nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Small Modular Reactors have little hope of saving the nuclear industry

Terminal decline? Fukushima anniversary marks nuclear industry’s deepening crisis, Ecologist, Jim Green / Nuclear Monitor 10th March 2017 

“……..Small is beautiful? The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors argue that nuclear power must become substantially cheaper – thus ruling out large conventional reactors “operated at high atmospheric pressures, requiring enormous containment structures, multiply redundant back-up cooling systems, and water cooling towers and ponds, which account for much of the cost associated with building light-water reactors.”

Substantial cost reductions will not be possible “so long as nuclear reactors must be constructed on site one gigawatt at a time. … At 10 MW or 100 MW, by contrast, there is ample opportunity for learning by doing and economies of multiples for several reactor classes and designs, even in the absence of rapid demand growth or geopolitical imperatives.”

Other than their promotion of small reactors and their rejection of large ones, the four authors are non-specific about their preferred reactor types. Any number of small-reactor concepts have been proposed.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been the subject of much discussion and even more hype. The bottom line is that there isn’t the slightest chance that they will fulfil the ambition of making nuclear power “substantially cheaper” unless and until a manufacturing supply chain is established at vast expense.

And even then, it’s doubtful whether the power would be cheaper and highly unlikely that it would be substantially cheaper. After all, economics has driven the long-term drift towards larger reactors.

As things stand, no country, company or utility has any intention of betting billions on building an SMR supply chain. The prevailing scepticism is evident in a February 2017 Lloyd’s Register report based on “insights and opinions of leaders across the sector” and the views of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers.

The Lloyd’s Register report states that the potential contribution of SMRs “is unclear at this stage, although its impact will most likely apply to smaller grids and isolated markets.” Respondents predicted that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”.

The Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors are promoting small reactors because of the spectacular failure of a number of large reactor projects, but that’s hardly a recipe for success. An analysis of SMRs in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists sums up the problems:

Without a clear-cut case for their advantages, it seems that small nuclear modular reactors are a solution looking for a problem. Of course in the world of digital innovation, this kind of upside-down relationship between solution and problem is pretty normal. Smart phones, Twitter, and high-definition television all began as solutions looking for problems.

“In the realm of nuclear technology, however, the enormous expense required to launch a new model as well as the built-in dangers of nuclear fission require a more straightforward relationship between problem and solution. Small modular nuclear reactors may be attractive, but they will not, in themselves, offer satisfactory solutions to the most pressing problems of nuclear energy: high cost, safety, and weapons proliferation.”

Small or large reactors, consolidation or innovation, Generation 2/3/4 reactors … it’s not clear that the nuclear industry will be able to recover – however it responds to its current crisis……..http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988749/terminal_decline_fukushima_anniversary_marks_nuclear_industrys_deepening_crisis.htm

March 11, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, technology, USA | Leave a comment

China planning nuclear power for space projects

China plotting SPACE INVASION as groundbreaking nuclear programme announced, Daily Star UK , 10 Mar 17  CHINA is going to use nuclear power as part of the superpower’s ultimate goal of dominating space. The country is testing and developing nuclear technology that can be used as part of its galaxy exploration plan.

Wang Siren, the vice chairman the China Atomic Energy Authority, confirmed the news yesterday.

He said nuclear power is going to be the most viable source of energy for conducting space projects, such as those planned for Jupiter and Mars…..

The announcement comes amid increasing fears of a potential cosmic conflict as countries battle it out for space dominance…..

Last year, a US official warned that the use of intergalactic weapons could have devastating consequences for people on Earth…..http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/595456/china-space-war-nuclear-power-russia-weapons-us-rockets-missiles

March 11, 2017 Posted by | China, technology | Leave a comment

South Korea is trying to develop nuclear reprocessing technology other countries have failed at

US expert: uranium price falling, why is S. Korea seeking expensive spent fuel processing facilities? The Hankyoreh, 7 Mar 17

Frank von Hippel says South Korea is trying to develop two kinds of technology other countries have failed at

“The price of uranium is gradually falling, and it costs twice as much to acquire spent fuel processing facilities for running a fast reactor. I don’t understand why [South Korea] is trying to acquire such expensive facilities,” said Frank von Hippel, 80, a professor at Princeton University, during a lecture at a seminar called “Truth and Lies about Pyroprocessing” that was held at the Daejeon Youth We Can Center on Feb. 28. Von Hippel is the American nuclear expert who first proposed the term “proliferation resistance.”

“The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute is trying to develop the two technologies that all other advanced countries have failed to develop, which is to say reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and liquid sodium-cooled fast reactors. While they claim to be pursuing nuclear fuel reprocessing as a way to manage nuclear waste, this doesn’t improve the problem but only makes it worse while incurring tremendous costs,” von Hippel warned.

“I don’t think the Trump administration and the Republicans are going to change the Obama administration’s nuclear policy [of non-proliferation],” he said. …..

“The Idaho National Laboratory promised to process 25 tons of spent nuclear fuel using pyroprocessing in five years, but they only processed five tons in 16 years, which cost a huge amount of money,” he went on to say.

The plan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and to build fast reactors derives from false predictions about the future, von Hippel explains. In the 1950s, Americans expected that energy demand would double every decade, but the current energy demand is only twice what it was in the 1960s. The American nuclear energy establishment projected in the 1960s that nuclear energy would cover 100% of future energy demand, but at present nuclear power only provides 20% of energy in the US and just 10% of energy worldwide.

The plan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel for use also derived from concerns about the depletion of uranium reserves and rising prices. But the dreaded rise in prices never materialized because predictions about the rate of increase of nuclear plants were way off and because the output of uranium mines has not decreased. “Currently, the cost of uranium only accounts for 1% of the cost that goes into producing electricity at nuclear plants. Even if spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed and used at fast reactors, it will only be about 2%. Not only is this a small percentage of the total cost, but it will only make the cost of generation more expensive. I don‘t know if it’s necessary to acquire high-cost facilities,” van Hippel said.

Along with the high cost, there are high risks, which means that hardly any countries are interested in building fast reactors, von Hippel contends. France’s fast reactor Superphenix cost 100 trillion won to develop but only operated at 8% before being decommissioned, and Japan’s Monju nuclear plant operated at just 1% for 20 years before it was decided last year to shut it down. The UK is also planning to end operations in 2018. China operated a pilot fast reactor in 2011, but after producing 20kg of plutonium, a small amount, it concluded that the benefits were marginal and suspended the program. Russia continues to operate these reactors, but there have reportedly been 15 fires at sodium fast reactors……

In von Hippel’s view, the most affordable policy for managing spent nuclear fuel is first storing nuclear waste in dry casks and then burying those casks deep underground in disposal sites that have been prudently designed with engineered barriers.http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/785468.html

March 8, 2017 Posted by | reprocessing, South Korea | Leave a comment

Up to £219 billion to clean up the UK’s nuclear mess: autonomous robots to be developed

flag-UKUK funding development of autonomous robots to help clear up nuclear waste A new UK consortium will be developing robots to handle nuclear sites, bomb disposal, space and mining. International Business Times,     By   February 28, 2017 The UK government is funding a new consortium of academic institutions and industrial partners to jump start the robotics industry and develop a new generation of robots to help deal with situations that are hazardous for humans.

robot-manchester-uni

It is estimated that it will cost between £95 billion and £219 billion to clean up the UK’s existing nuclear facilities over the next 120 years or so. The environment is so harsh that humans cannot physically be on the site, and robots that are sent in often encounter problems, like the small IRID Toshiba shape-shifting scorpion robot used to explore Fukushima’s nuclear reactors, often break down and cannot be retrieved.Remote-controlled robots are needed to turn enter dangerous zones that haven’t been accessed in over 40 years to carry out relatively straightforward tasks that a human could do in an instant.

The problem is that robots are just not at the level they need to be yet, and it is very difficult to build a robot that can successfully navigate staircases, move over rough terrain and turn valves.

To fix this problem, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is investing £4.6m ($5.7m) into a new group consisting of the University of Manchester, the University of Birmingham, the University of the West of England (UWE) and industrial partners Sellafield, EDF Energy, UKAEA and NuGen…….http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/uk-funding-development-autonomous-robots-help-clear-nuclear-waste-1608985

 

March 1, 2017 Posted by | Reference, technology, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Scathing report from USA Energy Dept on CB&I Areva MOX ‘s nuclear project

MOXEnergy Department issues scathing evaluation of nuclear project  February 28 The Energy Department has delivered a blunt assessment of the work done by one of the world’s biggest companies in the nuclear business: “Unsatisfactory.”

For a decade, CB&I Areva MOX Services has been under contract with the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration to design, build and operate a facility near the Savannah River in Aiken, S.C.

Yet the project — designed to convert weapons-grade plutonium and uranium into a mixed oxide fuel for commercial nuclear power plants — has been running far beyond budget and way behind schedule. Estimates now put the price tag at $17 billion.

On Dec. 5, the NNSA completed a scathing evaluation that branded several of the company’s claims about the state of the project “misleading” and “inaccurate.” The agency said CB&I Areva’s claims that the project is 70 percent complete “are patently false.” A separate September 2016 Energy Department report said construction was only 28 percent complete……

CB&I Areva is a venture created as a combination of Chicago Iron & Steel and the French nuclear giant Areva. The company did not return calls for comment……

One of the project’s sharpest critics Tom Clements, director of the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch, obtained the December NNSA assessment through a Freedom of Information Act request. He called the evaluation “devastating.”

“I have never seen an asessment like that. It all but calls them liars,” he said……

the Obama administration continued to say the MOX plant at Savannah River wasn’t practical. What started as a $620 million project in 1999 with a 2006 starting date has become a $17 billion project still decades away from a start state. By some estimates, it would require a $1 billion a year appropriation, which the Obama administration said was unlikely at best…..

The assessment said that while the contractor boasted of “zero order non-compliance,” in fact the NNSA found evidence of non-compliance.

Overall, the NNSA awarded nothing from the $2.7 million available for a bonus payment to the contractors. It said, “there continued to be a lack of transparency and openness in external communications with key project stakeholders by the contractor including continued release of misleading and inaccurate project information.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/energy-department-issues-scathing-evaluation-of-nuclear-project/2017/02/28/8af4d11a-fd2c-11e6-99b4-9e613afeb09f_story.html?utm_term=.4b6e8e136ee6

March 1, 2017 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Oh dear! Transatomic Power has been making false claims about Generation IV nuclear reactors

text-cat-questionIt’s interesting the way that, for dubious nuclear enterprises, they like to put a young woman at the top. Is this to make the nuclear image look young and trendy? Or is it so they she can cop the flak when it all goes wrong?

Below – Leslie Dewan – CEO of Transatomic Power

dewan-leslie-poisoned-chaliceNuclear Energy Startup Transatomic Backtracks on Key Promises The company, backed by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, revised inflated assertions about its advanced reactor design after growing concerns prompted an MIT review. MIT Technology Review by James Temple  February 24, 2017 Nuclear energy startup Transatomic Power has backed away from bold claims for its advanced reactor technology after an informal review by MIT professors highlighted serious errors in the company’s calculations, MIT Technology Review has learned.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, founded in 2011 by a pair of MIT students in the Nuclear Science & Engineering department, asserted that its molten salt reactor design could run on spent nuclear fuel from conventional reactors and generate energy far more efficiently than them. In a white paper published in March 2014, the company proclaimed its reactor “can generate up to 75 times more electricity per ton of mined uranium than a light-water reactor.”

Those lofty claims helped it raise millions in venture capital, secure a series of glowing media profiles (including in this publication), and draw a rock-star lineup of technical advisors. But in a paper on its site dated November 2016, the company downgraded “75 times” to “more than twice.” In addition, it now specifies that the design “does not reduce existing stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel,” or use them as its fuel source. The promise of recycling nuclear waste, which poses tricky storage and proliferation challenges, was a key initial promise of the company that captured considerable attention.

“In early 2016, we realized there was a problem with our initial analysis and started working to correct the error,” cofounder Leslie Dewan said in an e-mail response to an inquiry from MIT Technology Review.

The dramatic revisions followed an analysis in late 2015 by Kord Smith, a nuclear science and engineering professor at MIT and an expert in the physics of nuclear reactors.

At that point, there were growing doubts in the field about the company’s claims and at least some worries that any inflated claims could tarnish the reputation of MIT’s nuclear department, which has been closely associated with the company. Transatomic also has a three-year research agreement with the department, according to earlier press releases.

In reviewing the company’s white paper, Smith noticed immediate red flags. He relayed his concerns to his department head and the company, and subsequently conducted an informal review with two other professors.

“I said this is obviously incorrect based on basic physics,” Smith says. He asked the company to run a test, which ended up confirming that “their claims were completely untrue,” Smith says.

He notes that promising to increase the reactor’s fuel efficiency by 75 times is the rough equivalent of saying that, in a single step, you’d developed a car that could get 2,500 miles per gallon.

Ultimately, the company redid its analysis, and produced and posted a new white paper………

The company has raised at least $4.5 million from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Acadia Woods Partners, and Daniel Aegerter of Armada Investment AG. Venture capital veteran Ray Rothrock serves as chairman of the company.

Founders Fund didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry……https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603731/nuclear-energy-startup-transatomic-backtracks-on-key-promises/

February 25, 2017 Posted by | Reference, spinbuster, technology, USA | Leave a comment

New method to recycle lithium

recycle-rare-earths-2EurekAlert  7-FEB-2017 Efficient approach to leaching lithium and cobalt from recycled batteriesINDERSCIENCE PUBLISHERS Rechargeable lithium ion batteries power our phones and tablets they drive us from A to B in electric vehicles, and have many applications besides. Unfortunately, the devices that they power can fail and the batteries themselves are commonly only usable for two to three years. As such, there are millions batteries that must be recycled. Research published in the International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy describes a new way to extract the lithium and the cobalt that make up the bulk of the metal components of these batteries…..https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-02/ip-htr020717.php

February 8, 2017 Posted by | technology | Leave a comment

UK government’s work on Small Modular Nuclear reactors (SMRs) has slowed down

flag-UKSmall Modular Reactors NuClearNewsNo92 February 2017  Scotland Engineering giant Rolls-Royce is teaming up with a host of rivals including Amec Foster Wheeler and Arup and nuclear specialist Nuvia to develop mini-nuclear reactors. Rolls Royce believes the so-called next generation technology could text-SMRssupport as many as 40,000 jobs if the industry flourishes. The consortium is entering a £250m competition started last March by the Government, which wants to find the best SMR design for civil use. It is hoped the technology will be more cost-effective than conventional plants. (1) The companies believe SMRs will strengthen the UK’s energy security by reducing reliance on foreign gas imports and smoothing out the impact of ‘intermittent generation’ technologies.

In November 2015, the British government announced plans to invest at least £250 million over the next five years in a nuclear research and development program including a competition to identify the best value SMR design for the UK. Rolls-Royce submitted a paper to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, outlining its plan to develop a fleet of 7 GWe of SMRs with its partners. Other participants in the UK’s SMR competition include French-owned EDF Energy and its Chinese partner CNNC, Westinghouse and US developer NuScale Power. (2)

In the US NuScale has formally completed its design submission to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The 12,000-page application will now undergo a lengthy review by the NRC, which must approve the design before construction can begin. (3)

According to City AM the Government’s work on SMRs appears to have slowed down, and many companies were expecting mention of plans in the industrial strategy published in January, but there was nothing specific. (4)

  1. Telegraph 8th Jan 2017 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/01/08/rolls-royce-partners-rivals-mininuclear-reactors/
  2. World Nuclear News 9th Jan 2017 http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Rolls-Royce-names-partnersfor-UK-SMR-09011701.html
  3. NPR 13th Jan 2017 http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/13/509673094/miniaturized-nuclearpower-plant-u-s-reviewing-proposed-design
  4. City AM 8th Jan 2017 http://www.cityam.com/256579/rolls-royce-launches-partnership-engineering-giantsamec http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo92.pdf

February 4, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, technology, UK | Leave a comment

Delays, ballooning costs, stall Next-Generation Nuclear Reactors

Next-Generation Nuclear Reactors Stalled by Costly Delays, Bloomberg, by Stephen Stapczynski February 3, 2017, 

  • Toshiba seen booking billions in impairment on nuclear unit
  • Shadows of Fukushima impair industry push on new age reactors

reactor-generations

Costly delays, growing complexity and new safety requirements in the wake of the triple meltdown at Fukushima are conspiring to thwart a new age of nuclear reactor construction.

So-called generation III+ reactors were supposed to have simpler designs and safety features to avoid the kind of disaster seen in Japan almost six years ago. With their development, the industry heralded the dawn of a new era of cheaper, easier-to-build atomic plants.

Instead, the new reactors are running afoul of tighter regulations and unfamiliar designs, delaying completions and raising questions on whether the breakthroughs are too complex and expensive to be realized without state aid. The developments have left the industry’s pioneers, including Areva SA and Westinghouse Electric Co., struggling to complete long-delayed projects while construction elsewhere gains pace.

“The cost overrun situation is driven by a near-perfect storm of societal risk aversion to nuclear causing ultra-restrictive regulatory requirements, construction complexity, and lack of nuclear construction experience by the industry,” said Lake Barrett, a former official at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Toshiba Corp., Japan’s biggest maker of nuclear power plants, is the latest to join a list of companies facing impairments in the pursuit of cutting-edge reactors…….

Ballooning Costs

In 2015, the investment cost to develop a new nuclear plant was $5,828 per kilowatt, up from $2,065 in 1998, according to a World Nuclear Associationreport. In Europe, construction of a new nuclear facility in France seen costing $7,202 per kilowatt, compared with $2,280……..

“I don’t know of any recent examples of new, large, complex technological construction projects that have come in on time and on budget,” Allison Macfarlane, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said by e-mail.

The industry has no agreed-upon definition for generation III+. Broadly, the reactors are expected to withstand an airplane strike and the cooling systems should operate for at least three days without electricity…….https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-02/costly-delays-upset-reactor-renaissance-keeping-nuclear-at-bay

February 4, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, technology | Leave a comment

NuScale’s “small modular reactor” not clean, safe, or even small, really

NuScale won’t solve energy problems http://www.gazettetimes.com/news/opinion/mailbag/letter-nuscale-won-t-solve-energy-problems/article_84aa2a03-1d03-53aa-be1a-3e86e1f80869.html Jan 23, 2017 

smr-on-truck

The Gazette-Times’ Jan. 13 article about NuScale’s reactor certification, needs some clarification. NuScale’s “small modular reactor” is not: an answer to climate change, small, a “clean energy” source, nor inherently safe.

The nuclear industry has been selling us a story that nuclear power is a solution to climate change because it does not generate carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas. While this is true of the nuclear chain reaction itself, the front and back ends of nuclear power generate a large volume of CO2 and leave a trail of endlessly dangerous radioactivity along the way.

 At the front end of nuclear power, carbon energy is used for uranium mining, processing, conversion, and enrichment, as well as for transportation, formulation of rods and construction of nuclear reactors (power plants). At the back end, there is the task of decommissioning and isolating highly radioactive nuclear waste for millennia — a task which science has so far not been able to address.
NuScale’s power plants are not small. Their plants contain 50 megawatt modules, but to be competitive with solar energy, wind energy or natural gas, they need all 12 modules (600 megawatts). Nuclear energy is not “clean energy.” This is understood with the ongoing Fukushima or Chernobyl tragedies. NuScale’s is not a fail-safe system, regardless of the nonhuman intervention with its passive design. Neither Mother Nature nor human nature can be anticipated completely. NuScale is not the answer to our energy problems, it will just add to them. Wind, solar and efficiency are better investments.

January 25, 2017 Posted by | spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

USA Congress supports small nuclear reactors

fleecing-taxpayer

Congress Passes Unconventional Nuclear Power Bill ANDREW FOLLETT,  Daily Caller, 24 Jan 17   House lawmakers passed legislation Monday to support unconventional nuclear power.

If signed by President Trump, the proposal could change how the government regulates nuclear power and create a boom in the utilization of advanced unconventional reactor technology. The bill was sponsored by two Republicans and three Democrats.

“We believe that trailblazing the advance of nuclear energy technology including Gen 3+, Small Modular Reactors, Non-Light Water Reactor (LWR) Advanced Reactors and Fusion Reactors is one of the key imperatives for U.S. market competitiveness,” David Blee, executive director of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council (NIC), told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“It is vital to maintaining the U.S. lead in technology innovation, safety enhancements, energy security and clean energy,” Blee said…….

text-SMRsEnergy companies in Idaho and Utah announced plans in June to build twelve small modular reactors to provide electricity to nine western states.

Getting regulators to consider approving an unconventional nuclear design is incredibly expensive. The company NuScale was required to produce a 12,000-page document and spend $500 million dollars just to get the government to consider its designs. The company thinks it won’t be able to commercialize small modular reactors by 2026 at the earliest due to regulatory delays…….

Getting regulatory approval from the NRC to build a new conventional reactor can take up to 25 years…….. http://dailycaller.com/2017/01/24/congress-passes-unconventional-nuclear-power-bill/

January 25, 2017 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | Leave a comment

“Small” nuclear reactors are still pretty big, AND more expensive than large ones

NuScale says its mass-produced reactor modules will be simpler and more affordable to build than a big plant. Placing several modules in a single location will provide the same power output as a commercial reactor, says Mike McGough, the company’s chief commercial officer. NuScale is already partnering with a consortium of Utah utilities to build a 12-module power plant on land in Idaho owned by the U.S. Department of Energy. (The DOE is a partner in the NuScale project.)…..
not everyone is convinced smaller is better.Ed Lyman,an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the electricity generated by a smaller reactor is more expensive than that generated by a larger one. Companies such as NuScale hope to offset the higher costs by saving on the cost of construction, but Lyman isn’t convinced. He worries savings will come at the cost of safety.

He says NuScale wants to do things like reduce the size and strength of the reactor containment building and the number of personnel needed to operate the plant. “NuScale is proposing major reductions in all of these areas relative to current NRC requirements for large reactors, based on the assertion that the reactor will be safer,” he says.

January 14, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

America’s Nuclear Submarines Now Obsolete? – new Swedish Technology

submarine,-nuclear-underwatDid Sweden Make America’s Nuclear Submarines Obsolete? The National Interest, 30 Dec 16 Nuclear-powered submarines have traditionally held a decisive edge in endurance, stealth and speed over cheaper diesel submarines. However, new Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology has significantly narrowed the performance gap on a new generation of submarines that cost a fraction of the price of a nuclear-powered boat……..

Nuclear vs. AIP: Who Wins?:

Broadly speaking, how do AIP vessels compare in performance to nuclear submarines?  Let’s consider the costs and benefits in terms of stealth, endurance, speed and cost.

Stealth:

Nuclear powered submarines have become very quiet—at least an order of magnitude quieter than a diesel submarine with its engine running.  In fact, nuclear-powered submarines may be unable to detect each other using passive sonar, as evidenced by the 2009 collision of a British and French nuclear ballistic missile submarines, both oblivious to the presence of the other.

However, there’s reason to believe that AIP submarines can, if properly designed, swim underwater even more quietly. The hydraulics in a nuclear reactor produce noise as they pump coolant liquid, while an AIP’s submarine’s engines are virtually silent. Diesel-powered submarines can also approach this level of quietness while running on battery power, but can only do so for a few hours whereas an AIP submarine can keep it up for days.

Diesel and AIP powered submarines have on more than one occasion managed to slip through anti-submarine defenses and sink American aircraft carriers in war games. Of course, such feats have also been performed by nuclear submarines.

Endurance:

Nuclear submarines can operate underwater for three or four months at a time and cross oceans with ease. While some conventional submarines can handle the distance, none have comparable underwater endurance.

AIP submarines have narrowed the gap, however.  While old diesel submarines needed to surface in a matter of hours or a few days at best to recharge batteries, new AIP powered vessels only need to surface every two to four weeks depending on type. (Some sources make the unconfirmed claim that the German Type 214 can even last more than 2 months.) Of course, surfaced submarines, or even those employing a snorkel, are comparatively easy to detect and attack.

Nuclear submarines still have a clear advantage in endurance over AIP boats, particularly on the long-distance patrols.  However, for countries like Japan, Germany and China that mostly operate close to friendly shores, extreme endurance may be a lower priority.

Speed:……..Obviously, high maximum speed grants advantages in both strategic mobility and tactical agility.  However, it should be kept in mind that even nuclear submarines rarely operate at maximum speed because of the additional noise produced.

 On the other hand, an AIP submarine is likely to move at especially slow speeds when cruising sustainably using AIP compared to diesel or nuclear submarines.  For example, a Gotland class submarine is reduced to just 6 miles per hour if it wishes to remain submerged at maximum endurance—which is simply too slow for long distance transits or traveling with surface ships.  Current AIP technology doesn’t produce enough power for higher speeds, and thus most AIP submarines also come with noisy diesel engines as backup.

Cost:

Who would have guessed nuclear reactors are incredibly expensive?  The contemporary U.S. Virginia class attack submarine costs $2.6 billion dollars, and the earlier Los Angeles class before it around $2 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.  Mid-life nuclear refueling costs add millions more.

By comparison, AIP powered submarines have generally cost between $200 and $600 million, meaning a country could easily buy three or four medium-sized AIP submarines instead of one nuclear attack submarine. Bear in mind, however, that the AIP submarines are mostly small or medium sized vessels with crews of around 30 and 60 respectively, while nuclear submarines are often larger with crews of 100 or more.  They may also have heavier armament, such as Vertical Launch Systems, when compared to most AIP powered vessels.

Nevertheless, a torpedo or missile from a small submarine can hit just as hard as one fired from a large one, and having three times the number of submarine operating in a given stretch of ocean could increase the likelihood chancing upon an important target, and make it easier to overwhelm anti-submarine defenses.

While AIP vessels may not be able to do everything a nuclear submarine can, having a larger fleet of submarines would be very useful in hunting opposing ships and submarines for control of the seas. Nor would it be impossible to deploy larger AIP powered submarines; China has already deployed one, and France is marketing a cheaper AIP-powered version of the Barracuda-class nuclear attack submarine.

It is no surprise that navies that operate largely around coastal waters are turning to cheap AIP submarines, as their disadvantage are not as relevant when friendly ports are close at hand. ……..http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/did-sweden-make-americas-nuclear-submarines-obsolete-18908?page=2

January 2, 2017 Posted by | Sweden, technology, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority approves closure of Monju nuclear reprocessing reactor by next April

monju-plant-in-tsuruga-fukui-prefectureNuclear watchdog approves scrapping Monju reactor  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161228_19/ Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has approved the government’s decision to scrap the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor. The education, science and technology ministry briefed the NRA on Wednesday about the government’s decision last week about the troubled reactor in Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said the decision is in line with the recommendation it made in November last year.
In it, the NRA urged an overhaul of a research and development project involving the reactor. It said scrapping the reactor would be an option unless a new operator were found for it.

The ministry also told the NRA on Wednesday that it will draw up a basic plan for decommissioning the reactor by next April.

It added that to eliminate possible safety risks soon, it will instruct reactor operator Japan Atomic Energy Agency to remove nuclear fuel from the reactor in about 5 and half years.

Tanaka asked the ministry to oversee the decommissioning process to ensure safety. He said the NRA will study whether relevant laws should be amended to step up regulation. He added that it may also set up an expert team to monitor the process.

December 30, 2016 Posted by | decommission reactor, Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Monju closure marks the end of the failed “nuclear fuel cycle” dream

fast-breeder-MonjuJapan pulls plug on Monju, ending US$8.5 billion nuclear self-sufficiency push, South China Morning Post,  21 December, 2016 

Japan on Wednesday formally pulled the plug on an US$8.5 billion nuclear power project designed to realise a long-term aim for energy self-sufficiency after decades of development that yielded little electricity but plenty of controversy.

The move to shut the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in Fukui prefecture west of Tokyo adds to a list of failed attempts around the world to make the technology commercially viable and potentially cut stockpiles of dangerous nuclear waste……

The plant was built to burn plutonium derived from the waste of reactors at Japan’s conventional nuclear plants and create more fuel than it used, closing the so-called nuclear fuel cycle and giving a country that relies on overseas supplies for most of its energy needs a home-grown electricity source.

With Monju’s shutdown, Japan’s taxpayers are now left with an estimated bill of at least 375 billion yen (US$3.2 billion) to decommission its reactor, on top of the 1 trillion yen (US$8.5 billion) spent on the project.

Japan is still committed to trying to make the technology work and will build a new experimental research reactor at Monju, the government said.

But critics within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) think it will be another futile attempt.

“We need to terminate the impossible dream of the nuclear fuel cycle. The fast breeder reactor is not going to be commercially viable. We know it. We all know it,” senior LDP lawmaker Taro Kono said recently at an event in Tokyo.  http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2056403/japan-pulls-plug-monju-ending-us85-billion-nuclear-self?utm_source=edm&utm_medium=edm&utm_content=20161222&utm_campaign=scmp_today

December 24, 2016 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment