## The Nuclear Power Thread

Financially bad is an understatement. If you consider Inertial Confinement Fusion at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, you are probably talking electricity at over $10/kWh. Here's why. For openers, we are told that they must detonate at least the equivalent of one gallon of gasoline/sec. with a repetition rate of one repetition/sec i.e. not over multiple chambers (as presented in a cartoon on Charlie Gibson). Let me get this straight hmm 100,000,000 degrees C (The temperature of implosion fusion by lasers) going to -260 degrees C in less than one second (the temperature of a deuterium/tritium sand grain). Sounds realistic doesn't it? Let's take that measly one gallon of gasoline/sec. For openers, a big coal fired plant may need as much as 17,000 tons of coal/day. That works out to 400 pounds/sec. Sounds like a lot more energy than a gallon of gasoline, so that gallon of gasoline/sec. is a pretty small base load plant. As for the gallon of gasoline: One pound of gasoline has the explosive equivalent of 15 pounds of dynamite. So a gallon of gasoline going off every second is the explosive equivalent of 100 pounds of dynamite going off every second. How do we capture the explosive power of 100 pounds of dynamite going off every second? Here are the steps: 1)Input, 2)Compression, 3)Ignition, 4)Exhaust. Doesn't this sound like an internal combusion engine? Now for the engineering details conveniently omitted by the LLNL people. How do you isolate the lasers from the force of a 100 pound stick of dynamite going off a few feet away? Suppose the laser zigs when it should zag and the implosion front of the pellet is all screwed up. One second it is a 100 pound stick of dynamite, the next a 10 pound stick of dynamite. This would require going to some kind of 1000 ton + flywheel to even out the detonations just like on a John Deere tractor. The next thing that is required is that you will need Star Wars in a bottle. How do you get a particle the size of a sand grain into the chamber, then lock onto a moving target and detonate it with 196 lasers simultaneously? We can't even hit something as big as a missile yet we can lock onto a moving sand grain and hit it synchronously with 196 lasers! Each chamber will need at least a minute to cool off and the need to damp the lasers motion, so that the sand grain doesn't vaporize upon entering the chamber. This means that there will need to be at least 60 times the numbers of lasers and chambers suggested by LLNL. Toroidal fusion will never be practical because it requires enormously expensive, incredibly complicated machinery (Murphy's Law considerations) that requires fuel so expensive that it is cheaper to burn one carat diamonds in the reactor with enormous numbers of cooling towers. This competes with simple, rapidly improving technology with free fuel and no cooling towers (Wind, solar and geothermal---bio fuels are cheap and the Integral Fast Reactor is far more competitive). After 30 years, they can barely sustain the plasma and they still haven't reached break ever when the energy of the magnets is considered. News Flash! They don't know how to deal with the exhaust from the plasma fusion products! Did the Department Of Energy do a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and a Final Environmental Impact Statement when they decided to fund the hot fusion program at MIT as required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969? Who wanted the hot fusion program? As a geologist, I'd love to spend billions of dollars putting a geothermal system in every single family residence having over 1/2 acre. This would put a whole lot of geologists to work. If I was a chemist, I'd like to build better batteries, more fuel efficient cars, better insulation, high temperature superconductivity and such things as better insulators, semiconductors, etc. If I was a biologist, I'd love to build cellulose bio fuel plants all over the US and have thousands of ponds producing hydrogen-producing algae. If I was an atmospheric scientist, I'd love to put wind mills everywhere. Did the DOE get input from other branches of the sciences when they decided to fund the hot fusion program at MIT? So why do we have a hot fusion program? Because the gool 'ole boys network at DOE decided to provide the underfunded physicists at MIT with a gravy train lasting 35 years with another 35 years in the offing (Ask any hot fusion scientist when hot fusion will be commericially viable, it is always, "Thirty years from now."  Quote by Vals509 well fusion reactions can take place and they are controlled but however they are theoretically possible. examples like the TOKAMAK have i believe achieved fusion but are financially bad.  Admin Archive of Previous Symposia http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/subindex.htm The papers are fairly general and deal with the industry, trends, fuel cycle issues, waste and other related topics.  Admin If one is studying nuclear engineering, or is planning to do so, or planning a career in nuclear engineering, then this is relevant. http://www.ne.doe.gov/pdfFiles/rpt_N...es_Sep2008.pdf Lot's of other good reports here - http://www.ne.doe.gov/ An overview of new and proposed NPPs http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf08.html  Quote by vanesch I would like to add to this. Current thermal-spectrum reactors use MAINLY U-235 in the power production. U-235 is 0.7% of the natural content of uranium on earth. In fact, at high burnup, SOME U-238 (the 99.3% remaining if we neglect some traces) is converted into Pu-239 and is burned up ; about 30% of the energy that is extracted in a reactor comes from this Pu-burning, and 70% comes from the original U-235 burning. So that means that currently, we use effectively ONE PERCENT of the energetic content of the uranium that has been extracted. In a fast reactor, we can use ALL of it, because U-238, through conversion in Pu-239, can become a nuclear fuel. We can use all the U-238 that we already DUG UP, and partially discarded (in the "enrichment" of uranium, which is nothing else but removing 3/4 of the U-238 from the original ore), and MOST of the "burned fuel" which consists mainly of passive U-238. So, by switching to fast breeders, we can extract in principle ONE HUNDRED TIMES MORE ENERGY from the EXISTING waste than we already extracted. In principle without any more uranium input. Just by using the "waste" correctly. If some powerplants have been working for 30 years, this means, in principle, that we can extract the same power for another 3000 years, just by using its "waste". Yes, and you have not even mentioned thorium which I understand is 3 to 5 times more plentiful in the earths crust than uranium. Is there some reason that you did not mention thorium or were you just addressing uranium issues only!  Quote by vanesch Sodium makes people nervous because of its reactivity with water, but all the other properties of sodium are OK, which makes it less of a problem than people think. For instance, a liquid sodium reactor is NOT under pressure, which relieves a lot of safety, materials and mechanics issues. In that respect, a liquid sodium reactor is "easier" than a LWR which is under high pressure. Also, one can, as with the IFR, use a "buffer bath" of sodium to make the reactor entirely passively safe. The only true engineering challenge is to keep the water out in all circumstances. I’m not very familiar with hot liquid sodium, but you seem really comfortable with the idea of handling hot liquid sodium in and accident which might expose it to air. Does it not burn very vigorously or is it easily controlled?  Quote by James Carroll I believe that the probability of a nuclear accident associated with Nuclear power is low... unfortunately the cost is high. Utility is the product of the probability * the cost. There is a good reason to be cautious about Nuclear power. I remember reading somewhere in the past that the cost of cleaning and decommissioning TMI was about 900 million dollars and that the initial construction cost was about 4 billion dollars. I'm not sure if those cost were adjusted for inflation over the intervening time differential between them or not, but I don't think it really matters for the purposes of this discussion. It seems to me that TMI is about the worst possible accident that can happen to a modern LWR. Am I correct in that or can anyone reasonably postulate a worse accident? If so, agreed that the risk is low, but when you have over 100 commercial plants operating 30+ years each and the worst case accident, which occurs only once over that period, is ¼ the value of one plant, how can you argue that “unfortunately the cost is high”?  Quote by oldsloguy I remember reading somewhere in the past that the cost of cleaning and decommissioning TMI was about 900 million dollars and that the initial construction cost was about 4 billion dollars. I'm not sure if those cost were adjusted for inflation over the intervening time differential between them or not, but I don't think it really matters for the purposes of this discussion. It seems to me that TMI is about the worst possible accident that can happen to a modern LWR. Am I correct in that or can anyone reasonably postulate a worse accident? If so, agreed that the risk is low, but when you have over 100 commercial plants operating 30+ years each and the worst case accident, which occurs only once over that period, is ¼ the value of one plant, how can you argue that “unfortunately the cost is high”? The construction cost on TMI-2 was 800 million in 1978, which is 2.5 billion in 2007 dollars. Here is a table with construction costs of various reactors adjusted to 2007 dollars: http://depletedcranium.com/why-i-hat...nrc/#more-2748 Also you should note that the Probabilistic Risk Assessment on the new Westinghouse Ap1000 is hundred times less likely to have a core meltdown than a 2nd generation plant. http://www.asmeconferences.org/ICONE...ntsBeBuilt.pdf The PRA starts on page 23.  Quote by joelupchurch The construction cost on TMI-2 was 800 million in 1978, which is 2.5 billion in 2007 dollars. Here is a table with construction costs of various reactors adjusted to 2007 dollars: http://depletedcranium.com/why-i-hat...nrc/#more-2748 Also you should note that the Probabilistic Risk Assessment on the new Westinghouse Ap1000 is hundred times less likely to have a core meltdown than a 2nd generation plant. http://www.asmeconferences.org/ICONE...ntsBeBuilt.pdf The PRA starts on page 23. Thanks, that is an interesting. TMI-I cost the 400 million dollars and TMI-2 800 million dollars. So, doing the correction more accurately would yield: Assumptions, using 2007$:
Cost TMI-2 = 2544 million $Cost of clean up =$973, over 12 years, use 1985 for adjustment
http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/spto...i/cleanup.html
Inflation adjustment from 1985 = 1.93
http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

Clean-up of TMI-2 as a fraction of plant cost = 973*1.93/2544 = 0.74

So, restating my earlier post:

If so, agreed that the risk is low, but when you have over 100 commercial plants operating 30+ years each and the worst case accident, which occurs only once over that period, is 3/4 the value of one plant, how can you argue that “unfortunately the cost is high”?

And as you point out, and my gut feeling is, even that small overhead loss is way over stated.

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 Quote by oldsloguy I’m not very familiar with hot liquid sodium, but you seem really comfortable with the idea of handling hot liquid sodium in and accident which might expose it to air. Does it not burn very vigorously or is it easily controlled?
I think it is the main worry: the confinement has to be double. In a thermal reactor, you want the stuff not to get out in any case, and in a sodium-cooled reactor, on top of that, you don't want water or air to get in in any case. That's why people look into other types of coolant such as liquid lead or gas. But most experience is nevertheless with sodium (and yes, there have been minor problems with it). I think it is the main challenge in the design of a fast reactor. But it is not necessarily so terribly more difficult than a PWR, because there's no pressure.
 Recognitions: Gold Member Special section on in the Sept 8 edition titled "The New Nukes" Temp link: The article is lengthy, covering many of the topics up thread. To start, I wanted to summarize the various cost figures cited through the article: Gen III plants in general, i.e. all designs: $4k to$6.5k per kw Small, modular nuclear, i.e. Hyperion or B&W: $3.5k to$5k per kw, add $50 to$100m licensing costs per site. Gen IV Ge-Hatachi Prism design: $10k per kw (small size ~300 MW) Summary of experts quoted in the article: Revis James, EPRI Ronaldo Szilard, Idaho National labs Amir Shakarami, Exelon VP Tom Cochrane, NRDC  Quote by mheslep Special section on in the Sept 8 edition titled "The New Nukes" Temp link: The article is lengthy, covering many of the topics up thread. To start, I wanted to summarize the various cost figures cited through the article: Gen III plants in general, i.e. all designs:$4k to $6.5k per kw Small, modular nuclear, i.e. Hyperion or B&W:$3.5k to $5k per kw, add$50 to $100m licensing costs per site. Gen IV Ge-Hatachi Prism design:$10k per kw (small size ~300 MW) Summary of experts quoted in the article: Revis James, EPRI Ronaldo Szilard, Idaho National labs Amir Shakarami, Exelon VP Tom Cochrane, NRDC
I read the article and it was pretty good except for the comments by Tom Cochrane. My biggest disagreement would be with implicit assumption that US construction costs are facts of nature rather than products of our regulatory environment. The Chinese are building AP1000 reactors for about $2K per KWh. The World Nuclear Association has better information. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html I have been very pleased with the construction updates I've seen from Sanmen. I was inclined to write off the modular design stuff as Westinghouse marketing hype, but the actual results are impressive. As I recall, one of the pictures I saw was the whole control room being lifted in place as a single module. By the time we start building our AP1000s, we will be dealing with a proven design and not have to deal with FOAK issues. Admin  Quote by joelupchurch I read the article and it was pretty good except for the comments by Tom Cochrane. My biggest disagreement would be with implicit assumption that US construction costs are facts of nature rather than products of our regulatory environment. The Chinese are building AP1000 reactors for about$2K per KWh. The World Nuclear Association has better information. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html
The Chinese didn't have to pay the development costs that Westinghouse did. Westinghouse sold an essentially off-the-shelf design at a relatively huge discount. The Chinese did however buy the first 4 which are now under various stages of construction.

 I have been very pleased with the construction updates I've seen from Sanmen. I was inclined to write off the modular design stuff as Westinghouse marketing hype, but the actual results are impressive. As I recall, one of the pictures I saw was the whole control room being lifted in place as a single module. By the time we start building our AP1000s, we will be dealing with a proven design and not have to deal with FOAK issues.
Modular construction is relatively new. Designs like the AP1000 were on the drawing boards before modular construction techniques has matured.

The cost of concrete and steel is a big factor in current capital costs, as well as labor, as is interest. The Chinese government would certainly be more inclined to subsidize NPPs than would the US government.

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 Quote by Astronuc The Chinese didn't have to pay the development costs that Westinghouse did. Westinghouse sold an essentially off-the-shelf design at a relatively huge discount...
Any idea why Westinghouse would do that? To what end? Are you suggesting that the several AP1000 sites on the NRC proposal list would enjoy Chinese construction costs?

 Quote by mheslep Any idea why Westinghouse would do that? To what end? Are you suggesting that the several AP1000 sites on the NRC proposal list would enjoy Chinese construction costs?
Money. Short term gain. After W assumed CBS, the nuclear (WN) part got sold to BNFL, who in turn sold WN to a partnership with Toshiba (majority) and Shaw (minority), and some others, IIRC.

The nuclear industry is very competitive, but it is very expensive and the margins are often thin.

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 Quote by Astronuc Money. Short term gain. ...
I'm referring to your statement "at a relatively huge discount", implying they did it for any other reason but short term money. So 1. Why the huge discount? 2. Can the US get the same deal?

 Quote by mheslep I'm referring to your statement "at a relatively huge discount", implying they did it for any other reason but short term money. So 1. Why the huge discount? 2. Can the US get the same deal?
From a relative who negotiates gas contracts in China, the Chinese are tough negotiators - and the market is competitive. W competes with AREVA and others in the Chinese market. The W deal also involved technology transfer.

The US market is different. I don't see the same deals being done in the US, because W, AREVA and Mitsuibishi are the primary PWR suppliers - and they can't afford to lose money here.

Besides the US DOE (Uncle Sam) is supposed to kick in some subsidies (direct and indirect).

 Quote by Astronuc The cost of concrete and steel is a big factor in current capital costs, as well as labor, as is interest. The Chinese government would certainly be more inclined to subsidize NPPs than would the US government.
Actually Westinghouse is also claiming the AP1000 uses a lot less concrete and steel than other designs also. They are claiming 100,000 cubic meters of concrete compared to 520,000 for the Sizewell B reactor. I assume Sizewell B must be a bad design, but they are showing a very small footprint even compared to their own 2nd generation plants. (Page 30-31)

The reason that the Chinese got a good deal on the AP1000 is that they ordered a 100 of them. The most any US utility company ordered is 2. I've suggested on my blog that Congress change the charter of the TVA so they can build nuclear power plants anywhere in the United States. Maybe they could get some economies of scale also.

BTW on the question of what government is providing loan guarantees for these reactors, the answer is the United States.

http://www.world-nuclear.org
/info/inf63.html

The US, French and Russian governments were reported to be giving firm support as finance and support arrangements were put in place. The US Export-Import bank approved \$5 billion in loan guarantees for the Westinghouse bid