Archive for the ‘Small Modular Nuclear Reactors’ Category

Dubious economics of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

September 12, 2016

FOR GENERAL ATOMICS, SMALLER NUCLEAR PLANTS ARE BEAUTIFUL, San Diego Union Tribune  But can its technology work? And is it even needed? BY ROB NIKOLEWSKI July 15, 2016 The scientists and engineers at General Atomics think the future of nuclear energy is coming on the back of a flatbed truck.

And the leadership at the San Diego-based company, which has been developing nuclear technologies for more than 60 years, has already spent millions in the expectation that its ambitious plans for the next generation of reactors will actually work.

“We have technology that we think is going to qualitatively change the game,” saidChristina Back, vice president of nuclear technologies and materials at General Atomics……..it’s designed to produce a reactor that’s so compact that the company’s handout material shows it being transported by tractor-trailer.

But EM² is still a long way from becoming a day-to-day reality in a fast-changing energy landscape.

Just building a prototype, Back said, is at least 10 years away and, “we’re looking at 2030-ish” before a commercial reactor could be up and running using EM² technology……And there are no guarantees the design will work……

Here in the United States, natural gas may pose an even greater challenge. Techniques such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have unlocked vast amounts of natural gas in North America and the increased supply has lowered prices. Utilities are increasingly turning to natural gas-fired power plants to generate electricity, at least in large part, because gas burns much cleaner than coal.

Where does that leave nuclear?…….. nuclear has long faced intense opposition from those who consider it an inherently dangerous source of power and the EM² technology is being developed at a time when nuclear plants are getting shut down in places such as Illinois, Vermontand New York.

The environment for nuclear power in California is even more daunting……Critics of nuclear power point  to the falling costs and rising production numbers for renewable energy, as well as a mandate from the California Public Utilities Commission ordering the state’s big three investor-owned utilities to add 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage to their grids by the end of the decade.

McKinzie said the success of any advanced nuclear technology largely rests on its performance in the prototype stage, which does not come cheaply.”Safety and performance really have to be addressed by the protoype,” said McKinzie, who holds a doctorate in experimental nuclear physics from the University of Pennsylvania. “When you’re talking on the order of a billion dollars to get to that point, that’s a pretty high hurdle.”….The leadership at General Atomics has invested $40 million so far in the EM² technology…….General Atomics was one of five companies that received a share of a $13 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy in October 2014…….

Busting Australian Senator Sean Edward’s deceptive spin about PRISM nuclear reactors

June 11, 2016

not a single PRISM [ (Power Reactor Innovative Small Module]  has actually been built…. the commercial viability of these technologies is unproven

Crucially, under the plan, Australia would have been taking spent fuel for 4 years before the first PRISM came online, assuming the reactors were built on time.

if borehole technology works as intended, and at the prices hoped for, why would any country pay another to take their waste for $1,370,000 a tonne, when a solution exists that only costs $216,000 a tonne, less than one sixth of the price?

The impossible dream Free electricity sounds too good to be true. It is. A plan to produce free electricity for South Australia by embracing nuclear waste sounds like a wonderful idea. But it won’t work.  THE AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE Dan Gilchrist February 2016

“……NEW TECHNOLOGY  This comprehensively researched submission asserts that a transformative opportunity is to be found in pairing established, mature practices with cuspof-commercialisation technologies to provide an innovative model of service to the global community. (emphasis added) Edwards’ submission to the Royal Commission

Two elements of the plan – transport of waste, and temporary storage in the dry cask facility – are indeed mature. There is a high degree of certainty that these technologies will perform as expected, for the prices expected.
 It should be noted, however, that the price estimates used in the Edwards plan for the dry cask storage facility draw on estimates for an internal US facility to be serviced by rail.17 No consideration has been given to the cost of shipping the material from overseas.
Around a dozen ship loads a year would be needed to import spent fuel at the rate called for in the plan.18 It is likely that a dedicated port would also need to be constructed. The 1999 Pangea plan, which proposed a similar construction of a commercial waste repository in Australia, made allowances for “…international transport in a fleet of special purpose ships to a dedicated port in Australia”. 19
 Needless to say, building and operating highly specialised ships, or paying others to do so, would not be free. Building and operating a dedicated port would not be free. Yet none of these activities are costed in the plan.
Furthermore, beyond the known elements of transport and temporary storage, the principle technologies depended on – PRISM reactors and borehole disposal – are precisely those which are glossed over as being on the “cusp of commercialisation”.
 To put it another way: the commercial viability of these technologies is unproven.
 PRISM  [Power Reactor Innovative Small Module]The PRISM reactor is based on technology piloted in the US, up until the program was cancelled in 1994. 20 It offers existing nuclear-power nations what appears to be a tremendous deal: turn those massive stockpiles of waste into fuel, and reduce the long-term waste problem from one of millennia to one of mere centuries. It promises to be cheap, too, with the small modular design allowing mass production.
 Despite this promise, not a single PRISM reactor has actually been built. Officials at the South Korean Ministry of Science have said that they hope to have advanced reactors – if not the PRISM then something very similar – up and running by 2040.21 The Generation IV International Forum expects the first fourth generation reactors – of which the PRISM is one example – to be commercially deployed in the 2030’s.2
 After decades spent developing the technology in the United States, a US Department of Energy report dismissed the use of Advanced Disposition Reactors (ADR), a class which includes the PRISM-type integral fast reactor concept, as a way of drawing down on excess plutonium stocks. It compares it unfavourably to the existing – and expensive – mixed oxide (MOX) method of recycling nuclear fuel.
The ADR option involves a capital investment similar in magnitude to the [MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility] but with all of the risks associated with first of-a kind new reactor construction (e.g., liquid metal fast reactor), and this complex nuclear facility construction has not even been proposed yet for a Critical Decision …. Choosing the ADR option would be akin to choosing to do the MOX approach all over again, but without a directly relevant and easily accessible reference facility/operation (such as exists for MOX in France) to provide a leg up on experience and design.23
 Nevertheless, the Edwards plan hopes to have a pair of PRISMs built in 10 years.
Crucially, under the plan, Australia would have been taking spent fuel for 4 years before the first PRISM came online, assuming the reactors were built on time.
 The risk is that these integral fast reactors might turn out to be more expensive than anticipated and prove to be uneconomical. This could leave South Australia with expensive electricity and no other plan to deal with any of the spent fuel acquired to fund the reactors in the first place.
 For countries that have no long-term solution for their existing waste stockpiles, the business case for constructing a PRISM reactor is much clearer: even if the facility turns out to be uneconomical, it will nevertheless be able to process some spent fuel, thus reducing waste stockpiles. This added benefit makes the financial risk more worthwhile for such countries
Australia, on the other hand, doesn’t have an existing stockpile of high-level nuclear waste. The Edwards plan would see Australia acquire that problem in the hopes of solving it with technology never before deployed on a commercial scale. We would be buying off the plan, with many billions of dollars at stake, in the hopes that we, with little experience and minimal nuclear infrastructure, could solve a problem which has vexed far more experienced nations for decades.
 By the time the first PRISM is due to come online it will be too late to turn back, no matter what unexpected problems may be encountered. Australia would have acquired thousands of tonnes of spent fuel with no other planned use.
Counting on the development of other PRISM reactors around the world is another gamble. The proposed reprocessing plant accounts for all of the 4,000 tonne reduction in waste over the life of the plan. Australia will have no use for most of this material – the rest must be used by other PRISMs. If PRISMs are not widely adopted, Australia will have no takers. This could leave Australia with even more than 56,000 tonnes of waste, with no planned or costed solution.
 Borehole disposal 
The second element of the plan is the long-term disposal of waste from the PRISM reactors in boreholes. However this technology is still being tested.
 According to an article in the journal Science, bore-hole technology has significant issues to overcome.
The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, an independent panel that advises [the United States Department of Energy] DOE, notes a litany of potential problems: No one has drilled holes this big 5 kilometers into solid rock. If a hole isn’t smooth and straight, a liner could be hard to install, and waste containers could get stuck. It’s tricky to see flaws like fractures in rock 5 kilometers down. Once waste is buried, it would be hard to get it back (an option federal regulations now require). And methods for plugging the holes haven’t been sufficiently tested.
However, if estimates used by the Edwards plan are correct, and boreholes can be made to work as hoped, it would allow high-level nuclear waste to be disposed of for only $216,000 per tonne. The Edwards plan reduces this further for Australia, quoting only $138,000 a tonne, on the understanding that our own waste would be comparatively low level output from a PRISM – disregarding, as discussed above, the 56,000 tonnes left over.
 Nevertheless, the figure of $216,000 per tonne is important, because that is the price at which any country with suitable geology could store high level waste. It should be noted that Australia will not have exclusive access to borehole technology. If it is proven to be as effective as hoped there is nothing stopping many other countries from using it.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) notes that borehole siting activities have been initiated in Ghana, the Philippines, Malaysia and Iran.26 A pilot program is underway in the US.27 The range of geologies where boreholes may be effective is vast.
This may have serious implications for Australia’s waste disposal industry, given that other countries could build their own low-cost solution, or offer it to potential customers.
 However, if boreholes do not work as hoped, Australia will have no costed solution for the final disposal of high-level waste from its PRISM facilities. Australia would find itself in the very situation other countries had paid it to avoid.
PRICE What are countries willing to pay to have their spent fuel taken care of?
 This is an open question, as to date there is no international market in the permanent storage of high-level waste.
A figure of US$1,000,000 (A$1,370,000) per tonne is used by the Edwards plan, but this estimate does not appear to have any rigorous basis.
The Edwards plan gives only one real world example of a similar price: a recent plan by Taiwan to pay US$1,500,000 per tonne to send a small amount of its waste overseas for reprocessing. From this, the report concludes that an estimate of US$1,000,000 is entirely reasonable.
 However, the report neglects to mention several important facts about Taiwan’s proposal. First, this spent fuel was to be reprocessed, not disposed of, and most of the material was to be reclaimed as usable fuel. 29 This fuel would not be returned, but would continue to be owned by Taiwan, and be available for sale.30 If they could find a buyer, Taiwan might expect to recoup part or all of their costs by selling the reclaimed fuel to a third party.
 Second, the 20 percent of material to be converted into vitrified waste by the process was to be returned to Taiwan – no long-term storage would be part of the deal.
Third, and most importantly, the tender was suspended by the Taiwanese government pending parliamentary budget review.31 This occurred in March 2015, several months before the Edwards plan was submitted to the Royal Commission.
 Not only was the Taiwanese government proposing a completely different process to the one proposed by the Edwards plan, they weren’t willing to pay for it anyway. So the use of the Taiwanese case as a baseline example for the price Australia might hope to receive to store waste simply does not stand up to scrutiny.
The plan does briefly mention that the US nuclear power industry has set aside US$400,000 a tonne for waste disposal – to cover research, development and final disposal.32 This much lower figure is disregarded for no apparent reason, making the mid-scenario’s assumption of a price more than double this, at US$1,000,000, seem dubious. Even the pessimistic case considers a price of US$500,000 a tonne, higher than the US savings pool.
As will be discussed in the next section, the question remains: if borehole technology works as intended, and at the prices hoped for, why would any country pay another to take their waste for $1,370,000 a tonne, when a solution exists that only costs $216,000 a tonne, less than one sixth of the price?
 If South Australia led the way to prove the viability of the borehole disposal method and took on the risks associated with a first of its kind commercial operation, many other countries should be expected to use the technology for their own waste, or could offer those services to others. This alone makes the idea that other countries would pay $1,370,000 a tonne highly unlikely. ….https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/conservationsa/pages/496/attachments/original/1455085726/P222_Nuclear_waste_impossible_dream_FINAL.pdf?1455085726

The case against Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

March 20, 2016

To make this huge investment even begin to make sense you need to do it in a big way.  It is unclear if the mass production savings of SMRs will offset the economy of scale advantages of current designs. what is clear is that attempts to use modular components in the four AP1000s currently under construction in the US have utterly failed to keep costs down, or even controlled. 

And similarly this supposed benefit will not help the first handful of SMRs.  The non-partisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense gave SMR’s their Golden Fleece Award for using taxpayer money where business should be paying.

The small reactors we find in nuclear military vessels produce electricity at ridiculously high prices per kilowatt.  This is why no engineering firm is proposing these well understood designs for mass production.  The cost of naval small reactor power never becomes competitive, even if mass produced. 

Small reactors reduce costs by eliminating the secondary containment,increasing the chances nuclear accidents will not be contained.  There is still no rad-waste solution for these reactors.  Oh, and there are not even any finished designs for these reactors, much less prototypes.

Small is Ugly –  the case against Small Modular Reactors  http://funologist.org/2012/12/09/small-is-ugly-the-case-against-small-modular-reactors/

[With apologies to E.F. Schumacher, who wrote the important book Small is Beautiful] January 2016

“Don’t bet against technology.” is the advice i give to people who are saying certain industrial developments won’t happen, or will not happen soon. There are breakthroughs everyday and most of them are not forecasted much in advance.  So why am I not excited about the recent Department of Energy’s decision to fund the development of Small Modular Reactor (SMR) designs?

So the hype runs like this.  We want a reactor which is smaller because the big reactors are inflexible on the grid, often providing more power than an area (or even small countries) can use.  Small is flexible.  Small reactors can be built in factories and shipped to the site nearly complete – reversing the current ratio of 70% of the reactor built on site and 30% in the factory.  Mass production will help avoid cost overruns and delays which plague larger reactors.  Smaller reactors can be refueled less frequently and will require smaller staff to run them.  We need a mix of energy solutions, rather than depending on just fossil sources and renewables.  The navy has successfully used small reactors to power aircraft carriers and submarines successfully for years.  Let’s just take this technology to the private sector.

Sounds pretty compelling right?  It is no surprise these reactors have broad bi-partisan support in congress.

Small is flexible.  But it turns out that 180 to 250 MW of these new designs is not actually small.  The obstacle Germany and other countries face as they move to increasingly renewable solutions is that these big point source power producers interfere with grid distribution; basically renewable electricity has to be routed around them.  This is why the closure of reactors is so important in terms of building a real flexible renewables feed network of microgrids.  Big reactors are a big problem for the grid, these small reactors are still big enough to be a problem.

It is certainly possible that small reactors could be built in factories and shipped to sites nearly complete.  It is not a coincidence that large reactors have been built for so long and in so many places around the world by so many different engineering firms with some of the highest paid executives and engineers in the world.  I don’t like them, but these are not stupid people.

There are huge fixed costs associated with getting reactors running.  You need tremendous water supplies, large grid connections, waste and fuel handling facilities – there are favorable economies of scale to large reactors.  The reason dozens of engineering firms in over 30 countries around the globe have built big reactors (and multiple units wherever they could) is not because they all made the same mistake, it is because to make this huge investment even begin to make sense you need to do it in a big way.  It is unclear if the mass production savings of SMRs will offset the economy of scale advantages of current designs. what is clear is that attempts to use modular components in the four AP1000s currently under construction in the US have utterly failed to keep costs down, or even controlled.  And similarly this supposed benefit will not help the first handful of SMRs.  The non-partisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense gaveSMR’s their Golden Fleece Award for using taxpayer money where business should be paying.

The small reactors we find in nuclear military vessels produce electricity at ridiculously high prices per kilowatt.  This is why no engineering firm is proposing these well understood designs for mass production.  The cost of naval small reactor power never becomes competitive, even if mass produced.  And nuclear naval vessels don’t have to worry about cooling water, making them structurally cheaper than the proposed new SMRs.

The energy mix argument is a throwaway.  We can generate energy by hooking teenagers with ipods up to stationary bicycles and running turbines.  We don’t do this because it makes no economic sense.  Neither do nukes, large or small.

What is really happening is that the nuclear industry is not only not looking at the much hyped Renaissance, it is in its death throes.   At what was perhaps the height of the so-called Nuclear Renaissance, October 2010, 17 companies and consortium were applying for licenses to build 30 reactors in US. But by the beginning of 2011 over half of these projects had been officially abandoned, with most of the rest quite unlikely to ever be built.  Five reactors are under construction in the US, 2 in Georgia (Vogtle), 2 in South Carolina (VC Summer)  and Watts Bar II in Tennessee which was started  in 1973.  All of these plants are delayed and overbudget, despite 4 of them having started construction in the last 18 months.

Add to this the lower price of natural gas, the continuing decreasing cost of renewables, Fukushima market jitters, the Obama administration cutting loan guarantees for new reactor construction and there is not much of a future for old style large reactors.  [It is worth noting in the first 10 months of 2012, renewable energy sources accounted for 46% of all new installed capacity in the US.]

Small reactors reduce costs by eliminating the secondary containment,increasing the chances nuclear accidents will not be contained.  There is still no rad-waste solution for these reactors.  Oh, and there are not even any finished designs for these reactors, much less prototypes.

Don’t bet against technology.  But don’t waste billions and decades researching unproven designs which will likely never be economical, when there are safer, cleaner, cheaper solutions at hand.

Union of Concerned Scientists updated critique of small reactors.

Update July 2015:  The GAO report recently released sees many problems with SMRs and advanced reactor designs, including the likely inferior cost profile compared with real renewables.  More importantly, since this original writing Westinghouse has dropped out of SMR development citing that “there are no customers

Update January 2016 from the Ecologist Magazine: The US Government Accountability Office released a report in July 2015 on the status of small modular reactors (SMRs) and other ‘advanced’ reactor concepts in the US. The report concluded:

“While light water SMRs and advanced reactors may provide some benefits, their development and deployment face a number of challenges … Depending on how they are resolved, these technical challenges may result in higher-cost reactors than anticipated, making them less competitive with large LWRs [light water reactors] or power plants using other fuels …

“Both light water SMRs and advanced reactors face additional challenges related to the time, cost, and uncertainty associated with developing, certifying or licensing, and deploying new reactor technology, with advanced reactor designs generally facing greater challenges than light water SMR designs.

“It is a multi-decade process, with costs up to $1 billion to $2 billion, to design and certify or license the reactor design, and there is an additional construction cost of several billion dollars more per power plant.”

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Nuclear pyroprocessing and PRISM – dangerous new gimmicks

March 20, 2016

PRISM BURNS AND BREEDS PLUTONIUM MIXED WITH URANIUM AND ZIRCONIUM, THE MOST TOXIC AND DANGEROUS MAN MADE ELEMENT ON EARTH

What the pro nuclear apologists don’t talk about is just as important as what they do focus on. Because the PRISM reactor requires a mixed fuel, which has not yet been perfected and must still be ‘designed’ and experimented with, this reactor also requires a very dangerous pyroprocessing technique, which requires huge amounts of energy and must be done remotely, because it so toxic and radioactive.  To create the fuel to burn in nuclear reactors required building two massive coal fired plants that were dedicated just to running Savannah River nuclear fuels site. How much energy will this ‘new’ fuel processing technique take, and how many coal fired plants must be dedicated to it?
 The technical challenges include the fact that it would require converting the plutonium powder into a metal alloy, with uranium and zirconium. This would be a large-scale industrial activity on its own that would create “a likely large amount of plutonium-contaminated salt waste,” Simper said.
Now PRISM requires the making of radioactive fuel as well, which must also be ‘manufactured’ using even more toxic and dangerous processes than what has come before. PRISM does not burn pure plutonium, as it requires a ‘mix’ of things, which must be manufactured, in a process that has not yet been perfected. The processing and burning of plutonium, will release plutonium into the environment, guaranteed.
http://agreenroad.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/prism-liquid-sodium-cooled-small.html

Generation IV reactors will not save the nuclear industry

March 20, 2016

Nuclear renaissance? Failing industry is running flat out to stand still Jim Green, 30 Jan 2016, The Ecologist, “………Rhetoric about ‘super safe’ Generation IV reactors will likely continue unabated. That said, critical reports released by the US and French governments last year may signal a slow shift away from Generation IV reactor rhetoric.

The report by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) – a government authority under the Ministries of Defense, the Environment, Industry, Research, and Health – states: “There is still much R&D to be done to develop the Generation IV nuclear reactors, as well as for the fuel cycle and the associated waste management which depends on the system chosen.”

IRSN is also sceptical about safety claims: “At the present stage of development, IRSN does not notice evidence that leads to conclude that the systems under review are likely to offer a significantly improved level of safety compared with Generation III reactors … “

The US Government Accountability Office released a report in July 2015 on the status of small modular reactors (SMRs) and other ‘advanced’ reactor concepts in the US. The report concluded:

“While light water SMRs and advanced reactors may provide some benefits, their development and deployment face a number of challenges … Depending on how they are resolved, these technical challenges may result in higher-cost reactors than anticipated, making them less competitive with large LWRs [light water reactors] or power plants using other fuels … Both light water SMRs and advanced reactors face additional challenges related to the time, cost, and uncertainty associated with developing, certifying or licensing, and deploying new reactor technology, with advanced reactor designs generally facing greater challenges than light water SMR designs. It is a multi-decade process, with costs up to $1 billion to $2 billion, to design and certify or license the reactor design, and there is an additional construction cost of several billion dollars more per power plant.”

SMRs-mirage Even SMR boosters are struggling to put a positive spin on the situation. Launching a Nuclear Energy Insider report on SMRs, lead author Kerr Jeferies said: “From the outside it will seem that SMR development has hit a brick wall, but to lump the sector’s difficulties together with the death of the so-called nuclear renaissance would be missing the point.”

According to a US think tank, 48 companies in north America, backed by more than US$1.6 billion (€1.5b) in private capital, are developing plans for advanced nuclear reactors. But even if all that capital was invested in a single R&D project, it would not suffice to commercialise a new reactor type.

The UK government also sees a big future for SMRs and has evenpromised to spend £250 million on “nuclear innovation and Small Modular Reactors”. But it will face two big problems. First, the money won’t go far. And second, nuclear power is already being outcompeted by wind and solar, which are getting cheaper all the time.

Dan Yurman notes in his review of nuclear developments in 2015: “Efforts by start-up type firms to build advanced reactors will continue to generate a lot of media hype, but questions are abundant as to whether this activity will result in prototypes.

“For venture capital firms that have invested in advanced designs, cashing out may mean licensing a design to an established reactor vendor rather than building a first-of-a-kind unit.”

Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitornewsletter, where this article was originally published. Nuclear Monitor is published 20 times a year. It has been publishing deeply researched, often strongly critical articles on all aspects of the nuclear cycle since 1978. A must-read for all those who work on this issue! disaster……. www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987010/nuclear_renaissance_failing_industry_is_running_flat_out_to_stand_still.html

The billionaire nuclear power enthusiasts in the ‘Breakthrough Energy Coalition’

January 4, 2016

Is Gates’s ‘Breakthrough Energy Coalition’ a nuclear spearhead?, Ecologist, Linda Pentz Gunter 6th December 2015 

“……A nuclear love-affair revealed

Gates is already squandering part of his wealth on Terra Power LLC, a nuclear design and engineering company seeking an elusive, expensive and futile so-called Generation IV traveling wave reactor that can never deliver electricity in time.

Mukesh Ambani is an investor in Terra Power. Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, is betting his money on the perpetually 40 years away nuclear fusion dream, which, even if it were ever to work, will be far too expensive to apply to developing countries.

Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson, publicly touts nuclear energy and put his name on Pandora’s Promise as executive producer. “We should continue to develop advanced nuclear power to add to the mix”, he said in promoting the film via the Breakthrough Institute’s website. (See our debunk of the film’s numerous errors of fact and omission.)

Chris Hohn’s TCI hedge fund invested in J-Power, a Japanese utility company whose assets included nuclear power stations. In 2008, the Japanese government barred TCI from increasing its stake in J-Power and the hedge fund withdrew.

Vinod Khosla loves nuclear power and is on record blaming environmentalists rather than nuclear energy’s obviously disastrous economics, for its failure. “Most new power plants in this country are coal, because the environmentalists opposed nuclear”, Khosla said in a 2008 interview.

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma of Alibaba, was recently brought onto British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group, probably not coincidentally one day before a state visit by the Chinese president to seal a deal involving China’s investment in the UK’s planned Hinkley-C nuclear power plant.

Ratan Tata’s eponymous corporation leapt at the chance of investing in nuclear energy in India with the passage of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty-violating US-India deal….. http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2986571/is_gatess_breakthrough_energy_coalition_a_nuclear_spearhead.html

Small nuclear reactors – a very costly business

January 4, 2016

But for all the activity, the nascent SMR industry faces familiar nuclear challenges: cost, public acceptability, security and waste disposal. The nuclear industry has a long record of broken promises over cost

Developing SMRs is not going to be cheap either …40-70 SMRs would need to be ordered to make building a factory worthwhile…….. All the while, the competition from renewable energy gets hotter as it falls in price.

Security is also a key issue for nuclear plants….The challenge for SMRs is that security costs soar relative to power output if there are small reactors in many locations to protect.

Are mini-nuclear reactors the answer to the climate change crisis?
Industry looks to the UK to develop factory-built reactors ready to provide affordable, low-carbon energy wherever it is needed – but issues around security and waste disposal remain,
Guardian, , 24 Nov 15  Mini nuclear power plants could be trucked into a town near you to provide your hot water, or shipped to any country that wants to plug them into their electricity grid from the dock. That is the aim of those developing “small modular reactors” and, from the US to China to Poland, they want the UK to be at the centre of the nascent industry. The UK government says it is “fully enthused” about the technology.

With UN climate change summit in Paris imminent, the question of how to keep the lights on affordably, while cutting emissions, is pressing.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) aim to capture the advantages of nuclear power – always-on, low-carbon energy – while avoiding the problems, principally the vast cost and time taken to build huge plants. Current plants, such as the plannedFrench-Chinese Hinkley Point project in Somerset, have to be built on-site, a task likened to “building a cathedral within a cathedral”. (more…)

Dispelling the myths about “New Small Nuclear” – it’s not even new

September 4, 2015

When it comes to Nuclear Power, Small Isn’t Beautiful, Nor Safe Nor Cheap Nor Even New. USNRC NuScale Comment Deadline Monday Night 31 August, One Minute to
Midnight NY-DC Time 30 SundayAug 2015 by

NuScale Power, LLC, Design-Specific Review Standard and Safety Review Matrix“Docket Folder Summaryhttp://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NRC-2015-0160 (If you don’t like the questions answer a different question, as per the advice that an MIT Ph.D. gave their grad student, and MIT is big on nuclear, the head of the US DOE, Moniz, teaches there, so it should be ok for this!)

NuScale in 2003 when it belonged to the US Gov and was called “MULTI-APPLICATION, SMALL, LIGHT WATER REACTOR (MASLWR)” INEEL/EXT-04-01626

Greenpeace’s Justin McKeating made an excellent analysis of NuScale last year (see below our commentary).

However, he overlooked that the US DOE actually invented NuScale under the name of MASLWR. So, this is at least a second round of government funding. The US government dropped MASLWR and former DOE workers picked it up, probably after the patent expired, dubbing it NuScale. And, they are still feeding off the taxpayer pork barrel dole.[1][2] Plus, it’s NuScale Not! The nuclear industry only knows how to recycle the same old stuff.

There doesn’t appear to be much, if anything, new about NuScale. The only known immediate nuclear deaths from a nuclear accident, in the US, were from a mini-SL-1 reactor that made nuclear fallout in rural Idaho. [3] In 1968, in Lucens Switzerland, there was a mini-underground nuclear reactor, which had a major accident. Although smaller than NuScale, 100 Rem (1 Sievert; 1000 mSv) was measured in the reactor cavern, and it is ranked as a major nuclear accident. Radiation was measured in the nearby village; it continues to leak radiation from the cavern. From the beginning the Lucens Reactor was plagued by leaks in the underground cavern and corrosion issues due to its underground location. [4] NuScale too will suffer from additional corrosion and extra problems of hydrogen attack because it is part underground and stuck in water on all sides. Underground nuclear isn’t a magic fix, on the contrary.

NuScale is apparently not really passive either “Conduction through the vessel wall is by itself not a sufficient mechanism for heat removal in the present design. A circulation path is required to effectively remove the core decay heat. The sump makeup system is required.” [5] Furthermore, Italian researchers found that if if “SUMP valves are not operated and the ADS vent valves stuck open“, then there was a six hour “grace” period before CHF [Critical Heat Flux] “conditions are reached at top of the core. The dryout cannot be quenched. Primary system coolant released thorugh the HTC top valve outside the contaiment” [6]. Six hour grace period to meltdown-nuclear accident. So, these are neither passive, nor perfectly safe. And, they are proposing putting them in large groups, which makes one wonder what’s the point. A quick look online shows that NuScale has just submitted a laundry list of patents (July 2015) which, looking at the list alone, sound less original, than trying to patent a chicken sandwich, as someone recently did.

From Greenpeace:
When it comes to nuclear power, small isn’t beautiful. Or safe or cheap.
Blogpost by Justin McKeating – June 19, 2014 at 11:55
Not beautiful, safe or cheap: a message to the United States, where the Obama administration has pledged to waste money financing the Small Modular Reactor (SMR).

SMRs are supposed to be small and prefab – constructed from parts made in a central location and slapped together onsite like a cheap prefab home. Those parts can then be shipped out and built by staff who don’t necessarily have the skills to build larger, more complex reactors.

The trouble is, this is merely old nuclear technology in new clothes. So why is the US Department of Energy (DoE) is giving $217 million dollars over five years to NuScale, a SMR manufacturer.

 

Let’s note, with a weary shake of the head, that this is yet another public subsidy for the failing economics of nuclear power, and take a look why this is a bad investment of taxpayer dollars by the Obama administration.

Dr. Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, has published a paper titled, The Economic Failure of Nuclear Power and the Development of a Low-Carbon Electricity Future: Why Small Modular Reactors Are Part of the Problem, Not the Solution.

In his paper, Dr. Cooper finds SMRs won’t be cheaper and, more worryingly, manufacturers and supporters of the technology want to short-circuit safety regulations to get them built.
With the Fukushima disaster in its fourth year and no real solution to the ongoing problems and massive contamination in the foreseeable future, maybe now is not the time to talk about reducing nuclear safety, particularly with experimental, untested technology.

 

Dr Cooper adds SMRs will be more expensive than traditional nuclear technologies and that up to $90 billion dollars will be needed to make SMRs commercially viable. That’s a huge sum that will drag financing away from renewable power projects that are vital in the fight against climate change.

We’ve been here before: the story of the nuclear industry wasting billions is an old one…….. https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/when-it-comes-to-nuclear-power-small-isnt-beautiful-nor-safe-nor-cheap-nor-even-new-usnrc-nuscale-comment-deadline-monday-night-31-august-one-minute-to-midnight-ny-dc-time/

 

Costly and cancer-causing – Failure of USA’s small scale reactor in Antarctica

August 28, 2015

This is quite an old article, but I find it remarkable because, for once, it mentions the enormous cost of security measures needed for small nuclear reactors in remote areas.

That is what is being proposed for Australia – by both the thorium enthusiasts, and the overseas companies desperate to keep the nuclear industry alive by selling  small reactors to Australa (or, even more insidiously, by providing them to Australia “for free”, in exchange for South Australia importing radioactive trash, as outlined by nuclear proponent Oscar Archer )

the PM-2A’s purpose was to test whether reactors could be built in remote locations using prefabricated parts.

After the reactor was closed down, the US shipped 7700 cubic metres of radioactive contaminated rock and dirt to California, but passed through Dunedin, with a population of 124,000, the second largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, where it stayed for four days, raising local concerns, the New Zealand news site stuff.co.nz.

Russia has found that the logistics of even finding customers for its ANPP’s outweigh even the logistics of operating the plants. Russia has staked a financial bonanza on prospective orders for the plants, but there are, simply, no takers. And if there were, the logistics of securing such a plant against terrorists or accidents in remote areas would require at least the staff of a stationary plant.


Small-scale US nuclear reactor blamed for spiking cancer rates, casting pall over Russia’s FNPP fetish 
AMSTERDAM – A small nuclear power plant operated the United States at Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound has been implicated in dozens of cases of an unusual cancer in personnel who worked at or near the station between the years 1964 and 1973, US and New Zealand media have indicated. March 7, 2011 by Bellona 

Newspapers and television stations from San Diego, Ohio, Florida, Idaho and other states have charged that former naval personnel who worked on an Antarctic military action called “Operation Deep Freeze” contracted their cancers from working at or near the station during it’s short nine-year operational period.

The reactor, a PM-3A 1.75 Megawatt installation that also provided heating and water desalinization, was used to power the McMurdo US Naval Station.

The PM-3A reactor operated on uranium-235 fuel of 93 percent enrichment, according to official US Navy documents.

Staff nicknamed reactor ‘nukey poo’ because of frequent radioactive leaks

Those interviewed by ABC news also indicated that the reactor at McMurdo Antarctic base was known among staff as “nukey poo” for the frequence and volume of its leaks.

A US naval report issued upon its decommissioning (downloadable to the right) indicated the reactor experienced 438 malfunctions – nearly 56 a year – in its operational lifetime, including leaking water surrounding the reactor and hairline cracks in the reactor lining. The emissions of low level waste water where in direct contravention of the Antarctic Treaty, which bans military operations as well as radioactive waste in Antarctica. In one of the more egregious PM-3A incidents, in 1963, the reactor was shut down due to a lack of coolant in the reactor core.

The plant was finally decommissioned in connection with “possible stress corrosion cracking,” the US Navy said……….

After the reactor was closed down, the US shipped 7700 cubic metres of radioactive contaminated rock and dirt to California, but passed through Dunedin, with a population of 124,000, the second largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, where it stayed for four days, raising local concerns, the New Zealand news site stuff.co.nz.

Yet, fuel for  McMurdo routinely passed thorugh the New Zealand port of Lyttelton, 12 kilometres south of Christchurch – South Island’s biggest city at 376,000 inhabitants – on US Navy vessels via a secret US-New Zealand agreement that the US would pay for any damage, stuff.co.nz reported.

First high-profile death

One US naval veteran from Ohio, Charles Swinney, died a year ago after a 16-year-battle with cancer. According to his wife Elaine, who lives in Cleveland, Swinney had some 200 tumours when he died.

Swinney’s wife also told the Cleveland ABC-TV affiliate that her husband had worried for years as his cancer developed that it was a result of his work at the McMurdo Station.

Veterans’ Administration reluctant to acknowledge link

Swinney had written many letters to the US Veterans Administration questioning the link between his cancer and the reactor but received few responses.

The Veterans Administration is especially touchy about admitting to cases of radioactive contamination. Over the 10 years US forces have been using depleted uranium body armour, combat vehicle armour and bullets in its various and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, the Veterans Administration has refused to admit that so-called Gulf War Syndrome has anything to do with radiation poisoning, instead pathologizing this veterans group as shell shocked.

Swinney’s death brings more complaints

The initial media reports connecting Swinney’s death to his work with the McMurdo reactor brought forth an avalanche of other complaints lodged to the US Department of Veterans Affairs and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown from other veterans of the McMurdo site suffering from cancer……….

One of the ANPP’s inaugural reactors, a PM-2A, which like its namesake, ran on 93 percent enriched uranium-235, operated from 1960 to 1963, 73 metres below the ice of Greenland in tunnels drilled for the purpose. The PM-2A was the first portable nuclear facility, having been prefabricated for installation in the ice tunnels at Camp Century east of the Thule NATO airbase. ANPP documents show that the PM-2A’s purpose was to test whether reactors could be built in remote locations using prefabricated parts. The PM-2A was also to used to study neutron embrittlement in carbon steel………

Viewed through the looking glass of Russia’s experience with it’s floating nuclear power plant programme, each of the ANPP’s objectives are unattainable or have been discredited.

Russia has found that the logistics of even finding customers for its ANPP’s outweigh even the logistics of operating the plants. Russia has staked a financial bonanza on prospective orders for the plants, but there are, simply, no takers. And if there were, the logistics of securing such a plant against terrorists or accidents in remote areas would require at least the staff of a stationary plant.

As far as unmanned nuclear power installations are concerned, Russia’s experience with its strontium-90 powered lighthouses and navigational beacons provide ample cause for skepticism. Known as Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators, or RTGs, the Soviet nuclear authority Minatom placed several hundred these untended radioactive installations throughout the USSR. With the fall of the Soviet Union came the loss of records about where these objects were placed, and in the ensuing poverty of the 90s these undocumented radiation sources fell prey to metal scavengers, who then became sick with radiation poisoning. Strontium pits have also been left untended – bait for terrorists seeking raw materials to construct crude “dirty bombs.”

Cost effectiveness of small nuclear installations, as witnessed by the Russian experience with FNPPs, is highly dubious as well. Originally billed as a $150 million project in 2001, Russia’s state nuclear corporation has upwardly adjusted the cost of an FNPP to $550 million by 2010. Of this, the reactor block alone cost $456.7 million. With the going rate for the construction of a stationary reactor approaching $1 billion, the 500 percent increase in Russia’s mobile reactors is not encouraging.

According to documents, the ANPP programme was quick to recognize its impracticality. The majority of the reactors built by the ANPP programme were already out of service by 1973. Officially, the programme continued until 1977, but that was largely efforts devoted to decommissioning and dismantlement.

 

Questions on USA Bills- “education on nuclear?” “nuclear as renewable? – Small Modular Reactors

April 28, 2015

Nuclear power measures face questions   CrossCut WEDNESDAY 25, MARCH 2015  by  The big topic at the House Technology & Economic Development Committee hearing was whether Washington should find a place to build small modular reactors, which would be produced for utility customers. Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, is sponsoring this proposal and the two other nuclear-related bills that the committee examined. The Senate passed the
small modular reactor bill 27-21, mostly along party lines.Tri-Cities leaders envision a Boeing-style assembly plant to build small modular reactors. This is a long-range plan and is predicted to take several years to develop……

The concept is still on the drawing board. No one has built a commercial small modular reactor yet……

At the hearing, critics cited the lack of any track record on cost or safety for small modular reactors, plus concerns over the nation’s lack of a permanent place to store used nuclear fuel.

“Small nuclear reactors are still in the prototype stage. … The prototype has never been tested in power production yet,” said Thomas Buchanan of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“I don’t think that the Department of Commerce should work on this until it has a design that passes the NRC,” said Chuck Johnson of the same organization.

Johnson argued that a single small-modular reactor would not generate enough electricity to efficiently recover its construction and operating costs…..

Deborah Wolpoff of Olympia pointed to the cancelation of the nation’s proposed nuclear fuel repository inside Yucca Mountain, with no replacement lined up. “I think it is irresponsible to promote this technology that produces this waste that we have no solution for,” Wolpoff said.

Committee member Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, wondered why the Legislature should support a new nuclear industry while Hanford’s Cold War nuclear wastes are decades from being cleaned up….
Another Brown bill, which the Senate passed 44-5, would create an education program aimed at providing nuclear science lessons to students in the eighth through 12th grades. Qualified American Nuclear Society members would be brought in for classroom sessions. Also, science teachers would receive instruction on nuclear science in order to teach the subject in the classrooms…….

Mary Hanson of Physicians Social Responsibility argued that the bill would give the nuclear industry influence over students, while other energy industries would not have the same access. She said American Nuclear Society members might be less versed in nuclear power’s health issues than its technical ones.

The third Brown bill, which the Senate passed 29-20, would add nuclear power to the list of alternative power sources that certain utilities can use to meet a state requirement to offer their customers voluntary participation in alternative energy purchases. The current list of green sources includes wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy….

Physicians for Social Responsibility opposed it, contending nuclear energy is not a renewable power source….   http://crosscut.com/2015/03/nuclear-power-measures-face-questions/