Questions about nuclear energy

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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby sketerpot » 2009-02-09 06:28pm

Uraniun235 wrote:
The Duchess of Zeon wrote: 80% of French electrical power already comes from Nuclear, and there haven't been any major French nuclear accidents, have there? I can't believe that isn't a devastating argument in favour of nuclear energy and against the whiners, but it's never brought up.

I listened to Patrick Moore arguing with some "anti-nuclear journalist" on the radio last week, and the journalist had moved on to the old argument about how nuclear is supposedly so expensive, and tried arguing that reprocessing was totally unfeasible because it "just doesn't work" and costs so much.


The anti-nuke guy in question is Harvey Wasserman. You can hear the debate with the lies pointed out and corrected in this podcast episode. Frustrating stuff, since anti-nuke people tend to argue like creationists: never bow to reality.

That scaremonger sure knows how to stay on-message and repeat lies over and over again.

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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2009-02-09 07:05pm

Sky Captain wrote:

Even if someone planted a real bomb on a train carrying spent nuclear fuel it would result only in derailed train and highly unlikely to cause any release of radiation. These fuel casks are stronger than tanks, you would need to direct hit one with anti tank missile to have any chance to breach it and cause radiation release.


That wouldn't even be that bad, the hole would be about a quarter inch in diameter, so it could literally be plugged up with a wad of waterproof clay until someone could weld a patch over it. Of course if some terrorist had anti tank weapons or explosives they could do a billion worse things, but like we all know how disconnected from reality these people are. The only really serious threat to those casks is if they fell off a very high bridge, and routing would avoid that whenever possible, or if they were in a fuel fire inside a tunnel, something which can also be inherently avoided.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Surlethe » 2009-02-09 09:30pm

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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Uraniun235 » 2009-02-09 11:32pm

The transcript for the Moore/Wasserman dialogue is here. I love that delicious jab at the end: "Since when have you become a champion of capitalism, Harvey?"


Also I'm not sure why he's calling the French "national socialists", unless he really is such an asshole as to try and draw a line between the French and Nazism.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Sky Captain » 2009-02-10 04:30pm

Uraniun235 wrote:The transcript for the Moore/Wasserman dialogue is here. I love that delicious jab at the end: "Since when have you become a champion of capitalism, Harvey?"


This is hilarious, that guy just repeats the same thing again and again when repeatedly shown that his arguments are total misinformation.

Sea Skimmer wrote:
Sky Captain wrote:

Even if someone planted a real bomb on a train carrying spent nuclear fuel it would result only in derailed train and highly unlikely to cause any release of radiation. These fuel casks are stronger than tanks, you would need to direct hit one with anti tank missile to have any chance to breach it and cause radiation release.


That wouldn't even be that bad, the hole would be about a quarter inch in diameter, so it could literally be plugged up with a wad of waterproof clay until someone could weld a patch over it. Of course if some terrorist had anti tank weapons or explosives they could do a billion worse things, but like we all know how disconnected from reality these people are. The only really serious threat to those casks is if they fell off a very high bridge, and routing would avoid that whenever possible, or if they were in a fuel fire inside a tunnel, something which can also be inherently avoided.


Even if a fuel cask fall of a high bridge, cracked open throwing peaces of fuel rods out would there be that much contamination as some people claim like thousands of people dying from radiation caused cancer. After all nuclear fuel is in solid form and in a such accident chunks of it would be probably thrown around but they would remain in the vicinity of a crash site. There might be some dust, but that`s only very minor amount.

Anyway I can`t see such an accident being much more dangerous to the general public than accident involving train carrying large quantities of toxic industrial chemicals.

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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Glom » 2009-02-10 05:15pm

Sky Captain wrote:Even if a fuel cask fall of a high bridge, cracked open throwing peaces of fuel rods out would there be that much contamination as some people claim like thousands of people dying from radiation caused cancer. After all nuclear fuel is in solid form and in a such accident chunks of it would be probably thrown around but they would remain in the vicinity of a crash site. There might be some dust, but that`s only very minor amount.

Anyway I can`t see such an accident being much more dangerous to the general public than accident involving train carrying large quantities of toxic industrial chemicals.


Are you sure about that? Some high level waste is in liquid form and some is volatile. I'm not sure if it is still in that state by the time it makes it into the shipping casks though.

Of course, you're right that all things considered, we'd expect far more deaths from transport of toxic chemicals than transport of radioactive materials.

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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Sky Captain » 2009-02-10 05:36pm

Glom wrote:
Sky Captain wrote:Even if a fuel cask fall of a high bridge, cracked open throwing peaces of fuel rods out would there be that much contamination as some people claim like thousands of people dying from radiation caused cancer. After all nuclear fuel is in solid form and in a such accident chunks of it would be probably thrown around but they would remain in the vicinity of a crash site. There might be some dust, but that`s only very minor amount.

Anyway I can`t see such an accident being much more dangerous to the general public than accident involving train carrying large quantities of toxic industrial chemicals.


Are you sure about that? Some high level waste is in liquid form and some is volatile. I'm not sure if it is still in that state by the time it makes it into the shipping casks though.


I was thinking about spent nuclear fuel which from most reactors is in metallic or ceramic state. Liquid waste that comes to mind could be irradiated cooling water from primary coolant loop, but I`d expect it to be less radioactive than spent fuel.

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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2009-02-10 06:29pm

Sky Captain wrote:Even if a fuel cask fall of a high bridge, cracked open throwing peaces of fuel rods out would there be that much contamination as some people claim like thousands of people dying from radiation caused cancer. After all nuclear fuel is in solid form and in a such accident chunks of it would be probably thrown around but they would remain in the vicinity of a crash site. There might be some dust, but that`s only very minor amount.


For the most part it wouldn’t be that bad, just a couple hundred or thousand tons of earth would have to be hauled away as we did after several accidents with atomic bombs. However high bridges tend to run over waterways, and dropping a load of fuel rods into a river is a serious problem (abet, if the cask lands directly in the water, rather then say on a rock on the shoreline that should cushion its fall). It’s not going to kill thousands, in fact all odds say it will kill no one, but it could leave that waterway contaminated for a long time.

Still high level radioactive waste is inherently harder, and more importantly slower to clean up, so we could still be looking at thousands of people displaced for months. It’d get real expensive real quick. As it is some toxic spills have in fact taken months to clean up. Its not a trivial issue to deal with, but certainly its not going to kill us all.

Glom wrote:Are you sure about that? Some high level waste is in liquid form and some is volatile. I'm not sure if it is still in that state by the time it makes it into the shipping casks though.


You get high level liquid nuclear waste from processes involved with fabricating and reprocessing nuclear fuel, but not from actually operating the reactors. The big armored casks in question are used for moving spent fuel from the reactors to storage or reprocessing sites. Since even the largest nuclear energy users only have a couple plants that make nuclear fuel, the problem of transporting and dealing with the liquid waste is a lot easier to deal with. Usually the elements in it have relatively short half lives, and it’s transported in numerous small containers.

The radioactive water from the primary coolant loop of a reactor is no big deal at all. Most of the elements in it are harmless after a matter of hours as long as the cladding on the nuclear fuel is intact. The cladding braking was a big problem in the early days of nuclear power, but not today.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Zixinus » 2009-02-11 02:37pm

The transcript for the Moore/Wasserman dialogue is here. I love that delicious jab at the end: "Since when have you become a champion of capitalism, Harvey?"


Also I'm not sure why he's calling the French "national socialists", unless he really is such an asshole as to try and draw a line between the French and Nazism.


Too bad that in the actual audio, it was clearly Whole-Moon Harvey that appeared to be the one that won the debate. Why? Because he cut into Patrick's answer.

That's how anti-nukes are still winning: they shout harder, louder and can get away with it.

As for the "national socialists" line, that's because this was broadcasted in the USA where the definition of "socialism"="evil,evil, EVIL dictatorship".

Though, what I think he was trying to point out was that it required government funds to build NPP's and they could not compete with other prices.

Of course, he's just sprouting horseshit, but you won't know that when you listen to him.

That, and Patrick needs to take a few rhetoric classes or something.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Uraniun235 » 2009-02-12 01:20am

If I remember right, the biggest reason that private utilities had a hard time making nuclear competitive was that so much of the cost was up-front in the plant construction - fuel costs were pretty minor in the final cost of electricity, but there was still an enormous amount of money basically being bet against the next few decades, which tends to make shareholders pretty nervous. Of course, a government doesn't need to worry about turning a profit on investments before shareholders reach retirement age.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Glom » 2009-02-16 04:38pm

Uraniun235 wrote:If I remember right, the biggest reason that private utilities had a hard time making nuclear competitive was that so much of the cost was up-front in the plant construction - fuel costs were pretty minor in the final cost of electricity, but there was still an enormous amount of money basically being bet against the next few decades, which tends to make shareholders pretty nervous. Of course, a government doesn't need to worry about turning a profit on investments before shareholders reach retirement age.


Yes and that may be a cause for concern now with credit not being as freely available as it once was.

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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby WesFox13 » 2009-02-19 12:02pm

Darth Wong wrote:It should be brought up more often, but in America it would be pointless because Americans tune out the moment they hear someone citing anything in Europe as an example of anything. Just look at the universal health care debate, where people seriously claim the whole concept of universal health care is an untested idea.


Seriously, people like that get me riled up. I mean it takes a special kind of arrogance/ignorance/stupidity to think like that, and unfortunately America has that in spades.

Besides I think out of the energy solutions out there Nuclear seems like the most viable one. I mean out of the 40 years or so that we've had commercial nuclear energy we've only had two Major accidents Chernobyl (Which was caused by the either incompitence or the Soviet Government not wanting to spend the Rubles to put in some safety protocols in it or to hire a person who actually knew something about building nuclear power plants) and Three Mile Island. I think that's a rather good record, only two major accidents in 40 years. And today's Nuclear Power plants are much safer than the ones built in the 70's. That and although nuclear isn't a Renewable resource per se, it still will last much much longer than Oil or coal will ever last with reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Someone should really make somesort of Nuclear Power education for the public so that they would at least know some of the facts about nuclear power rather then sensationalized BS that got pumped out in the last 30 years. I mean the only sources the averege person has about nuclear energy is Chernobyl and the stuff that got pumped out by Greenpeace and other enviromental groups in the 1970's who went out and protested nuclear power with out doing a lick of research first. That's why people are sometimes so ignorant of nuclear power, that and the Cold War, I mean the first thing that comes to mind when soemone said nuclear power was a mushroom cloud and that's it.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Surlethe » 2009-02-19 06:40pm

Since the thread appears to be slowly petering out, would anybody like to write a summary post? I'll go ahead and split it up to the Library.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-02-20 01:01am

I can do it... This weekend.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Sky Captain » 2009-02-20 03:34am

How far out would be producing nuclear reactors in a dedicated factory on an assembly line and then just shipping them out and setting up where necessary. It occurred to me that building each reactor separately on site is extremely inefficient and time consuming. If one chooses floating nuclear power plant design it might be even possible to factory made whole power plant on a large barge and then tow it to destination and just plug into the grid. That way all work needed to do on site is to make a secure anchorage and necessary transmission lines to connect to the power grid.

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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby sketerpot » 2009-02-20 04:13am

That's exactly what Hyperion and NuScale are gearing up to do: mass produce smaller nuclear reactors.

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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-02-20 04:39am

We need big nuclear reactors, however, to really solve the problem, in the 6 GWe -range, which are easily feasable. There's nothing problematic about building these on site, sheesh, the components can all be standardized (you clearly don't know much about how large industrial facilities are built to assume the contrary). The complex and bizarre process of licensing each nuclear powerplant in America separately, even from ones which are basically identical, can and should hoever been immediately eliminated, but that's a simple modification of the regularatory process.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Uraniun235 » 2009-02-20 02:11pm

Wasn't that one of the very few positive aspects of the Bush administration? I seem to recall hearing that one of the things that happened was the permission to license reactor models for general production, and I think the Westinghouse AP-1000 was one of the first models to be so licensed. Maybe I misheard but I was under the impression we were already moving towards that regulatory model.


As for 6GWe... do you mean per reactor, or per power facility? The former sounds like a lot bigger than anything yet produced.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby phongn » 2009-02-20 02:56pm

Uraniun235 wrote:Wasn't that one of the very few positive aspects of the Bush administration? I seem to recall hearing that one of the things that happened was the permission to license reactor models for general production, and I think the Westinghouse AP-1000 was one of the first models to be so licensed. Maybe I misheard but I was under the impression we were already moving towards that regulatory model.

Yes - there are several reactor designs going for "one design, one license" and separating out the particular per-site regulatory requirements.

As for 6GWe... do you mean per reactor, or per power facility? The former sounds like a lot bigger than anything yet produced.

If per-reactor, that's pretty damn big.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-02-20 03:42pm

phongn wrote:
Uraniun235 wrote:Wasn't that one of the very few positive aspects of the Bush administration? I seem to recall hearing that one of the things that happened was the permission to license reactor models for general production, and I think the Westinghouse AP-1000 was one of the first models to be so licensed. Maybe I misheard but I was under the impression we were already moving towards that regulatory model.

Yes - there are several reactor designs going for "one design, one license" and separating out the particular per-site regulatory requirements.

As for 6GWe... do you mean per reactor, or per power facility? The former sounds like a lot bigger than anything yet produced.

If per-reactor, that's pretty damn big.



