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Small Nuclear Reactors look good – on paper!

Lockdown alternatives look good on paper: So do nuclear reactors, Independent Australia, By John Quiggin | 22 September 2020,  Amid mounting pressure for a “hands-off” approach to pandemic controls, Professor John Quiggin explains the real costs of the “let her rip” strategy.

BACK IN 1953, the founder of the U.S. naval nuclear program, Admiral Hyman Rickover, drew a striking contrast between “paper reactors” and “real reactors”:

An academic [paper] reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose (“omnibus reactor”). (7) Very little development is required. It will use mostly “off-the-shelf” components. (8) The reactor is in the study phases. It is not being built now.

On the other hand, a practical [real] reactor plant can be distinguished by the following characteristics: (1) It is being built now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It is requiring an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. Corrosion, in particular, is a problem. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to build because of the engineering development problems. (6) It is large. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated.

The tools of the academic-reactor designer are a piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser. If a mistake is made, it can always be erased and changed. If the practical-reactor designer errs, he wears the mistake around his neck; it cannot be erased. Everyone can see it.

Rickover’s insight has been borne out many times, as a long series of new reactor designs, promising power “too cheap to meter”, have come in over time and over budget. The latest such paper reactor, the Small Modular Reactor being developed by NuScale Power recently received design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Quietly tucked away in the announcement was the prediction that the first 12-module plant being developed for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems would be operational by 2030. Until last week, the announced target was 2027. And when the project was first funded, commercial operation was projected for 2023

The contrast drawn by Rickover applies equally well to the policies proposed by critics of the elimination and suppression policies adopted around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic………..

Unlike Rickover’s paper reactors, these theoretical policies are typically not spelt out in much detail. Rather, the adverse effects of real policies, such as the hardship associated with travel restrictions and the economic cost of lockdowns are pointed out, and it is claimed that it would have been far better to accept a few deaths, mostly of old people who were going to die soon anyway.  ….

Broadly speaking, the earlier and more comprehensive the control policy, the better the outcomes in terms of both (market) economic activity and health outcomes. (With a proper understanding of economics, health outcomes are economic outcomes, whether or not they affect market activity). ……..

…. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/lockdown-alternatives-look-good-on-paper-so-do-nuclear-reactors,14333

September 22, 2020 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster

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