The Nuclear Power Thread

  • #901
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New to the thread and basically feel our energy production should be 100% nuclear, fission for now, fusion in the future if we get it going.

Re spent fuel and waste (apologies if this has been discussed), I thought part of the problem is that the nuclear industry started largely to produce weapons grade materials, which is why IFR reactors heavily regulated (non prolif etc), however IFR can burn in principle all the fuel, this would allow us to consume our current wast stock and produce nearly zero waste. Sure there will be small amounts of bad stuff that will need to be stored, or potentially neutralized in newer reactors. Thorium would get around that proliferation issue, but thorium fuel reactors not well developed because no possibility of nuclear weapon grade materials, thorium fueled IFR molten salt would be great.

Another interesting idea never properly followed because pure fusion is more of a priority is the fission/fusion hybrid. Basically non net energy producing fusion reactor as a fast neutron source that triggers fission in other wise nonfissile fuels, eg spent fuel or thorium. Inherently safe because there is no need for critical mass. Molten salt loop with neutron source cavity, extract heat as it exits the neutron chamber and then goes back around.

The costs would be much more manageable if building more smaller reactors vs single large highly specialized buildings.

I'm a huge fan of SMR.
 
  • #902
Astronuc
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. . . the nuclear industry started largely to produce weapons grade materials
No, the nuclear industry, i.e., commercial nuclear power industry, was never intended to produce weapons grade material. There were special production reactors, outside of the commercial power generating plants, that were used for that purpose. Fast reactor technology, including IFR, was restricted and some information remains restricted.
 
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  • #903
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Well maybe not in the US, but as far as I know in the USSR they did plan to use commercial reactors (some of them at least) for plutonium production one of the reasons why the RBMK was chosen as it had the option to refuel while being online, I think I've read that other countries had similar ideas,I'm sure others will be able to explain this better.
 
  • #904
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Both in the US and then USSR the civilian programs sprang up from military development, so while they may not be intended to produce weapons grade materials, they can, which is the issue. I would say this is largely because they inherited the basic technology developed early on that was intended to make weapons grade stuff, EBR-1 was the first reactor to make electricity and it was a research breeder.

There doesn't seem to be much motivation to build thorium reactors and there is clear evidence historically that this is mainly due to the lack of weapons applications.

Eg from wiki:
"Weinberg realized that you could use thorium in an entirely new kind of reactor, one that would have zero risk of meltdown. . . . his team built a working reactor . . . . and he spent the rest of his 18-year tenure trying to make thorium the heart of the nation’s atomic power effort. He failed. Uranium reactors had already been established, and Hyman Rickover, de facto head of the US nuclear program, wanted the plutonium from uranium-powered nuclear plants to make bombs. Increasingly shunted aside, Weinberg was finally forced out in 1973.[10] "
 
  • #905
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while they may not be intended to produce weapons grade materials, they can, which is the issue. I would say this is largely because they inherited the basic technology developed early on...
Well, that statement would require some work to back it up, especially if you stick with that present time. As far as I know many of the Gen. I. reactors indeed had dual purpose: some of the Gen.II. were still able to produce Pu on acceptable scale (but I don't know about actual example when it happened): but further on Pu more and more became hindrance instead. Gen.III. already cannot be used to produce Pu - unless you totally ruin the economy of the operation.

One has to admit that Gen.I. reactors were kept operational for surprisinly long time, but right now the only example still running should be somewhere in North Korea (I mean, commercial reactor. At least, in name.)
Some RBMKs are still running from Gen. II.. That's indeed an issue but not really because of any possibility of Pu production.
 
  • #906
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Well, that statement would require some work to back it up, especially if you stick with that present time. As far as I know many of the Gen. I. reactors indeed had dual purpose: some of the Gen.II. were still able to produce Pu on acceptable scale (but I don't know about actual example when it happened): but further on Pu more and more became hindrance instead. Gen.III. already cannot be used to produce Pu - unless you totally ruin the economy of the operation.

One has to admit that Gen.I. reactors were kept operational for surprisinly long time, but right now the only example still running should be somewhere in North Korea (I mean, commercial reactor. At least, in name.)
Some RBMKs are still running from Gen. II.. That's indeed an issue but not really because of any possibility of Pu production.

Keep in mind was generalizing a little to avoid writing a novel as well as talking historically, ie there is no denying the nuclear industry sprang from the military programs in the early 50's, that doesn't mean today all plants exist to make bomb materials. Then a nuclear program includes all the things needed for such a program, eg fuel processing, enrichment, reactors etc. So if you can enrich uranium, its not a large leap to enrich that uranium further to make weapons, both U235 and Pu239 are suitable for the big booms.
 
  • #907
Astronuc
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Both in the US and then USSR the civilian programs sprang up from military development, so while they may not be intended to produce weapons grade materials, they can, which is the issue. I would say this is largely because they inherited the basic technology developed early on that was intended to make weapons grade stuff, EBR-1 was the first reactor to make electricity and it was a research breeder.
While there is a loose connection between civilian nuclear power programs and those developed for the military, commercial nuclear plants were never designed to produce weapons material, certainly not LWRs. The US had 9 production reactors at the Hanford site - starting with B-reactor (1943-1968) and ending with N-reactor (1963-1987). N-reactor was the only plant built for dual-purpose, including electrical generation.
https://www.hanford.gov/page.cfm/BReactorhttps://www.hanford.gov/page.cfm/NReactor
LWRs more or less grew out of the Naval propulsion program, and there was no plan to make weapons material. The four major manufacturers were Westinghouse, General Electric, Combustion Engineering and Babcock and Wilcox, and there were minor players like Allis-Chalmers (which had purchased ACF Industries Nuclear Energy Products Division).

The USSR also has dedicated production reactors, not including the RBMK type, which were not civilian.
http://scienceandglobalsecurity.org/archive/sgs19diakov.pdf
On the other hand, British Magnox reactors were designed with the dual purpose of producing electrical power and plutonium-239 for the nascent nuclear weapons program in Britain.

There doesn't seem to be much motivation to build thorium reactors and there is clear evidence historically that this is mainly due to the lack of weapons applications.
Not so.

"Weinberg realized that you could use thorium in an entirely new kind of reactor, one that would have zero risk of meltdown. . . . his team built a working reactor . . . . and he spent the rest of his 18-year tenure trying to make thorium the heart of the nation’s atomic power effort. He failed. Uranium reactors had already been established, and Hyman Rickover, de facto head of the US nuclear program, wanted the plutonium from uranium-powered nuclear plants to make bombs. Increasingly shunted aside, Weinberg was finally forced out in 1973.[10] "
The statement is from an article by journalist Richard Martin in Wired magazine and reflects his opinion, not the reality at the time. AEC wanted to pursue liquid metal fast reactor technology, while discontinuing the molten salt program, which was originally tied to Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion. There were still numerous technical challenges in MSR technology at the time. The whole Wikipedia article is problematic.

Rickover was head of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program, not "the defacto head of US nuclear program."

A light water breeder reactor concept (using thorium) was tested at Shippingport, August 1977 - September 1982 for about 29,000 effective full power hours.
Argonne National Laboratory, ANL-87-2, FINAL REPORT FOR THE LIGHT WATER BREEDER REACTOR
PROOF-OF-BREEDING ANALYTICAL SUPPORT PROJECT, May 1987
https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/19/005/19005808.pdf
WAPD-1600, Water Coold Breeder Program Summary Report, October 1987
https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/6957197
Another program was conducted at Indian Point 1. The fuel was processed at West Valley Nuclear Fuel Services (Nov 1968 - Jan 1969) and shipped to ORNL as U-nitrate solution. ORNL converted the nitrate to oxide form. (ORNL/TM-13600)

People are taking a look at Molten Salt Concepts again, including both chloride and fluoride based systems.
 
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  • #908
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Maybe the fact that rbmk reactors only require 2% refined uranium and could possibly manufacture plutonium on the cheap?
A guess ....but super unlikely since there are much more efficient ways to manufacture weapons grade fuel.
Being able to run a reactor on 2% enriched fuel is probably cheaper.
 
  • #909
Astronuc
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Unfortunately, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station Shut Down Permanently, as of May 31, 2019
https://www.entergynewsroom.com/news/pilgrim-nuclear-power-station-shut-down-permanently/
PLYMOUTH, Mass. – Control room operators at Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, shut down its reactor for the final time on Friday, May 31, at 5:28 p.m. The decision to shut down Pilgrim was the result of a number of financial factors, including low wholesale energy prices.
Entergy’s remaining operating nuclear power plants in merchant power markets - Indian Point Unit 2 and Unit 3, in New York, and Palisades Power Plant, in Michigan, are scheduled to be shut down in 2020, 2021, and 2022, respectively. These closures, along with the sale of these plants to decommissioning specialty companies, mark the end of Entergy’s participation in merchant power markets and its return to a pure-play utility.
https://boston.cbslocal.com/2019/05/31/pilgrim-nuclear-power-plant-plymouth-massachusetts/
https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2019/05/31/pilgrim-nuclear-power-plant-shutdown
https://www.wpri.com/news/top-video...ra-in-massachusetts_20190531224753/2043258034
 
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  • #910
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The problem with non-scientific media reporting on science, engineering or technology in which the author is not an expert:

To control the rate of fission in a nuclear power plant, reactors use control rods. Constructed from elements such as silver and iridium, the control rods absorb neutrons released during fission and slow down the rate of fission.
from
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/597k9x/why-the-chernobyl-nuclear-reactor-exploded
Many western PWRs use silver-indium-cadmium (Ag-In-Cd, or AIC for short). The above quote mentions silver and iridium. We do not use iridium, but indium. Be careful in reading non-scientific literature/media articles.
 
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  • #911
etudiant
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Truly sad, a huge and reliable power source, regulated to economic death.
What I cannot understand is how the various catastrophic climate change believers can simultaneously fight tooth and nail to block the safest non greenhouse gas emitting power technology.
 
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  • #912
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I'm glad there is at least some players developing new gen reactors, companies like terrestrial energy and nuscale give me hope!
 
  • #913
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I'd like to start a discussion/debate of nuclear power for the purpose of informing people about it. I am participating in a thread in another forum http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=9370 [Broken] where we are discussing an article about Germany planning to phase out nuclear power. I am STRONGLY against this. It is bad for scientific, economic, political, and environmental reasons.

In the course of discussions of the nuclear power issue, it seems to me that the arguements against nuclear power are based primarily on ignorance and emotion. I'm all for open scientific debate, but on this particular subject, I tend to take the approach of educating, not strictly debating. If that comes off as arrogant, I apologize, but this is a remarkably straightforward issue when you get down to the science of it.

So, to start off, a few facts:
-The US has roughly 98 million kW of nuclear generation capacity in roughly 100 plants and runs at about 90% load.
-For comparison, the US has about 4 thousand kW of wind capacity and that doubles about every other year.
-Virtually all new generation capacity in the US is from oil.
-The US has not started construction on a single nuclear plant since Three Mile Island about 20 years ago.
-According to the WHO, air pollution kills 70,000 people in the US every year and affects virtually everyone.
-electric power generation is the leading producer of air pollution in the US.
-HALF of the electricity in the US comes from COAL.
-No civilian has ever been killed as a result of nuclear power in the US (TMI was the worst accident and a long term study produced no statistically significant increase in cancer rates).
-Chernobyl killed roughly 50 people and injured/sickened maybe 1000, including long-after cancers (I had no idea it was that low, so http://www.vanderbilt.edu/radsafe/9604/msg00651.html [Broken] is where I found that).

To me, the evidence is so enormously strong in favor of re-activating our nuclear power program, it should be self-evident. Clearly however, nuclear power is all but dead in the US and indeed much of the world.

I'd also like to discuss research. There has been nuclear power research done over the past 20 years (though not much because of TMI). Pebble-bed reactors for example have potential to be both easy to service and virtually melt-down proof. I'd like to hear of other technologies.
Actually, nuclear power plants produce nasty radioactive waste.
Maybe it’s a great idea to introduce fusion, since it does not go off like Chernobyl (if the reactor chamber break, the reaction just stops), 10 times more energy dense than fission, huge amounts of fuel in the universe. The worst thing it can produce is probably neutron radiation... we better get ITER fired up soon
 
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  • #914
etudiant
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Actually, nuclear power plants produce nasty radioactive waste.
Maybe it’s a great idea to introduce fusion, since it does not go off like Chernobyl (if the reactor chamber break, the reaction just stops), 10 times more energy dense than fission, huge amounts of fuel in the universe. The worst thing it can produce is probably neutron radiation... we better get ITER fired up soon
Not to be too Pollyanna, but nuclear waste is a relatively small problem. In terms of volume, the cumulative nuclear waste produced since the beginning is about 10% of the amount of coal ash we generate annually and a very minimal fraction of the mining wastes we generate. Note that coal ash is actually pretty nasty stuff, as is much of the mining wastes, not really different from nuclear wastes.
All these residues are toxic, with the heavy metal contamination dangers at least as great and at least as permanent as is the radioactivity in nuclear wastes. We do a more diligent job of managing our nuclear wastes, but it is incoherent to spend billions on that while we cover square miles of land with fly ash or phosphate mining residues, both of which have radioactive burdens as well as other metal pollutants.
 
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  • #915
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Actually, nuclear power plants produce nasty radioactive waste.
I made that post/opened this thread in 2003(!). Germany did indeed set out on one of the most ambitious energy transformations in modern history. It has 3 prongs:
1. Phase out nuclear power.
2. Implement "renewable" energy.
3. Reduce carbon emissions.

The first two goals are self-contained: you just do them. The third goal is an effect, not an action. So how'd they do in this arguably most critical endeavor ever undertaken by humanity?

Germany has spent roughly 500 billion Euros to date on its energy transition and has succeeded in reducing their CO2 output by about 17% and yet today has an electrical grid that is 40% coal. If instead of shutting down nuclear plants, they had built nuclear plants, for about the same amount of money they could have eliminated coal and with it another 14% of their emissions.

The waste issue would really be a non-issue if people put rational thought into it -- or even no thought. Most people would probably not remember where our 60 years of nuclear waste is currently stored, if asked. It's just not something that matters in the grand scheme of things.
 
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  • #916
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I recently read a biography of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover who directed the Naval Nuclear Program. Besides following the career of Rickover, it provides some background on the development of various reactor systems and provides some insight into how we got from Naval propulsion systems to commercial nuclear power plants.

Norman Polmar & Thomas B. Allen, "Rickover: Controversy and Genius: A Biography," Touchstone Book, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1982.
 
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  • #917
Astronuc
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A Step-by-Step Guide to Nuclear Innovation Policy
https://www.thirdway.org/report/a-step-by-step-guide-to-nuclear-innovation-policy

I have a problem with the article in that it has a single person with a reactor concept. Reactors, and even the fuel, are extraordinarily complicated. It takes a multi-discipline team to design and develop a reactor. There are nuclear engineers/physicists with neutronic design/analysis capability, there are materials scientist/engineers who specialize in materials design and performance, there are mechanical engineers who specialize in mechanical design and analysis (mechanical and materials engineers work together), there are civil/structural engineers specializing in structural design and analysis, and there are electrical engineers specializing in electrical generation, instrumentation and control systems. There is no way a single person can perform a comprehensive nuclear plant and nuclear reactor design.

What's Missing in U.S. Nuclear? An Innovation Culture
https://www.thirdway.org/report/whats-missing-in-u-s-nuclear-an-innovation-culture
I disagree. I've seen a lot of innovation during more than 30 years in the nuclear industry.

I have seen policy flip flops with successive administrations and congresses. It takes at least 10 years for a plant to go from concept through design and construction, and that is everything goes right. If policy changes during that period, projects drop dead.

Usually things go wrong - Westinghouse sold an unfinished product, then the problems snowballed
https://www.post-gazette.com/busine...-the-problems-snowballed/stories/201710290008

June 2018 - Nine years after construction on it began, first Westinghouse AP1000 nuke goes critical in China as US project continues
https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/trending/1d11p6ft3fdctvgzgedqmq2

Construction of the 7,500-MW Sanmen nuclear power plant began in 2009, with the hope of having it enter service in 2014. Westinghouse and partnering developer and contractor China State Nuclear Power Technology Corp., or SNPTC, announced June 21 that the first of two units at the Sanmen nuclear project outside Shanghai in the eastern Zhejiang province has achieved initial criticality.
 
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  • #918
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What's Missing in U.S. Nuclear?
You are lucky - you have a nuclear power industry. Until recently here in Aus you were described as a nut, and by this I mean even I was described as a scientific illiterate, for just discussing it. And this from a person that did not know the difference between fission and fusion. That is now changing a little in that there is some discussion about it now, but the latest government report still says Australian culture will not accept nuclear so is ruled out of consideration here in Aus. It's madness to rule out even considering nuclear as part of a country's energy mix. We are even spending unnecessary billions, with long time delays, on converting French nuclear subs to non-nuclear to replace our ageing submarine fleet:
https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/5993636/sinking-billions-on-an-outdated-weapon/#gsc.tab=0

The existing French nuclear sub would meet our needs without much modification (as would some US designs without any modification at all) - but no - because of the nuclear 'fear' we can't do that.

Thanks
Bill
 
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  • #919
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wow @bhobba that is interesting, so your government is doing the equivalent of buying a ferrari but swapping the original engine with a 2 stroke single cylinder + paying extra for such an "added bonus"
 
  • #920
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wow @bhobba that is interesting, so your government is doing the equivalent of buying a ferrari but swapping the original engine with a 2 stroke single cylinder + paying extra for such an "added bonus"
Exactly. As the saying goes - 'A Camel is a Horse Designed by a Committee'. Having worked for the government for over 30 years, what was it Madeline Kahn said in Blazing Saddles after seeing it's 'hero' in his birthday suit - It's Twu, It's Twu.

Thanks
Bill
 
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  • #921
Imager
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The Westinghouse Project reminded me of a term we often used for Senior Executive Presentation, a Powerpoint Reality.
 
  • #922
TeethWhitener
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The existing French nuclear sub would meet our needs without much modification (as would some US designs without any modification at all) - but no - because of the nuclear 'fear' we can't do that.
This may not be strictly true, depending on what Australia wants them for. New diesel electric subs are much quieter than older nukes. It’s one reason China’s pouring so much money into them: the South China Sea is really shallow and the Chinese run a pretty tight ship (pun intended) in those parts, so the ability to pop up anywhere and project sea power is pretty important to them.
 
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