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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

UK accounting firm found that Small Modular Nuclear Reactors would not be cost-effective

FT 7th Nov 2017, British ministers are preparing to revive the UK’s faltering effort to
create a new generation of small-scale nuclear power plants in spite of an
official analysis that cast doubt on the economic case for the technology.

Talks have intensified in recent weeks between government officials and
companies including Rolls-Royce, the UK engineering group, over potential
public funding to support development of so-called small modular reactors
(SMRs).

Greg Clark, business secretary, is keen to put the UK at the
forefront of technology seen as a more affordable alternative to
large-scale nuclear reactors such as those under construction at the £20bn
Hinkley Point C plant in south-west England.

Development of SMRs is regarded as crucial to the future of the nuclear industry as it struggles
to remain competitive against the rapidly falling cost of renewable wind
and solar power. The UK faces competition from the US, Canada and China in
its effort to establish a leading position in the technology.

Support for SMRs is expected to be part of a wider commitment to nuclear engineering in
a new industrial strategy to be unveiled by the government this month.

However, the enthusiasm has been complicated by a technology assessment,
commissioned by the business department and carried out by EY, the
accounting firm, which reached a negative verdict on the cost-effectiveness
of SMRs. The findings are expected to be published in the coming weeks and
will confront the government with awkward questions about why public money
should be used to help commercialise the unproven technology.
https://www.ft.com/content/bddfda80-c314-11e7-b2bb-322b2cb39656

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November 8, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, technology, UK | Leave a comment

Examining the hype in Australia about space exploration

Australia’s international space agency hype https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/australias-international-space-agency-hype,10876  s the current hype about space travel justified, and what of the human and environmental cost? Noel Wauchope reports.

ENTHUSIASM for space travel has been mounting since Australia hosted the recent International Astronautical Congress (IAC), held in Adelaide in September.

Then there was the announcement that Australia is getting a space agency!

We are informed by space scientist Dr Megan Clarke:

“ … more than 3000 of the world’s top space experts wildly cheered [and] all aspects of Australian society were united on the need for a national agency.” 

In November, the very brilliant and appealing space travel and nuclear power enthusiast, Professor Brian Cox is to tour Australia! Champion astronaut Scott Kelly has just published his exciting bookEndurance: a Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery.

Dare anyone throw cold water on all this joy?

Intriguingly, the Australian Government, while proudly hyping up this initiative, has not yet come up with a title for the new agency. However, someone else has and they have set up an elegant and professional-looking website for it: Australian Research and Space Exploration (ARSE).

Let’s start with that most important consideration — money

Although everyone says that space exploration is going to be an economic bonanza, I can’t see how it’s actually going to bring in money. There are some vague suggestions about finding mineral resources on other planets. Even NASA seems hard-put to find any real commercial benefits.

They discuss a few useful scientific and medical technologies — for example, water purification techniques and advanced eye surgery. These are side benefits of space research but surely could have been developed more cheaply with research on Earth directly intended for the purpose. I am reminded of the “benefits” of man walking on the moon in 1966 – we got Teflon – and even that didn’t turn out so well.

What about the costs of space exploration, space travel and sending a man to Mars? It is very hard to locate actual figures. Even three years ago, NASA’s space travel research cost taxpayers US$17.6 billion (AU$22.9 billion) — and costs have surely risen by now.  A huge part of the cost is in fitting and fuelling the space rockets’ thermoelectric generators with the production of the plutonium fuel being the most costly part of the expense.

Plutonium fuel

Plutonium 238 fuelled Voyager 1, which is expected to keep going until 2025, the New Horizons trip to Pluto and Cassini, which recently crashed into Saturn. NASA is sanguine about risks of a space exploration accident, claiming that it’s a low probability.

Karl Grossman has described a previous accident, dispersing plutonium widely and the risks involved in the Cassini project thus:

‘ … the Plutonium-238 used in space devices is 280 times more radioactive than the Plutonium-239 used in nuclear weapons.’ 

A very small amount of Plutonium-238, that cannot be seen, felt, or measured with a Geiger counter is enough to kill you. One nanoparticle inhaled and lodged in the lungs is enough to give anyone lung cancer. In experiments with dogs, there was no dose low enough to NOT cause the death of these animals. Just one nanoparticle the size of dust (1 microgram) that could not even be seen, was enough to kill every dog tested.

There is a long list of space travel accidents, including 19 rocket explosions causing fatalities, as well as nine other crashes/accidents causing fatalities. There seems to be no published research on rockets and space debris that have ended up in the oceans. We can assume that such ocean debris does exist, including the long-lasting radioactive particles of plutonium, to be carried thousands of miles by ocean currents.

Ocean crashes are sometimes reported, but the public is generally unaware of the space junk and the plutonium that goes into the oceans. NASA is very coy about publicly stating that the rocket’s rockets’ thermoelectric generators are, in fact, fuelled by plutonium.

NASA continues research on solar-powered space flights, but that idea seems out of fashion at the moment.

The human toll of space travel

The human toll of space travel is not emphasised. However, Scott Kelly, who holds the U.S. record for time spent in space, has been quite frank about this in his new book. As an identical twin, Scott is an especially useful person for studying the effects of space on the body.

He became, in fact, a laboratory research animal — a sacrificial lamb, perhaps, in the cause of space research:

‘I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained and shrank the walls of my heart. More troubling, I experienced problems with my vision, as many other astronauts had. I had been exposed to more than 30 times the radiation of a person on Earth, equivalent to about ten chest X-rays every day. This exposure would increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life.’

Despite Scott’s extraordinary health problems, which linger to this day, he is optimistic and keen about human travel to Mars.

Which brings us to the biggest consideration: the ethics of all this.

I am fascinated that it is stated in Wikipedia, in assessing the cost of sending humans to Mars (over US$500 billion or AU$651 billion), that:

‘The largest limiting factor for sending humans to Mars is funding.’

I think that the human cost should be a bigger “limiting factor”. There’s still the problem of lethal radiation on the trip and on Mars. Plus it’s a one-way trip. Scott Kelly has detailed, especially, the mental distress of being stuck in a spacecraft for months, isolated from human society and from loved ones, as well as the physical problems. Despite all this, Scott is keen on space travel and humans going to Mars. He is carried along, it seems, by a love of adventure, of risk, of achievement and fame.

Comfortable old white men in suits are planning the Mars trip; Younger, enthusiastic young men and women, like Scott Kelly, are mesmerised by the adventure and perceived “glory”. Should we be encouraging them on this suicide mission?

We are constantly being told of the benefits to come, in space travel. What benefits? Are they greater than the huge environmental and personal risks? And the financial costs – the US$500 billion (AU $651 billion), paid for by the tax-payer? That money could go to meet real human needs. There’s something wrong with our priorities when we mindlessly accept enthusiasm for technology, innovation, and so on, as better than healing the health of this planet and its populations.

Nuclear power

And there is one other issue — nuclear power. The space hype coincides with the current drastic downturn in the fortunes of the nuclear industry. To continue with space research/travel, plutonium is needed. And the only way to get it is from nuclear reactors. Space science could be a lifeline for the failing nuclear industry.

It’s no coincidence that the International Astronautical Congress was held in Adelaide — Australia’s hub of nuclear ambition. It’s no coincidence that Professor Brian Cox is visiting, hot from his recent pep talks to the nuclear industry in Wales.

The uncritical hype about space travel ties in well with the pro-nuclear hype, especially in South Australia.

November 2, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, AUSTRALIA, technology | Leave a comment

As renewable energy costs shrink, British government wastes money on Small Nuclear Reactor fantasy

Small nuclear reactors are a 1950s mirage come back to haunt us http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2989401/small_nuclear_reactors_are_a_1950s_mirage_come_back_to_haunt_us.html, Oliver Tickell, 24th October, 2017

The government is due to announce a £250 million support package for ‘small modular reactors’ his week, just as the price of wind and solar power contracts fall 10% below UK wholesale prices. OLIVER TICKELL argues that the Britain’s ‘civilian’ nuclear power expenditure is actually a camouflaged subsidy to the UK’s Trident nuclear missile system.

It’s easy to see why Rolls Royce and other companies in the nuclear engineering business are pushing the UK government finance the development a new generation of ‘small modular reactors’ or SMRs. Whether the project succeeds or fails, there are juicy profits to be had for them at taxpayers expense.

Rather harder to understand is why the government should see the slightest merit in the idea.

According to a recent report by Rolls-Royce and its partners in the ‘SMR Consortium’ (SMRC), a UK SMR program could create 40,000 skilled jobs, contribute £100 billion ($132 billion) to the economy and open up a potential £400 billion global export market.

Nuclear Industries Association chairman Lord (John) Hutton claims in the foreword that a UK SMR programme could “help the UK become a vibrant, world-leading nuclear nation.” He asserts his belief that “it is fundamental for the UK to meet its 2050 decarbonisation targets and will deliver secure, reliable and affordable electricity for generations to come.”

The SMRC report envisages an approximate doubling of the UK’s 9.5 GW existing nuclear capacity by 2030, then another doubling by 2050 to around 40GW. That implies that come 2050, SMRs would be delivering some 30GW – the output of 100 300MW units scattered around the UK.

There are just two problems with the rosy scenario. First, the techno-optimism that oozes from every page is a fantasy. Nuclear power stations have got bigger to achieve economies of scale: it’s much cheaper to build a single 1.2GW unit than four 300MW units, or a dozen 100MW units.

As an illustration of the principle, take a look at the wind power industry. One of the main reasons why offshore wind has come down so much in cost is the move to ever-larger wind turbines. A single new 8MW turbine may now be bigger than an entire wind farm of 20 years ago.

This story goes all the way back to the 1950s …

But first we must realise – there is nothing new about SMRs! They have been powering submarines and aircraft carriers ever since the since USS Nautilus was launched in 1955, over 60 years ago. And the world’s first purely civilian nuclear plant, at Shippingport in the USA, a 60MW SMR, went live in 1957. While civilian reactors got bigger, many hundreds of SMRs have been built and deployed for naval use.

Now if there really are huge cost savings to be achieved from the mass production of SMRs, how come they have not already been achieved? What is that that generations of super-smart nuclear engineers have missed? Industry claims of less complex financing and ‘process engineering’ may ring a little hollow, but – for the sake of argument – let’s accept that all the claimed cost reductions can be achieved. On the SMRC’s projections,

“The levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) generated by a FOAK [first of a kind] UK SMR power station is forecast under £75 per MWh and this reduces to a forecast £65 per MWh by station number five. In the medium term the target is even lower at £60 per MWh.”

This is a good bit cheaper than the inflation-proof £92.50 / MWh (in 2013 money) the government has promised to pay for Hinkley C’s power for 35 years following the plant’s opening. But it’s a lot higher than current wholesale power prices of around £42 / MWh.

The ever shrinking cost of renewable energy

Last month the price of offshore wind power reached a new low of £57.50 per MWh in an auction for contracts, guaranteed for just 15 years. Onshore wind is even cheaper: contracts awarded in Germany in May reached another new low of €42.80 / MWh (£38.24) – less than current UK wholesale power prices. And Germany’s latest solar auction, a few days ago, delivered bids as low as €42.90 per MWh. Both these technologies appear viable with no subsidy at all.

The cost of solar PV panels continues its precipitous decline. Recent figures show the cost of panels in the Netherlands declining at 11% per year, or 50% every five years. The trend may continue for a long time to come.

Extrapolate these declining renewable cost trends to 2030, and we can expect solar power to cost around £10 per MWh, with wind at £20-30 per MWh. By 2050, wind power costs will surely have halved again, with solar around £1 per MWh. So what will be the use of nuclear power at £60-75 per MWh?

Of course there will be costs in integrating large volumes of variable, non-despatchable power supply into the grid. It will mean using ‘dynamic demand’ or ‘smart grid’ technologies, energy storage in giant batteries and hydropower stations, large scale power-to-gas and power-to-liquid-fuel conversion (in turn displacing fossil fuels from transport) … and the base cost of power will be astonishingly low by current standards, not just in the UK but all over the world.

So Lord Hutton’s hyperbolic claims are wholly erroneous. Nuclear power will be utterly irrelevant in meeting decarbonisation targets. There is no £400 billion export market. Who would want SMRs in 2050, when their power will be 50-100 times more expensive than solar?

The ‘nuclear deterrent’

We now know (thanks to Andy Stirling and Philip Johnstone of Sussex University) that the government wants to use civilian nuclear programme to generate expertise, technology, for military use, especially reactors for Trident nuclear submarines. What better way than to pour billions of pounds into SMRs under the pretence that the technology is for civilian use?

Actually Lord Hutton himself gave the game away when he wrote: “A UK SMR programme would support all 10 ‘pillars’ of the Government’s Industrial Strategy and assist in sustaining the skills required for the Royal Navy’s submarine programme.”

More recently, on 10th October, defence procurement minister Harriet Baldwin MP replied to a question by Caroline Lucas MP that, “[i]n all discussions it is fully understood that civil and defence sectors must work together to make sure resource is prioritised appropriately for the protection and prosperity of the United Kingdom.”

But there are signs that BEIS Secretary Greg Clarke may be getting tired of subsidising the UK’s nuclear missiles. In 2015 former Chancellor George Osborne announced a £250 million SMR competition for the most promising ideas. The outcomewas to be published last autumn. it wasn’t. By May 2017, the nuclear industry and its backers in the House of Lords were panicking. Then the SMRCs report ‘UK SMR: A National Endeavour‘ was issued this 20th September in a desperate attempt to ginger up the process. It has failed – so far.

Could a sudden fit of common sense, logical thinking and sound economics have come across senior UK ministers? Probably not. The Telegraph reports today that BEIS is to publish the competitions ‘results’ in a study this week, announcing Rolls Royce and its SMRC partners as the winners. “We are currently considering next steps for the SMR programme and we will communicate these in due course”, a BEIS spokesman said.

This Author

Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at Resurgence & Ecologist magazine and a former editor of The Ecologist.

October 27, 2017 Posted by | technology, UK | Leave a comment

With plummeting renewables costs, costly nuclear fusion unlikely to ever make sense

Washington Post 20th Oct 2017, The world’s biggest scientific experiment is on course to become the most expensive source of surplus power. Components of the 20 billion-euro ($24 billion) project are already starting to pile up at a construction site in the south of France, where about 800 scientists plan to test whether they can harness the power that makes stars shine.

Assembly of the machine will start in May. Unlike traditional nuclear plants that split atoms, the
so-called ITER reactor will fuse them together at temperatures 10-times hotter than the Sun — 150 million degrees Celsius (270 million Fahrenheit). Its startling complexity, with more than a million pieces and sponsors in 35 countries, mean questions remain about over whether the reactor will work or if it can deliver electricity at anything like the cost of more traditional forms of clean energy.

With wind-farm developers starting to promise subsidy-free power by 2025 and electricity demand
stagnating, even the project’s supporters are asking whether ITER will ever make sense. “I’m dubious,” said Chris Llewellyn Smith, director of energy research at Oxford University who has spoken in favor of the research project. “The cost of wind and solar has come down so rapidly, so the competition has become harder to beat than you could have conceivably imagined a decade ago.”
http://washpost.bloomberg.com/Story?docId=1376-OY3SHX6S972801-2RKS837QMLNSJG9Q1LHCUFO248

October 23, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, technology | Leave a comment

UK government to consider Rolls-Royce’s Small Modular Nuclear Reactor (SMR) designs

Designs for ‘mini’ nuclear power plants proposed by Rolls-Royce led group set to be given go-ahead, Telegraph   Alan Tovey 22 OCTOBER 2017  

An important report assessing the viability of new “mini” nuclear power plants for the UK to be published this week is expected to give the green light to develop designs proposed by a British consortium led by Rolls-Royce.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is set to issue a study which formally ends a competition between different types of low-carbon power generation to assess which should be supported.

Industry sources say a concurrent Techno-Economic Assessment for the government by EY concludes that designs for small nuclear reactors (SMRs) from the Rolls consortium are the more likely to succeed.

October 23, 2017 Posted by | politics, technology, UK | Leave a comment

Nuclear fusion won’t be able to compete with solar, wind power

Nuclear Fusion Unlikely to Challenge Solar, Wind Power https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-20/nuclear-fusion-unlikely-to-challenge-solar-wind-power

Even if it works, it will be expensive relative to alternatives, By Anna Hirtenstein, 21 Oct 17, 
The world’s biggest and most expensive science experiment is likely to be threatened by the advance of renewable energy. Questions remain about whether the ITER nuclear fusion project will work at all, let alone provide electricity at anything like the cost of more traditional forms of clean energy. Solar power has plummeted 62 percent in the past five years, wind has followed a similar trend and even the best-case scenario would result in fusion being significantly pricier than renewables.

October 20, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, technology | Leave a comment

The problem of autonomous weapons systems

Why “stupid” machines matter: Autonomous weapons and shifting norms, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Ingvild Bode, Hendrik Huelss  13 Oct 17In August, a group of experts on robotics and artificial intelligence released an open letter to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The well-publicized letter called on the convention “to find a way to protect us all from” the dangers of autonomous weapons systems—and drew attention to a lack of international regulation on autonomous weapons (often understood as weapons that “once activated, can select and engage targets without further human intervention”).

In 2013 the convention added autonomous weapons to the list of weapons it might consider restricting or outlawing. But parties to the convention remain far from agreement on how to define “lethal autonomous weapons systems” or “appropriate human control of autonomous weapons”—a necessary precursor to further discussions on the topic or to a pre-emptive ban of the sort advocated by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

 In December of last year, the convention established a Group of Governmental Experts, with a mandate to discuss lethal autonomous weapons systems—but the group’s first meeting has been postponed twice for budgetary reasons. It is now scheduled for next month.

Deliberative processes that might examine autonomous weapons from the perspective of the laws of war—processes, that is, that could result in new regulations—are notoriously sluggish. Meanwhile, autonomous weapons technology is developing apace. Nations such as the United States, China, Russia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom continue to develop autonomous weapons and related dual-use technologies, meaning that deployment of these weapons could become a fait accompli before any pre-emptive ban can be negotiated.

The current debate over autonomous weapons exhibits two important shortcomings. First, though it is important to examine autonomous weapons from the legal and regulatory perspective, doing so can fail to capture the reality that autonomous weapons, and the practices associated with their development and deployment, can alter norms themselves. For example, practices surrounding autonomous weapons can produce new understandings, outside and beyond international law, of when and how using force is appropriate. As Herbert Lin has written in the Bulletin, the unrestricted submarine warfare of World War II undermined agreed-upon norms about the conduct of war; other such examples are not hard to find.

Second, when observers discuss autonomous weapons’ game-changing potential in international relations and security policy, they often overemphasize the technologically sophisticated autonomous weapons of the future. (This tendency is shaped by popular culture’s “Terminator” vision of humanoid monsters and is affected by the lack of a consensus definition of “autonomous weapons” or “autonomy.”) Overemphasizing technologically sophisticated weapons seems to result in a belief that the international community should just wait to see whether “killer robots” indeed become reality. However, no matter how important advanced artificial intelligence will be for future weapons systems, it is “stupid” autonomous weapons that require attention now. 

 (This issue has been discussed, for example, by Noel Sharkey, an emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield—and, in a broader context, by Toby Walsh, a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of New South Wales.)

To sort out these problems, it is helpful to contrast autonomy with mere automation. Drawing on definitions from basic robotics, automated machines can be said to run according to fixed and preprogrammed sequences of action. Autonomous systems, meanwhile, are defined by their ability to adapt: An autonomous device’s “actions are determined by its sensory inputs, rather than where it is in a preprogramed sequence.” This level of autonomy is easy to achieve—one need only think of robotic vacuum cleaners. But where weapons are concerned, even this level of autonomy contests the idea of appropriate human control. And importantly, unlike the humanoid killer robots of possible future scenarios, this level of autonomy already exists………

It is sometimes presumed that autonomous weapons will demonstrate ethical superiorityover humans. Any such superiority is still hypothetical, but autonomous weapons might lack potentially problematic emotions such as fear, anger, or vengefulness. Presumed ethical superiority leads to further procedural arguments for constructing autonomous weapons as “better soldiers” that will outperform humans morally and in terms of compliance with international humanitarian law. If this argument becomes more dominant, the widespread development and deployment of autonomous weapons will become more likely—further escalating the possibility that procedural norms will affect the public and legal norms that underlie international law and notions of legitimacy.

The US military’s pervasive and accelerating deployment of drones, and drones’ centrality in US security policy, show that practices indeed shape norms. Drones have become “preferred” security instruments due to specific rationales based on procedural norms. Autonomous weapons’ versatility, the dual-use character of their main features, and the technological rivalry among major powers qualify them as very important instruments—and this makes their regulation more difficult. Whenever procedural norms prevail over legal and ethical norms, the latter category, unfortunately, is likely to yield or adapt.

To be sure, some types of autonomous weapons might be banned in the future. But practices now being established regarding autonomous weapons are already setting standards about the future use of force. This trend should be monitored much more closely—regardless of whether the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, governments, and nongovernmental organizations find common ground in their struggle to define what autonomous weapons are in the first place. https://thebulletin.org/why-%E2%80%9Cstupid%E2%80%9D-machines-matter-autonomous-weapons-and-shifting-norms11189

October 14, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology | Leave a comment

Debunking the myths about nuclear fusion – The ITER Power Amplification Myth

The ITER Power Amplification Myth   – By Steven B. Krivit –New Energy Times, 6 Oct 17 

Short link: http://tinyurl.com/y9lvf79j

This is the third of three reports about the claims by representatives and proponents of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). “The Selling of ITER” published on Jan. 12, 2017. “Former ITER Spokesman Confirms Accuracy of New Energy Times Story” published on Jan. 19, 2017.


Abstract (Abstract is Copyleft, duplication permitted but only with attribution and link to original )

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is the largest and most expensive science experiment on Earth today. Public outreach for the experimental fusion reactor, under the direction of Laban Coblentz, the head of the ITER communications office, has led journalists and the public to believe that, when completed, the reactor will produce 10 times more power than goes into it.

It will do no such thing. The $22 billion reactor is designed to produce only 1.6 times more thermal power than it consumes in electric power. Using a more conservative calculation, the reactor will lose more power than it produces. The planned output power of the reactor has been reported correctly, but the input power for the reactor has been widely reported, incorrectly, as 50 megawatts. The actual input power value, rarely discussed publicly, will be significantly larger.

For decades, some proponents of thermonuclear fusion research have used a double meaning for the phrase “fusion power” yet failed to inform the public, the news media, or legislators about the existence of this dual meaning. This ambiguity has caused non-experts to think that power production rates from large-scale thermonuclear fusion experiments show greater technological progress than has actually occurred. As a result, people who are not fusion experts think that ITER will achieve a power production rate, or power amplification, six times larger than its design specification. ITER will produce power at a rate of only two-thirds of the rate it will consume power, when comparing electric power input to equivalent electric power output.

Some fusion proponents have used the secondary meaning of “fusion power” to convince non-experts that the record-setting 1997 fusion experiment in the Joint European Torus (JET) reactor in the U.K. had produced thermal power at a rate of 65 percent of the electric power consumed by the reactor and, therefore, that the reactor had come close to producing power at a rate equal to the rate of power consumed. In fact, in that experiment, the reactor produced power in heat at a rate of less than 2 percent of the power in electricity it consumed. Coblentz and the ITER communications group have used the same double meaning to promote the publicly funded $22 billion ITER reactor, under construction now in southern France.

Fusion research insiders know that the current primary goal of ITER is not to demonstrate power amplification of the reactor. Instead, they know, the main goal is the power amplification of the fusion plasma, a significantly different measurement. Fusion experts say that non-experts understand the distinction, but nearly all evidence, as shown for example in news coverage by The New York Times, Scientific American, Bloomberg, Forbes and BBC News, is to the contrary. The double meaning of the phrase “fusion power” went unnoticed for years and has misled experienced journalists, scientists, members of the public and elected officials…….http://news.newenergytimes.net/

October 7, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, Reference, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

Dear oh dear! USA hasn’t enough plutonium for both space exploration and nuclear weapons

 

Why is it that the citizens of teh United States put up with their tax money going to produce toxic plutonium for useless dangerous space travel and even more useless dangerous and illegal nuclear weapons.?

What happens when a spacecraft powered by plutonium crashes into a city?

Report: It’s space travel power versus pits at Los Alamos By Mark Oswald / Journal Staff Writer, Thursday, October 5th, 2017 SANTA FE – At Los Alamos National Laboratory, a mandate to produce more of the plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons is bumping up against goals to produce power systems for NASA’s “long duration space missions.”

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that lab officials say that plutonium work for NASA systems “must compete with other priorities for facility space” at the LANL’s plutonium facility, specifically production of nuclear weapons “pits.”

The problem could significantly effect a key step in production of “radioisotope power systems” (RPS) and delay delivery of the systems for NASA’s missions, says the GAO report.

RPS produce power by converting heat from decay of plutonium-238 into electricity and can operate where solar panels or batteries would be ineffective and can operate for more than a decade, according to the report.

An RPS is currently used to power the roving Mars Science Laboratory, known as Curiosity, that has been exploring the Red Planet since 2012. Other missions in the coming years are slated to use the power systems, including another rover, Mars 2020.

The GAO was asked to review the situation in part because the National Academy of Sciences has expressed concern about future NASA missions because of a diminishing supply of plutonium-238. Until 2015, it hadn’t been made in the U.S. for more than 25 years. Various laboratories within the Department of Energy are involved. The GAO report says LANL maintains capability for producing Pu-238 and its work involves Pu-238 storage, chemical processing, analysis, fuel processing and encapsulation of Pu-238…..

LANL is also under orders to produce as many as 80 plutonium pits by 2030, as part of an expansive update of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. None have been made for several years.

The GAO report says the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within DOE that includes LANL and the rest of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, is currently “focused primarily” on making pits and has not coordinated with the Pu-238 program in connection with potential modifications of the Los Alamos plutonium facility…….https://www.abqjournal.com/1074021/report-its-space-travel-power-versus-pits-at-los-alamos.html

October 7, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, technology, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) can’t compete, unless ordered en masse

SMR Supply Chains, Costs, are Focus of Key Developments, Neutron Bytes, Dan Yurman October 4, 2017

Small modular reactors won’t be able to compete with natural gas plants combined with renewables unless and until they get enough orders to justify building factories to manufacture them in a mass production environment.

Holtec Opens SMR Manufacturing Center in New Jersey

In September Holtec announced the grand opening of a $360M, 50 acre SMR manufacturing center in Camden, N.J. The firm was incentivized by the State of New Jersey to locate there with $260M in tax breaks.  According to Holtec the Camden plant will eventually employ up to 1,000 people……….

Dr. Singh, Holtec’s President and CEO, declared the factory to be “Ground Zero” for the renaissance of nuclear energy and heavy manufacturing in America.

“It will serve as the launching pad for the regeneration of manufacturing in the United States.”

He added, “We will build nuclear reactors here, and they will sail from the port of Camden to hundreds of places around the world.”

Is Holtec Headed for Ukraine to Manufacture SMRs for Europe & Asia?

The maturing of an American supply chain to support mass production of components for SMRs might develop, but not all of it may be in the U.S. Holtec International, is reportedto be in talks about planning to arrange the production of small modular reactors (SMRs) for nuclear power plants in Ukraine, and for export to Europe and Asia.

The Interfax wire service report, which was not confirmed by Holtec, comes on the heels of the firm’s grand opening of a $360M nuclear energy component manufacturing center in Camden, NJ. It is the second report in three months providing details of Holtec International’s discussions with Energoatom. However, a spokesperson for Holtec declined to comment on these discussions as reported by Interfax.

The Intefax report quotes Energoatom National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine President Yuriy Nedashkovsky who said,

“There is a very interesting offer made by Holtec International CEO Kris Singh to President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko  – to create a hub in Ukraine, distributing small modular reactors to Europe, Asia and Africa, with the localization of production and a large number of equipment at Ukrainian enterprises.”

According to Nedashkovsky, Ukraine’s Turboatom has already been involved in the project, as it has the required turbines in its production line.

“This project has already been developed conceptually. The launch of licensing procedures (in the U.S.) is expected next year, and an active phase of construction – approximately in 2023.”  Nedashkovsky added.

Talking of the long-term prospects, Nedashkovsky noted that the demand for small modular reactors after 2025 was estimated to grow over time.

Is the Ukraine SMR Story Ahead of Holtec’s Headlights?

What’s unclear is whether Nedashkovsky was speaking off-the-top-of-his-head, commenting officially on behalf of Holtec International, Continue reading

October 7, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, technology, Ukraine, USA | Leave a comment

Westinghouse “committed” to developing Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) BUT CAN THEY GET THE FUNDING?

SMR Supply Chains, Costs, are Focus of Key Developments, Neutron Bytes, Dan Yurman October 4, 2017  “…….Westinghouse Says It Remains Committed To UK SMR Development

(NucNet) Westinghouse Electric Company said last week it remains committed to developing a 225-MW small modular reactor (SMR) that the company believes will allow the UK to move from buyer to global provider of SMR technology.

The company said in a statement that more than 85% of its SMR’s design, license and procurement scope can be delivered by the UK. The fuel would be manufactured at its Springfields facility in northern England.

“This is a special offering that only Westinghouse, with UK partners, can deliver,” the statement said.

Media reports in the UK have suggested that ministers are ready to approve the development of a fleet of SMRs to help guard against electricity shortages as older nuclear power stations are decommissioned………

Westinghouse said it filed for bankruptcy protection in the US to protect its core businesses and give the company time to restructure for continuing operation.

It remains unclear where the company will get the capital to pay for development of the SMR, complete a Generic Design Review in the UK, and build a manufacturing center there to produce the reactors. https://neutronbytes.com/2017/10/04/smr-supply-chains-costs-are-focus-of-key-developments/

October 7, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, technology, USA | Leave a comment

From Nuclear Fusion Fraud to Physics Fortune

The ITER Power Amplification Myth Oct. 6, 2017 – By Steven B. Krivit –

Short link: http://tinyurl.com/y9lvf79j

This is the third of three reports about the claims by representatives and proponents of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). “The Selling of ITER” published on Jan. 12, 2017. “Former ITER Spokesman Confirms Accuracy of New Energy Times Story” published on Jan. 19, 2017.

From Fusion Fraud to Physics Fortune
“………..The ITER project, supported by a widespread misunderstanding of its promised results, funded by billions in cash, resources and materials, will not deliver a practical demonstration of fusion power, but merely a scientific demonstration of a sustained fusion reaction. Yet on July 3, 2017, the Chinese Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak reactor already did this, for 101 seconds. When built, ITER will merely do it for four times longer.

Oddly, the quest for practical nuclear fusion on Earth was born out of fraud. The ITER Web site recognizes this, with a page titled “Proyecto Huemul: From Fusion Fraud to Physics Fortune.”

The story began in 1948 in Argentina when Austrian scientist Ronald Richter proposed his idea for a fusion device to President Juan Perón. Perón agreed to fund the concept, and on March 24, 1951, Perón held a press conference at which he announced that his country had achieved practical, controlled nuclear fusion. By 1952, however, after independent investigators reported no evidence to support the claims, the project was shut down. The ITER page calls it “the scientific fraud of the century.”

Yet in 1951, before the Argentinian project was shut down, the project caught the attention of Lyman Spitzer, an astrophysicist at Princeton University. Spitzer, in turn, approached the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and convinced it to fund his own fusion research concept. Thus, the U.S. controlled nuclear fusion era began at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and the worldwide race for fusion energy began.

Since construction on ITER began in 2007, nuclear fusion news stories have been tagged with titillating headlines about unlimited energy. A CNN story headline is typical: “Is Nuclear Fusion About to Change Our World?” Every incremental step forward in temperature, pressure, or plasma confinement time has been a “breakthrough.” Each breakthrough, according to the news stories, has brought the dream of harnessing the power of the sun on Earth one step closer to reality. Rarely have the stories featured any critical assessment or analysis.

One journalist wrote that physicists at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory had “demonstrated” how a new fusion reactor design could lead to the first commercially viable nuclear fusion power plant. The demonstration was merely on paper. The article featured a photo of a reactor. But it wasn’t the reactor described in the article. That reactor hadn’t been built yet.

As the comics below show, the very same Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory — back in 1975 when the DOE was called the Atomic Energy Commission — told journalists it was a big step closer to virtually limitless pollution-free energy thanks to “breakthroughs” in plasma density and temperature.

Then there’s MIT scientist Earl Marmar, who told journalists this year that the technology exists to have fusion energy in 13 years if only it is funded aggressively enough.

Vision and hope are wonderful and necessary components of the human experience. But false hope and worthless promises — laced with misleading claims — do not represent the science accurately. They do not represent the integrity of all scientists involved in the research.

The false idea that the JET reactor produced 65% of the power it consumed has been deeply planted in the minds of the public and journalists. The same goes for the false idea that the ITER reactor will produce 10 times the power it consumes. These two myths serve to misrepresent the status of fusion energy research and, specifically, the ITER project……http://news.newenergytimes.net/2017/10/06/the-iter-power-amplification-myth/#more-44064

October 7, 2017 Posted by | Reference, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

Bill Gates partners with China’s government nuclear companies to develop his small nuclear reactor dream

China nuclear energy and coal company partner to make traveling wave nuclear reactor, brian wang, next big Future October 2, 2017, The China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) has signed an agreement with the Shenhua Group, China’s biggest coal producer, to promote the development of advanced “traveling wave” reactor technology, the state nuclear giant said.

The new organization will be a partnership with four Chinese energy companies and will have /A> starting capital of CNY1bn ($153.2 million).

TWR, one of several new “fourth-generation” reactor designs, uses depleted uranium and is more fuel-efficient and cheaper to run than conventional nuclear reactors.

Leading developers of TWR include the Bill Gates-backed Terrapower, which is working on large scale projects aimed at providing base-load electricity. CNNC said its chairman, Wang Shoujun, met with Gates in July to discuss cooperation.

TerraPower’s traveling wave design is a breeder reactor that produce more atomic fuel than they consume, reducing the need to add costly processed nuclear elements.

In 2006, Intellectual Ventures launched a spin-off named TerraPower to model and commercialize a working design of such a reactor, which later came to be called a “traveling-wave reactor”. TerraPower has developed TWR designs for low- to medium- (300 MWe) as well as high-power (~1000 MWe) generation facilities. Bill Gates featured TerraPower in his 2010 TED talk.

In 2010 a group from TerraPower applied for patent EP 2324480 A1 following WO2010019199A1 “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling”. The application was deemed withdrawn in 2014.

In September, 2015 TerraPower and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop a TWR. TerraPower plans to build a 600 MWe demonstration Plant, the TWR-P, by 2018–2022 followed by larger commercial plants of 1150 MWe in the late 2020s |.
………….Shenhua, which is in the middle of a merger with state power giant Guodian, is seeking to diversify away from coal and coal-fired power, and it has already been in talks with CNNC and CGN to invest in nuclear projects. https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/10/china-nuclear-energy-and-coal-company-partner-to-make-traveling-wave-nuclear-reactor.html

October 4, 2017 Posted by | China, technology | Leave a comment

James Hansen – great on climate change – wrong on Generation IV nuclear reactors

The risks……..in fact, thorium has been used to produce fissile material (uranium-233) for nuclear weapons tests.

Waste…. “Even integral fast reactors (IFRs), which recycle most of their waste, leave behind materials that have been contaminated by transuranic elements and so cannot avoid the need to develop deep geologic disposal.”

Generation IV economics…..The US Government Accountability Office’s 2015 report noted that technical challenges facing SMRs and advanced reactors may result in higher-cost reactors than anticipated, making them less competitive with large light-water reactors or power plants using other fuels.

James Hansen’s Generation IV nuclear advocacy: a deconstruction of nuclear fallacies and fantasies http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2989318/james_hansens_generation_iv_nuclear_advocacy_a_deconstruction_of_nuclear_fallacies_and_fantasies.html, Dr Jim Green, 3rd October, 2017 

Climate scientist James Hansen’s claims about Generation IV nuclear concepts simply don’t stack up, argues JIM GREEN Dr James Hansen is rightly admired for his scientific and political work drawing attention to climate change. His advocacy of nuclear power ‒ and in particular novel Generation IV nuclear concepts ‒ deserves serious scrutiny.

In a nutshell, Dr Hansen (among others) claims that some Generation IV reactors are a triple threat: they can convert weapons-usable (fissile) material and long-lived nuclear waste into low-carbon electricity. Let’s take the weapons and waste issues in turn. Continue reading

October 4, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

A plan to ‘economically’ send ‘ordinary citizens’ into space

    • Will these rockets be powered by plutonium? And if so, what happens if there’s an accident, and one plunges into  a city?
    • LANL engineer looks for partners for cheap space flight, LA Monitor, By Tris DeRoma, October 2, 2017

Joseph Archer wants to start a company to take ordinary citizens into space With all the millions of dollars spent on space tourism today, the Los Alamos National Laboratory radiological safety employee has a plan to do it more efficiently, and cheaper.

His first step is to get a group of investors together who are genuinely enthusiastic and interested in the idea…..The project will involve launching a one-ton payload into space within a year of the company’s formation. He estimates he could do it for an amount between $200,000-$600,000.

“As a group of  retired professional and technical types, there is little doubt that we can accomplish such a modest objective,” he said in his statement……..

In his argument, he talks a lot about how the Germans were able to accomplish much with little when they built the V-2 rocket in World War II.

One Los Alamos resident, Alan Hack, said in a letter to the Los Alamos Monitor that there was a huge difference between the wartime German program and what’s happening today in civilian space travel.

“Comparing costs to manufacture the V-1 ignores that it was built by slave labor from the captured countries as the Nazi regime did not have enough German labor to meet the huge demands for war production. Your manned rocket cannot be as cheap as you estimate,” Hack said…..http://www.lamonitor.com/content/lanl-engineer-looks-partners-cheap-space-flight

October 4, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment