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Rolls Royce’s fantasy plan for so-called ‘mini’ nuclear reactors

January 25, 2020 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

As building large nuclear stations stall in UK, sites are picked for ‘small] nuclear reactors

REVEALED: Sites for revolutionary mini nuclear power stations led by Rolls-Royce are set to be built in the North of England

  • Whitehall is planning new small nuclear power plants in Cumbria and Wales
  • Britain’s eight large-scale nuclear power plants are reaching their end of life
  • Plans to build a new generation of large-scale nuclear power stations are stalled
  • Officials hope these smaller power stations will be able to plug the potential gap 

Daily Mail, By NEIL CRAVEN FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY  19 January 2020 | The first of a new generation of revolutionary mini nuclear power stations is to be built in the North of England and North Wales by a consortium led by Rolls-Royce, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

A number of existing licensed nuclear sites have already been informally discussed within Whitehall.

The sites under consideration include Moorside in Cumbria and Wylfa in North Wales, where plans for future large-scale reactor projects have recently been shelved/

Britain’s eight large-scale nuclear power plants are nearing the end of their collective lifespan, with most due to close by the end of the decade.

Now a consortium led by Rolls-Royce has tabled plans, subject to approval from regulators, to have the first small reactor plugged in by 2030, promising reliable, low-carbon electricity for decades to come.

It will be followed by up to 16 more mini reactors at other sites, with plans for all to be producing electricity.

It is understood that other locations being considered include Trawsfynydd in Snowdonia, North Wales…….

The pre-fabricated modules would then be transported to sites for construction. Officials have cautioned, though, that there could be public opposition in some areas to a nuclear facility being built nearby. ……..

Work at Wylfa by nuclear developer Horizon, owned by Japanese firm Hitachi, was suspended a year ago amid rising costs. Only months before, plans for a new nuclear power station at Moorside were scrapped after the Japanese giant Toshiba announced it was winding up the project.

A joint investment of £500 million between the Government and the Rolls-Royce consortium was proposed last summer. An initial award from the Government of £18 million was signed off in November, which the consortium will match.

One nuclear industry source said: ‘There is broad support for this programme from Government.’ https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7903495/New-Rolls-Royce-mini-nuclear-power-stations-built-North.html

January 20, 2020 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | 1 Comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors’ costs and toxicity

Small modular nuclear reactors – a case of wishful thinking at best, NB Media Cop. by Gordon Edwards, Michel Duguay, Pierre Jasmin, 21 Dec 19

“……….4 Small Modular – Nuclear – Reactors’ costs & toxicity

That Carnegie-Mellon report includes Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in its analysis, without being any more hopeful than we are. This is mainly because a new generation of smaller reactors, such as those promised for New Brunswick, will necessarily be more expensive per unit of energy produced, if manufactured individually. The sharply increased price can be partially offset by mass production of prefabricated components; hence the need for selling hundreds or even thousands of these smaller units in order to break even and make a profit. However, the order book is filled with blank pages — there are no customers. This being the case, finding investors is not easy. So entrepreneurs are courting governments to pony up with taxpayers’ money, in the hopes that this second attempt at a Nuclear Renaissance will not be the total debacle that the first one turned out to be.

Chances are very slim however. There are over 150 different designs of “Small Modular Reactors.” None of them have been built, tested, licensed or deployed. At Chalk River, Ontario, a consortium of private multinational corporations, comprised of SNC-Lavalin and two corporate partners, operating under the name “Canadian Nuclear Laboratories” (CNL), is prepared to host six or seven different designs of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors — none of them being identical to the two proposed for New Brunswick – and all of these designs will be in competition with each other. The Project Description of the first Chalk River prototype Small Modular Reactor has already received over 40 responses that are posted on the CNSC web site, and virtually all of them are negative comments.

The chances that any one design will corner enough of the market to become financially viable in the long run is unlikely. So the second Nuclear Renaissance may carry the seeds of its own destruction right from the outset. Unfortunately, governments are not well equipped to do a serious independent investigation of the validity of the intoxicating claims made by the promoters, who of course conveniently overlook the persistent problem of long-lived nuclear waste and of decommissioning the radioactive structures. These wastes pose a huge ecological and human health problem for countless generations to come.

Finally, in the list of projects being investigated, one finds a scaled-down “breeder reactor” fuelled with plutonium and cooled by liquid sodium metal, a material that reacts violently or explodes on contact with air or water. The breeder reactor is an old project abandoned by Jimmy Carter and discredited by the failure of the ill-fated French SuperPhénix because of its extremely dangerous nature. In the event of a nuclear accident, the Tennessee Clinch River Breeder Reactor was judged capable of poisoning twelve American states and the SuperPhénix half of France.

One suspects that our three premiers are only willing to revisit these bygone reactor designs in order to obtain funding from the federal government while avoiding responsibility for their inaction on more sensible strategies for combatting climate changes – cheaper, faster and safer alternatives, based on investments in energy efficiency and renewable sources.

By Gordon Edwards PhD, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility; with assistance by Michel Duguay, PhD, professor at Laval University & Pierre Jasmin, UQAM, Quebec Movement for Peace and Artiste pour la Paix. https://nbmediacoop.org/2019/12/21/small-modular-nuclear-reactors-a-case-of-wishful-thinking-at-best/

Gordon Edwards, PhD ccnr@web.ca
Michel Duguay, PhD michel.duguay@gel.ulaval.ca
Pierre Jasmin, jasmin.pierre@uqam.ca

This article is also published in French, link here.

January 11, 2020 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

As conventional nuclear reactors fail economically, the pro nuclear turn to the fantasy of small nuclear reactors

Small modular nuclear reactors – a case of wishful thinking at best,  NB Media Coop, by Gordon Edwards, Michel Duguay, Pierre Jasmin,  21 Dec 19

On Friday the 13th, September 2019, the Saint John Telegraph-Journal’s front page was dominated by what many readers hoped will be a good luck story for New Brunswick – making the province a booming and prosperous Nuclear Energy powerhouse for the entire world. After many months of behind-the-scenes meetings throughout New Brunswick with utility company executives, provincial politicians, federal government representatives, township mayors and First Nations, two nuclear entrepreneurial companies laid out a dazzling dream promising thousands of jobs – nay, tens of thousands! – in New Brunswick, achieved by mass-producing and selling components for hitherto untested nuclear reactors called SMNRs (Small Modular Nuclear Reactors) which, it is hoped, will be installed around the world by the hundreds or thousands!

On December 1, the Saskatchewan and Ontario premiers hitched their hopes to the same nuclear dream machine through a dramatic tripartite Sunday press conference in Ottawa featuring the premiers of the provinces. The three amigos announced their desire to promote and deploy some version of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in their respective provinces. All three claimed it as a strategy to fight climate change, and they want the federal government to pledge federal tax money to pay for the R&D. Perhaps it is a way of paying lip service to the climate crisis without actually achieving anything substantial; prior to the recent election, all three men were opposed to even putting a price on carbon emissions.

Motives other than climate protection may apply. Saskatchewan’s uranium is in desperate need of new markets, as some of the province’s most productive mines have been mothballed and over a thousand uranium workers have been laid off, due to the global decline in nuclear power. Meanwhile, Ontario has cancelled all investments in over 800 renewable energy projects – at a financial penalty of over 200 million dollars – while investing tens of billions of dollars to rebuild many of its geriatric nuclear reactors. This, instead of purchasing surplus water-based hydropower from Quebec a lot less expensive and more secure.

In a December 2 interview on QUB radio, Gilles Provost, spokesperson for the Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive (Movement against radioactive pollution, a Quebec-based group) and former environmental journalist at Le Devoir, criticized the announcement of the three premiers as ill-considered and premature, since none of the conjectural nuclear reactor prototypes exist in reality. Quite a contrast to the three premiers’ declarations, boldly claiming that “SMRs” (they leave out the “N” to minimize public opposition) will help solve climate change, knowing full well that it will take a decade or more before any benefits can possibly be realized – IF EVER.

These new nuclear reactors are so far perfectly safe, because they exist only on paper and are cooled only by ink. Declaring them a success before they are built is quite a leap of faith, especially in light of the three previous Canadian failures in this field of “small reactors.” Two 10-megawatt MAPLE reactors were built at Chalk River and never operated because of insuperable safety concerns, and the 10-megawatt “Mega-Slowpoke” district heating reactor never earned a licence to operate, again because of safety concerns. The Mega-Slowpoke was offered free of charge to two universities – Sherbrooke and Saskatchewan –both of whom refused the gift. And a good thing too, as the only Mega-Slowpoke ever built (at Pinawa, Manitoba) is now being dismantled without ever producing a single useful megawatt of heat.

2 “Nuclear renaissance” – clambering out of the dark ages?

This current media hype about modular reactors is very reminiscent of the drumbeat of grandiose expectations that began around 2000, announcing the advent of a Nuclear Renaissance that envisaged thousands of new reactors — huge ones! — being built all over the planet. That initiative turned out to be a complete flop. Only a few large reactors were launched under this banner, and they were plagued with enormous cost-over-runs and extraordinarily long delays, resulting in the bankruptcy or near bankruptcy of some of the largest nuclear companies in the world – such as Areva and Westinghouse – and causing other companies to retire from the nuclear field altogether – such as Siemens.

Speculation about that promised Nuclear Renaissance also led to a massive (and totally unrealistic) spike in uranium prices, spurring uranium exploration activities on an unprecedented scale. It ended in a near-catastrophic collapse of uranium prices when the bubble burst. Cameco was forced to close down several mines. They are still closed. The price of uranium has still not recovered from the plunge.

Large nuclear reactors have essentially priced themselves out of the market. Only Russia, China and India have managed to defy those market forces with their monopoly state involvements. Nevertheless, the nuclear contribution to world electricity production has plummeted from 17 percent in 1997 to about 10 percent in 2018. In North America and Western Europe, the prospects for new large reactor projects are virtually nil, and many of the older reactors are shutting down permanently without being replaced. By Gordon Edwards PhD, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility; with assistance by Michel Duguay, PhD, professor at Laval University & Pierre Jasmin, UQAM, Quebec Movement for Peace and Artiste pour la Paix. https://nbmediacoop.org/2019/12/21/small-modular-nuclear-reactors-a-case-of-wishful-thinking-at-best/

January 11, 2020 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – just a speculative technology, no use against climate change

January 9, 2020 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Is anyone really interested in Small Modular Nuclear Reactors? (- only those selling them)

comment on article below

Someone should have challenged the headline. Whose interest in Small Modular Reactors is growing?

Not the major nuclear firms.

At the graveyard wherein resides the “nuclear renaissance” of the 2000s, a new occupant appears to be moving in: the small modular reactor (SMR). … Over the past year, the SMR industry has been bumping up against an uncomfortable and not-entirely-unpredictable problem: It appears that no one actually wants to buy one.”

Overton notes that in 2013, MidAmerican Energy scuttled plans to build an SMR-based plant in Iowa. This year, Babcock & Wilcox scaled back much of its SMR program and sacked 100 workers in its SMR division. Westinghouse has abandoned its SMR program. As he explains:

“The problem has really been lurking in the idea behind SMRs all along. The reason conventional nuclear plants are built so large is the economies of scale: Big plants can produce power less expensively per kilowatt-hour than smaller ones.

“The SMR concept disdains those economies of scale in favor of others: large-scale standardized manufacturing that will churn out dozens, if not hundreds, of identical plants, each of which would ultimately produce cheaper kilowatt-hours than large one-off designs.

“It’s an attractive idea. But it’s also one that depends on someone building that massive supply chain, since none of it currently exists. … That money would presumably come from customer orders – if there were any. Unfortunately, the SMR “market” doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

“SMRs must compete with cheap natural gas, renewables that continue to decline in cost, and storage options that are rapidly becoming competitive. Worse, those options are available for delivery now, not at the end of a long, uncertain process that still lacks [US Nuclear Regulatory Commission] approval.

Interest in Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Is Growing. So Are Fears They Aren’t Viable, SMRs are the future of nuclear. Will they always be the future? GTM JASON DEIGN MARCH 14, 2018  The slow-moving small modular reactor (SMR) market saw some positive activity in recent weeks, even as one expert predicted the technology would never achieve commercialization.

Earlier this month, the World Nuclear Association reported that Ukraine had signed a memorandum of understanding with SMR developer Holtec International, aiming to turn the Eastern European nation into a manufacturing hub for Holtec’s SMR-160 reactors.

The Association said Holtec is planning a Ukrainian manufacturing plant to allow for partial localization of its 160-megawatt SMRs, so Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom can use the design to replace two aging Russian VVER-440 reactors at its Rivne nuclear power plant.

The news came a week after the government of Canada announced a road-mapping exercise to explore the potential of SMRs in the country.

“The road map will be an important step in positioning Canada to advance next-generation technologies and become a global leader in the emerging SMR market,” said Natural Resources Canada, a federal institution.

This was welcome news for a technology that has been slow to achieve commercialization — and which some believe might never take off.

In the December 2017 edition of the National University of Singapore’s Energy Studies Institute Bulletin, for example, Canadian academic Professor M.V. Ramana provided a detailed argument for why SMRs could never be a viable technology.

Nuclear plants in general require high levels of capital, he noted, and high construction costs mean the electricity they provide ends up being more expensive than coal, gas and, more recently, wind and solar.

SMRs may be able to overcome the first problem, said Ramana, who is a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs.

But SMRs could end up with even higher energy costs because the smaller reactors can’t take advantage of economies of scale unless they’re manufactured “by the thousands, even under very optimistic assumptions about rates of learning.”

Experience indicates such rates of learning may be rare in the nuclear industry. In France and the U.S., according to Ramana, reactor construction costs have historically risen rather than falling.

Also, mass production would need the industry to settle on a single SMR design. As of 2016 there were 48 listed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Finally, said Ramana, for all the interest in SMRs, no country has yet got behind the technology enough for it to be commercialized. This likely indicates demand for the reactors is not as solid as proponents imagine.

“SMRs seem appealing to many countries at first sight,” Ramana told GTM. “But once they get into the actual nitty gritty of planning an SMR project, they realize that there are numerous problems.

“Economics are a significant challenge, as is the problem of finding sites to construct the many units that would have to replace a single nuclear reactor.” ….. https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/interest-in-small-modular-nuclear-grows?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

December 21, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Renewable energy to fight climate change, – NOT Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

December 14, 2019 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | 1 Comment

Significant obstacles to Rolls Royce’s fantasy of “clean” nuclear-supplied jet fuel

Rolls-Royce Touts Nuclear Reactors as Key to Clean Jet Fuel, Bloomberg, 

By Christopher Jasper,December 6, 2019, 
  • Synthetics, biofuels to be mainstay of aviation, CEO says
  •  Small reactors to be used to generate required electricityRolls-Royce Holdings Plc is pitching nuclear reactors as the most effective way of powering the production of carbon-neutral synthetic aviation fuel without draining global electricity grids.

    Drawing on technology developed for nuclear-powered submarines, the small modular reactors or SMRs could be located at individual plants to generate the large amounts of electricity needed to secure the hydrogen used in the process, according to Chief Executive Officer Warren East…….

    The proposals face significant obstacles, including widespread public concern about radiation leaks and the safe disposal of nuclear waste, as well as question marks over U.K. plans to revive the sector after Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. withdrew from major projects.Rolls aims to minimize regulatory barriers by building an initial network of 16 SMRs on the sites of former U.K. nuclear power stations still approved for atomic use.

    The plants, costing 1.8 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) apiece, would feed the national grid and come online from the 2030s, with all complete by 2050. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-06/rolls-royce-pitches-nuclear-reactors-as-key-to-clean-jet-fuel

December 7, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – many pitfalls, including security risks

‘Many issues’ with modular nuclear reactors says environmental lawyer, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/many-issues-modular-nuclear-1.5381804

Three premiers have agreed to work together to develop the technology, Jordan Gill · CBC News   Dec 03, 2019  Modular nuclear reactors may not be a cure for the nation’s carbon woes, an environmental lawyer said in reaction to an idea floated by three premiers.

Theresa McClenaghan, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, said the technology surrounding small reactors has numerous pitfalls, especially when compared with other renewable energy technology.

This comes after New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Ontario Premier Doug Ford agreed to work together to develop the technology.

Small modular reactors are easy to construct, are safer than large reactors and are regarded as cleaner energy than coal, the premiers say. They can be small enough to fit in a school gym.  Designs have been submitted to Canada’s nuclear regulator for review as part of a pre-licensing process.

The premiers say the smaller reactors would help Canada reach its carbon reduction targets but McClenaghan, legal counsel for the environmental group, disagrees.

“I don’t think it is the answer,” said McClenaghan. “I don’t think it’s a viable solution to climate change.”

McClenaghan said the technology behind modular reactors is still in the development stage and needs years of work before it can be used on a wide scale.

“There are many issues still with the technology,” said McClenaghan. “And for climate change, the risks are so pervasive and the time scale is so short that we need to deploy the solutions we already know about like renewables and conservation.”

Waste, security concerns: lawyer

While nuclear power is considered a low-carbon method of producing electricity, McClenaghan said the waste that it creates brings its own environmental concerns.

“You’re still creating radioactive waste,” said McClenaghan.

“We don’t even have a solution to nuclear fuel waste yet in Canada and the existing plans are not taking into account these possibilities.”

McClenanghan believes there are national security risks with the plan as well.  She said having more reactors, especially if they’re in rural areas, means there’s a greater chance that waste or fuel from the reactors could be stolen for nefarious purposes.

“You’d be scattering radioactive materials, potentially attractive to diversion, much further across the country,” said the environmental lawyer.

December 5, 2019 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Russia’s Rosatom planning to market Small Modular Nuclear Reactors to Europe

December 2, 2019 Posted by | marketing, Russia, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Premiers of Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick to plan development of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Ontario, Saskatchewan, N.B. premiers to announce nuclear reactor deal, Global News  BY STAFF THE CANADIAN PRESS November 30, 2019 “….. The Ontario government said Premier Doug Ford will meet with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs for an announcement at a hotel near Pearson International Airport on Sunday afternoon.

A spokesman with Moe’s office confirmed the announcement is connected to an agreement on technology for small modular reactors, while a spokeswoman for Ford’s office said it’s an agreement to work together to determine the best technologies for the deployment of small modular reactors in Canada……

Moe has said that Saskatchewan will address climate change over the next decade by looking to carbon capture and storage technology and by increasing research efforts around small modular nuclear reactors.

However, the possibility of bringing nuclear power to Saskatchewan could still be years away    https://globalnews.ca/news/6239231/premiers-nuclear-reactor-deal/

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Canada, politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Small nuclear power station consortium targeting Cumbrian sites

Small nuclear power station consortium targeting Cumbrian sites, The Mail 7th November, By Luke Dicicco  @lukeadicicco  Group business editor A consortium headed by engineering giant Rolls Royce has revealed it expects to develop its first-of-a-kind small nuclear reactors in Cumbria.

Alan Woods, director of strategy and business development at Rolls Royce, told delegates at the Global Reach 2019 event that is was focusing its efforts on developing its emerging Small Modular Reactors (SMR) at existing nuclear licensed sites – with Cumbria and Wales its top targets.

In July the Government said it will invest up to £18 million to support the design of the UK-made mini nuclear power stations. And this week UK Research and Innovation pledged to provide a further £18m, which will be matched by members of the consortium, to progress the project.

Both the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Copeland Trudy Harrison and Copeland Borough Council have vowed to up the ante on lobbying the Government to push for SMRs to be developed in Copeland, following the demise of plans for a large-scale nuclear power station at the Moorside site. ……

“We expect to build them on sites in Wales and particularly in Cumbria. That’s where we’re focusing, that’s where we’ll put our effort.”- Mr Woods …..

The SMRs are roughly the size of a one-and-a-half football pitches……..Construction is expected to take around four years per station, although the first unit would be longer, said Mr Woods.

The consortium says it is targeting a £1.8bn cost for each station…….

However, industry insiders still believe a large-scale plant is more suited to the vast Moorside site adjacent to Sellafield. And hopes remain high that a new development will come forward for the site once the Government unveils a new way of financially supporting new plants, with the most likely option a Regulated Asset Base Model. ……

“Unless you build a fleet, you will not do it. We want an industrial partnership between UK and China.” – Rob Davies, chief operating officer at CGN UK

CGN is already heavily involved in the UK’s nuclear new build plans.

It is a partner in the under-construction Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset, as well as planned developments for Bradwell B in Essex and Sizewell C in Somerset. https://www.nwemail.co.uk/news/18021450.small-nuclear-power-station-consortium-targeting-cumbrian-sites/

November 9, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

Bill Gates still hoping for tax-payer funding for his small nuclear reactor project

Bill Gates’ Nuclear Reactor Hits a Roadblock, 
Engineering.com , October 21, 2019  Bill Gates is optimistic about the future—and the role of nuclear energy as an environmentally friendly energy source—but he faces significant obstacles along the way.

His company, TerraPower, is working on new technologies to revolutionize nuclear power. One of them is a traveling wave reactor (TWR). ………

One major problem with a TWR power plant is the price. It will cost about $3 billion to build a demonstration reactor. Even Bill Gates isn’t rich enough to fund it himself. TerraPower had signed a promising agreement with China to build a demonstration reactor, but the project has been shuttered due to China-U.S. trade tensions. The company is now lobbying Congress for a public-private partnership to fund the reactor.  ……

October 24, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

NuScale’s nuclear reactor looks suspiciously like an old design, (that melted down)

Why Does NuScale SMR Look Like a 1964 Drawing of Swiss Lucens Nuclear Reactor (which suffered a major meltdown in 1969)?
https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/why-does-nuscale-smr-look-like-a-1964-drawing-of-swiss-lucens-nuclear-reactor-which-suffered-a-major-meltdown-in-1969/
Whatever NuScale is, or is not, it clearly isn’t “new”. The Bible must have foreseen the nuclear industry when it said that there was no new thing under the sun. While there might be something new about it, certainly its scale is not. And, it seems mostly a remake of old military reactors, perhaps with influence from swimming pool reactors.

The main ancestor seems to be the US Army’s SM-1, made by the American Locomotive Company, making its most distant ancestor the steam locomotive.

Government subsidizes for NuScale are a deadly taxpayer rip rip-off. Even without an accident, nuclear reactors legally leak deadly radionuclides into the environment during the entire nuclear fuel chain, as well as when they are operating. Then, the nuclear waste is also allowed to leak for perpetuity.

The 1964 Lucens Design certainly looks like the one unit NuScale. Did MSLWR, now NuScale, take from Lucens or from an earlier common design ancestor?

NuScale 12 years ago when it was called MASLWR and still an official government project, 2003, INEEL/EXT-04-01626.

This is for single reactors. They want to clump them together.

Is there a common ancestor in either the US nuclear power station in Greenland or Antarctica? Actually, the main “parent” for the underground concept, according to the Swiss documentation, is underground hydroelectric power stations, dating from the 1800s. These caverns have been known to collapse, which, along with the WIPP collapse, points to another risk associated with underground nuclear reactors, besides leakage and corrosion.
being mostly in an underground cavern proved to be a liability rather than an asset for Lucens. The cavern leaked water and contributed to corrosion issues that ultimately led to nuclear meltdown.

Despite its tiny size, tinier than NuScale, it still is classified as a major nuclear accident. Furthermore, the cavern did not keep the nuclear fallout from escaping into the environment. There was 1 Sv (1000 mSv) per hour of
radiation in the cavern. Radiation was measured in the nearby village, and the cavern still leaks radiation. Continue reading

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Small nuclear reactors safe? Not so

HELEN CALDICOTT: Small modular reactors — same nuclear disasters  https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/helen-caldicott-small-modular-reactors–same-nuclear-disasters,13087

By Helen Caldicott | 9 September 2019  The Morrison Government has opened the door to the notion of nuclear power as peddled by the nuclear sociopaths.

Now that the “nuclear renaissance” seems dead and buried following the Fukushima catastrophe (one-sixth of the world’s nuclear reactors were closed after the accident), the corporations invested in making nuclear plants and radioactive waste –including Toshiba, Nu-Scale, Babcock and Wilcox, GE Hitachi, General Atomics and the Tennessee Valley Authority – are not to be defeated.

Their new strategy is to develop small modular reactors (SMR), which can be sold around the world without, they say, the dangers inherent in large reactors — safety, cost, proliferation risks and radioactive waste.

There are basically three types of SMRs which generate less than 300 megawatts of electricity compared to the current 1,000-megawatt reactors.


Light water reactor 
designs

These will be smaller versions of present-day pressurised water reactors using water as the moderator and coolant but with the same attendant problems as Fukushima and Three Mile Island. They are to be built underground, which obviously makes them dangerous to access in the event of an accident or malfunction.