Naw, I'm talking about like power-facilities near major cities with 4 x 1.5 GWe reactors. Possibly even 12 GWe, 8 x 1.5 GWe reactors; remember that for the Molten Salt Reactors of the future, reprocessing will occur on site. It's only rational to thus try and colocate as many reactors of the largest size as-is feasable to minimize the number of colocated reprocessing facilities that have to be provided, and of course scaling up sites to such a huge level is also better than getting clearance to build on multiple sites, and gets some economy of scale, und so weiter.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby fnord » 2009-02-20 11:33pm

So you're talking about installations that would make Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP look on the small side? (8200 MWe installed in 5 BWR and 2 ABWR, with the two ABWR coming in cheaper installed per kW than the cheapest BWR)

What about (dis)economies of scale in financing? A smaller plant can come on-stream quicker and start generating revenue after incurring a lower interest bill, or are you assuming mass production of GWe-class units, which would vastly mitigate the interest rate risks?
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Hawkwings » 2009-02-21 04:35am

You would probably build such a plant in stages. Get two reactors online and producing power first, then build the rest of them. Mass-rpoduction would also help building times, obviously.
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-02-21 04:49pm

I am assuming mass production of GWe units, correct. And I am also advocating their construction as part of a state (i.e., government) plan to eliminate polluting sources of electric power, so the financing would come from the Federal Government just like it did for the Tennessee Valley Authority. The National Nuclear Power Authority, perhaps run by a new detail of the Army Corps of Engineers, or as a civilian department of the DOE?
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby fnord » 2009-02-22 12:13am

Is there that much half-used nuclear fuel available? Enough to jump-start your fleet of GWe-class LFTR? Americium ingrowth from Pu-241 decay might prove to be an embuggerance and require a harder spectrum, with attendant boost in fissile loading (ISTR >5t/GWe compared to 800 kg) - DOE's existing U233 stock won't stretch too far.

Or are you looking at other sources of fissile, such as ex-military stocks?
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Re: Questions about nuclear energy

Postby Modax » 2009-02-22 03:52am

I found this article on miniature nuclear reactors a few months ago and reading this thread reminded me of it. It sounds more than a little too good to be true, but it may be of interest to the discussion.

DailyTech wrote:Using technology licensed from the U.S. government, an Arizona-based company is planning to bring a new generation of miniature nuclear reactors to market. The Hyperion Hydride Reactor is not much larger than a hot tub, is totally sealed and self-operating, has no moving parts and, beyond refueling, requires no maintenance of any sort. The reactor will output 27MW, enough to power a community of 20,000 homes, says Hyperion Energy, makers of the new reactor. The first models will roll off the assembly line in five years.

Unlike conventional nuclear reactors, the Hyperion design uses no water for cooling, meaning it can be sited anywhere. It is designed to be covered in concrete and then buried while in operation, to reduce the risk of tampering. The reactor must be excavated every 7-10 years for refueling, but can otherwise be left entirely undisturbed.

"Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world", says Hyperion CEO John Deal.

Deal says that more than 100 orders have already been placed, from both the oil and electricity industries, as well as developing nations. The small size of the reactor makes it ideal for smaller, isolated communities which can therefore avoid the heavy cost of high-power electricity transmission lines.

Since power is produced 100% of the time, the total energy output is more than 15 times what the world's most powerful 400-foot tall 5 MW wind turbine will produce. The total cost is estimated at $25 million USD. It generates no greenhouse gases while in operation and, when one takes into account the total amount of resources used during manufacture, is said to have much less of a carbon footprint than even wind or solar power.

"We now have a six-year waiting list," says Deal. "We are in talks with developers in the Cayman Islands, Panama, and the Bahamas".

The reactor uses a uranium hydride core, surrounded by hydrogen gas. The fuel is not enriched to weapons-grade, meaning it can't be used for building a nuclear device.

Hyperion plans to eventually have three factories mass-producing the reactors, a step which will further reduce costs and increase the number available.

Toshiba is also working on its own mini nuclear reactor, the "4S", which the company says stands for "super-safe, small, and simple". The 4S is based on a smaller 10 MW design that can last 30-40 years before refueling. The 4S is sodium-cooled, and uses liquid lithium-6 to moderate the reactor, instead of conventional control rods. Like Hyperion's design, the reactor is totally sealed and requires no maintenance or operation.

Toshiba says the reactor will make power available for as little as 5 cents/kWh. A demonstration version of the 4S is planned to be online in 2012, and will be sited in the Alaskan village of Galena. After that, Toshiba plans to offer the 4S for sale throughout North America and Europe.

Startup firm NuScale is also working on its own mini reactor design.


How are these things supposed to generate electricity without water and steam? Unless its some kind of uber-radioisotope generator...


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