Three mile Island Power Plant to be Shut Down

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gleem

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Exelon the current owner of Three Mile Island Power Plant will shut it down in about two weeks. This is 15 year short of its current licence expiration date. The reason supposedly is the cost of operation since methane is currently so cheap. Exelon tried to persuade the
Pennsylvania legislature to subsidized the plant which had worked for plants in other states but the legislature has not acted.

Nuclear power is currently the only true viable solution to reducing carbon emissions with no attempt to end our consumption of fossil fuel in sight. The UN International Panel on Climate Change warns that the world production of CO2 should be reduce to 50% by 2030 which requires a 4% reduction per year and as yet to see any plan of action.

There may be some hope in that some environmentally motivated groups see that despite perceived risks of nuclear accidents and nuclear waste storage issues nuclear power may be our best near term solution. Despite accidents the nuclear power industry still has fewer deaths per unit energy produced than any other source.

1566225102469.png


The 9000 deaths attributed to Chernobyl is a prediction at the extreme end of possible deaths yet to occur based on the assumption that any radiation dose not matter how small carries a risk that increases linearly with dose As far as I know this assumption has never been proven to be accurate.
 

russ_watters

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Exelon the current owner of Three Mile Island Power Plant will shut it down in about two weeks. This is 15 year short of its current licence expiration date. The reason supposedly is the cost of operation since methane is currently so cheap. Exelon tried to persuade the Pennsylvania legislature to subsidized the plant which had worked for plants in other states but the legislature has not acted....

There may be some hope in that some environmentally motivated groups see that despite perceived risks of nuclear accidents and nuclear waste storage issues nuclear power may be our best near term solution. Despite accidents the nuclear power industry still has fewer deaths per unit energy produced than any other source.
The issue, specific to Three Mile Island, is that as a one-reactor facility, many of its operating costs are doubled per unit power delivered. That makes it one of the least cost effective nuclear plants to operate.

But broadly, the logic for subsidizing nuclear as other carbon-free energy sources are is inescapable. Currently many such laws are specifically written to exclude nuclear power even while claiming to be promoting carbon-free power. But states are slowly coming around to both the contradictory nature of their own laws and the lack of a viable alternate path to achieving their carbon reduction goals. Pennsylvania has both a carbon reduction target and carbon-free energy credits but hasn't yet connected them to nuclear power. Currently, TMI produces about 400x more carbon free electricity than all "renewable" sources put together in PA (note: I do not consider biomass "carbon free").


Does PA want to reduce its carbon footprint or not?
 

DEvens

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What should happen is that various western nations do some R&D to find what can be done with nuclear, then build the next generation of power stations. Maybe Thorium, maybe small-modular, maybe pebble-bed, there are some others. This could put our feet on the ladder of improving tech, improving safety, improving price, etc.

What probably will happen is that China and India will build the next generation of power plants not much different from the current generation. Probably a lot of PWRs and such, with just a few Thorium. And that will produce a stasis that lasts at least 50 years.
 
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I agree nuclear is one of our best options, long term, for energy resources. And yes, R&D is needed, if only because so many of our current power plants still in use are pressurized water reactors like TMI or boiling water reactors like the dozens of MK-1, MK-2 and M-3 reactors that will age out in the next 5-15 years. While existing technology has done its job and proved itself over the last four decades we now have the ability to go far beyond what was possible when the first MK-1 was installed. I would like to see more of a focus on developing smaller plants.

<< Mentor Note -- two links removed from post >>
 
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Vanadium 50

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This could put our feet on the ladder of improving tech, improving safety, improving price, etc.
Oddly, the green movement seems opposed to this.

Gleem, do you know what is included and excluded in those estimates? For example, effects due to global warming are notoriously difficult to estimate. Additionally, mining deaths from coal are highly variable. (Two orders of magnitude difference between the US and China, for example).
 
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gleem

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Gleem, do you know what is included and excluded in those estimates? For example, effects do to global warming are notoriously difficult to estimate. Additionally, mining deaths from coal are highly variable. (Two orders of magnitude difference between the US and China, for example).

