Prospect for Nuclear Power Industry in US

In summary, President Bush gave a speech this week which, in so far as the nuclear power industry is involved, can be summarized as: Nuclear power is good. Let's make more.
  • #1
ohwilleke
Gold Member
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President Bush gave a speech this week which, in so far as the nuclear power industry is involved, can be summarized as:

Nuclear power is good. Let's make more. (In his usual inapt kind of way).

So, who thinks this is for real? Will we be seeing a jump start in nuclear power plant construction in the near future?
 
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  • #2
As long as they have a good way of dealing with the nuclear waste I'm all for it.
 
  • #3
I am gald he brought up nuclear power, but everything I have read about his speech does not reference it much. I think he only just casually slipped it in.

Even if our president is for nuclear power, I doubt he can do much to make it a major source of power. However reducing restrictions may change the minds of some private companies and they may end up building some of their own plants.
 
  • #4
ChrisW said:
As long as they have a good way of dealing with the nuclear waste I'm all for it.

ChrisW,

Yucca Mountain has been very thoroughly studied, and the long term
storage of nuclear waste has been modeled via computer simulation:

http://www.llnl.gov/str/Glassley.html

at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Sandia National Laboratory has done extensive testing of the
transportation issues:

http://www.sandia.gov/recordsmgmt/ctb1.html

That's why LLNL scientists recommended that DOE proceed with the
Yucca Mountain project in September of 2000; and then Secretary of
Energy Bill Richardson followed the LLNL recommendation.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
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  • #5
We must remember the powers of the President. Since budget bills are brought up in the House of Representatives, there is a chance that even the best budget proposal that the President may have will be shot down by those in Congress. Because of the fairly uncontrollable nature of Congress and all the self interest and pork barrel legislature, we all know how they can be :uhh:. But I find myself digressing a little.
 
  • #6
theCandyman said:
I am gald he brought up nuclear power, but everything I have read about his speech does not reference it much. I think he only just casually slipped it in.

Even if our president is for nuclear power, I doubt he can do much to make it a major source of power. However reducing restrictions may change the minds of some private companies and they may end up building some of their own plants.

Candyman,

It's going to take action by the Congress! More specifically - a revamp of
the licensing process; going to a one-step licensing process.

For example, let's take the case of the licensing process that one goes
through when building a new custom home. One has to submit the plans
for the house to the local building department. The plans have to be
inspected for compliance with local building codes. One may have to
make sure that the house complies with the "CCRs" for the development,
etc, etc, etc...

However, after all that - the city issues a building permit and the
construction can begin. At regular intervals, the house is inspected by
the local building inspectors. Anything that is not up to code must be
fixed.

At the end of construction; if the building inspector states that the
house was constructed as per the building permit - the house is certified
to be occupied.

That's a single step licensing process.

However, if home licensing was a two-step process - then
after the house was built, and certified by the building inspector, you
would have to apply for a permit to inhabit the house. At this point,
all the issues that were gone over in the permit phase are revisted. If
your new neighbors didn't like the way things were resolved in the
construction permit phase - they get a second chance to complain
about the color of the house, or the direction the garage door faces...

The occupation of your house could be held up for years in Court while
all the issues are revisted. All the while, you have to make payments
to the bank on the mortgage of your new home, even though you can't
live in it.

That's what it's like for a nuclear power plant. A company can get
permission to build the plant, and build it exactly according to the specs.
However, they must then apply to operate the plant - and if someone
didn't like the way issues were resolved in the construction permit
phase - they can now go to Court to have the operating license denied.

Companies are not going to invest large sums of money with such
uncertainty.

For example, Long Island Lighting [ LILCO ] built the Shoreham Nuclear
Plant on Long Island in New York. After the plant was built; the State
of New York essentially forced LILCO to dismantle the plant without it
ever having run a single day!

http://www.fortfreedom.org/p15.htm

http://www.newsday.com/community/gu...e,0,563942.story?coll=ny-lihistory-navigation

Does that make sense?

No power company is going to build a nuclear power plant under those
conditions.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
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  • #7
The US NRC is implementing a one-step licensing process - COL

See - http://www.nustartenergy.com/Progress.aspx

http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactor-licensing.html

http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-licensing/col-generic-issues.html

Regarding Shoreram - it did operate in the testing phase for about 3 effective full power days, IIRC, but it never generated electricity (never went into full operation). So the fuel was slightly irradiated. The fuel ended up being shipped by barge and cask to the Limerick station in Pennsylvania where is was used.

LILCO got a good deal in which they made millions to hand the plant over to NY state, which cost the NY taxpayers hundreds of millions.
 
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  • #8
theCandyman said:
Even if our president is for nuclear power, I doubt he can do much to make it a major source of power. However reducing restrictions may change the minds of some private companies and they may end up building some of their own plants.

