.


“We are opposed to this argument of fusion being the future of power for humanity, that’s totally false for us,” he said. “Today the world is facing massive challenges like poverty, like access to electricity for people, poor people, for development.”

“We now how have the solution with renewables like solar and wind – they are affordable, they are cheap. For the moment ITER is presented as being the solution for the future power of humanity and I think that’s a big mistake.”

“If you look at the costs, it’s a massive amount of money that could be invested in renewables that are already ready to take off and be competitive; so it’s not a solution to future power, it’s only research.”…..

Despite the progress being made, even the most hopeful scientists recognise that capturing and storing fusion energy for common use is likely half a century away

December 7, 2015 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology | Leave a comment

Mini nuclear reactors – costly, and need costly security – while renewables get cheaper

But for all the activity, the nascent SMR industry faces familiar nuclear challenges: cost, public acceptability, security and waste disposal. The nuclear industry has a long record of broken promises over cost

Developing SMRs is not going to be cheap either …40-70 SMRs would need to be ordered to make building a factory worthwhile…….. All the while, the competition from renewable energy gets hotter as it falls in price.

Security is also a key issue for nuclear plants….The challenge for SMRs is that security costs soar relative to power output if there are small reactors in many locations to protect.

text-SMRsAre mini-nuclear reactors the answer to the climate change crisis?
Industry looks to the UK to develop factory-built reactors ready to provide affordable, low-carbon energy wherever it is needed – but issues around security and waste disposal remain,
Guardian, , 24 Nov 15  Mini nuclear power plants could be trucked into a town near you to provide your hot water, or shipped to any country that wants to plug them into their electricity grid from the dock. That is the aim of those developing “small modular reactors” and, from the US to China to Poland, they want the UK to be at the centre of the nascent industry. The UK government says it is “fully enthused” about the technology.

With UN climate change summit in Paris imminent, the question of how to keep the lights on affordably, while cutting emissions, is pressing.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) aim to capture the advantages of nuclear power – always-on, low-carbon energy – while avoiding the problems, principally the vast cost and time taken to build huge plants. Current plants, such as the plannedFrench-Chinese Hinkley Point project in Somerset, have to be built on-site, a task likened to “building a cathedral within a cathedral”. Continue reading

November 25, 2015 Posted by | Reference, technology | Leave a comment


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