WRT mining deaths in the US see


up until about 1947 there were about 2-5 deaths/1000 workers/yr. After that it decrease rapidly to 1.5/1000 in 1960, to 1/1000 in 1970, to 0.5/1000 in 1980, to 0.14/1000 in 2013. Stricter safety regulations?? As for China who really knows.

Two of those fatalities were uncles of mine with another permanently disables.

I do not think that the data includes those who died from the pollution caused by coal or gas power plants but that is just a guess.
 

fresh_42

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You cannot justify one evil by the fact that there is an even more evil one. Coal is not the alternative. But neither is the production of tons of toxic material with an unpredictable future.
 
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neither is the production of tons of toxic material with an unpredictable future
If this is a reference to nuclear waste disposal from fission plants, we know how to solve that problem in a technical sense: you reprocess the spent fuel. That gives you back more usable fuel and reduces the waste left over to things that are much more easily manageable. The reasons why the US has historically not done reprocessing are political, not technical.
 

anorlunda

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If this is a reference to nuclear waste disposal from fission plants, we know how to solve that problem in a technical sense: you reprocess the spent fuel. That gives you back more usable fuel and reduces the waste left over to things that are much more easily manageable. The reasons why the US has historically not done reprocessing are political, not technical.
Reprocessing does little to satisfy the critics. Reduced waste is still nonzero waste. The criticism does not refer to the quantity of waste, only the half life.
 

fresh_42

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The criticism does not refer to the quantity of waste, only the half life.
Not only. Even without the physical property of radiation, it is also extremely biotoxic. Tiny leaks are sufficient to e.g. contaminate entire freshwater reservoirs. ## LD_{50}(Pu)= 0.32 \text{ mg/kg }## for dogs.
 

DEvens

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Reprocessing does little to satisfy the critics. Reduced waste is still nonzero waste. The criticism does not refer to the quantity of waste, only the half life.
The half life of Cadmium, which is toxic and a significant element in the manufacture of one popular model solar panel, is infinite. The critics are not rational. The complaints about nuclear have nothing to do with objective comparisons of relative risks.

The criticisms fall into two main categories. Irrational fears and politically based propaganda.
 

fresh_42

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The criticisms fall into two main categories. Irrational fears and politically based propaganda.
I could say the same nonsense about the pros: Blind trust in theory and politically based propaganda.

The point is that a) you cannot make serious predictions on such a large time scale, and even less b) a serious cost calculation, and c) it is impossible to build provisions to fully cover possible accidents, see Fukushima.

It is not correct of you to silence these arguments with polemic statements. You reverse the burden of proof, driven by the knowledge that you cannot do it with the amount of uncertain parameters.
 

gleem

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Wrt SMRs as with conventional reactors when first conceived elicited predictions of almost free energy and not much mention or the the lack of publicizing possible difficulties and dangers of building and operating these installations. Until we build a few SMRs and run and tested them to see that we have foreseen all the issues correctly can we begin mass produce them. To replace coal which generates about 25% of our electricity (250 Gw) it will take 2500 100 Mw SMRs. There is also the cost of nucs which are currently around $6M/Mw for building conventional nuc power plants compared to less than $1M/Mw for gas. Will SMRs really be cheaper or cheap enough to encourage power companies to buy into them or will we have to subsidize them?

One positive point for nucs they represent 10% of capacity i.e. Gw but produce 20% of the electricity i.e., Tw-hr
 

anorlunda

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Any pro or anti nuclear statement rapidly becomes political. Please let's try to keep it under control here in the nuclear engineering forum. This is not general discussion.
 

Vanadium 50

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After that it decrease rapidly to 1.5/1000 in 1960, to 1/1000 in 1970, to 0.5/1000 in 1980, to 0.14/1000 in 2013. Stricter safety regulations?? As for China who really knows.
It's partly stricter safety regulations, and partly technology. Today you can buy (for example) a personal coal dust monitor over the internet. Indeed, air quality monitoring in general has vastly improved over the days when miners brought canaries with them. The rate of fires has become so low that it is difficult to gather statistics about best practices - are halogenated belts safer or not? They reduce the fire rate but increase their severity. Last I looked into this some years back, there weren't enough examples to tell if this is on average better or not. (Which is a good thing)

I agree that reliable - or even consistent - China numbers are hard to find. Here's a plot from The Economist that highlights the huge difference - even if exactly how huge it is is debateable.

20150718_CNC086.png
 
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Vanadium 50

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You cannot justify one evil by the fact that there is an even more evil one.
"Evil" is a value judgement, so I can't comment on that, but I would argue that you can justify an undesirable outcome by arguing that it prevents an even more undesirable outcome. Otherwise you need to ban ambulances because they emit air pollution.
 
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Reduced waste is still nonzero waste.
There is no such thing as a useful energy source with zero waste. One always needs to make tradeoffs.

The criticism does not refer to the quantity of waste, only the half life.
And reprocessing greatly shortens the half-life that needs to be dealt with; you're talking about a few hundred years that it needs to be safely stored instead of tens of thousands.
 
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you cannot make serious predictions on such a large time scale
As I noted in my response to @anorlunda just now, reprocessing greatly shortens the time scale over which one needs to make predictions.

it is impossible to build provisions to fully cover possible accidents, see Fukushima.
That's true, but it's also true that the actual impact of incidents like Fukushima is much less than the hype might lead one to believe. Even counting Fukushima, nuclear energy has still caused much less harm per unit of energy delivered than any other energy source for which we have enough data to make an estimate.


I haven't seen estimates of this kind for solar or wind, but they certainly should be judged by the same criteria.
 

fresh_42

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"Evil" is a value judgement, so I can't comment on that, but I would argue that you can justify an undesirable outcome by arguing that it prevents an even more undesirable outcome. Otherwise you need to ban ambulances because they emit air pollution.
This was meant as a general statement. Reasoning by comparison of examples which are worse is nonsense. You cannot say: "Good I had a heart attack, because a stroke would have been worse." It was the principle of argumentation which I rejected, not any of its content.

If you only have the alternative coal or nuclear, then sure, coal has more disadvantages, although even these can technically be handled via safety regulations for mining and filtering for burning. There is no need to pollute the atmosphere. The risks concerning nuclear power plants is in my opinion similar to the US gun laws. We have a saying here, the Florian principle: „Heiliger Sankt Florian / Verschon’ mein Haus, zünd’ and’re an!“ Holy Saint Florian, spare my house, ignite my neighbor's. Whereas air pollution by coal affects us all and lung diseases are strongly correlated to air pollution, possible accidents by the nuclear industry are more constraint to location, at least the most severe consequences. I read that fish in the Bering strait is contaminated by Fukushima, and they fish 506 million pounds (2009) there. Ergo many people will get sick as a consequence, simply as a statistical fact by the mere amount, even if it cannot be traced back. And it needed an accident, whereas pollution by coal comes by operation.

Anyway, it demonstrates that these two cannot be seriously compared, because fatal consequences have different origins, can and cannot be directly correlated, and the evaluation system is a different one: Air pollution versus Florian-principle.

So the reasoning has been false twice: invalid argumentation by example, plus apple and orange comparison.
 

fresh_42

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I am not against nuclear energy. There are enough of us all that we would survive an accident per year, and the chances are good that it would be other people's problem. There are more direct threats to us as a species than nuclear energy, so the question whether we will make it until the oceans evaporate will probably be not a question of nuclear energy.
... reprocessing greatly shortens the time scale over which one needs to make predictions.
It is still extremely biotoxic, apart from radiation. E.g. ##LD_{50}(Pu) \approx 0.32 \text{ mg/kg dog }##.
 
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It is still extremely biotoxic, apart from radiation.
Agreed. But are there any other industries in which biotoxicity alone drives a ten thousand year safe storage requirement?

If we're only talking about a few hundred years of safe storage, whether for radiation or biotoxicity or both, that's a much more manageable problem.

E.g. LD50(Pu)≈0.32 mg/kg
Plutonium is fuel, so it doesn't get disposed of as waste after reprocessing, it gets put back into a reactor. Certainly it needs to be stored safely until that happens.
 

russ_watters

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You cannot justify one evil by the fact that there is an even more evil one.
That's just a saying and has little actual meaning....and as best it can be interpreted, it's just plain wrong: everything has pros and cons; risks and rewards. In fact if, you must make such choices. Always.
Coal is not the alternative.
Coal and natural gas, primarily. It's tough to make direct connections in a large and mixed market, but in countries like Germany that are shutting down nuclear, coal is on the rise.

Perhaps you mean it shouldn't be, but we have to be careful about making demands of reality that reality won't agree to. The reality is that coal and nuclear are both really good at making baseload power.
But neither is the production of tons of toxic material with an unpredictable future.
This is vague and difficult to unpack. Much about the future is very predictable:
-Radioactive decay
-Geological stability
-The CO2 production of a unit of coal
-The intermittency of the sun.

Solutions have to actually be solutions. Declaring something "evil" and therefore not allowed to be used is not helpful in weighing the real practical issues and finding workable and acceptable solutions.
 
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Vanadium 50

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it is also extremely biotoxic. Tiny leaks are sufficient to e.g. contaminate entire freshwater reservoirs. LD50(Pu)=0.32 mg/kg LD_{50}(Pu)= 0.32 \text{ mg/kg } for dogs.
Note to self: don't let my dog lick spent fuel rods. :oldwink:

That's an intravenous number, so it's relevant only when mainlining nuclear waste. I don't know if there is a more relevant oral number, but it is typically several orders of magnitude higher. Chemically it's bad stuff, but it's bad like cadmium and not bad like cyanide.

We actually have data on plutonium toxicity in humans. There were about two-dozen exposed workers at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project and they have been monitored for the rest of their lives. The radiological impact is too small to measure (the group was somewhat healthier than the control group) and obviously they were not killed by immediate chemical toxicity.

We also have Nagasaki, where enough plutonium was dispersed to kill (at the above LD50 numbers) a quarter-million people, plutonium that would still be dangerous after the blast. This didn't happen. Again, the evidence is that it's bad stuff, but it's bad like cadmium and not bad like cyanide.

What do we do with cadmium? Stick it in landfills and hope for the best.
 

fresh_42

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Solutions have to actually be solutions. Declaring something "evil" and therefore not allowed to be used is not helpful in weighing the real practical issues and finding workable and acceptable solutions.
This was meant as a general statement. Reasoning by comparison of examples which are worse is nonsense. You cannot say: "Good I had a heart attack, because a stroke would have been worse." It was the principle of argumentation which I rejected, not any of its content.
...
So the reasoning has been false twice: invalid argumentation by example, plus apple and orange comparison.
We can discuss nuclear energy and we can discuss coal. But as long as we are not committed to a common evaluation system, a comparison is nonsense. I didn't see such a list of criteria. It is as if you compared to cross the Hudson by car and by cruise ship. I attack the comparison as long as the frame is not settled.

The word "evil" is reasonable in the context, because it refers to the specific principle used: "... but .... is even worse!" Again, I am against this specific rhetoric, and it is one. You said "solution" which is as a 'personal opinion' as 'evil' is. It only carries a better camouflage. Solution? To what, which problem, under which constraints, what are the feasible points, what the objective function? See, the same undefined basement, but it sounds 'scientific', however, it is not. It is vague and allows different people associate different meanings.

So please accept that I distinguished rhetoric means and content. The rhetoric was an invalid argument. The content is another discussion. E.g.
Much about the future is very predictable:
Much about the future is not:
- maintenance
- accidents
- natural disasters
- leaks
- final deposit
- crime

We have had three major accidents in 60 years (not counting possible emissions from Sellafield orLa Hague. This is a fact, and quite an impressive ratio, which is an opinion.
 
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We have had three major accidents in 60 years
Counting "accidents" is not a valid comparison either. You need to look at aggregate harm per unit of energy produced. I gave a reference earlier in this thread that does that.

You are correct that specific future harms are not always predictable. But that does not mean we don't have a lot of data on past harms which we can use to make reasonable estimates of future harms, and which allows us to assess aggregate harm on a common scale, i.e., per unit of energy produced, which allows us to make reasonably fair comparisons between different energy sources. To me that is the "common evaluation system" you are looking for.
 

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