Floating Nuclear Power Plants Might Be the Future of Energy, VICE News, By Kayla RubleAugust 1, 2014 “…………Critics are concerned about some of the design aspects of this type of NPPs. Edwin Lyman, a senior global security scientist at Union of Concerned Scientists, told VICE News that a lot of what needs to be done to make these plants deployable is the opposite of what the industry needs to do to make their land-based facilities safer. He explained that having to build lighter reactors for use in the ocean and accessibility issues are concerns with the floating plants.
Perhaps these technical problems can be overcome, but why would anyone bother to try, knowing in advance that the MSR plant will be uneconomic due to huge construction costs and operating costs, plus will explode and rain radioactive molten salt when (not if) the steam generator tubes leak. There are serious reasons the US has not pursued development of the thorium MSR process.
Reports are, though, that China has started a development program for thorium MSR, using technical information and assistance from ORNL. One hopes that stout umbrellas can be issued to the Chinese population that will withstand the raining down of molten, radioactive fluoride salt when one of the reactors explodes.
The Truth About Nuclear Power – Part 28 Subtitle: Thorium MSR No Better Than Uranium Process, Sowell’s law blog July 20, 2014
Doubts 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…….http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/13/doubts-giant-ice-wall-fukushima-nuclear-reactors
TEPCO: 90 out of 1,550 freezing ducts built so far http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001411769 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.”
“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.”
Andrew Topf writes in Oil Price 06 July 2014“there 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”
New nuclear power, especially Small Modular Reactors, are the most costly of the low carbon energy options
The 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……http://thebulletin.org/epa-carbon-plan-coal-loses-nuclear-doesnt-win7253
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
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 Ken Silverstein, 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.
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.
“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.”………http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2014/0601/Pint-size-nuclear-plants-get-a-boost-from-Obama-administration
Thorium Nuclear Information Resources http://kevinmeyerson.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/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
USA’s Westinghouse taking over nuclear fuel supplies to Ukraine, despite problems in those fuel assemblies
Chernobyl memories faded? Kiev turns blind eye to disaster risk in nuclear deal with US http://rt.com/news/159848-ukraine-nuclear-deal-westinghouse/ May 19, 2014 In order to alleviate energy dependence on Moscow, the coup-imposed government in Kiev has resurrected a contract with 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.
Ukraine’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.
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