They will be mass-produced (turnkey production) and large numbers must be sold yearly to make a profit. This is an unlikely prospect because major markets – China and India – will be uninterested in buying U.S. reactors when they can make their own.

If a safety problem arises, such as with the Dreamliner plane, all of them will have to be shut down — interfering substantially with electricity supply.

SMRs will be expensive because the cost of unit capacity increases with decrease in the size of the reactor. Billions of dollars of government subsidies will be required because Wall Street will not touch nuclear power. To alleviate costs, it is suggested that safety rules be relaxed — including reducing security requirements and a reduction in the ten-mile emergency planning zone to 1,000 feet.


Non-light water
 designs

These are high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) or pebble bed reactors. Five billion tiny fuel kernels of high-enriched uranium or plutonium will be encased in tennis-ball-sized graphite spheres which must be made without cracks or imperfections — or else they could lead to an accident. A total of 450,000 such spheres will slowly be released continuously from a fuel silo, passing through the reactor core, and then re-circulated ten times. These reactors will be cooled by helium gas operating at very high temperatures (900 C).

The plans are to construct a reactor complex consisting of four HTGR modules located underground to be run by only two operators in a central control room. It is claimed that HTGRs will be so safe that a containment building will be unnecessary and operators can even leave the site — “walk-away-safe” reactors.

However, should temperatures unexpectedly exceed 1600 degrees Celsius, the carbon coating will release dangerous radioactive isotopes into the helium gas and at 2000 C, the carbon would ignite creating a fierce graphite Chernobyl-type fire.

If a crack develops in the piping or building, radioactive helium would escape and air would rush in igniting the graphite.

Although HTGRs produce small amounts of low-level waste, they create larger volumes of high-level waste than conventional reactors.

Despite these obvious safety problems and despite the fact that South Africa has abandoned plans for HTGRs, the U.S. Department of Energy has unwisely chosen the HTGR as the “Next Generation Nuclear Plant”.


Liquid metal fast reactors 
(PRISM)

It is claimed by the proponents that fast reactors will be safe, economically competitive, proliferation-resistant and sustainable.

They are to be fueled by plutonium or highly enriched uranium, and cooled by either liquid sodium or a lead-bismuth molten coolant creating a potentially explosive situation. Liquid sodium burns or explodes when exposed to air or water and lead-bismuth is extremely corrosive producing very volatile radioactive elements when irradiated.

Should a crack occur in the reactor complex, liquid sodium would escape burning or exploding. Without coolant, the plutonium fuel would melt and reach critical mass, inciting a massive nuclear explosion. One-millionth of a gram of plutonium induces cancer and it lasts for 500,000 years. Yet it is claimed that fast reactors will be so safe that no emergency sirens will be required and emergency planning zones can be decreased from ten miles to 1,300 feet.

There are two types of fast reactors, a simple plutonium fueled reactor and a “breeder”. The plutonium reactor core can be surrounded by a blanket of uranium 238, the uranium captures neutrons and converts to plutonium creating ever more plutonium.

Some are keen about fast reactors because plutonium waste from other reactors can be fissioned converting it to shorter-lived isotopes like caesium and strontium which last “only” 600 years instead of 500,000. But this is fallacious thinking because only ten per cent is fissioned leaving 90 per cent of the plutonium for bomb-making and so on.

Construction

Three small plutonium fast reactors will be arranged together forming a module. Three of these modules will be buried underground and all nine reactors will connect to a fully automated central control room. Only three reactor operators situated in one control room will be in control of nine reactors. Potentially, one operator could simultaneously face a catastrophic situation triggered by the loss of off-site power to one unit at full power, in another shut down for refuelling and in one in start-up mode.

There are to be no emergency core cooling systems.

Fast reactors will require a massive infrastructure including a reprocessing plant to dissolve radioactive waste fuel rods in nitric acid, chemically removing the plutonium and a fuel fabrication facility to create new fuel rods. A total of 15,000 to 25,000 kilos of plutonium are required to operate a fuel cycle at a fast reactor and just 2.5 kilos is fuel for a nuclear weapon.

Thus, fast reactors and breeders will provide the perfect plan for nuclear weapons proliferation and despite this danger, the industry plans to sell them to many countries.

September 10, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, safety, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment