Spent Nuclear Fuel Rods and Storage Pools: A Deadly and Unnecessary Risk in the United States. Based on an Institute for Policy Studies report by Robert Alvarez entitled “Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the U.S.: Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage.”
Ì More than 30 million highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods are submerged in vulnerable storage pools at reactors all over the United States. These pools at 51 sites contain some the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet. Yet, they are stored under unsafe conditions, vulnerable to attacks and natural disasters.
Ì Spent nuclear fuel rods have enough pop to cause a catastrophic radiation fire, a nuclear chain reaction, or explosion. As the Fukushima Dai-Ichi tragedy shows, the risk to the public is all too real.
Ì Spent nuclear fuel rods are so deadly that a motorcyclist blasting past them at 60 mph at a distance of one foot would be killed from the effects of that fleeting radiation exposure.
Ì The metal tubing that holds the spent nuclear fuel is thinner than a credit card. This thin sheath is the only major barrier preventing the escape of radioactive materials. Cracked or damaged metal tubing that was holding deadly nuclear material at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear reactors resulted in the release of an enormous amount radioactivity, much of which seeped into air, soil, and nearby ocean water.
Ì Approximately 75 percent of U.S. spent nuclear fuel rods are kept tightly packed together in storage racks, submerged in pools located at nuclear reactors. These storage facilities resemble large above-ground swimming pools and this practice puts the American public at risk. Spent fuel storage pools are often housed in buildings no more secure than a car dealership. Instead, these fuel rods should be safely stored in dry, hardened, and sealed storage casks.
Ì Spent fuel storage pools are vulnerable. Massive land contamination, radiation injuries, and myriad deaths would result from a terrorist attack, earthquake, or even a prolonged electricity blackout — as happened at the Fukushima DaiIchi reactor site in Japan following an earthquake and tsunami. Pools need electricity to pump water to cool the rods, as well as to maintain a high water level to diffuse the escape of radiation. Despite these dangers, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) doesn’t require nuclear reactor operators to even have back-up power supplies for these spent-fuel pools to prevent disaster.
Ì If the water in a spent nuclear fuel pool drains to six feet above the fuel rods, it would give off life-threatening radiation doses to workers on site. These pools were originally designed to hold less than one fifth of the radioactive material they now contain.
Ì If the water were to drain entirely from a spent fuel pool, it could trigger a catastrophic radioactive fire that would spew toxins and render hundreds of thousands of square miles uninhabitable. The devastated area would be larger than the wasteland that resulted from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.
Ì Life-threatening incidents have occurred at multiple U.S. spent fuel storage pools. In Haddam Neck, Connecticut, a pool sprung a leak in August 1984. About 200,000 gallons of water drained in just 20 minutes, according the NRC.
Ì Dry cask storage is a much safer alternative to pools — which were originally designed to hold less than one-fifth of what they now contain. It doesn’t rely upon a constant supply of electricity or water, and it also can be stored in separate blast-proof containers, making it less susceptible to terrorist attack or earthquakes.
Ì Over the next 10 years, we could remove all spent fuel older than five years for a cost of $3 billion-$7 billion. The cost of fixing America’s nuclear vulnerabilities may be high, but the price of doing too little is incalculable……..https://ratical.org/radiation/NuclearExtinction/IPS-RA-ReportFactSheet.pdf
The Myth of the Nuclear Renaissance The game is already over for nuclear energy. U.S. News Linda Pentz Gunter July 18, 2016, Desperate times for the nuclear industry call for desperate rhetoric. Hence the reach, once again, for “renaissance,” even though the facts support no such thing and the industry itself dare not even resurrect the mythological moniker. [“The New Nuclear Renaissance,” 6/11/2016]
With nuclear power priced out of the market – not only by natural gas but, more importantly for climate, by renewables – die-hard nuclear proponents are dressing up old reactors in new propaganda.
Sodium-cooled, fast and even small modular reactors are all designs that have been around – and rejected – for decades.
Sodium-cooled reactors are prone to fires, explosions and super-criticality accidents. A rapid power increase inside the core of such a reactor could vaporize the fuel and blow the core apart. Far from “walk away safe,” these on-paper designs have not been submitted to the kind of rigorous “all scenarios” testing that could definitively designate them as meltdown proof.
Small modular reactors that deliver lower amounts of electricity than large ones present an economy of scale that has proven to be a deterrent to investors. Capitol costs per kilowatt for these reactors are estimated at double those for a traditional light water reactor.
Furthermore, so-called “new” designs that are still on the drawing board will remain there for years to come, too late for climate change that can be answered quickly and far more cheaply by immediate and widespread implementation of wind and solar energy, whose prices are falling precipitously.
The real race the U.S. is letting China win is in the renewable energy field. China’s renewable investments in 2015 totaled $100 billion, according to the just released “2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report,” more than five times the amount the country invested for new reactors, which was $18 billion.
The game is over for nuclear energy and there is no extra time, even in China. “Construction starts for new nuclear reactors fell to zero globally in the first half of 2016 as the atomic industry struggles against falling costs for renewables and a slowdown in Chinese building” the report found.
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that bridged Medieval times to the so-called Early Modern Age. Like nuclear energy, it is of the past, not the future. http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2016-07-18/stop-perpetuating-the-myth-of-the-nuclear-renaissance
Sovereignty over the South China Sea is contested by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and any move to build nuclear reactors is bound to stoke further tension in the region.
The China Securities Journal said 20 offshore nuclear platforms could eventually be built in the region as the country seeks to “speed up the commercial development” of the South China Sea.
“China’s first floating nuclear reactor will be assembled by the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation’s (CSIC) subsidiary, Bohai Heavy Industry, and the company will build 20 such reactors in the future,” the newspaper said.
“The marine nuclear power platform will provide energy and freshwater to the Nansha Islands,” it said, referring to the disputed Spratly Islands.
The newspaper was citing a social media post by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), which has since been deleted…….
The news is old,” an expert with the China Nuclear Energy Association said. “It is repeated in reaction to the latest South China Sea disputes,” the expert, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.
“Little progress has been made on building such a small reactor.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked at a daily news briefing, said he did not know anything about the plans.
Floating reactors were first proposed in the United States in the 1970s but then abandoned. The first demonstration of the technology is due to be launched in Russia next year.
“This will need several years of design and safety analysis before it can go into full construction,” said Li Ning, Dean of the School of Energy Research at Xiamen University…….
A spokesman for CNNC told Reuters the floating reactors plan had been drawn up by its affiliate, the Nuclear Power Institute of China, and a final decision would be made by CSIC. CSIC was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Kathy Chen and David Stanway; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-ruling-china-nuclear-idUSKCN0ZV0UH
FOR GENERAL ATOMICS, SMALLER NUCLEAR PLANTS ARE BEAUTIFUL, San Diego Union Tribune But can its technology work? And is it even needed? BY ROB NIKOLEWSKI July 15, 2016 The scientists and engineers at General Atomics think the future of nuclear energy is coming on the back of a flatbed truck.
And the leadership at the San Diego-based company, which has been developing nuclear technologies for more than 60 years, has already spent millions in the expectation that its ambitious plans for the next generation of reactors will actually work.
“We have technology that we think is going to qualitatively change the game,” saidChristina Back, vice president of nuclear technologies and materials at General Atomics……..it’s designed to produce a reactor that’s so compact that the company’s handout material shows it being transported by tractor-trailer.
But EM² is still a long way from becoming a day-to-day reality in a fast-changing energy landscape.
Just building a prototype, Back said, is at least 10 years away and, “we’re looking at 2030-ish” before a commercial reactor could be up and running using EM² technology……And there are no guarantees the design will work……
Here in the United States, natural gas may pose an even greater challenge. Techniques such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have unlocked vast amounts of natural gas in North America and the increased supply has lowered prices. Utilities are increasingly turning to natural gas-fired power plants to generate electricity, at least in large part, because gas burns much cleaner than coal.
Where does that leave nuclear?…….. nuclear has long faced intense opposition from those who consider it an inherently dangerous source of power and the EM² technology is being developed at a time when nuclear plants are getting shut down in places such as Illinois, Vermontand New York.
The environment for nuclear power in California is even more daunting……Critics of nuclear power point to the falling costs and rising production numbers for renewable energy, as well as a mandate from the California Public Utilities Commission ordering the state’s big three investor-owned utilities to add 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage to their grids by the end of the decade.
While no sodium-cooled reactors currently operate in the United States, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working with industry on a number of “advanced” reactor designs, including the Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor (SFR). One of the SFR’s safety advantages, to quote the DOE, is that the design provides a “Long grace period for corrective action, if needed.” SRE’s meltdown transpired over a two-week period. Fermi Unit 1 had indications of inadequate core cooling in June that were repeated in August and dismissed until extensive damage occurred in October 1966. The “if needed” grace period is never long enough when warning sign after warning sign is dismissed or ignored.
DOE did acknowledge some “challenges” for the SFR: their higher speed and higher energy neutrons can embrittle and degrade nearby materials, liquid sodium coolant reactors with air and water and degrades concrete, and the opaqueness of the liquid sodium coolant complicates in-service inspections and maintenance.
Thank goodness for the “Long grace period for corrective actions, if needed.” That and the fact that SFRs only operate in cyberspace where the primary threat is carpal tunnel syndrome
Nuclear Plant Accidents: Fermi Unit 1, Union of Concerned Scientists Dave Lochbaum, director, Nuclear Safety Project | July 12, 2016, Disaster by Design
|Juno spacecraft demonstrates viability of solar power in deep space, Enformable, Karl Grossman
27 Jun 2016 What NASA insisted for decades could not be a spacecraft using solar energy rather than nuclear power going beyond the orbit of Marswill be proven false next Monday, July 4th, Independence Day, when the solar-energized Juno space probe arrives at Jupiter.NASA had maintained that to provide on-board power and heat on spacecraft in deep space, plutonium-powered systems were requireddespite the disaster if there were an accident on launch or in a fall back to Earth and the plutonium was released. I broke the story 30 years ago about how the next mission of NASA’s ill-fated Challenger shuttle was to involve lofting a plutonium-powered space probe and I have been reporting in articles, books and on television on the nuclear-in-space issue ever since.
If the Challenger accident did not happen in January 1986 but the shuttle exploded on its next scheduled mission, in May 1986, with the plutonium-powered space probe in its cargo bay, the impacts could have been enormous. Plutonium is the most lethal of all radioactive substances.
Still, when NASA re-scheduled the two plutonium-powered missions it had planned for 1986one the Galileo mission to Jupiterit not only publicly declared that plutonium systems to provide on-board power for space probes in deep space were necessary but swore to that in court.
Opponents of the Galileo mission brought suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. in 1989 seeking to stop the nuclear-energized Galileo shot because of its public health danger in the event of an accident, and they pressed NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on the availability of a safe energy alternative. NASA and DOE officials swore that only nuclear power would do that far out in space, that solar energy could not be harvested beyond the orbit of Mars.
And now comes NASA’s own Juno spacecraft energized by solar energy functioning in deep space. Indeed, NASA acknowledges, “This is the first time in history a spacecraft is using solar power so far out in space.”……
“Just like here on Earth there is a tug-of-war going on between those who wish to promote life-giving solar power and those who want nukes. That same battle for nuclear domination is being taken into the heavens by an industry that wants more profitno matter the consequences. The Global Network will continue to organize around the space nuclear power issue by building a global constituency opposed to the risky and unnecessary nukes in space program.” – Gagnon, coordinator of The Global Network —Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
With solar-energized Juno’s arrival at Jupiter, this Independence Day should mark a blow for independence from dangerous nuclear power above our heads in space. http://enformable.com/2016/06/juno-spacecraft-demonstrates-viability-solar-power-deep-space/
Laser uranium enrichment technology may create new proliferation risks, Science Daily, June 27, 2016
- Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
- A new laser-based uranium enrichment technology may provide a hard-to-detect pathway to nuclear weapons production, according to a forthcoming paper.
- A new laser-based uranium enrichment technology may provide a hard-to-detect pathway to nuclear weapons production, according to a forthcoming paper in the journalScience & Global Security by Ryan Snyder, a physicist with Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.
- One example of this new third-generation laser enrichment technique may be the separation of isotopes by laser excitation (SILEX) process which was originally developed in Australia and licensed in 2012 for commercial-scale deployment in the United States to the Global Laser Enrichment consortium led by General Electric-Hitachi. Research on the relevant laser systems is also currently ongoing in Russia, India and China.
The paper explains the basic physics of the new uranium separation concept, which relies on the selective laser excitation and condensation repression of uranium-235 in a gas. It also estimates the key laser performance requirements and possible operating parameters for a single enrichment unit and how a cascade of such units could be arranged into an enrichment plant able to produce weapon-grade highly enriched uranium.
Using plausible assumptions, the paper shows how a covert laser enrichment plant sized to make one bomb’s worth of weapon-grade material a year could use less space and energy than a similar scale plant based on almost all current centrifuge designs, the most efficient enrichment technology in use today. The results suggest a direct impact on detection methods that use size or energy use as plant footprints……..https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160627160941.htm
Arktika is just one icebreaker in a class known as Project 22220. The other two — Sibir, which was laid down in May 2015, and Ural — are also planned. If completed, Sibir will reportedly have the propulsion power of 110 MW, almost twice as powerful as Arktika. Both ships are part of a $1.2 billion contract that Baltic Shipyards signed in 2014 with Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corp.
Why would Russia need nuclear-powered icebreakers in the first place? Obviously, for defense. Icebreakers can clear a path for military ships, allowing for increased mobility and range for the Russian naval fleet.
Russia unveils ‘world’s biggest’ nuclear icebreaker, Yahoo News June 17, 2016, Moscow (AFP) – Russia on Thursday floated out a new nuclear-powered icebreaker, said to be the world’s biggest and most powerful, to be used for hauling liquefied natural gas from its Arctic terminal.
Arktika, ordered by Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear agency, was built at the Baltic Shipyard in Saint Petersburg, and will be ready to use by the end of next year.
“There are no icebreakers like it in the world,” said Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko at the ceremony, according to a company statement. “The Arktika icebreaker presents truly new opportunities for our country.”…….It can cut through ice of up to 2.8 metres (nine feet) thick. https://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/31854163/russia-unveils-worlds-biggest-nuclear-icebreaker/#page1
Rolls Royce Shortlisted to build fleet of baby nuclear-reactors, CITY AM Jessica Morris, 5 June 16 , FTSE 100-listed engineering company Rolls-Royce has been shortlisted to build a fleet of mini nuclear reactors, City A.M. understands.It’s part of the government’s £250m nuclear research programme unveiled in last year’s Autumn Statement, which includes a competition to identify the best value small modular reactor (SMR) design for the UK.
An industry source said that the SMR scheme won’t be a “short process”. This comes despite the UK energy policy crisis, with an increasingly strained power supply. Almost 6,000 MW could be lost this year.
Of the 38 companies which submitted expressions of interest in the competition, 33 were eligible to compete in the next round, according to the Sunday Timeswhich first reported the news.
These also include US engineering giant Bechtel, NuScale Power which is backed by US engineer Fluor, and Canada’s Terrestrial Energy……The company declined to comment, while the Department for Energy and Climate Change hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment. http://www.cityam.com/242623/rolls-royce-shortlisted-to-build-fleet-of-baby-nuclear-reactors
Nuclear Holy Grail Slips Away From Japan With Operator Elusive http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-31/nuclear-holy-grail-slips-away-from-japan-with-operator-elusive Stephen Stapczynski sstapczynski Emi Urabe
Japan to pick a new operator for Monju fast-breeder reactor
The prototype plant has cost more than $9 billion amid delays
Japan is missing its own deadline to find a new operator for a prototype nuclear power program that’s failed to succeed in the two decades since it was built, threatening the resource-poor country’s support of a technology other nations have abandoned.
The country’s nuclear regulator demanded in November a replacement for the government-backed Japan Atomic Energy Agency be found within six months for the Monju fast-breeder reactor. Monju, which has functioned for less than a year since its completion more than 20 years ago, now faces the possibility of being scrapped.
The so-called fast-breeder reactor — a cornerstone of its atomic energy strategy dating back to the 1950s — uses spent nuclear fuel from other plants and is designed to produce more atomic fuel that it consumes. The reactor, named after the Buddhist deity of wisdom, has cost the nation more than 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) and has barely operated since it first generated electricity in 1995.
Monju is currently operated by the JAEA, a quasi-government organization that is under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. JAEA declined to comment. The nation’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, didn’t respond to e-mailed questions regarding the status of Monju.
“We don’t have plans to decommission the reactor,” said Hiroki Takaya, director of the ministry’s International Nuclear and Fusion Energy Affairs Division, which oversees Monju. “We are exploring many different options for who will operate the reactor — either a new entity or an existing company.”
The NRA said in November the science ministry must find a new operator or consider closure. The ministry drafted a set of criteria for a new operator, but have yet to name a replacement, it said on May 27. The ministry hopes to find an operator as soon as possible, but hasn’t set a concrete deadline.
America’s NRC changing nuclear fee structure to help Small Nuclear reactors: Shillenberger delighted
NuScale Power LLC is expected to be the first company in the U.S. to submit a small modular reactor design application to the NRC by the end of the year, with project commercialization by 2024. NuScale’s reactor modules would each generate 50 megawatts (95 ECR, 5/17/16).
The NRC is implementing a variable annual fee schedule for these reactors including a minimum fee, a variable fee and a maximum fee based on the reactor’s cumulative licensed thermal power rating, which is the total heat output for all modules at a nuclear power plant. …..
Safety Concerns from Environmentalists
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit organization focused on scientific research of environmental issues, opposes different fees for small modular reactors because the safety risk of these reactors is still unclear, it said.
“It’s not clear that the relative risk of SMRs and the effort needed to license and regulate them is proportional to the power rating,” Ed Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg BNA May 23. He said this is especially true “since SMR applicants are requesting exemptions that require significant technical analysis, such as reducing emergency planning zone size and weakening security requirements.”
Also, Lyman disagreed with the statement that the SMRs would require less regulatory oversight. “NRC inspections of a multi-module SMR bundled unit may be more complex and entail more labor than inspections of a single large reactor with the same power rating,” he said.
Similarly, Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information Resources Service, said he thinks that reduced fees for SMRs would ultimately impact NRC safety inspections.
“Smaller reactors means there would be several times more reactors requiring inspections and oversight for the same amount of power. Basing the fees on the generation capacity seems like it’s likely to starve the agency of resources to do its job,” he told Bloomberg BNA May 23.
TVA Submits Early Site Permit for SMR
The Tennessee Valley Authority submitted an early site permit application for the potential to construct and operate multiple small modular reactor units at its Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tenn. TVA is the first in the nuclear industry to submit any such application related to SMR technology to the NRC, TVA said in a May 13statement.
The utility, which currently operates three nuclear plants in the South, has not decided what company it would purchase the SMR technology from, a TVA spokeswman told Bloomberg BNA May 23.
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The site chosen for the project, on the Clinch River, is notable in the checkered history of nuclear power in this country: it was to be the site of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, on which more than $1 billion was spent in the 1970s and early 1980s. The project was finally killed by Congress in 1983, and many date the decline of the U.S. nuclear industry to its demise.
Bill Gates Still Trying To Corral The “Wild” Nuclear Unicorn, Clean Technica May 3rd, 2016 by Tina Casey Legendary tech billionaire Bill Gates has been pitching the idea that nuclear energy is the only technology that can be deployed quickly enough to ward off catastrophic global warming. However, Gate’s favored nuclear technology is not nearly ready to come off the drawing board. Meanwhile, solar, wind, and other clean technologies are already sweeping into the real world.
Nevertheless, Gates continues to soldier on. In the latest development, he made the case for a nuclear energy “miracle” to the readers of MIT Technology Review.
The Bill Gates Nuclear Vision
One should expect an ultra-savvy marketer like Bill Gates to come up with a far-reaching strategy for his nuclear vision, and he has. In 2006 he formed a nuclear company called TerraPower with the aim of providing the world with “a more affordable, secure and environmentally friendly form of nuclear energy.”
Gates bumped his strategy up to the next level in December 2015. In a splashy media event coordinated with the COP21 Paris climate talks, he launched a new investment group called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.
BEC was designed as private sector companion to Mission Innovation, which also launched at COP21. Mission Innovation is a coalition of energy-producing governments that have pledged to increase public sector investment in clean energy.
Given Gate’s interest in TerraPower’s success, we’re thinking that BEC is also designed to deflect investment toward nuclear. Although Gates has positioned BEC as source-neutral, in a blog post during COP21 he laid down a pretty big hint that nuclear was the way to go:
The renewable technologies we have today, like wind and solar, have made a lot of progress and could be one path to a zero-carbon energy future. But given the scale of the challenge, we need to be exploring many different paths—and that means we also need to invent new approaches.
What’s Wrong With A Little Nuclear Energy?
Joe Romm of Think Progress has picked apart Gates’s most recent pro-nuclear pitch, concluding that:
…Gates is just wrong about everything here. He is wrong that energy miracles are needed by the industrialized countries to achieve CO2 levels in 2050 consistent with beating the 2°C target. He is wrong that achieving that target requires focusing on R&D rather than deployment. He is wrong that there is some sort of consensus to that effect. He is wrong that a carbon price isn’t important in achieving the rapid reduction the rich countries need. He is wrong to make it seem like boosting energy efficiency is not as vital a strategy as reducing carbon intensity.
Romm’s basic point is that clean energy solutions are already here and now, just not in the form that Gates would prefer to invest in.
The solar industry, of course, is one place where you’ll find a lot of agreement with Romm. One example is the graphic above, which represents the winnowing-out process used by the company Siva Power to settle on its market-ready thin film solar technology.
Last December, Siva CTO Markus E. Beck, a recognized leader in thin film technology, shared some thoughts with CleanTechnica about Gates’s nuclear solution. He emphasized that solar insiders are not the only skeptics:
The Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s premise is flawed. The BEC argues that at present there are no workable solutions to tackle the world’s increasing need for energy while reducing carbon emissions at an affordable level. Studies by Goldman Sachs, MIT, McKinsey, the IEA, Shell and others provide data supporting a counter argument — i.e. the solutions exist: namely solar (PV) and wind.
Tough Row To Hoe For Nuclear Energy
We’ll give the last word on TerraPower to the Senior Editor of MIT Technology Review, Richard Martin.
In a brief but eyebrow-raising article last fall, Martin raised some questions aboutTerraPower’s choice of nuclear technology, the traveling wave reactor. Apparently, after spending a considerable amount of time and money on traveling wave R&D, the company has modified its course and is now experimenting with a molten chloride design:
Many nuclear industry observers have been skeptical about the concept from the outset. The traveling wave is a subspecies of a sodium-cooled fast reactor, and the track record of those reactors is not encouraging.
Martin also cites M.V. Ramana, a Princeton nuclear physicist:
“The problem with sodium is that it has been pretty much impossible to prevent leaks… Fast reactors in general have never been commercially viable, and I haven’t seen anything from TerraPower that suggests that their design will fare any better………..http://cleantechnica.com/2016/05/03/bill-gates-still-trying-corral-wild-nuclear-unicorn/
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