*Yawn* What is taking generation 4 reactors so long to fruition?


by Kidphysics
Tags: fruition, generation, reactors, yawn
Kidphysics
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May16-13, 01:33 PM
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Self explanatory title
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Borek
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May16-13, 02:08 PM
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Politics.
Hologram0110
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May16-13, 02:16 PM
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There are a number of reasons I can think off off the top of my head:

1) Lack of money for research and lack of a serious commitment to build novel designs. A good deal of the research for power reactors of today was funded by military money for naval and weapons purposes. This doesn't really exist anymore.

2) Depending on the design they use completely different materials and geometry than current reactors. This means that the tools to design them need to be made. This means they need to be validated - which requires expensive experiments using experimental reactors and prototypes. Existing research reactors are also mostly old and no longer allowed to perform some of their old functions.

3) Strict and uncertain regulatory framework. Previous reactors could go from concept to built in a few years. Now approval can take decades of legal battles. Since these are currently being designed governments don't have the expertise and personnel required to determine if they are safe

4) Lack of social and political will because of fear of radiation. Plus there is still a highly active anti-nuclear group while most other people are less vocal or neutron on the issue. Look at the number of lawsuits that results every time someone tries to build a reactor or even ship radioactive material. Virtually all reactors were built with government help but now political climate demands private development (which is risk adverse).

5) Lack of support from environmentalist because many believe that wind/solar/conservation/biofuels/Santa/'rewriting laws of physics' will save the day instead.

6) Lack of support from the right wing since nuclear is not cheaper than coal or natural gas right now. In addition, uncertain future electricity demand due to economic uncertainty. Plus lack of acceptance of anthropogenic global warming and the need to reduce global emissions of green house gases.

I'm sure other can come up with many other reasons too.

Dundeephysics
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#4
May16-13, 02:53 PM
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*Yawn* What is taking generation 4 reactors so long to fruition?


Governments do not want to make a new step in nuclear power technology. It's mainly due to the fact that the older ones have been running for a good period now allowing great understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of these reactors and operators know a lot now about how to deal with them. Making a new step toward a new generation of reactors could lead to increase of probabilities of weaknesses appearing. Governments now want to calm the public down to change their thoughts and opinions about nuclear power, this might not be a good time to start a new technology which could make another disaster like Chernobyl or Fukushima. If that happen, the government's position in front of the public would be the worst.

That's a technical point of view, there are definitely other strong points too such as the ones mentioned earlier by Hologram0110
gmax137
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May16-13, 03:06 PM
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Innumeracy.
QuantumPion
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May16-13, 04:25 PM
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Quote Quote by Hologram0110 View Post
There are a number of reasons I can think off off the top of my head:

1) Lack of money for research and lack of a serious commitment to build novel designs. A good deal of the research for power reactors of today was funded by military money for naval and weapons purposes. This doesn't really exist anymore.

2) Depending on the design they use completely different materials and geometry than current reactors. This means that the tools to design them need to be made. This means they need to be validated - which requires expensive experiments using experimental reactors and prototypes. Existing research reactors are also mostly old and no longer allowed to perform some of their old functions.

3) Strict and uncertain regulatory framework. Previous reactors could go from concept to built in a few years. Now approval can take decades of legal battles. Since these are currently being designed governments don't have the expertise and personnel required to determine if they are safe

4) Lack of social and political will because of fear of radiation. Plus there is still a highly active anti-nuclear group while most other people are less vocal or neutron on the issue. Look at the number of lawsuits that results every time someone tries to build a reactor or even ship radioactive material. Virtually all reactors were built with government help but now political climate demands private development (which is risk adverse).

5) Lack of support from environmentalist because many believe that wind/solar/conservation/biofuels/Santa/'rewriting laws of physics' will save the day instead.

6) Lack of support from the right wing since nuclear is not cheaper than coal or natural gas right now. In addition, uncertain future electricity demand due to economic uncertainty. Plus lack of acceptance of anthropogenic global warming and the need to reduce global emissions of green house gases.

I'm sure other can come up with many other reasons too.
Can't say that I've ever seen a single "right-wing" person against nuclear power. Maybe libertarian types against government subsidies of nuclear power, but that's different. Generally, the conservatives are far more enthusiastic and supportive about nuclear power for the prospect of reducing our dependency on foreign energy sources. Remember, it was Carter, Clinton, and now Obama whom have been staunchly against nuclear power while Nixon was quite pro-nuclear and Reagan and Bush were supportive but not advocates.
Kidphysics
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May16-13, 08:49 PM
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Quote Quote by gmax137 View Post
Innumeracy.
from whom? general public?
aquitaine
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May17-13, 12:50 AM
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Quote Quote by Dundeephysics View Post
Governments do not want to make a new step in nuclear power technology. It's mainly due to the fact that the older ones have been running for a good period now allowing great understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of these reactors and operators know a lot now about how to deal with them. Making a new step toward a new generation of reactors could lead to increase of probabilities of weaknesses appearing. Governments now want to calm the public down to change their thoughts and opinions about nuclear power, this might not be a good time to start a new technology which could make another disaster like Chernobyl or Fukushima. If that happen, the government's position in front of the public would be the worst.

That's a technical point of view, there are definitely other strong points too such as the ones mentioned earlier by Hologram0110

Actually (most) governments do not want to do anything with nuclear power because for political reasons they deliberately chose wind and solar to be the winners and nuclear to be the loser.

Exhibit A is Germany, who tried to ditch nuclear and go with their green dreams......which resulted in skyrocketing prices and in them planning to build dozens of fossil fuel (mostly coal) power plants to make up for the technology's fundamental flaws.

Exhibit B is the state of Oregon, who even though it does have a startup at OSU that is designing small modular reactors, you won't find any mention of utilizing this home produced energy source in our long term energy plan. Nope, instead the plan is for solar and wind galore, no matter the cost. As far as I know they don't provide any tax credits to it either, but continues to shovel tax money at companies like Solopower that have either failed or are in the process of massively downsizing staff in the state.

Exhibit C is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that for years and years was run by an opponent of nuclear power. Now that he was finally removed, he went on record as saying as much just last month.

But it's worse than that. The hype is everywhere, in TV commercials and even shows it isn't too out of the ordinary to see solar panels or wind turbines as though they were representatives of progress. And it's also in our education system. Last summer I took a couple of accounting courses at the community college and they required me to take Introduction to Business as part of the program. What shocked me was the extent to which the textbook for that class was pushing this stuff. It had a whole chapter just for "sustainability" and was packed with sidebars about green this and green that. Solar and wind were mentioned on several occasions like they are some sort of savior, nuclear of course wasn't mentioned once. The purpose of it was obviously to indoctrinate students into a radical environmentalist agenda.

Personally I think the hype will die down eventually, as most radical reactionary movements often do. When that does we'll see a golden age of abundant energy, probably in large part powered by generation 3 and 4 reactors.
QuantumPion
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#9
May17-13, 01:12 AM
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As long as we have more natural gas than we know what to do with, a stagnate economy, and minimal growth in electric demand, nuclear is a somewhat uneconomical alternative for the time being. Unless we start mass exporting our natural gas, the price may remain too low for new nuclear to compete with. Even coal power plants are shutting down left and right due to economic and regulatory factors.

I believe nuclear will make a comeback but it will not be for 10-20 years. At least in the US... China is moving full steam ahead on new nuclear construction anyways. Maybe I should start learning Chinese :o
aquitaine
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May17-13, 10:40 AM
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Quote Quote by QuantumPion View Post
As long as we have more natural gas than we know what to do with, a stagnate economy, and minimal growth in electric demand, nuclear is a somewhat uneconomical alternative for the time being. Unless we start mass exporting our natural gas, the price may remain too low for new nuclear to compete with. Even coal power plants are shutting down left and right due to economic and regulatory factors.

If that were the case then how come we're still throwing tax money at renewables, even though they are substantially less economical than nuclear? Practically every "cleantech" device is directly subsidized anywhere from 20-60% with tax money to offset purcahase costs. I can't think of anything outside of weapons development that is this dependent on government life support. So will the "N" word ever see this kind of support?
Kidphysics
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May17-13, 12:44 PM
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Quote Quote by aquitaine View Post
If that were the case then how come we're still throwing tax money at renewables, even though they are substantially less economical than nuclear? Practically every "cleantech" device is directly subsidized anywhere from 20-60% with tax money to offset purcahase costs. I can't think of anything outside of weapons development that is this dependent on government life support. So will the "N" word ever see this kind of support?
Speaking of renewables, does anyone else feel like more R&D should be put into solar instead of trying to mass produce these relatively weak cells? I think efficiencies are like what ~25% these days and only things like quantum dots are improving this? Not well versed in solar tbh but it seems pre mature to me
QuantumPion
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May17-13, 02:13 PM
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Quote Quote by aquitaine View Post
If that were the case then how come we're still throwing tax money at renewables, even though they are substantially less economical than nuclear? Practically every "cleantech" device is directly subsidized anywhere from 20-60% with tax money to offset purcahase costs. I can't think of anything outside of weapons development that is this dependent on government life support. So will the "N" word ever see this kind of support?
Allow me to reply with a short article by one of my favorite economists, Walter E. Williams:

Rational Ignorance

While people might be motivated by non-economic factors, from a strictly economic point of view it simply doesn't pay individual voters to learn about and take action against the myriad assaults emanating from the political area. That's what my colleagues at George Mason University's Economics Department predict - rational ignorance pays. Politicians know this and exploit it to the hilt.

To gain a fuller understanding, we must disabuse ourselves of our high school civics lessons where we're led to believe that when people assume political office, or receive bureaucratic appointments, they're somehow a changed person and motivated by the public interest. No such thing happens. When a person becomes a politician or bureaucrat, he's still motivated by self-interest, he's simply in a different market with different restraints. Buyers in that market seek favors and privileges from government. Politicians are suppliers of those favors and privileges - and the prices are campaign contributions and votes.

Public choice theory, developed by George Mason University Professors Gordon Tullock and James Buchanan, recognizes that the probability of any voter's ballot making any difference in the outcome of any election, including last year's Florida election, is essentially nil. In other words, the only way my vote changes the outcome of an election is if my vote breaks a tie and the probability of a tie is close to zero.

Politicians exploit rational ignorance by conferring large benefits on certain constituents whose costs are widely dispersed and borne by the general population. Take the sugar industry. It pays the owners and workers to organize and tax themselves to raise money to lobby Congress for tariffs on foreign sugar. If they're successful, it means millions of dollars in higher profits and wages. Since they are relatively small in number the organization costs are small and the benefits are narrowly distributed. The Fanjul family, who owns large sugar farms in the Florida Everglades, capture an estimated $60 million annually in artificial profits.

What about the costs? As a result of price supports and import restrictions, millions of American sugar consumers pay a few dollars more per year for the sugar we use. The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that Americans pay between $1 and $2 billion a year in higher sugar prices. Forget about finding out and doing something about these costs. After all how many of us are willing to board a plane or train to Washington to try to unseat congressmen who made us pay $5 more for the sugar we bought last year? It's not worth it; it's cheaper just to pay the $5 and forget it. For workers and owners in the sugar industry it is worth it to descend on Washington to try to unseat congressmen who refuse to support restrictions on foreign sugar. It's worth $1 or $2 billion to them, and who do you think congressmen will listen to: your complaining about higher sugar prices or the sugar industry complaining about foreign imports keeping their prices, profit and wages down?

You say, "What's the grief, Williams? Five dollars won't kill you." Washington is home to thousands of business and labor union lobbyists looking for a leg up here and a handout there. After a while $5 here and $4 there adds up to real money. According to some estimates, restrictions of one kind or another cost the average American family $5,000 to $6,000 a year in higher prices.

What to do? I'm stuck for an answer other than to naively suggest that we should force congressmen to live up to their oath of office; doing so would stop them from doing most of what they do today.

Walter E. Williams
July 16, 2001
QuantumPion
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#13
May17-13, 02:16 PM
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Quote Quote by Kidphysics View Post
Speaking of renewables, does anyone else feel like more R&D should be put into solar instead of trying to mass produce these relatively weak cells? I think efficiencies are like what ~25% these days and only things like quantum dots are improving this? Not well versed in solar tbh but it seems pre mature to me
I'm not against funding research. What I am against is government interference in the energy market, giving direct subsidies to renewable production and even going as far as to enact laws requiring power companies to give priority to renewable, leading to in some cases negative electricity prices.
Kidphysics
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May17-13, 04:37 PM
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Quote Quote by QuantumPion View Post
I'm not against funding research. What I am against is government interference in the energy market, giving direct subsidies to renewable production and even going as far as to enact laws requiring power companies to give priority to renewable, leading to in some cases negative electricity prices.
I see. Does someone know what the atmosphere around developing solar technology is? I.e. the efficiency increasing towards some limit is quantum efficiency really doing anything, where is it in development/maturity etc?
gmax137
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May17-13, 06:09 PM
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Innumeracy
Quote Quote by Kidphysics View Post
from whom? general public?
Yes.
gmax137
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May17-13, 06:13 PM
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Quote Quote by Kidphysics View Post
I see. Does someone know what the atmosphere around developing solar technology is? I.e. the efficiency increasing towards some limit is quantum efficiency really doing anything, where is it in development/maturity etc?
I like to turn my lights on at night.

Sorry, I don't know the answer to your question.
aquitaine
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May17-13, 10:28 PM
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Quote Quote by QuantumPion View Post
I'm not against funding research. What I am against is government interference in the energy market, giving direct subsidies to renewable production and even going as far as to enact laws requiring power companies to give priority to renewable, leading to in some cases negative electricity prices.

The negative price article is a bit misleading. Wind is extremely variable and the few times when it does reach its installed capacity there's not enough demand, forcing the grid operator to dump it at firesale prices. One thing Denmark has proven is that wind cannot be a substitute for reliable power sources, hence Denmark's ongoing dependence on coal and natural gas.


Quote Quote by kidphysics
I see. Does someone know what the atmosphere around developing solar technology is? I.e. the efficiency increasing towards some limit is quantum efficiency really doing anything, where is it in development/maturity etc?
The fundamental problem with solar isn't efficiency, it's power density. The best you can get is 1 kw per square meter, and that assumes 100% panel efficiency on a sunny day. The environment for solar development has actually started to deteriorate in recent years. As a result of austerity measures many European countries are either severely reducing their subsidies to it or eliminating them all together. Eventually the same thing will happen in the US, though it isn't clear when. Then the true economic costs become too high to ignore.
Astronuc
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May18-13, 05:31 AM
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Quote Quote by Kidphysics View Post
Self explanatory title
The slow pace of development is a mix of politics (primarily through government funding) and technical challenges. The NRC has little to do with the matter at this stage of development, except to provide the regulatory requirements for safety.

There are individual efforts, e.g., Terrapower and Gen4 Energy (formerly Hyperion) in the US.
http://www.gen4energy.com/
http://terrapower.com/pages/technology

For solar power (PV), see - http://www.nrel.gov/pv/

SMRs are tepidly promoted. SMRs are basically derivatives of Gen3/3+ PWRs with lower power densities, more compact and more passive safety features.

China, Korea and Russia each want to be in the top 3 global suppliers of nuclear technology. China has an aggressive nuclear energy program, and Korea has been successful in obtaining a project in UAE. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi and AREVA have signed an agreement with Turkey for a nuclear plant. Turkey had previously arranged a plant with Russia.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-0...eal-today.html


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