Report: New Nuclear Power Technology Would Siphon Resources Away From Renewable Energy, PROGRESS ILLINOIS Ellyn Fortino Friday August 8th, 2014 “………With the industry currently unable to garner enough customer and investor interest around SMRs, it is trying to save nuclear power by making a “desperate attempt to undermine the alternatives, which are succeeding,” Cooper added.
The nuclear energy industry “says, ‘Look, just get rid of their subsides. Gerry-rig the market so that we can stay in business. Avoid policies that will let (alternatives) stay in business … and then we’ll have a level playing field.’ But of course it doesn’t look anything like a level playing field,” he said.
Over the past 60 years, the nuclear energy industry has collected 10 times more subsidies than what renewables have received, Cooper said. Government funding for SMR research and development currently represents the smallest subsidy out of many received by the nuclear power industry, he added.
He said the U.S. nuclear energy industry is grappling with a “fundamental conflict.” After failing to bring online 90 percent of new reactors as part of a “nuclear renaissance” suggested by nuclear power advocates in the early 2000s, the hope was that SMR technology would rescue the industry. And since that has yet to happen, the industry is “now struggling to save the aging reactors… simply because they cannot compete against the alternatives available.”
“The death of the small modular reactor hype really is emblematic of the fundamental conflict that’s going on in the industry,” he said. “The near term will decide, not just the fate of nuclear power, but the fundamental approach that we take to addressing the challenge of climate change.”
Looking ahead, Cooper said he questions nuclear power’s place in the emerging “integrated, two-way electricity system based on decentralized alternatives.” In such a system, an “inflexible source of supply like nuclear does not have value,” he said, adding that nuclear power “becomes a burden on the flexible system rather than a benefit.”
Nuclear power, Cooper said, is not a smart “economic proposition” or “portfolio asset” for a low-carbon electricity future.
“And looking carefully at the urgency of dealing with climate change, it’s also the most costly, most risky approach to climate change,” he stressed. http://progressillinois.com/quick-hits/content/2014/05/18/report-new-nuclear-power-technology-would-siphon-resources-away-renewa
Small Modular Reactors Huffington Post, Dr Helen Caldicott 08/07/2014 Now that the “nuclear renaissance” is dead following the Fukushima catastrophe, when one sixth of the world’s nuclear reactors closed, the nuclear corporations — Toshiba, Nu-Scale, Babcock and Wilcox, GE Hitachi, General Atomics, and the Tennessee Valley Authority — will not accept defeat.
Their new strategy is to develop small modular reactors (SMRs), allegedly free of the dangers inherent in large reactors: safety issues, high cost, proliferation risks and radioactive waste.
But these claims are fallacious, for the reasons outlined below.
Basically, there are three types of SMRs, which generate less than 300 megawatts of electricity compared with current 1,000-megawatt reactors.
1. Light-water reactors
These will be smaller versions of present-day pressurized water reactors, using water as the moderator and coolant, but with the same attendant problems as Fukushima and Three Mile Island. Built underground, they will be difficult to access in the event of an accident or malfunction.
Because they’re mass-produced (turnkey production), large numbers must be sold yearly to make a profit. This is an unlikely prospect, because major markets — China and India — will not buy U.S. reactors when they can make their own.
If safety problems arise, they all must be shut down, which will interfere substantially with electricity supply.
SMRs will be expensive because the cost per unit capacity increases with a decrease in reactor size. Billions of dollars of government subsidies will be required because Wall Street is allergic to nuclear power. To alleviate costs, it is suggested that safety rules be relaxed, including reducing security requirements, and reducing the 10-mile emergency planning zone to 1,000 feet.
2. Non-light-water designs
These include high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) or pebble-bed reactors. Five billion tiny fuel kernels consisting of high-enriched uranium or plutonium will be encased in tennis-ball-sized graphite spheres that must be made without cracks or imperfections — or they could lead to an accident. A total of 450,000 such spheres will slowly and continuously be released from a fuel silo, passing through the reactor core, and then recirculated 10 times. These reactors will be cooled by helium gas operating at high very temperatures (900 degrees C).
A reactor complex consisting of four HTGR modules will be located underground, to be run by just two operators in a central control room. Claims are that HTGRs will be so safe that a containment building will be unnecessary and operators can even leave the site (“walk-away-safe” reactors).
However, should temperatures unexpectedly exceed 1,600 degrees C, the carbon coating will release dangerous radioactive isotopes into the helium gas, and at 2,000 degrees C the carbon would ignite, creating a fierce, Chernobyl-type graphite fire.
If a crack develops in the piping or building, radioactive helium would escape, and air would rush in, also igniting the graphite.
Although HTGRs produce small amounts of low-level waste, they create larger volumes of high-level waste than conventional reactors.
Despite these obvious safety problems, and despite the fact that South Africa has abandoned plans for HTGRs, the U.S. Department of Energy has unwisely chosen the HTGR as the “next-generation nuclear plant.”
3. Liquid-metal fast reactors (PRISM)
It is claimed by proponents that fast reactors will be safe, economically competitive, proliferation-resistant, and sustainable.
They are fueled by plutonium or highly enriched uranium and cooled by either liquid sodium or a lead-bismuth molten coolant. Liquid sodium burns or explodes when exposed to air or water, and lead-bismuth is extremely corrosive, producing very volatile radioactive elements when irradiated.
Should a crack occur in the reactor complex, liquid sodium would escape, burning or exploding. Without coolant, the plutonium fuel could reach critical mass, triggering a massive nuclear explosion, scattering plutonium to the four winds. One millionth of a gram of plutonium induces cancer, and it lasts for 500,000 years. Extraordinarily, they claim that fast reactors will be so safe that they will require no emergency sirens, and that emergency planning zones can be decreased from 10 miles to 1,300 feet.
There are two types of fast reactors: a simple, plutonium-fueled reactor and a “breeder,” in which the plutonium-reactor core is surrounded by a blanket of uranium 238, which captures neutrons and converts to plutonium.
The plutonium fuel, obtained from spent reactor fuel, will be fissioned and converted to shorter-lived isotopes, cesium and strontium, which last 600 years instead of 500,000. The industry claims that this process, called “transmutation,” is an excellent way to get rid of plutonium waste. But this is fallacious, because only 10 percent fissions, leaving 90 percent of the plutonium for bomb making, etc.
Then there’s construction. Three small plutonium fast reactors will be grouped together to form a module, and three of these modules will be buried underground. All nine reactors will then be connected to a fully automated central control room operated by only three operators. Potentially, then, one operator could face a catastrophic situation triggered by loss of off-site power to one unit at full power, another shut down for refueling and one in startup mode. There are to be no emergency core cooling systems.
Fast reactors require a massive infrastructure, including a reprocessing plant to dissolve radioactive waste fuel rods in nitric acid, chemically removing the plutonium, and a fuel fabrication facility to create new fuel rods. A total of 15 to 25 tons of plutonium are required to operate a fuel cycle at a fast reactor, and just five pounds is fuel for a nuclear weapon.
Thus fast reactors and breeders will provide extraordinary long-term medical dangers and the perfect situation for nuclear-weapons proliferation. Despite this, the industry plans to market them to many countries.
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
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