Not the problem at all. The big problem is who wants these things in their states? People, as usual, fear what they don't understand and we can't force it on states. Theres your main problem, getting people to take them in. Decades of dumb lil hippies crying out 'radioactive babies!' has kinda got its dumb lil image stuck into the popular culture.

The thing is... this all seems kinda like pipe dreaming but wheter you like him or not, this President sure can get the impossible going. I mean people are starting to admit thsi impossible dream of democracy in the middle east is actually showing the signs of beginning... then you got social security who they all said would be impossible to truly change... well he's getting somewhere there too... and hopefully this would be a hat trick for him.
 
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  • #9
Pengwuino said:
Not the problem at all. The big problem is who wants these things in their states? People, as usual, fear what they don't understand and we can't force it on states. Theres your main problem, getting people to take them in. Decades of dumb lil hippies crying out 'radioactive babies!' has kinda got its dumb lil image stuck into the popular culture.

Why isn't Commonwealth Edison, a firm which runs a number of light water reactors, in a state (Illinois) which is much less anti-nuke than most, building more reactors? They have retired their old Zion reactor and probably are in need of more power, so what is holding them back?
 
  • #10
Commonwealth Edison, which became part of Unicom, is now part of Exelon - from a merger between Unicom and PECO Energy (Philadelphia Electric Company). They own/operate about 20 reactors - almost 20% of the nuclear plants in the country.

Incidentally, Zion is laid-up and could be brought back on-line.

Exelon, like other utilities, do not wish to risk capital and cash flow on a new plant. They are waiting for government subsidies and risk assumption.
 
  • #11
Astronuc said:
LILCO got a good deal in which they made millions to hand the plant over to NY state, which cost the NY taxpayers hundreds of millions.

Astronuc,

As I recall [ and as is stated in the first paragraph of the first link in my
preceeding post ], New York state got Shoreham for $1.

The good deal for LILCO was that they got the money they paid for the
plant back from the New York ratepayers.

Even though the State of New York would not participate in the contigency
planning for any emergency at the plant, the NRC was prepared to issue a
license to LILCO to operate the plant.

That's when the State of New York, and in particular Gov. Cuomo; really
put the screws to LILCO. The State is responsible for governing the
electric rates - i.e. what LILCO can charge its customers.

So the State of New York told LILCO that they would not be allowed to
charge for electricity that was generated by Shoreham. However, if
LILCO sold the plant to the State for $1; then the State would allow
LILCO to recoup the cost of its investment in Shoreham.

The job of a business is to make money - and the State tells you that you
can not make money doing your normal business - in the case of LILCO,
generating electricity - but you can avoid the loss by decommissioning
the plant.

It was an offer that LILCO couldn't refuse.

However, it was a waste of over $5 BILLION - a cost that was paid by
the poor ratepayers of New York. They, of course have Cuomo to thank
for that!

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
  • #12
Why are the taxpayers covering the cost of the plant and how was Cuomo responsible? Are they really paying for all five billion dollars of the plant?

Also, does the federal government not have a say in this? If something like this happened today, would President Bush or COngress have higher authority in this or would that be impeding on state's rights?
 
  • #13
theCandyman said:
Why are the taxpayers covering the cost of the plant and how was Cuomo responsible? Are they really paying for all five billion dollars of the plant?

Also, does the federal government not have a say in this? If something like this happened today, would President Bush or COngress have higher authority in this or would that be impeding on state's rights?

Candyman,

Then New York Gov. Cuomo was very anti-nuclear.

The reason the rate payers are paying for the plant is that was the deal
that the State of New York offered LILCO.

Although the State of New York was using obstructionist tactics to
prevent Shoreham from operating - by not participating in emergency
planning - the NRC was prepared to issue LILCO an operating license
anyway.

The State of New York was running out of ways to stop Shoreham from
operating - so they used their option of last resort - they bought the
plant. They couldn't legally force LILCO to sell the plant - but since the
State controls LILCO's rate structure - the State of New York told LILCO
that they would not be allowed to make any money with Shoreham.

So Shoreham was then a financial loser for LILCO. Then the State offers
to buy Shoreham from LILCO for $1, in exchange for a change in the
rate structure to allow LILCO to recoup its $5 BILLION investment.

Courtesy of the University of Texas chapter of the American Nuclear
Society:

http://www.me.utexas.edu/~ans/info/anti4.htm

So the ratepayers of New York had to pay $5 BILLION to LILCO without
getting any electricity from Shoreham in return. That's just how the
politicians running the State of New York chose to stop Shoreham from
operating - they bought it with the ratepayer's money. That's why the
New York ratepayers are paying for the plant - their duly elected
political leaders saddled them with that burden.

The Federal Government doesn't have a say in how much money an
electric utility can charge - that's a State issue.

The Federal Government - via the NRC - can decide whether a nuclear
plant will be allowed to operate. The NRC decides if the plant is built
to specs, meets safety requirements, has properly trained operators...

However, the Federal Government doesn't control the utility's finances -
the State does! The State of New York essentially bought the Shoreham
plant from LILCO to ensure that it would not be run. To make sure that
LILCO had to sell the plant to the State - the State would not allow
LILCO to charge for the electricity that Shoreham generated.

If the State is willing to buy the plant - and won't let you make money
on the plant if you don't sell - what else is there for the utility to do -
BUT to sell.

In a regulated market like electric utilities - the State controls the
power of the purse.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
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  • #14
Morbius said:
Yucca Mountain has been very thoroughly studied, and the long term
storage of nuclear waste has been modeled via computer simulation:
I was thinking about this issue and then saw this thread - excellent.

As an engineer, I have to say I strongly question the logic of that study. It seems to me that requiring more than about a 100 year lifespan of the facility is not just pointless from an engineering standpoint, but politically damaging and the reason it hasn't been built yet.

The assumptions required for trying to contain the waste for 100,000 years are, essentially, the fall of civilization as we know it. If civilization fails, then we will stop maintaining the site. Ok, but if civilization fails, what is the site protecting? In addition, requiring more than 100 years of storage is a bet against scientific progress that will almost inevitably find a better way to deal with the waste than simple long-term storage. But even if it doesn't, that doesn't preclude us from maintaining the site or building another, possibly better one 100 years from now.

Currently, storage is done on site at nuclear plants all around the country and has been successful for something like 45 years (not sure exactly how long). Yes, a central storage location is needed to aleviate the inventory issues at these sites, but I don't see why the central storage needs to be much more sophisticated/permanent than the existing ones.
 
  • #15
russ_watters said:
The assumptions required for trying to contain the waste for 100,000 years are, essentially, the fall of civilization as we know it. If civilization fails, then we will stop maintaining the site.
We're lucky if politicians think beyond the next election, :biggrin: or the planning boards think beyone their 5 or 10 year plan, which changes according to money and politics. :biggrin: :rolleyes:

Consider than most man-made objects or more than a few hundred years are pretty much ruins, we don't have a track record of durable construction. Just look at the oldest structures like the Pyramids and similar structures. Yes, those are exposed to the elements, rather than being buried inside a mountain.

In 300 years, most of the radiologically hottest material (e.g. half-life =< 30 years) has decayed by a factor of 1000, and in 600 years by a factor of 1 million, and in 900 years, by a factor of 1E9 (1 billion) and most of that is then inert.
=======================================================

As for Shoreham, NY State created the Long Island Power Authority ( http://www.lipa.state.ny.us/ , http://www.lipower.org/ ), a quasi-government organization. I am not sure what it has cost taxpayers. But certianly LILCo, the publically-owned utility got a sweetheart deal, and yes it probably did very little to help rate-payers. And the CEO and some senior managers did get in hot water about his retirement package. :biggrin:

The board's treatment of the CEO-who left Lilco at the time of the Lilco-Marketspan merger to become the CEO of Marketspan-was surprisingly magnanimous in the face of a generally lackluster LILCO performance over the past few years. First, the CEO's employment agreement was amended to extend beyond the normal retirement age, so that he would have been able to serve until the year 2002, followed by an additional five-year consulting period. Treating the LIPA transaction as a "Change of Control" also vested generous severance benefits in the CEO, with growth potential based on his age, highest salary level reached, highest bonus received, and length of service. Under the compensation plan, if he were to have retired in 1998, his annual retirement benefits would have been $895,000-at a minimum.

Since LILCO was not highly popular with its customers and reportedly had the highest utility rates in the country, there was a loud outcry when the CEO's total compensation package was disclosed. His severance pay from LILCO as a result of the merger was put at $42 million.
 
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  • #16
russ_watters said:
I was thinking about this issue and then saw this thread - excellent.

As an engineer, I have to say I strongly question the logic of that study. It seems to me that requiring more than about a 100 year lifespan of the facility is not just pointless from an engineering standpoint, but politically damaging and the reason it hasn't been built yet.

The assumptions required for trying to contain the waste for 100,000 years are, essentially, the fall of civilization as we know it. If civilization fails, then we will stop maintaining the site. Ok, but if civilization fails, what is the site protecting? In addition, requiring more than 100 years of storage is a bet against scientific progress that will almost inevitably find a better way to deal with the waste than simple long-term storage. But even if it doesn't, that doesn't preclude us from maintaining the site or building another, possibly better one 100 years from now.

Currently, storage is done on site at nuclear plants all around the country and has been successful for something like 45 years (not sure exactly how long). Yes, a central storage location is needed to aleviate the inventory issues at these sites, but I don't see why the central storage needs to be much more sophisticated/permanent than the existing ones.


russ,

I agree. What should be done; is that we should follow the original plan
that the scientists put together. First of all, nuclear waste definitely
should be reprocessed. Unfortunately, the anti-nukes got Congress to
pass a law in 1978 that outlawed reprocessing.

As Astronuc points out - the radioactivity in nuclear waste is decaying.
If we reprocess, the longest lived component of any consequence in the
waste would be Cesium-137. Cs-137 has a half-life of 30 years.

In just a few hundred years, the radioactivity of the nuclear waste will
be less than that of the uranium that was originally dug out of the
ground - so your idea for a 100 year repository is the right order of
magnitude.

http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/

The Enivironmental Protection Agency [ EPA ] set a standard that was
10,000 years long. However, the State of Nevada went to Court and
last year the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that EPA has to set a standard
of at least 250,000 years!

http://www.epa.gov/radiation/yucca/

The problem is that people don't know the science. The common
perception about nuclear power and nuclear waste is all the scare
stories that come from the anti-nukes.

Whether scientists have failed to communicate the facts is to blame -
or that the anti-nukes have just done a better job of "marketing" [lying],
and scare stories sell, or perhaps it's the dismal state of scientific
education in this Nation. All in all, there is an unfounded phobia when
it comes to nuclear issues:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/interviews/dupont.html

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
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  • #17
So what is the actual worsecase scenario and its effects if the worst did happen in a nuclear power plant anyhow?
 
  • #18
Pengwuino said:
So what is the actual worsecase scenario and its effects if the worst did happen in a nuclear power plant anyhow?
Good question - everyone alludes to it, but few people actually discuss it. This may warrant its own thread...

First, a quick note - there is always something worse, but one has to consider what is reasonable. The worst that could possibly happen is a meteor strike that atomizes the nuclear fuel and tosses it into the sky, spreading it around the nearby area. While that is, of course, possible, it is also extremelly unlikely.

One somewhat common scenario that is mentioned is the possibility of a nuclear explosion (ie, like a bomb). This needs to be perfectly clear: it is not physically possible for a nuclear power reactor to explode like a nuclear bomb.

After recent discussions, I may need to watch "The China Syndrome", but from what I understand, it uses the backdrop of actual historic events (accidents) to support a rediculous fictional disaster scenario. People knew some actual events were depicted and that fooled them into thinking the scenario itself was possible.

Chernobyl represents the worst [reasonable] case scenario for any reactor - the final result was a fire that engulfed the reactor building and spread a decent amount of radioactive material over the surrounding countryside. The immediate death toll due to acute radiation sickness was about 40 people, virtually all of them firefighters. The long-term death toll won't be known for some time, but estimates range from zero to tens of thousands. The problem is that an increase in death-rates from cancer is extremely difficult to pick up from the background noise of normal cancer rates. A resulting tiny increase in cancer rates, spread through a population of millions over 50 years produces the scary numbers (tens of thousands) that may or may not actually mean anything.

Had Chernobyl happened near (inside, really) a city, perhaps it could have killed significantly more, but I don't know the geographical placement of Russian nuclear plants.

Chernobyl is not a possible scenario for an American (or, afaik, any western) reactor. Among other things, all American reactors are surrounded by a containment buidling strong enough to withstand a large airplane crashing into it at high speed (yes, they have tested it - the video is pretty exciting). Older Russian reactors have no such containment, which is what allowed so much radioactive material to be released.

The worst [reasonable] case for an American reactor is Three Mile Island. A string of coincidental screwups led to what, inside the reactor core, was somewhat similar to Chernobyl - a partial meltdown. The nuclear fuel melted its way through the reactor vessel but did not penetrate the containment building. Due to excess pressure buildup inside the reactor core, air containing some radioactive material was released into the atmosphere. No one died of acute radiation sickness and long term cancer rate studies showed no statistically significant increase in cancer rates in the surrounding area. In addition, the quantity of radioactive material released was calculated to be far below the natural background radiation a very short distance from the plant - in other words, it is not even theoretically possible for TMI to have caused any noticeable increase in cancer rates.

Morbius may come here and tell you that TMI is no longer possible due to changes in the way reactors operate since then, but I think I'd still include it because while it may be significantly less possible, the remote possibility still exists. I like to be as pessimistic as possible against my own arguments, lest I appear more biased than I actually am. o:)

I assume you came here looking for information after reading a little about the subject in the politics forum. While this discussion should remain technical, I'd very much like to hear from an "environmentalist" what they think might be possible. I hear a lot from "environmentalists" that TMI shows that 'something bad' "almost" happened and therefore could happen. Setting aside the [il]logic in equating "almost" (didn't) and "could", I'm not sure I've ever heard an explanation of what that 'something bad' is, and I'd really like to hear it. That way we can discuss whether or not the concern is actually a reasonable one.

http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery;jsessionid=2bp7m79fa6cm1?method=4&dsid=2222&dekey=Nuclear+meltdown&gwp=8&curtab=2222_1&sbid=lc03b )). [/quote]
 
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  • #19
Containment shell impenetrability revisited

russ_watters said:
Among other things, all American reactors are surrounded by a containment buidling strong enough to withstand a large airplane crashing into it at high speed (yes, they have tested it - the video is pretty exciting).
They have not tested it. The video shows an F-4 fighter jet crashing into a concrete block.
http://www.nci.org/02NCI/08/pr9202002.htm

--
With regard to the aircraft threat, the authors cite an unpublished industry-sponsored report and a videotape on the Internet of a plane crashing into a concrete block to support their claim that an aircraft attack cannot cause enough damage to a nuclear plant to cause a meltdown. In fact, straightforward engineering calculations, utilizing empirically derived formulas, demonstrate that such penetration is plausible. The videotape in question actually provides no information regarding the question of whether a fully fueled commercial jet plane can penetrate a concrete containment wall. The video documents a test at Sandia National Laboratories in which an F-4 fighter jet, with considerably lighter engines than a commercial jet like a 767, collided with a concrete block that was not fixed to the ground but was actually floating on an air cushion. The purpose of the test was to measure the impact force, not to measure the maximum penetration of the target. According to the test report, “the major portion of the impact energy went into movement of the target and not in producing structural damage.” Real-world nuclear power plant containments are anchored to the ground. Sandia National Laboratories, the sponsor of the video, has said that the nuclear industry is misrepresenting the results of the test.
--


Commercial jet airliners, besides being much more physically massive and having a lot more fuel whose heat from burning might be able to weaken the steel rebar, have spindles in their engines that may be massive enough to act as penetrators. If terrorists on the ground sabotaged a reactor to cause a meltdown, and their compatriots in the air poked a 6-inch diameter hole in the containment shell by crashing a commercial jetliner into it thus driving an engine spindle through the 2.5-foot thick steel-reinforced concrete, you would have a serious radiation release to the public.

Besides the threat of spindle penetration is the threat of containment explosion if a containment weakened by burning jet fuel were to simultaneously undergo sufficient atmospheric pressure build-up within the containment. Concrete is very weak in tension, and -- like happened to the WTC buildings -- if the steel reinforcement were weakened by heat of the jet fuel you could have a Chernobyl-style explosion, perhaps even with suicide teams dumping lead on the burning reactor from helicopters, just like at Chernobyl.
 
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  • #20
Status of post-TMI passive reactor safety

russ_watters said:
Morbius may come here and tell you that TMI is no longer possible due to changes in the way reactors operate since then
Generation II reactors -- which all of the current operating commercial power reactors in the United States are -- are susceptible to core damage from operator error. Generation III reactors, such as those of the recently-qualified Westinghouse AP-600/AP-1000 design, address that problem, meaning they are passively safe.
 
  • #21
hitssquad said:
They have not tested it. The video shows an F-4 fighter jet crashing into a concrete block.
http://www.nci.org/02NCI/08/pr9202002.htm

--
With regard to the aircraft threat, the authors cite an unpublished industry-sponsored report and a videotape on the Internet of a plane crashing into a concrete block to support their claim that an aircraft attack cannot cause enough damage to a nuclear plant to cause a meltdown. In fact, straightforward engineering calculations, utilizing empirically derived formulas, demonstrate that such penetration is plausible. The videotape in question actually provides no information regarding the question of whether a fully fueled commercial jet plane can penetrate a concrete containment wall. The video documents a test at Sandia National Laboratories in which an F-4 fighter jet, with considerably lighter engines than a commercial jet like a 767, collided with a concrete block that was not fixed to the ground but was actually floating on an air cushion. The purpose of the test was to measure the impact force, not to measure the maximum penetration of the target. According to the test report, “the major portion of the impact energy went into movement of the target and not in producing structural damage.” Real-world nuclear power plant containments are anchored to the ground. Sandia National Laboratories, the sponsor of the video, has said that the nuclear industry is misrepresenting the results of the test.

ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY WRONG!

The safety of reactor containments is NOT dependent on the test of the
F-4 hitting the concrete wall.

The safety of reactor containments is certified by computer modelling.
The purpose of the F-4 test is to verify the accuracy of the computer
modelling - not as a "proof test" for an actual airliner crash.

From the Sandia National Laboratory website:

http://www.sandia.gov/news-center/video-gallery/#rocketsled

which states:

"The purpose of the test was to determine the impact force, versus time,
due to the impact, of a complete F-4 Phantom — including both engines
— onto a massive, essentially rigid reinforced concrete target (3.66
meters thick). Previous tests used F-4 engines at similar speeds. The test
was not intended to demonstrate the performance (survivability) of any
particular type of concrete structure to aircraft impact."

I'd like to see where Edwin Lyman gets his information that Sandia
has claimed the nuclear industry is misrepresenting their conclusions.
I have yet to see any such proclamation from Sandia - and I know many
of the people at Sandia - I went to school with them.

Sandia has one of the largest programs for computer modelling of
aircraft hitting containments. Contrary to your assertion above,
Sandia does NOT state that the industry is misrepresenting the tests.
In fact, Sandia has supported the claims of the nuclear industry - much
of which is based on results from Sandia's own modelling efforts:

http://www.ofcm.gov/atd_dir/pdf/contain.pdf

Commercial jet airliners, besides being much more physically massive and having a lot more fuel whose heat from burning might be able to weaken the steel rebar, have spindles in their engines that may be massive enough to act as penetrators.

Again you are incorrect. You have made the simplistic assumption that
the penetration capability of the a commercial aircraft scales linearly
with the weight.

In actuallity, it does not. You can see why, if you look at the F-4 video
closely. First, airliners are rather fragile structures, mechanically.
They are aluminum tubes with a frame. Nothing that even remotely
approaches the strength of steel reinforced concrete.

As you watch the F-4 video in slow motion, you see the plane's fuselage
splatter against the wall and flow radially outward. In essence, the
wall deals with each longitudinal "slice" of airplane individually.

It's a little like watching salami being run through the slicer at your
local butcher shop. If you see a 1 foot long salami run through the
slicer, you can't say that the slicer can't handle a 2 foot long salami
because it's only been tested with a 1 foot salami.

The airliner does not behave as a rigid body in the crash with the
containment. It behaves as a series of smaller longitudinal slices of
aircraft. The containment wall deals very effectively with each slice
of airliner in turn. That's why the containment wall handles a heavier
longer airliner just as effectively as a lighter shorter airliner as has
been shown in computer structural modelling.

If terrorists on the ground sabotaged a reactor to cause a meltdown, and their compatriots in the air poked a 6-inch diameter hole in the containment shell by crashing a commercial jetliner into it thus driving an engine spindle through the 2.5-foot thick steel-reinforced concrete, you would have a serious radiation release to the public.

Besides the threat of spindle penetration is the threat of containment explosion if a containment weakened by burning jet fuel were to simultaneously undergo sufficient atmospheric pressure build-up within the containment. Concrete is very weak in tension, and -- like happened to the WTC buildings -- if the steel reinforcement were weakened by heat of the jet fuel you could have a Chernobyl-style explosion, perhaps even with suicide teams dumping lead on the burning reactor from helicopters, just like at Chernobyl.

BALONEY!

You don't ANY chance for a Chernobyl-style explosion in a western-style
power plant. Unlike Chernobyl, you do not have an unstable reactor
design, with fueled "followers' on the control rods, and you do not have
a big block of combustible material as the moderator.

In a western-style LWR, you have a stable reactor design, without fueled
"followers" - and you have only non-combustible materials in the
containment. So from whence comes this "Chernobyl-style explosion"?

The WTC was weakened by fire because the fire got inside the building
where it could set the building's contents on fire. The main source of
heat that melted the structure in the WTC was not the jet fuel but the
combustible contents of the buildings - desks, carpets, furniture,...

In a crash of an airliner into a containment building, the containment
building will successfully keep the burning jet fuel on the outside of the
building. Additionally, the interior does not have the combustible fuel
load that the WTC did.

These scenarios have been very thoroughly studied by the scientific
community and the national laboratories. Your conjectures above
are unrealistic.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
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  • #22
hitssquad said:
Generation II reactors -- which all of the current operating commercial power reactors in the United States are -- are susceptible to core damage from operator error. Generation III reactors, such as those of the recently-qualified Westinghouse AP-600/AP-1000 design, address that problem, meaning they are passively safe.

hittsquad,

I'm afraid you are in error here also.

The Gen III reactors are passively safe - which means that they will
safely shutdown and cool even when the safety systems fail.

Gen IIs do not have that property. They could be damaged by operator
error - IF NOT for the newest control systems that limit what the
operators can do.

For example, the whole reason for the meltdown of TMI II was that
the operators were able to override the control system and shutdown
the coolant flow in the middle of a loss of coolant accident.

Current control systems preclude such actions by the operators. The
old maxim for the NRC was the human operators knew best. That is
no longer the case. The safety of Gen II reactors have been substantially
improved post-TMI. Although they are not "passively safe" [ some even
argue if the Westinghouse APs, MHTGR, and PRISM reactors are passively
safe]; they are much improved with regard to the possibility of core
melt over their original designs.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
  • #23
A link to the jet crash test video, so interested readers of this thread can see a visual of what we are discussing:
http://www.big-boys.com/articles/concreteplane.html
 
  • #24
russ_watters said:
The worst [reasonable] case for an American reactor is Three Mile Island. A string of coincidental screwups led to what, inside the reactor core, was somewhat similar to Chernobyl - a partial meltdown. The nuclear fuel melted its way through the reactor vessel but did not penetrate the containment building. Due to excess pressure buildup inside the reactor core, air containing some radioactive material was released into the atmosphere. No one died of acute radiation sickness and long term cancer rate studies showed no statistically significant increase in cancer rates in the surrounding area. In addition, the quantity of radioactive material released was calculated to be far below the natural background radiation a very short distance from the plant - in other words, it is not even theoretically possible for TMI to have caused any noticeable increase in cancer rates.

The fuel at TMI did NOT melt through the reactor vessel. The cladding -
the zirconium tubes that contain the fuel - melted and reacted with the
water; but the uranium dioxide fuel pellets end up as a jumble on the
floor of the reactor vessel. This volume was submerged through out the
entire accident - and the fuel pellets are sized so that the jumble forms
a geometry that is coolable by natural convection.

No radioactivity leaked out. A small amount of radioactivity was
intentionally vented in order to reduce radiation exposure to plant
workers. The amount that was vented was on the order of 15 Curies
of I-131; which amounts to about 4 million-ths of an ounce; if memory
serves. About 2.5 megacuries of noble gases were released; but because
there's no uptake of these gases by human tissue - the radiation dose
is small.

According to the results of the study of the radiation impact to the
inhabitants of the area [ known as the Rogovin Report ], the average
person in the affected area got about 1.4 mrem of radiation exposure -
or about one and one-half days worth of normal background exposure.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/readings/tmi.html

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
  • #25
For an overview of the study on the impact of commercial aircraft on nuclear reactor containment systems, see:
http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=4&catid=470

More details
http://www.nei.org/documents/eprinuclearplantstructuralstudy200212.pdf

The study focused on an impulse loading generated by the spindle or engine shaft from a 767, which is the one of the densest materials in the craft. The shaft, and any other part of the craft, does NOT penetrate containment. The aluminum alloy frame disintegrates outside containment.

NCI (Nuclear Control Institute) has some issues with that study, and of course, they disagree with the results.

One issue is the speed of the aircraft. In the NEI/EPRI-sponsored study, a speed of 350 mph (563 km/h) was used. This is about the maximum speed one can 'control' a commercial airliner near the ground, and it is pretty close to the breakup speed, i.e. when tail and control surfaces start failing.

NCI did a study assuming maximum cruising speed - which if based on speed at normal service would be something like 500 - 550 mph, which is beyond the break-up speed near ground level.
 
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  • #26
The videos are very impressive, but the collisions are shown from the sides. Are there not any implications of a extremely heavy object on top of a containment building to consider?
 
  • #27
theCandyman said:
Are there not any implications of a extremely heavy object on top of a containment building to consider?
Can you elaborate? Do you mean an aircraft coming straight down or . . . . ?

The top of the containment is a rounded dome - in many cases - which distributes stress very well compared to a cylinder.
 
  • #28
Astronuc said:
NCI (Nuclear Control Institute) has some issues with that study, and of course, they disagree with the results.

Astronuc,

Of course, NCI is an "activist" group - with an agenda against nuclear
power - not an unbiased group of scientists. NCI has an axe to grind.

For example, look at the statement in the link that hitssquad provided:

http://www.nci.org/02NCI/08/pr9202002.htm

where NCI's president Edwin Lyman states:

"The authors are also firmly in the camp of the small group of dissidents
who believe in a dose threshold for the carcinogenic effects of radiation.
This controversial “threshold” theory has support among neither the
established radiation protection authorities nor the scientific
community at large. "

Excuse me - where has this guy been? It is well accepted in the
scientific community that humans have a mechanism to combat the
effects of radiation. It's analogous to the immune system that we have
to protect us from pathogens [ germs ].

Radiation can cause damage when that "immune system" is overwhelmed
by large doses of radiation - but small doses are dealt with effectively -
and small doses have even been found to have a positive effect - not
unlike the way a vaccine "challenges" the regular immune system; which
results in the body acquiring the ability to more effectively combat
disease.

Courtesy of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:

http://www.llnl.gov/str/JulAug03/Wyrobek.html

which states:

"Low-Dose Exposure Can Protect
The team also discovered that the human lymphoblastoid cells exhibit
what is called an adaptive response to ionizing radiation. An extremely
low dose (also called a priming dose) appears to offer protection to the
cell from a subsequent high dose (2 grays) of ionizing radiation. The
degree of protection was measured by the amount of reduced
chromosomal damage. A priming dose of 0.05 gray, administered about
6 hours before the high dose, can reduce chromosomal damage by 20 to
50 percent, compared with damage to cells that were not exposed to the
priming dose.

Pretreatment with a low dose of ionizing radiation sets the cell up to
better survive a much higher dose of radiation. "

This research is well accepted by the scientific community and the
radiation protection community, in particular - contrary to the
statement in the link to NCI about a "small camp of dissidents".

Does one really want to base one's opinions on the president of the NCI
speaking "ex cathedra" - or does one want to base one's opinions on the
evidence acquired by scientists?

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
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  • #29
Astronuc said:
NCI did a study assuming maximum cruising speed - which if based on speed at normal service would be something like 500 - 550 mph, which is beyond the break-up speed near ground level.

Astronuc,

I really have a hard time comprehending how some people can be so
intellectually dishonest. They have their point of view; they know what
answer they want - so they just go about trying to prove their preconceived
notions.

That, of course; leads to ridiculous assumptions - like flying faster than
the break-up speed at low altitude.

One would think that after having such manifest errors called into question,
that these groups would lose all credibility among thinking peoples.

However, they seem to go on, and on, and on. ... like the Energizer bunny.

Go figure!

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
  • #30
Lyman is somewhat of an adversary. :biggrin:

Incidentally, IIRC, the density of air at about 10,000 m (33,000 ft), which is a reasonable normal cruising altitude, is about 1/3 that of near sea level (or even with 100 m of sea level). So drag on an aircraft near sea level would be on the order of 3x that of the normal cruising altitude. So I am not sure one can get a commercial jet airliner up to 500 mph. :biggrin: Maybe in a dive, if the aircraft stays intact.

Military jet fighters on the other hand can break the sound barrier near sea level, which looks really spectacular and is very LOUD.
 
  • #32
While that does show it is possible to get an airliner up to 500mph at low altitude, the planes that hit the WTC were not in ground-effect (700 feet up or so). That's what limits the velocity of a plane trying to hit a building less than 100 feet off the ground.
 
  • #33
russ_watters said:
While that does show it is possible to get an airliner up to 500mph at low altitude, the planes that hit the WTC were not in ground-effect (700 feet up or so). That's what limits the velocity of a plane trying to hit a building less than 100 feet off the ground.

Russ,

EXACTLY!

Basically, it's a question of whether the wing-tip vortices [ the small
"tornados" of airflow that result at the tip of the wing due to the
pressure differential between the wing surfaces, and an attempt by the
air to try to equalize the pressure by making an "end run" around the
wing tip ] which are "shed" by the wings - are interacting with the ground.
Change the characteristics of the wing tip vortex formation - and you
change the dynamic loading on the aircraft.

As I recall, the terrorist pilot of UA-175 actually increased speed as he
made his run at the WTC South Tower. In doing so, he was actually
risking a break-up of the aircraft before he hit his objective.

Unfortunately, the aircraft held together - fewer people would have
been killed had the aircraft broken up in the sky above Manhattan
rather than hit the tower.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist
 
  • #34
Thanks hitssquad, that's a report with which I was not familiar.

The limiting speed (VNE, velocity not exceed) for a Boeing 767 is 954 km/h (593 mph / 516 knots) at 35,000 ft (10,667 m). The maximum cruising speed is about 563 mph (906 km/h or 490 knots). The 'normal' cruising speed is about 530 mph (853 km/h or 460 knots).

Below 10,000 ft, VNE = 250 knots or 287.7 mph (463 km/h).

It does appear from a calculation (link posted by hitssquad) that the Boeing 767-200, which hit the south tower of the WTC was traveling at a 503 mph (437 knots, 810 km/h). But that seems to be the only such study readily available online.

I read on citation that the FBI somehow assumed the craft was traveling near 590 mph, i.e. near VNE. This conclusion seems problematic since the aircraft had to turn more than 90° to head back to the south tower. Perhaps it slowed then accelerated, as Morbius indicated in his post.

Nevertheless, this is certainly much faster than 350 mph which was referenced in a industry report on containment survivability in the event of an impact of a commercial aircraft. It would be prudent to repeat the study with a speed of at least 500 mph.

NCI claims a calculation at "maximum cruising speed" with some equation from NRDC shows that penetration of containment is likely. However, I cannot find the speed (max. cruising or VNE), nor the equation, so it is not possible to verify the conclusion of containment penetrability.
 
  • #35
Would neutron-radiation embrittlement of the steel rebar in older containment buildings also be an important factor, Astronuc?
 

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