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« Note | Main | Poet Becomes Largest Ethanol Producer in World, May be first to Produce Cellulosic Ethanol »

September 25, 2007

Comments

Tony Belding

It was announced a few months ago that TXU -- operator of the Comanche Peak nuclear plant -- plans on probably two new reactors here in Texas. These units will be built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, it's the biggest reactor in their catalog.

All nuclear reactors in the US are old, and many are drawing close to the end of their life span. That means we need to begin building new plants now, urgently, just to keep from losing capacity as plants are decommissioned. If you see global warming as a serious problem, fair to say this looks like a bad time to phase out nuclear power.

Texas in particular is burning a lot of dirty coal for power. Love or hate nuclear power, it's hard to argue that it's worse than Texas coal.

I have to question a couple of your editorial assumptions, if you don't mind. . .

You wrote, "Thorium has no backing in the U.S. and fusion technology is probably a hundred years away." I don't know about thorium, but I think there's an excellent chance Dr. Bussard's IEC Polywell fusion reactor will work. If successful, it could rapidly begin displacing all other forms of power generation.

Work is under way on the new test reactor, WB-7. It could be spitting out data as soon as 6-9 months from now. Much will depend those results.

Also. . . "Renewable energy simply cannot ramp up production fast enough to meet but a small part of our power needs in the next 25 years."

Didn't that recent study from MIT tell us enhanced geothermal could be developed pretty quickly and scale to fill a large portion of electrical demand? Geothermal is renewable, right?

I'm surprised how many environmentalists can't seem to think outside the box. They want renewable energy, but are fixated on wind and solar. Even when you put other options in front of them, it doesn't seem to really sink in. Or maybe I should say it's like they have blinders on. . . They'll look at that MIT report on geothermal power and say "wow that's great", but as soon as the topic turns to something else, the report is forgotten.

Jim Holm

Wind is good only when the wind speed is over 30 mph, solar is good only during the sunburn hours on cloudless days and the temperatures of geothermal, around 300 degrees F, fall far short of nuclear's 550 or coal's 1,000 degrees F - far too little energy there also. Them's the facts.

Calamity

Jim Holm, thanks for providing an excellent example of a non-sequitur.

You say that geothermal has a lower operating temperature than coal and nukes.

This does not lead to the conclusion that this temperature embodies "far too little energy".

So much for the facts.

Calamity

Another report by the MIT asserted that under a strong growth scenario, nuclear fission power could provide 19% of the world's electricity needs by 2050.

So where's that other 81% going to come from?

Kirk Sorensen

Another report by the MIT asserted that under a strong growth scenario, nuclear fission power could provide 19% of the world's electricity needs by 2050. So where's that other 81% going to come from?

Thorium reactors using liquid-fluoride technology. The MIT study assumed light-water reactors forever.

Fluoride reactors could be:

1. much smaller because they operate at atmospheric pressure and use gas-turbine power conversion,

2. much safer since they inherently control their reactivity without intervention and can passively drain the fuel into a safe configuration, and have no pressurized water to vaporize,

3. much more economic in the fuel consumption since they can completely consume thorium at 300x the per-unit-mass fuel efficiency of today's uranium reactors,

4. and don't produce the long-lived transuranic waste that drives the development of places like Yucca Mountain.

50% of the isotopes in a pure fission product waste stream decay to stability in a week, 80% in 30 years, and after 300 years, it's at background levels of radiation.

Once the technology is brought to maturity, these reactors could be built quickly, in factory-type operations, and deployed in mobile submersible units to demand centers worldwide.

By contrast, you can't build 10m diameter steel pressure vessels with welded 9-in-thick walls very easily in a factory. You can't ship 30m diameter concrete containments with walls several meters thick from a factory. That's why light-water reactors have to be built on-site at great cost and time.

Paul Dietz

but I think there's an excellent chance Dr. Bussard's IEC Polywell fusion reactor will work.

I think there is close to zero chance this concept will work. Todd Rider's thesis at MIT a decade or so ago basically shot down proton-boron fusion reactors, and Polywell does not evade the no-go results (there are at least two independent fundamental physics reasons it won't work). And, yes, I've looked at the claims Rider's results don't apply, and do not find the apologists' arguments to be correct.

Kit P

Since the US does not use oil for base load generation, nuclear will initially reduce the demand for imported LNG and may come on line fast enough to prevent the US from from becoming a net importer of coal. The timing of COL applications is mostly due to the price of high BTU eastern coal. When the 2005 Energy Bill provided a PTC for the first few new plants, generators started giving nukes a serious look. That is why 30+ plants are being developed instead of 6.

Currently, renewable energy is being developed at full capacity to manufacture equipment and develop projects. A combination of wind and natural gas development could reduce the cost of natural gas to the point where that becomes a viable option again.

Finally, nuke plants do not get old. A new core is installed periodically. Most US plants running now will run for at least 60 years rather than the expected design life of 40 years. Those plants will be reevaluated after 50 years.

Currently some utilities are deciding if is cheaper to put new pollution controls on 50 year old coal plants or build new nukes. With the advent of merchant power plants, the competition may make the choice for them.

Calamity

Kirk Sorensen said: Thorium reactors using liquid-fluoride technology. The MIT study assumed light-water reactors forever.

The MIT study assumed light-water reactors over liquid-fluoride technology because light-water reactors are a commercial reality, whereas liquid fluoride reactors are commercial vaporware.

The idea put forward in this post is to look for fission for short term (or intermediate) energy needs. In this light, a hypothetical power source is quite useless. Don't get me wrong, these things may be very good one day, after all prospects look excellent, but until real life data for a reasonably large plant on operation, financials etc. become available, liquid fluoride reactors cannot be counted on in any real energy mix. Especially if it is to be the dominant mode for electricity production.

And the idea of using fission as intermediate power source iself is also curious. How much new fission capacity could come on line in 25 years?

Kirk Sorensen

The MIT study assumed light-water reactors over liquid-fluoride technology because light-water reactors are a commercial reality, whereas liquid fluoride reactors are commercial vaporware.

Things always remain hypothetical until they are developed. When Rickover wanted to build a nuclear sub in the early 1950s, they told him that they should have the technology ready by about 1980. Rickover essentially said "bull" and went ahead and did it.

The merits of thorium and fluoride reactor technology are there for anyone to consider. My opinion is that the technology can be developed rather quickly and we should get going rather than wait for some other country to do it.

While not commercial power reactors, two liquid-fluoride reactors were built at Oak Ridge National Lab and successfully operated. I will be the first to admit that much more needs to be done, but these reactors showed that the basic technology is viable.

Dezakin

I think there is close to zero chance this concept will work. Todd Rider's thesis at MIT a decade or so ago basically shot down proton-boron fusion reactors, and Polywell does not evade the no-go results (there are at least two independent fundamental physics reasons it won't work).
No, it can work if the core is big enough to be optically thick. How big is that? Like the size of Boston?

Dezakin

And the idea of using fission as intermediate power source iself is also curious. How much new fission capacity could come on line in 25 years?

Well, in 25 years France went from almost no nuclear capacity to running nearly 80% of their grid off nuclear, if thats any indication.

doug nicodemus

building nuclear powerplants to generate steam to generate electricity is like using a shotgun to blow an ant off a toilet. why not just flick it into the water chamber with your finger? using a heavy metal to do anything but power space craft and nuclear imagining is pretty insane. its a one way dead end earth unfriendly technology. come see us at www.censys.org

Paul Dietz

No, it can work if the core is big enough to be optically thick. How big is that? Like the size of Boston?

If the core is optically thick, then it will radiate like a black body. The temperature of a fusing H-11B plasma is around 1 billion K, so it would radiate around 5 x 10^28 watts per square meter. The surroundings might get a bit toasty. One could address this by surrounding this extremely hot core by thick layers of progressively cooler insulating gas through which the energy would be transported, to reduce the rate at which it escapes. You also need the core to be dense enough to support sufficient fusion.

Are there any stars named "Boston", by any chance?

Kirk Sorensen

its a one way dead end earth unfriendly technology.

Well, considering that without the heat from nuclear decay the Earth would have solidified many billions of years ago, shutting down the magnetic field, plate tectonics, the recycling of carbonate through volcanic eruptions, I would have to draw an entirely different conclusion.

Nuclear reactions have sustained the Earth and life itself for billions of years. Without nuclear energy, this would be a dead planet. The discovery and utilization of nuclear fission by humans is a natural extension of a natural gift--uranium and thorium.

We live on a nuclear-powered planet in a nuclear-powered universe. Every form of energy everywhere ultimately derives its energy from a nuclear reaction somewhere.

Paul Dietz

Every form of energy everywhere ultimately derives its energy from a nuclear reaction somewhere.

Gravitational energy is even more important. Dropping mass into a black hole can liberate a much larger fraction of that mass as energy than can any nuclear reaction short of annihilation of matter and antimatter.

The nuclear energy embodied in uranium and thorium are ultimately derived from the gravitational energy liberated in the core collapse supernovas in which they were formed.

Kit P

Doug, I checked out your web site and after getting past the 'donate' button I found some of your 'earth friendly' ideas, “like making their own biodiesal, using stoves that burn corn”.

Your site did not provide any qualification in something like LCA or thermodynamics to support your effort to educate the public. Did I miss the staff qualification info in something other than fund raising.

Jim Holm

Calmity: Sorry. Many people don't understand about steam power.

averagejoe

I prefer to keep an open mind about hydrogen/boron fusion. The folks over at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics are doing some interesting work with dense plasma focus technology. They seem to be confident about having overcome the problem of x-ray cooling. I guess time will tell.

https://lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com/patent.htm

bigTom

I'll maintain a faint hope that someone will find a really cool clever way to make fusion work. The long-term multibillion dollar international mainstream effort seems quite unlikely to come up with anything practical. We have to give fusion a very low probablity of success.

Thorium sounds great. I had once read someone who said it wouldn't be economical. And of course there is the long technology development and demonstration cycle. But, there is a lot of Thorium. The fissionable isotope is not usable for a bomb -so it has no profliferation problems. There may be a good technical reason why it hasn't been pursued.

As mentioned earlier, it will take a large effort just to maintain the current share of power generation by fission. We shouldn't count on its expansion meeting a major part of our needs.

averagejoe

Thorium reactors sound interesting, but uranium would have to get awfully expensive or scarce for the U.S. to give them a real try. There's too much money already invested in uranium based nuclear plants. I did read somewhere that thorium/uranium fuel mixes could be used in some conventional nuclear reactors, with a few modifications. The only thing that gives me pause is the production of U-232 in the thorium cycle, U-232 being nasty stuff. Some people say that's a good thing though, since it reduces the chance of weaponizing thorium reactor products. Has anyone read up on the subject? Are thorium reactors practical?

Kit P

bigTom, the effort to build nuke capacity is about 100 times less than alternatives. Increasing capacity of coal will require new mines, rail road and import terminals. Renewable energy will require new transmission lines because general speaking the resource is insufficient where the demand is.

The first step in any large power project is to build a batch concrete plant. The ABWR has been constructed in 39 months from concrete pour to fuel load in 39 months.

Not dispute Kirk Sorensen's vision of future reactors but:

1.Current LWR are already small and only take up a fraction of the space that balance of plant (BOP) occupies.
2.LWR are already very safe. It is like Bill Gates finding a penny in the seat cushions of his limo. He is not likely to hold a press conference proclaiming his new found wealth.
3.LWR fuel cost are already very low.
4.LWR do not produce very much radioactive waste.

Again, scale must be considered. Two 1350 MWe reactors designed to last 60 years at a site with two existing reactors. The competition is imported LNG and lignite.

Kirk Sorensen

Thorium reactors sound interesting, but uranium would have to get awfully expensive or scarce for the U.S. to give them a real try.

In my opinion, the real reason to go to thorium reactors isn't the abundance or scarcity of either thorium or uranium--it is the potential that thorium offers (if done properly) for a fuel cycle with little or no transuranic waste production. I say "fuel cycle", but even that is a misnomer, carrying over from our current nuclear experience where we "lightly burn" fuels before reprocessing the fuel or throwing it away. With a thorium-fueled liquid-fluoride reactor, you can readily reach a state where thorium is the only input to the reactor and fission products are the only output. The fuel can be completely consumed. That's not really a "cycle", that's the ideal of actually "burning" up all the fuel.

Here's a comparison chart.

The only thing that gives me pause is the production of U-232 in the thorium cycle, U-232 being nasty stuff. Some people say that's a good thing though, since it reduces the chance of weaponizing thorium reactor products.

The production of U-232 in thorium reactors is probably one of the biggest reasons why thorium is difficult to use in solid-core (conventional) reactors. When you have to reprocess thorium oxide (which is exceptionally difficult because of its chemical stability) and fabricate new fuel elements, the presence of U-232 makes this much more difficult (due to the radiation) than the enriched uranium fuel elements that they make today.

On the other hand, if you use a fluid-fueled thorium reactor, there is no fabrication of fuel elements, and the U-232 becomes very attractive as a strong deterrent using the U-232/U-233 fuel in any nuclear weapon. Three fluid-fueled thorium reactor concepts were pursued by the United States in the 1950s. The liquid-fluoride reactor was chosen in 1959 as the most promising.

Not dispute Kirk Sorensen's vision of future reactors but:

1.Current LWR are already small and only take up a fraction of the space that balance of plant (BOP) occupies.
2.LWR are already very safe. It is like Bill Gates finding a penny in the seat cushions of his limo. He is not likely to hold a press conference proclaiming his new found wealth.
3.LWR fuel cost are already very low.
4.LWR do not produce very much radioactive waste.

Not to dispute with Kit P, and I don't really, but LWRs are fine if all you plan to do is add 15-20 reactors over the next 20 years. For such an effort, then yes, there is little incentive to develop a more advanced and safer reactor like the LFR.

But there are 151 coal plants in development or under construction right now. There is about 900 GWe of coal generation capability on the grid. If we want to get serious about public health, air quality, and CO2 emission, then replacing coal is the SINGLE best thing we can do.

I don't have difficulty seeing how 15-20 new LWRs could be added to existing sites around the country. But my personal goal is far more ambitious--get this country OFF COAL! And to do that, we will need 1000 reactors of roughly gigawatt capability. If we want to replace our gas cars with electric cars and provide that electricity without CO2 emission we will need about 2000 gigawatt-class reactors.

If you can see 1000-2000 new LWRs going into operation around the country in the next 50 years, then I confess you have more imagination than I do. My attraction to the fluoride reactor, thorium, factory build, and submersible basing is my belief that this approach will be much more acceptable to society for 1000-2000 new reactors than the LWR approach.

Unfortunately, the reality that we are really moving towards is a retention of our coal plants, more importation of fossil fuels (both petroleum and LNG), and hundreds of new coal plants brought on the grid to foul our air, poison our bodies, and devastate our landscape.

Paul Dietz

I seriously doubt utilities are going to want to buy reactors in which the entire primary loop is contaminated with fission products, or concepts in which they have to themselves operate a small online reprocessing plant. Why would they want the headaches and complexity these would entail, when the claimed benefits don't appear to be all that compelling?

Kirk Sorensen

Paul, we must be talking to different people. The folks I am talking to find the advantages of this reactor incredibly compelling.

BILL HANNAHAN

[By contrast, you can't build 10m diameter steel pressure vessels with welded 9-in-thick walls very easily in a factory. You can't ship 30m diameter concrete containments with walls several meters thick from a factory. That's why light-water reactors have to be built on-site at great cost and time.]

Building Boeing 747’s on the plains of Texas or the swamps of Alabama would also be difficult.

Floating nuclear power plants using conventional reactor designs could be mass produced using assembly line methodology, and then be towed to offshore sites all over the world, prepared in parallel with their construction. The cost would be much less due to more efficient use of man hours and reduced interest cost due to short construction time. Thorium reactors would be an option when available.

[With a thorium-fueled liquid-fluoride reactor, you can readily reach a state where thorium is the only input to the reactor and fission products are the only output. The fuel can be completely consumed.]

Comparing a theoretical thorium reactor with a 40 year old uranium design is a bit unfair. The integral fast reactor would be a better comparison.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_Fast_Reactor


I am a big fan of both and think several billion dollars per year should be spent on thorium and IFR technology, but it will take several years to develop and test a large thorium reactor suitable for mass production, whereas conventional designs are available now.

[a hypothetical power source is quite useless. Don't get me wrong, these things may be very good one day, after all prospects look excellent, but until real life data for a reasonably large plant on operation, financials etc. become available, liquid fluoride reactors cannot be counted on in any real energy mix]


Calamity, this is a very insightful comment. You understand that this principle also applies to cellulosic ethanol, deep well geothermal, thermal solar storage electric, carbon sequestration, ocean wave, ocean thermal, flying windmills, bio algae, etc.

We have only one proven non carbon energy source with the demonstrated ability to scale up to any level we choose, at an affordable price, fission.

[How much new fission capacity could come on line in 25 years?]

The U.S. went from near zero to 300 watts per person in between 1970 and 1990, with no threat of global warming and abundant cheap fossil fuel, with no strain on the economy. With today’s urgency we should be able to double or triple that rate by conventional construction techniques, and much higher production rates are possible with mass production assembly line methods.

[STPNOC, together with a contracting team successfully led by GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GE-H) and Bechtel, has prepared the COLA for STP units 3 and 4 in just over one year for submittal to the NRC.]

[With the COLA submitted, the NRC begins an estimated two-month acceptance review process. It is then anticipated that the NRC could take up to 42 months for its detailed review process]

Our new streamlined government review process needs almost 4 years to review a report created in one year, to approve construction of two conventional plants at a site that already has two operating plants.

That’s almost as long as it will take to actually build the plants. I sure hope those guys in Washington are not too overworked, they will probably have to hire many more people to handle the new workload. No problem, their budget is covered by fees on the nuclear power industry.

[The folks over at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics are doing some interesting work with dense plasma focus technology. https://lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com/patent.htm.
]
Wow, unlimited electricity at 0.1 cents per kWh with almost no waste or waste heat. This plus the EEstor battery will solve our energy problems. All we need now are working prototypes of each. Thanks for the link averagejoe.

Paul Dietz

Wow, unlimited electricity at 0.1 cents per kWh with almost no waste or waste heat. This plus the EEstor battery will solve our energy problems.

You should put this on lolcats with the caption INVISIBLE SARCASM. :)

averagejoe

As I said before, I prefer to keep an open mind in regard to new approaches in the field of fusion power. Every now and then, a long shot pays off.

bigTom

I certainly wish the best for the Nuclear folks. I will give them some support. I've always believed the only real problem with Nuke power is psychological, but it is a very big one. Add in a stupid movie about a meltdown, and a couple of real-world incompetance caused accidents TMI, and Chernoble, and the difficulty of getting these babies approved is severe. Thats why I don't think a large scale buildout is likely.

Kit P

It would be very hard to license a Chernobyl type design in the US so I suppose that bigTom is right about how hard that would be. TMI may go down in history as the most expensive and famous accident where no one was hurt.

Paul Dietz

Paul, we must be talking to different people. The folks I am talking to find the advantages of this reactor incredibly compelling

That must explain all the money EPRI, the nuclear reactor makers, utilities, and so on are putting into molten salt reactor development.

Oh wait. They aren't. Funny, that.

Dealing with disseminated fission products instead of waste that comes prepackaged in hermetically sealed fuel elements is such a compelling advantage! What could they be thinking?

The truth of the matter is that reducing transuranic production is NOT a compelling argument (particularly in light of the intense activity of 232U), since the cost to utilities of dealing with the transuranics from current generation reactors is not large. Why should they take substantial risks to reduce what is already a minor cost?

Dezakin

Dealing with disseminated fission products instead of waste that comes prepackaged in hermetically sealed fuel elements is such a compelling advantage! What could they be thinking?
Maybe about greater scalability, no need for massive pressure vessels, no fuel fabrication or enrichment overhead, reduced fuel costs, greater passive safety, and no requirement for refueling downtimes.

The truth of the matter is that reducing transuranic production is NOT a compelling argument (particularly in light of the intense activity of 232U), since the cost to utilities of dealing with the transuranics from current generation reactors is not large. Why should they take substantial risks to reduce what is already a minor cost?

First, reducing transuranic production adresses political issues. Its obviously not an economic question; Don't build strawmen.

Second, U232 if produced wouldn't ever leave the reactor. Its activity is tiny compared to the fission products in distilation reprocessing and represents no additional overhead for fuel processing; Also U232 production is entirely optional depending on how proliferation-resistant you're trying to design your reactor. This is only a concern if you're doing fuel fabrication.

Finally, utilities would potentially benifit from fluid fuel reactor regimes not because of reduced transuranic production but because of lower costs of the entire reactor regime; From construction, lower fuel costs, and higher thermodynamic efficiency improves the competitiveness. They can be much smaller, and dont require the massive steel forgings for pressure vesses that BWRs and PWRs require... which incidentally are now produced only at two foundries in the world, with only Japan Steel Works being versitile enough for most LWR reactor needs.

There's also a potential minor benifit of marketing the xenon and potentially rhodium or other fission platenoids from the waste stream, as its allready disolved in a solvent that should prove useful for electrorefining.

This is very much a win except for the potential maintenance headaches from having a hot loop and possibly an activated graphite moderator.

Paul Dietz

Maybe about greater scalability, no need for massive pressure vessels, no fuel fabrication or enrichment overhead, reduced fuel costs, greater passive safety, and no requirement for refueling downtimes.

Many of these are not unique to homogenous molten salt reactors. There are existing, operating commercial reactor designs without large pressure vessels (CANDUs). I question the first -- conventional reactors scale just fine. Enrichment and fuel fabrication costs are not terribly high, and the fuel elements double as waste containers afterwards. Safety of conventional reactors is also sufficient, no need to guild the lily. Conventional reactors also have low refueling downtimes these days (some utilities operate their reactors with capacity factors of 95%.)


Second, U232 if produced wouldn't ever leave the reactor.

Of course 232U will leave the reactor. It has a halflife of 70 years, and any reactor will eventually be shut down. Perhaps you mean it will be moved on to another reactor?

Its activity is tiny compared to the fission products in distilation reprocessing and represents no additional overhead for fuel processing;

If comparison to the activity of fission products is the issue, then why the focus on transuranics as a benefit? The activity of fission products dwarfs that also.

The issue with 232U is its intense alpha activity, as well as the inhalation hazard from the radon isotope (halflife: 1 day) in its decay chain. Inhaled alpha emitters are bad news, if the stuff escapes.

Also U232 production is entirely optional depending on how proliferation-resistant you're trying to design your reactor.

Incorrect. 232U production cannot be entirely avoided, due to (n,2n) reactions on 233U. Now, you can reduce the production by the main pathways by attempting to use thorium with low 230Th content, but that either means not using most thorium ores (which are contaminated with uranium and contain that isotope from the U238 decay chain) or by isotopically separating the thorium (there goes one of those putative advantages, though). Alternately, you could imagine doing online separation of 231Pa from the molten salt. As I said, utilities don't want to have to operate their own chemical reprocessing facilities at each reactor site.

This is very much a win except for the potential maintenance headaches from having a hot loop [...].

I'm reminded of the joke where the reporter asked, "Well, aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"

Conventional reactors have low risk. Any advanced reactor will necessarily be more risky, and the ROI has to increase dramatically to compensate. So, unless the benefits can be expected to be large, utilities will not bother.

Dezakin

There are existing, operating commercial reactor designs without large pressure vessels (CANDUs). I question the first -- conventional reactors scale just fine.

You're ignoring the potential for fluid fuel reactors to be a significant improvement on solid fuel reactors. Even CANDUs dont run at atmospheric pressure, and the reactor core can be significantly smaller on a fluid fuel reactor which saves capital costs.

Of course 232U will leave the reactor. It has a halflife of 70 years, and any reactor will eventually be shut down. Perhaps you mean it will be moved on to another reactor?

You're being pedantic here. I mean no one will bother trying to fabricate fuel from it. It will be either moved to another reactor or immobilized in a storage cask.

Safety of conventional reactors is also sufficient, no need to guild the lily.

Don't be ridiculous; Improved reactor safety is allways desirable for political and public relations purposes even if you've made the bet financers are willing to take.

If comparison to the activity of fission products is the issue, then why the focus on transuranics as a benefit? The activity of fission products dwarfs that also.

Politics.

I'm reminded of the joke where the reporter asked, "Well, aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"
You're being unreasonable here, and you should know it. Theres no indication that hot loop maintenance overhead would be stretching into the tens of millions per year, which is what it would have to do to outweigh the fuel fabrication savings; And we both know that capital costs would still dominate in larger reactors. A citation of any study on costs would be nice, but you're positing something thats entirely unsupported.

Conventional reactors have low risk. Any advanced reactor will necessarily be more risky, and the ROI has to increase dramatically to compensate. So, unless the benefits can be expected to be large, utilities will not bother.

The potential benifits are large. I dont expect the utilities to bother with researching a new reactor unless some large government organization spearheads a proof of concept project first. But then if that didn't happen with the light water reactor program, I imagine we'd just be burning coal now also.

Kit P

The potential benefit is very small. Dezakin needs to review how small a number is when it it multiplied by to to the minus ninth.

Paul Dietz is presenting a very reasoned argument. I will try a different approach. During my lifetime I have seen a huge improvement in safety in every field except the safety of US designed commercial nuclear power plants. It is really hard to improve on perfect. No one has been hurt by radiation.

The problem is that not very may people understand the virtual world of risk assessment. Using solar PV as an example, fatal injuries to family could occur if the smoke emitting diodes in the solar power converters caused a house fire.

Hopefully every one understand that electricity is dangerous and is major cause of fires. We teach children from an early age to not play with matches or stick things in light sockets. In any case, electric lights are several orders of magnitude safer that gas lights or candles. However, in the early days of putting electricity in houses there was a debate about safety. We still occasionally hear about cell phones causing brain cancer.

Anywho, manufactures of solar PV systems must provide 'reasonable' assurance that product will not cause harm to a 'one in a million' standard. Ten raised to the minus sixth power is a very small number the the mind can not easily comprehend.

Nuclear power plants designed 45 years ago were built to standards several orders of magnitude safer than solar systems. If new plants are several orders of magnitude safer than existing plant, it is just a number on paper splinting the hairs of meaning of perfection.

Paul Dietz said that nuclear power plant operators do not want to operate a chemical plant. The risk assessment would likely suggest that large concrete bunkers and robust steel pressure vessels.

Bill Hannahan

Many people ask, “Which reactor design is safest.” The more important question is, “Which reactor design will save the most lives and provide the best quality of life.”

The reactor design that will save the most lives and provide the best quality of life is the one that can be built in the shortest time at the lowest cost, with a reasonable degree of safety.

Our irrational fear of the N word has pressured the government into over regulating the nuclear industry, and so the plants are over engineered, requiring more money and time too build, leaving us more dependent on coal.

greenman3610

we do have a small problem in that our current administration has
threatened to start world war 3 if someone they dont like builds a nuclear plant.
Perhaps we should get some clarity on that particular point before we go too far down this road.

Kit P

GM is factually incorrect.

George Bush did not threaten to start WWIII nor is the US building nuke weapons. Those who hate Bush usually make up the reasons.

This is a difference between building a nuclear power plant and nuke weapons. It is very easy to tell the difference.

In the unlikely case that you are interested clarity, NRG is talking about building a power plant to generate electricity. If you are worried about US utilities are building nuclear weapons, the licensing process is public. Write the US NRC with your comments, they are required by law to reply and make it a public record.

Iran has built and is operating an enrichment facility using stolen technology and not opening it to IAEA inspection. Iran does not have the skill to make nuclear fuel and no one will buy their fuel grade enriched from them. The obvious conclusion is that Iran is building nuclear weapons.

If you do not see how Iran attacking the US or Israel (as the president of Iran does on a daily basis) with nuclear weapons could lead to WWIII, then I suspect you do not understand that Bush did not threaten to 'start' a war but was warning that Iran may want to start one.

Furthermore, it is the policy of the of the US in cooperation with Russia (and the former USSR) to destroy nuclear weapons. So far more than 10,000 nuke bombs have destroyed. If fact, 10% of US electricity comes from nuke weapon material.

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