Nuclear Reactors – ABWR Mon, 10 Jan 2022 11:46:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Nuclear Reactors – ABWR 32 32 EUROPE POWER-Falling temperatures push up spot prices Mon, 10 Jan 2022 10:20:37 +0000 PARIS, January 10 (Reuters) – European spot prices edged up on Monday as demand increased across the region due to a forecast for lower temperatures. German Tuesday base load TRDEBD1 was 259 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) at 10:05 a.m. GMT, 1.6% more than the price paid last Friday for a Monday delivery. The equivalent […]]]>

PARIS, January 10 (Reuters)European spot prices edged up on Monday as demand increased across the region due to a forecast for lower temperatures.

German Tuesday base load TRDEBD1 was 259 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) at 10:05 a.m. GMT, 1.6% more than the price paid last Friday for a Monday delivery.

The equivalent contract in France TRDEBD1 cost 259 euros, up 1.2%.

Daily electricity demand in France is expected to increase from 5.5 gigawatts (GW) to 75.1 GW on Tuesday as the average temperature in the country is expected to drop from 3.3 degrees Celsius to 2.8 ° C, data shows by Refinitiv Eikon.

Consumption in Germany is expected to increase from 2.1 GW to 64.9 GW as temperatures are expected to drop from 0.8C to 0.4C.

German wind power is expected to increase from 2.7 GW per day to 6.9 GW on Tuesday, the data showed.

Refinitiv analysis showed that the average daily level is expected to rise to around 22 GW on Thursday and Friday.

Nuclear availability in France is stable at 81.1% of installed capacity. POWER / FR

French nuclear production in December fell to 31.5 terawatt-hours (TWh), down 8.5% compared to the same month in 2020, according to the electricity group EDF EDF.PA noted.

Preussen Elektra EONGn.DE Isar 2, one of Germany’s three nuclear reactors still operational, closed on Saturday due to a leak in a non-radioactive part of the plant, the operator said.

Transparency data from the EEX exchange showed the plant is expected to reopen in the early hours of Tuesday.

Along the curve, the German first-year contract TRDEBYZ3 down 3.2% to 123 euros / MWh.

European CO2 quotas due December 2022 CFI2Zc2 down 2.2% to 83.50 euros per tonne.

The Epex Spot exchange said in a monthly report that daily and intraday positions set a joint volume record in December at 56.5 terawatt-hours (TWh), up 2.4% from the previous year.

The EEX exchange reported European futures contract volumes of 464.6 TWh during the month, up 16% year on year.

The Yamal-Europe pipeline flowed east from Germany to Poland on Monday, marking three full weeks of reverse flows.

(Reporting by Forrest Crellin, additional reporting by Vera Eckert; editing by Jason Neely)

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Yes, Jimmy Carter once really helped contain a nuclear collapse Sat, 08 Jan 2022 18:02:26 +0000 In late 2021, we received several requests from Snopes readers seeking to verify the authenticity of a compelling story, told in several widely shared social media posts, about one of former President Jimmy Carter’s accomplishments prior to the White House. For example, on December 14, Jeff Lundeen posted a widely shared tweet that contained an […]]]>

In late 2021, we received several requests from Snopes readers seeking to verify the authenticity of a compelling story, told in several widely shared social media posts, about one of former President Jimmy Carter’s accomplishments prior to the White House.

For example, on December 14, Jeff Lundeen posted a widely shared tweet that contained an old photo of a young Carter, a screenshot of the anecdote, and the following caption:

Do you remember the very first nuclear fusion in the world? This time, the American president, an expert in nuclear physics, heroically descended into the reactor and saved Ottawa, the capital of Canada? It sounds like a schlocky action flick, but it really happened!

This tweet was itself taken from a previous Facebook post by the Historical Society of Ottawa, which can be seen below:

The main claim in these accounts was that, as a young naval officer, Carter had played an important role in taming a nuclear fusion. This statement was correct and we are posting a note of “true”.

Person, Human, Building
In the main control room of the USS K-1 (SSK-1) between June and October 1952. (Source: Naval History and Heritage Command).

Carter, who was born in 1924 and raised in Plains, Georgia, had a relatively short but distinguished naval career, as the US Navy itself sums it up:

President James Earl “Jimmy” Carter graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946 with Honors, after which he was assigned to the USS Wyoming (E-AG 17) as a sign. After completing two years of service on a surface ship, Carter requested submarine service. He served as a senior executive, engineer and electronic repair officer on the submarine SSK-1. When Admiral Hyman G. Rickover (then Captain) launched his nuclear-powered submarine design program, Carter wanted to join the program and was interviewed and selected by Rickover. Carter was promoted lieutenant, and from November 3, 1952 to March 1, 1953, served on temporary duty with the Naval Reactors Branch, US Atomic Energy Commission, Washington, DC, to assist “in the design and development of propulsion plants. nuclear for warships. . “

From March 1 to October 8, 1953, Carter was preparing to become an engineer officer on the USS sea ​​bass (SSN-575), one of the first submarines to operate on atomic energy. However, upon his father’s death in July 1953, Carter resigned from the Navy and returned to Georgia to manage his family’s interests. Carter was honorably released on October 9, 1953 and transferred at his request to the retired reserve with the rank of lieutenant.

On December 12, 1952, an accident took place at the National Nuclear Experimental Research Reactor (NRX) at Chalk River, near the Canadian capital of Ottawa. A detailed and official Atomic Energy of Canada account of the incident and its aftermath can be found here and here.

After being promoted to lieutenant in June of that year, Carter was by that time seconded from the Navy to the Reactor Development Division of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in Schenectady, northern L New York State. A 2019 video, verified and published by All Hands, the official magazine of the US Navy, contained the following account of the future president’s involvement in the cleanup operation:

Due to a combination of mechanical failures and human error, a power surge of up to 90 megawatts melted some fuel rods after they ruptured in the NRX research reactor at Chalk River Laboratories. The reactor core was badly damaged, requiring a massive clean-up operation. It was the first incident of this magnitude, and Carter was ordered to lead a team of 23 to help with the cleanup.

When he arrived at the scene, a duplicate reactor was set up on a nearby tennis court, where he and his team were practicing removing bolts and parts as quickly as possible. Once lowered into the damaged reactor, each person would only have 90 seconds to work, due to the extreme radioactivity. The heart was shut down, reconstructed and returned to service without further incident.

Looking back on the 2008 episode, Carter told Canadian author Arthur Milnes that he and his team were exposed to dangerously high radiation levels at Chalk River, as Milnes would later write for CNN:

“We were pretty well informed about what nuclear power was then, but for about six months after that I had radioactivity in my urine,” President Carter, now aged. 86 years old, in an interview for my new book in Plains in 2008. “They’re probably getting a thousand times more radiation than they would now. It was early and they didn’t know it.

Despite the fears he had to overcome, Carter admits he was lively on occasion to put his top-secret training to use in cleaning up the reactor, located along the Ottawa River northwest of Ottawa. .

“It was a very exciting time for me when the Chalk River plant melted down,” he continued in the same interview. “I was one of the few people in the world who was allowed to enter a nuclear power plant,” he said. “There were 23 of us and I was in charge. I took my crew there on the train.


Carter, James Earl
. http: //public2.nhhcaws.local/research/histories/biographies-list/bios-c/carter-james-e.html. Accessed January 6, 2022.

Jimmy Carter’s exposure to nuclear danger. Accessed January 6, 2022.

Lieutenant James Earl Carter Jr., USN. http: //public1.nhhcaws.local/browse-by-topic/people/presidents/carter.html. Accessed January 6, 2022.

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The first advanced reactor proposal suffers a setback Thu, 06 Jan 2022 21:08:00 +0000 This story was updated at 6:20 PM EST. The clearance application for one of the first advanced nuclear reactor designs to go to federal review suffered a setback today when regulators announced they were rejecting the proposal for lack of information. Silicon Valley-based Oklo Inc. did not provide enough information on potential accidents and classifications […]]]>

This story was updated at 6:20 PM EST.

The clearance application for one of the first advanced nuclear reactor designs to go to federal review suffered a setback today when regulators announced they were rejecting the proposal for lack of information.

Silicon Valley-based Oklo Inc. did not provide enough information on potential accidents and classifications of safety systems and components in the design of its 1.5 megawatt advanced fission power system, known as Aurora, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

Without this information, the committee could not rule on the merits of the design. This prompted the agency to dismiss the request without prejudice, allowing Oklo to resubmit it in the future, the commission said.

“Oklo’s application continues to contain significant information gaps in its description of potential Aurora accidents as well as in its classification of safety systems and components,” said Andrea Veil, Director of the Office of regulation of nuclear reactors of the NRC. “These gaps prevent further review activity. “

The NRC said information gaps persisted even after the company and the agency tried to work on the documents needed to complete the initial proposal submitted in March 2020. Oklo submitted additional information in July and October, but that did not answer questions from the NRC, the commission said.

“We are ready to reconnect with Oklo if they submit a revised request that provides the information we need for a thorough and timely review,” added Veil.

In response, Oklo expressed disappointment at the setback, but still vowed to push forward that request along with a series of early proposals he’s working on with NRC.

“We are disappointed and digest the information provided, but the bigger picture is that we are eager to continue moving forward not only on this project with NRC, but also on other projects that we are already on. engaged with NRC, including other budgeted requests. submissions, ”said Oklo spokesperson Bonita Chan.

The application is the first advanced reactor license application submitted to the NRC with full private funding for a commercial project (Energy wire, March 18, 2020). The company had been in pre-application talks with regulators since 2016.

Most of NRC’s current regulatory review processes focus on light water reactors. But a wave of expected advanced reactor designs has caused the commission to rethink how it approaches these reviews.

“Our combined license application was the first ever to be accepted for a high-tech factory, so there is a lot of new things to learn and work on to support a successful review, and it provides a foundation from which we can provide feedback. additional information and continue to work with NRC, ”Chan added.

When applying, Oklo said that its technology was capable of producing “1.5 MW of electrical power and while in operation it can save 1,000,000 tonnes of carbon emissions compared to the alternative to the diesel generator ”.

The design is able to generate heat using advanced fuel, which is then converted into electricity. The operation would last decades without having to refuel, with the possibility of using nuclear waste as fuel stock.

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Kemmerer Gazette | Experts speak on the nuclear installation project Tue, 04 Jan 2022 21:29:54 +0000 The Wyoming Energy Authority and the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources presented a recent webinar titled “Advanced Nuclear 101” to provide expert information and answer questions regarding the Natrium nuclear power plant project to be built near Kemmerer. Expert testimony was provided by Dr. Steve Aumeier, Senior Advisor at Idaho National Laboratory; Dr […]]]>

The Wyoming Energy Authority and the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources presented a recent webinar titled “Advanced Nuclear 101” to provide expert information and answer questions regarding the Natrium nuclear power plant project to be built near Kemmerer.

Expert testimony was provided by Dr. Steve Aumeier, Senior Advisor at Idaho National Laboratory; Dr Josh Jarrell, director, Department of Used Fuel Management at Idaho National Laboratory; and Dr. Todd Allen, professor of engineering and chair of the Department of Nuclear and Radiology at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Aumeier began with his take on nuclear power in Wyoming.

“We are moving forward in a very different way from what we did 10, if not 20 years ago, with nuclear power,” Aumeier said. “We have been using nuclear power for over 65 years in the United States and the role of the National Laboratories has been to test and validate for the federal government. New advanced reactors are getting smaller, integrated, modular and safer based on decades of research and development at the National Laboratories of the Department of Energy (DOE).

Aumeier has years of experience in nuclear power, having served on the first nuclear-powered submarine; lived in the first American city powered by the Idaho National Laboratory’s first nuclear power plant; worked on the first mobile nuclear power plant for the US military’s demonstration of an autonomous fuel system.

Aumeier explained the different sizes of reactors. Small reactors use molten fluoride or chloride as coolant and on average 1 to 20 mw (megawatts) which is used for base energy, heat and hydrogen product development. There are currently none in the United States. The first to come will be in 2029. Micro-reactors will be used by 2025 to provide electricity in remote locations, for the military, space missions and disaster relief. They take up less than an acre of space.

The mid-sized reactor uses either sodium or liquid lead as refrigerant and an average of 20-300 MW and is used in a mid-sized market area.

Large gas-cooled reactors with an average of 300 to over 1000 MW. He said the large reactor is efficient and matches rapidly growing energy demand. There are currently 95 large reactors in operation in the United States, and most were built between the 1950s and 1980s.

“All of the different reactors have a safety history,” Aumeier said. “Clean nuclear power can transform Wyoming’s economic paradigm. It is a source of energy integrated into advanced industrial production. Micronuclear power leads to the use of steel, new chemical processes, hydrogen for vehicles and industry, electricity, manufacturing, manufacturing and can lead to advanced exports.

Aumeier encouraged residents and officials of Wyoming to engage with university and energy authorities to plan and engage in regulatory oversight for operational excellence, including the creation of a number of jobs; a supply chain, value chain and global market development. The community, Aumeier said, should partner and have short- and long-term plans for the fuel cycle. He encouraged anyone with questions to consider the scientific facts and draw on the 70 years of knowledge acquired by the labs.

The storage of “spent radioactive fuel” from nuclear reactors has raised concerns and questions from some environmental groups, so Dr Jarrell, who manages spent nuclear fuel at Idaho National Laboratories, has covered. all aspects of uranium used in nuclear reactors, from harvesting and enrichment to disposal and storage of “spent fuel”.

Jarrell explained that there are three types of uranium oxide mining in Wyoming: surface mine, underground mine, and in situ leach mine. In the past five years, none of these mines produced production.

In order for uranium oxide to be used in a nuclear reactor, Jarrell said, it must first be enriched to at least 5% by centrifugation or diffusion. Once enriched, it is transformed back into an oxide and transformed into a final feed material for a nuclear reactor.

After about five years of use, the fuel is exhausted, can no longer be used and is now radioactive. It is moved to a protected area where it is cooled in swimming pools for three to five years, then moved to dry storage – concrete drums lined with stainless steel. These cans can then be transported in complete safety on a wagon in a structure of more than 100 tonnes containing them.

“We have been transporting these cans for several decades now without any incident,” Jarrell said. “It’s a very safe and robust transport system. The United States does not have active storage sites, so cans are currently stored there. We are looking for solutions and our objective is ultimately to move the cartridges to a permanent repository – private or with the DOE. “

There has been an international consensus, Jarrell said, that a deep geological disposal is the answer to the permanent isolation of spent fuel and other long-lived radioactive waste and that several countries in Europe are moving towards it. . He added that advanced reactors have different challenges when it comes to spent fuel management, as their spent fuel comes from different materials. In the future, Jarrell said, there could be the development of a closed reprocessing and recycling fuel cycle, but they would still need a storage and disposal system.

Dr. Allen, professor of nuclear and radiology at the University of Michigan, focused on what Americans value: energy, clean water, sanitation and more. Americans want clean, affordable, resilient and equitable energy, he said.

“We have to reinvent energy,” Allen said. “It’s an incredible but complicated transition. We use wind and solar, IT and nuclear. We want emissions reductions, less carbon and particulate matter, and cleaner systems.

Relying on one fuel for power comes with risks, Allen continued, but through the use of transport and dual fuel capacity, the risk is reduced. Jobs and supply chains are important, and the ability to influence international guidelines regarding safety and other regulations is important. There are many values ​​and choices that focus on energy, Allen said, and the energy industry and environmental agencies need to work together.

Allen focused on what communities can do to capitalize on the opportunities resulting from the construction of the Natrium advanced nuclear reactor at Kemmerer.

“There is a synergy between the nuclear power plant and the way you use it,” Allen said. “You have to think of co-located companies that can use energy to manufacture by-products, such as hydrogen, for example. The possibilities are endless, such as a training center for high-tech jobs, supply chain opportunities, and spin-off and manufacturing technologies.

The webinar ended with responses to questions emailed by listeners. The first questions were about questions and concerns about spent fuel storage and were answered by Dr Jarrell who had previously discussed the options.

Jarrell said: “The community needs to think about where on-site spent fuel will be stored and needs a prior plan.”

Other questions and concerns related to matters which had already been addressed to some extent in the presentations of the three experts regarding: the amount of water that would be used; water pollution; history of environmental impact on low-income populations; economic costs; security; and the construction and operation schedule.

The responses included the fact that the cost of nuclear power for heat and electricity has been shown to be much better than that of any other source; products that can be made from this low-emission energy add another financial benefit; and water pollution from surface mining had been a problem and left a lot of cleanup problems.

A final question concerned the experts’ request for a response to the recent report published by the Union of Concerned Scientists concerning the Natrium nuclear reactor and its proven safety.

The three experts answered in the same way, that the experience on the reactors of swimming pools was very good and that they turned out to be very safe. Regarding the concern about security against terrorist acts, the response has been that non-proliferation must be taken seriously and preparations must be made. They added that the United States has more control over nuclear technology today. They encouraged the auditors to consult all the data and scientific information provided concerning the Natrium reactor.

Jarrell concluded by saying, “Our goal for this webinar was to be transparent, to maintain a neutral opinion and to be based on science. “

Aumeier added: “It is important to have an ongoing dialogue about what the community can achieve and what they can do.”

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Fueled by billions of dollars, nuclear fusion enters a new era Sun, 02 Jan 2022 21:00:59 +0000 Inside the “Tokamak” fusion reactor under construction as part of the ITER fusion project in France, September 2021. ASSOCIATED PRESS After raising more than $ 3 billion in 2021 from Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, fusion developers insist this carbon-free energy source could be a reality within a decade. It is clear that nuclear fusion […]]]>

After raising more than $ 3 billion in 2021 from Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, fusion developers insist this carbon-free energy source could be a reality within a decade.

It is clear that nuclear fusion can work on a large scale – you just have to look at the stars. For 70 years, physicists have dreamed of bottling this stellar power in the form of fusion reactors that would feed the power grid with the same limitless, carbon-free reactions that make the sun shine. This holy grail has long been heralded as 20 or 30 years from now, but fusion fans have refused to give up the faith. And for good reason. Fusion (breaking down hydrogen atoms together into helium) promises unlimited carbon-free electrical energy with zero risk of fusion and virtually none of the radioactive waste associated with existing nuclear power plants that operate by fission (the division of uranium atoms into smaller elements).

The dream inspired Ajay Royan, co-founder of Mithril Capital (along with billionaire Peter Thiel), who in 2013 first invested $ 2 million in Helion Energy, based in Redmond, Wash., In order to be able to construct a prototype of a “repetitive pulse power” machine. Mithril has invested in Helion ever since, including his recent $ 500 million funding round (valuing the company at $ 3 billion) – with the pledge of $ 1.7 billion more if the company’s seventh prototype works as hoped. The Helion tour was led by Sam Altman of Y Combinator.

2021 has been an important year for both funding and merger forecasting, as developers have raised more than $ 3 billion to fund their next set of machines – some of which now promise a commercially viable merger in just five years. . Royan is happy to see the merger attracting more attention; “Sure, 2021 may be a turning point for merger according to Google Analytics, but the real turning point came a decade ago when power electronics broke a threshold.”

CEO David Kirtley explains that the first R&D work behind Helion was done in federal labs, from which Helion was formed in 2013. Freed from the federal R&D bureaucracy, Helion has since built new prototypes one after the other. others. “The startup mentality is not pleasant to have, it is a requirement. and what we focused on from the start, ”says Kirtley.

In 2020, Helion completed its sixth prototype reactor, dubbed Trenta. She is currently building a seventh, Polaris, while already designing the eighth, Antares, which Kirtley intends to be the first fusion machine to produce more power than it consumes. Along with the rapid iteration, Helion benefits from local expertise. It builds the Polaris machine in Everett, Wash., Near Boeing’s largest factories, where they can tap into a welcoming ecosystem of contract engineers and precision manufacturers. Kirtley says they spend the morning tinkering, updating systems, and turning on capacitors. “Every afternoon at 3 p.m. we start to do fusion.”

To understand Helion’s approach, let’s first consider the magnetic repulsion that occurs when you try to force the positive poles of two magnetic bars together. This is the principle that allows “mag-lev” technology like Japan’s famous high-speed trains, which use magnetic repulsion to float on a cushion of air.

For decades, fusion researchers have sought to design the most powerful electromagnets in the world, with which they design reaction chambers with magnetic fields so strong that they can contain and compress an injected flux of positively charged protons. in a ball of plasma so hot they fuse into helium.

In Helion’s new system, the energy released in fusion reactions constantly pushes against its magnetic confining field, which pushes back – causing oscillations (“like a piston,” Kirtley says) that generate an electric current, which Helion picks up directly from the reactor. (Read more on Faraday’s Law of Induction.)

Royan de Mithril says that perhaps the greatest attraction of Helion’s method of direct electricity generation is its simplicity. Other fusion approaches aim to generate heat, in order to boil water and power steam turbines, which generate electricity, as in traditional nuclear power plants. “We can do it without steam turbines or cooling towers. We are getting rid of the power plant.

Granted, Kirtley understands merger skepticism, especially around its aggressive schedule. He began his career in the field of fusion, inspired by scientists at National Laboratories in the 1960s who made great strides in magnetic containment (by competing with Russian scientists to design donut-shaped reactors called tokamaks ) even before the invention of transistors. But Kirtley lost confidence after determining that early approaches simply couldn’t evolve fast enough to produce a commercial solution. He returned to the field in 2008 to help commercialize Helion’s technology.

Over time, he plans to make fusion generators in a factory. A 50 MW scale system, packaged in three units the size of a shipping container, would power 40,000 homes. “In 10 years, we’ll have commercial electricity to sell, that’s for sure. ”

This puts Helion in a race with Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a Boston-based MIT spinoff company that has raised $ 1.8 billion from investors such as Bill Gates and George Soros. CEO Bob Mumgaard says they will have a working reactor in 6 years. His optimism is bolstered by the Commonwealth’s successful summer test of new electromagnets designed with superconductors made from rare earth copper and barium oxide.

Mumgaard says these overpowered magnets will allow the Commonwealth to hone their somewhat more traditional fusion approach of building a donut-shaped “tokamak” reactor, which Mumgaard calls a “big magnetic bottle” where strong magnetic fields control balls of fire. 100 million degree plasma – “star stuff.”

There are around 150 tokamaks in the world; the biggest is under construction in France for 30 billion dollars by an international consortium called ITER. The 20,000-ton machine, the size of a basketball arena, is expected to be completed by 2035.

But Mumgaard intends for Commonwealth Fusion to obsolete ITER before it’s even finished. Its advantage lies in the application of “high temperature” superconductors made with rare earth copper and barium oxide (aka ReBCO).

Superconductors move electric current with almost zero loss (much more efficiently than copper, for example). And they are essential in the manufacture of strong electromagnets. Commonwealth has discovered that by making its magnets using a special tape of copper and barium oxide (like the tape found in a VHS tape), it can achieve stronger magnetic fields than expected at ITER. , but at 1 / 20th of the scale.

While ITER’s primary magnets (called solenoids) will weigh around 400 tonnes and achieve fields of over 12 tesla, Commonwealth is considering 15-tonne magnets, each using 300 km of ReBCO thin-film tape, which will generate 20 tesla (at for comparison, a magnetic resonance imaging machine is 1.5 tesla).

“This unlocks the fusion machine,” explains Mumgaard. CES tested the magnets last summer and declared it “proof” that the science of fusion is now practically over and all that remains is to build the reactor. “We understand the material well and believe we can do it in three years,” says Mumgaard. “By 2030, we will see the merger on the grid.”

CES is about to build its fusion machine at a 47-acre site in Massachusetts, and is already working to supply thousands of miles of ReBCO tape. Could the availability of rare earth become a limiting factor in the deployment of fusion? No, said Mumgaard. “A fusion power plant will contain less rare earth than a wind turbine. Fusion is not about a resource that you need to mine or pump. It is a technology.

There should be room for more than one merger winner. Other leaders include General Fusion, based in Canada and backed by Jeff Bezos, which has raised $ 130 million this year. Neal and Linden Blue are other notable billionaires in the fusion game, who own the San Diego-based company General Atomics, which for decades has operated a research tokamak on behalf of the DOE, and which delivered this year to ITER the entrails of its tokamak electromagnets. a central 1000 tonne solenoid. And there’s TAE Energy of California, which has experimented with $ 1 billion over the past decade and raised $ 130 million during the pandemic.

Fusion technology may have made its debut in government-funded labs, but its realization will have to rely on private funding. Amy Roma, a partner at Hogan Lovells in Washington, DC, says the bill currently in limbo Build Back Better would have included $ 875 million for advanced nuclear, but for now the industry will have to settle for a new advanced reactor demonstration office under the Ministry of Energy, funded by the recent infrastructure law. Zero-carbon nuclear would also benefit from President Biden’s recent executive order calling for federal government energy purchases to be “net zero” by 2030.

Legendary tech investor Steve Jurvetson, a Commonwealth Fusion funder who wrote his first check in favor of fusion research 25 years ago, is almost dazed that this long-delayed dream could soon become a reality. “There are a lot of naysayers until it’s done. Then they say it’s obvious.

Royan de Mithril says he’s already working on adjusting his framework to consider how different the world will be when the merger is real – “Think about the opportunities for water desalination and fertilizer production. saving water overnight, and therefore saving agriculture. “It is all part of mankind’s path, he said,” to continue to prove that Malthus was a fool. ”

MORE FORBESThe New Nuclear: How a $ 600 Million Fusion Power Unicorn Plans to Beat Solar
MORE FORBESThe silent billionaires behind the US predatory drone that killed Iranian Soleimani

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heat waves – in red and black | How can we keep half nuclear, half renewable? Sat, 01 Jan 2022 05:27:30 +0000 WILLIAM RAU No. Just as it was impossible to assemble an economy with a half-slave, half-free workforce, a half-nuclear and half-renewable energy house is also impossible. Nuclear power and renewable energy are irremediably incompatible. Yet the General Assembly and the Governor’s Clean Energy Jobs Act 2021 (CEJA) will attempt to build our future energy house […]]]>


No. Just as it was impossible to assemble an economy with a half-slave, half-free workforce, a half-nuclear and half-renewable energy house is also impossible. Nuclear power and renewable energy are irremediably incompatible. Yet the General Assembly and the Governor’s Clean Energy Jobs Act 2021 (CEJA) will attempt to build our future energy house with both. Wear a helmet and watch out for falling debris.

Renewable energy, particularly solar energy, is highly variable with large up and down fluctuations in energy production. To keep the lights on, solar power must be paired with enough distributable power to “go up” when the sun goes down and then “go down” when the sun rises. Gas plants are designed for these fast ramps. And the batteries are much better than gas picks.

Nuclear power is the least distributable source of energy. Nuclear reactors can be designed to scale up quickly – reactors on nuclear attack submarines, for example – but America’s commercial power reactors were built to run smoothly and always. Commercial reactors have 12 hours to go from a cold start to full power, and operators then want to keep it near that level. In contrast, it takes 5 minutes or less for the cold cranking gas spikes to reach full power, and less than a second for the batteries to do the same. Commercial nuclear weapons can operate with some ease of dispatch, but at additional operating and maintenance costs as well as an increased risk of operational errors. The increase in nuclear risk is unacceptable, and Exelon does not receive $ 3 billion in grants because their plants are agile champions of efficiency that can absorb the additional costs. Significantly increased shipping capacity is not part of the nuclear game plan.

Figure 1

However, fast shipping is exactly what the solar “duck curve” in Figure 1 requires. 2012 to 2020. CAISO has shown that the net load on the grid – the amount of electricity supplied by fossil and nuclear power plants – will increase from around 21,000 to 12,000 megawatts. Due to the huge drop in net load from noon 2012 to 2020, the shape of the net load resembles a large duck, its belly distended in 2020 the result of 10,000 megawatts of solar power replacing fossil nuclear power. .

This couldn’t happen because California had 15,000 megawatts of undistributable electricity that could not be turned off. CAISO would be forced to cut at least 3,000 megawatts of solar generation to avoid major reliability issues. (The green part of the duck curve represents megawatt hours of reduced solar power.) Then there would be a huge ramp of over 10,000 megawatts from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. when the sun went down and people went down. used energy at home. What could have happened in California by 2020 will happen before 2030 in Illinois under CEJA.

Solar was designed to follow fast-flying ducks, not waddle behind heavy nuclear turtles. Even so, Illinois politicians chained solar power to a sclerotic turtle. It won’t work. Next month, we’ll take a look at the renewable energy rampage by teaching the Illinois Duck how to fly.

The references

Burnett, Michael. 2016 (June 1). Energy storage and curve of the California duck. Stanford University;

CAISO. 2013. What the duck curve tells us about the management of a green network. California ISO;

Lazar, Jim. 2016 (February). Teach the “Duck” to fly. Second edition. Regulatory assistance project;

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Germany to disconnect 3 of its last 6 nuclear power plants Thu, 30 Dec 2021 14:30:58 +0000 Germany will disconnect three of its last six nuclear power plants on Friday, another step towards completing its nuclear power withdrawal as it focuses on renewables. The government decided to accelerate the phase-out of nuclear power following the meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima reactor in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the coastal power plant […]]]>

Germany will disconnect three of its last six nuclear power plants on Friday, another step towards completing its nuclear power withdrawal as it focuses on renewables.

The government decided to accelerate the phase-out of nuclear power following the meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima reactor in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the coastal power plant in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

The Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen C reactors, operated by utilities E.ON and RWE, will be closed on Friday after three and a half decades of operation.

The last three nuclear power plants – Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim II – will be closed by the end of 2022.

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The gradual elimination of energy considered clean and cheap by some is an irreversible step for Europe’s largest economy, faced with ambitious climate targets and rising electricity prices.

“For the energy sector in Germany, the exit from nuclear is final,” said Kerstin Andreae, president of the energy sector association BDEW.

The six nuclear power plants contributed around 12% of electricity generation in Germany in 2021, according to preliminary figures from BDEW. The share of renewables was almost 41 percent, with coal producing just under 28 percent and gas around 15 percent.

Germany aims to ensure that renewable energies meet 80% of electricity demand by 2030 through the expansion of wind and solar infrastructure.

The new government, which plans to step up efforts to protect the climate, has maintained the nuclear phase-out in its coalition agreement.

Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck said on Wednesday he did not see the anti-nuclear consensus weakening in Germany.

Environmental groups hailed the move but warned that 2022 was not the true end of Germany’s nuclear age.

“We have to say that there will always be uranium enrichment plants in Germany, like the one in Gronau,” Arne Fellermann, head of the environmental group BUND, told Reuters.

“There is also a research reactor at Garching which is still running on military grade uranium,” Fellermann added.

Asked about possible job losses, the mayor of Gundremmingen, Tobias Buehler, said plant workers would be busy dismantling the reactor after the shutdown.

“And that period of dismantling will certainly take another decade or two,” Buehler said.

The total dismantling cost is estimated by E.ON at 1.1 billion euros ($ 1.25 billion) per plant. In 2020, E.ON provided 9.4 billion euros for the nuclear post-operation phase, including the dismantling of the installation, conditioning and remediation of radioactive waste.

Decommissioning is expected to be completed by 2040.

The Japanese government on Tuesday drew up a plan to dump contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, angering neighboring China and South Korea.

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15 reactors are said to be in a war zone Tue, 28 Dec 2021 17:02:29 +0000 The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is in danger. Barcroft Media via Getty Images As Russia’s build-up on the Ukrainian border continues, few observers note that an invasion of Ukraine could put nuclear reactors at the forefront of the military conflict. The world underestimates the risk that large-scale, unrestricted conventional warfare could trigger catastrophic reactor failure, […]]]>

As Russia’s build-up on the Ukrainian border continues, few observers note that an invasion of Ukraine could put nuclear reactors at the forefront of the military conflict. The world underestimates the risk that large-scale, unrestricted conventional warfare could trigger catastrophic reactor failure, triggering an unprecedented regional nuclear emergency.

The threat is real. Ukraine is heavily dependent on nuclear power, maintains four nuclear power plants and manages the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear site. In a major war, all 15 reactors of Ukrainian nuclear power plants would be at risk, but even a rambling Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine is likely to expose at least six active reactors to the uncertainty of a combat environment. on the ground.

The world has little experience with reactors in a war zone. Since humanity first exploited the atom, the world has known only two “major” accidents: Chernobyl and the Fukushima disaster in Japan. A Russian invasion, coupled with a protracted conventional war across Ukraine, could trigger multiple International Atomic Energy Agency “level 7” accidents within days. Such an eventuality would cause a mass exodus of refugees and could render much of Ukraine uninhabitable for decades.

Turning Ukraine into a dystopian landscape, riddled with radioactive exclusion zones, would be an extreme method of obtaining the defensive zone that Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to want. Dealing with a massive West-focused migration crisis and cleaning up the environment would absorb Europe for years. The work would distract from European leaders and empower nativist governments that tend to be aligned with Russia’s lowest interests, giving Russia excessive leeway as the country is on the verge of exhaustion. technological, demographic and financial.

Frankly speaking, the integrity of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors is a strategic issue, critical for both NATO and non-member countries. To cause a serious radiological accident for strategic purposes is unacceptable. A deliberate worsening of an emerging nuclear disaster – preventing mitigation measures or allowing reactors to deliberately melt down and potentially contaminate large areas of Europe – would simply be nuclear war without bombs.

Such a scenario cannot be ruled out. Russia has repeatedly used Ukraine to test “gray zone” war concepts, where an attacker dances just beyond the threshold of open conflict. Given Russia’s apparent interest in nuclear-powered, radiation-spitting cruise missiles, robotic underwater bombs with a payload geared towards radiological fallout, destructive anti-satellite testing, and other nihilistic and harmful weapons in the world, the ongoing rapprochement of Russia with the war of the “gray zone” in Ukraine may, for the rest of Europe, become a real question of estimating radiological “gray” say an estimate of the amount of ionizing radiation absorbed by humans.

When war comes to Zaporizhzhia

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant poses a particular risk. It is the second nuclear power plant in Europe (mainly linked to a French reactor complex near Calais) and one of the 10 largest nuclear power plants in the world. The site is poorly protected and the six VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors could easily be involved in a Russian invasion.

If war breaks out, the fight will be near. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is located just 120 miles from the current “front line” in the Donbass region and sits on the eastern bank of the Dnieper, which is difficult to defend. Geographical hazards aside, the power plant supplies about a quarter of Ukraine’s total electrical energy. Given the importance of electricity, plant managers will be reluctant to shut it down, securing reactors only at the very last second possible. Ukraine’s desperate need for energy only increases the risk of accidents.

Apart from direct combat damage, cybercrimes and other Russian-origin “gray zone” misdeeds could make the plant unmanageable even before the battle arrives at the reactor gates.

Although unlikely, direct bombardment could cause severe damage to reactor containment structures. While the reactor structures themselves are solid, the war at the plant could kill key personnel and destroy command and control structures, surveillance sensors, or critical reactor cooling infrastructure. And, as a functioning plant, reactors are not the only threat. Hazardous used fuel rods are found in vulnerable cooling basins, while older fuel is found in the 167 dry used fuel assemblies at the site.

If the reactors suffer from operating anomalies, crisis management will not take place. The supporting infrastructure necessary for the safe management of reactors will collapse during the conflict. Factory security forces will disappear, operators will flee and, in the event of an accident, mitigation will be impossible.

It seems unlikely that Russia has mobilized trained reactor operators and prepared reactor crisis management teams to take over the “liberated” power plants. The heroic measures that prevented the Chernobyl nuclear accident and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan from becoming much more damaging events simply will not happen in a war zone.

Again, the risks are very high. The world has never faced an unmanaged fusion in a large nuclear power plant. The very real prospect of a protracted and unmitigated incident at a six-reactor power plant in a war zone deserves urgent and immediate consultations across Europe and NATO.

What happens in Zaporizhzhia will not stay there

Nuclear disasters are seldom localized events. When Chernobyl happened, Putin had a job with the KGB in East Germany. He must certainly be remembered that the crash released a stew of dangerous radioactive contaminants into the air, spreading contamination – and fear – across Europe. A dangerous contaminant, cesium-137, has spread thousands of kilometers, although most “fell” from the atmosphere within 200 miles of the affected plant, creating large “no-go” zones in the area. regions of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

It would be the same for Zaporizhzhia. If the reactors are damaged in late December or early January, the prevailing winds come from Siberia, and weather conditions are expected to push dangerous levels of cesium-137 and other contaminants directly west. The fallout will contaminate Ukraine’s main waterway, Europe’s breadbasket, and potentially, depending on the types of contamination and weather conditions, compromise drinking water supplies throughout Europe. Of course, nature is an inconstant partner, and if Putin’s invaders trigger an uncontrollable collapse, the winter winds will change, pushing radiation back to the Donbass region and Russia.

Tactically, the radioactive plumes would scare away almost any nearby civilians, degrading Ukrainian defensive efforts. The fallout could even force the shutdown of all three reactors at South Ukraine’s nuclear power plant, just 160 miles downwind, further weakening Ukraine’s electricity supply and defenses.

Nuclear conflict in the gray zone can happen

The world has never known a war threatening active nuclear infrastructures, and world leaders may underestimate the danger that conventional war poses to these powerful and perilous assets.

On the other hand, reckless ‘gray area’ war providers may themselves underestimate the risk, too eager to determine how degraded nuclear infrastructure could serve as a ‘less risky’ substitute for nuclear conflict. .

For them, it is not a nuclear war, but just a series of unfortunate nuclear accidents.

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Canada’s first new nuclear reactor in decades is American designed. Will this prompt a rethinking of government support? Sun, 26 Dec 2021 19:42:29 +0000 A visitor to the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ont., Looks at the grounds of the facility during a visit in February 2016.Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail Ontario Power Generation’s selection of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to help build a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) at its Darlington Generating Station in Clarington, Ontario, […]]]>

A visitor to the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ont., Looks at the grounds of the facility during a visit in February 2016.Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

Ontario Power Generation’s selection of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to help build a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) at its Darlington Generating Station in Clarington, Ontario, sparked events that could shape Canada’s nuclear industry for decades to come. .

OPG’s choice, announced in December, is the BWRX-300. It is a light water reactor, the most popular variety in developed countries, and very different from the current fleet of Canadian reactors. CANDU heavy water reactors. While it’s not exactly small – the BWRX’s 300-megawatt rated capacity roughly equates to that of a large wind farm – it would only produce a third of the amount of electricity as traditional reactors. It would use different fuel, produce different waste, and possibly have different safety implications.

The Darlington SMR would be the first BWRX-300 ever built. By acting first, OPG hopes Ontario will fit into a global supply chain for these reactors.

“OPG ourselves, we’re really not getting anything out of it – it’s a lot of work,” said Robin Manley, OPG’s vice president of nuclear development. “Our goal is to have as many contracts signed with Canadian suppliers as possible. But that might not satisfy some critics, who protested OPG’s selection of an American design by North Carolina-based GE Hitachi.

This seems to confirm the end of the Canadian tradition of local reactors. The BWRX-300 would be the first new Canadian reactor since Unit 4 at Darlington, Ontario, completed in 1993. According to Mycle Schneider Consulting, the average age of the country’s 19 operational reactors is 38 years. Attempts to update the CANDU design were largely unsuccessful; OPG and Bruce Power have chosen to refurbish the reactors at Darlington and Bruce power plants to operate them for a few more decades, while considering RMPs as a possible next course of action.

Hurry up. This decade is widely seen as crucial for building emission-free production capacity. SMRs will be late to this party even if this BWRX-300 is built on time. Delays and cost overruns, ubiquitous risks with any reactor, could kill its prospects.

The partnership with OPG represents a major blow for GE Hitachi, an American-Japanese alliance which established its SMR subsidiary in Canada less than a year ago. There are at least 50 SMR models in the world, but most exist only on paper; suppliers compete vigorously to sell to experienced nuclear operators like OPG because they represent an opportunity to build a good faith reactor that could attract other customers. For the same reason, OPG’s decision is a blow to the losing candidates, Terrestrial Energy Inc. of Oakville, Ont., And X-energy, a US supplier.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm among nuclear reactor designers, developers and national laboratories, as well as university nuclear engineering departments” about SMRs, said Edwin Lyman, director of energy safety nuclear to the Union of Concerned Scientists, which released a report on SMR reactor designs in early 2021. “There is a lot of supply but not a lot of demand because utilities don’t want be guinea pigs. “

Nuclear industry leaders and government officials hope the Darlington SMR will be the first in a long series to be deployed in Ontario and beyond. SaskPower also shops; he’s been working with OPG since 2017 and has said the BWRX-300 is one of his candidates. Canada has a small population, so observers doubt the country can support supply chains for multiple reactor designs.

But OPG’s selection of an American SMR drew strong criticism. Some observers have speculated that Terrestrial has an advantage in its territory, especially in light of the federal government’s decision to invest $ 20 million in its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR). The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, a union representing engineers and others working on CANDU reactors, complained that “priority should have been given to Canadian design.”

“It’s a slap in the face for Terrestrial,” said MV Ramana, professor at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. “This is not a good sign for the Canadian nuclear industry.

Prof Ramana added that OPG’s move could prompt a rethinking of government support for SMR developers. In addition to funding from Terrestrial, Moltex Energy received $ 50.5 million from the Federal Strategic Innovation Fund and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to advance the stable salt-waste burner reactor on which it works in New Brunswick. ARC Clean Energy received $ 20 million from the Government of New Brunswick for its ARC-100 reactor.

“If these companies fail to convince OPG, maybe we should stop funding them,” he said.

But observers have said that of the three candidates publicly announced by OPG, GE Hitachi was the conservative choice. While most SMR vendors are startups that have yet to build a single reactor, GE Hitachi has been in the business since the mid-1950s. The BWRX-300 is touted as the 10th generation of the reactor design. light water company.

“I would bet the money that was the deciding factor,” Mr. Lyman said. “Its supply chain is probably better established than these other designs which have very little or no operating experience and which are associated with many other unknowns.”

Other experts have come to similar conclusions. Tractebel, an engineering company that has worked on nuclear projects in 20 countries, evaluated dozens of SMR designs for Estonia a few years ago. The BWRX-300 made its shortlist, promoted as just “proven technology”. (Terrestrial also scored high, but Tractebel concluded that molten salt reactors such as its IMSR are more distant.)

Unlike CANDU reactors, which consume unenriched uranium, light water reactors require enriched fuel to increase the uranium 235 content. Mr. Lyman said that by adopting a design other than CANDU, Canada will become dependent. enriched fuel imported from the United States, Europe or elsewhere.

Industry should also learn how to dispose of unknown waste. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which is in the final stages of selecting an underground storage site for Canada’s used radioactive fuel, said used BWRX-300 fuel would generate more heat and radioactivity than CANDU fuel, but could be stored in fewer containers. , placed further.

“We will learn from our international partners who already have plans to permanently store this type of waste in a deep geological repository,” the NWMO said in a statement.

All of this assumes that the OPG reactor is built. For starters, the BWRX-300 is actually not allowed to be built anywhere. GE Hitachi is participating in the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Supplier Design Review, receiving initial feedback from the regulator on its reactor. Completion of this process would confirm that the CNSC has not found any features that are outside of Canadian requirements.

After that, GE Hitachi would need a build Licence. Like other SMR suppliers, GE Hitachi presents its SMR as including “passive” safety features, which means that in the event of an accident, the plant would have enough water and electricity to operate without intervention for a period of time. days, even weeks. A safer reactor might also be a cheaper reactor: for example, the SMR might require less containment than traditional designs, and therefore less concrete. GE Hitachi claims BWRX-300 occupies less than 10 percent the volume of its predecessor. But the CNSC would first have to agree that the reactor did earn inferior guarantees.

“It’s pretty early in the licensing process,” said Manley. “As an operator, we are very confident that we can license this reactor.”

But critics say completing the reactor by 2028 is a tall order. According to Mycle Schneider Consulting, one in eight reactors that have started construction since 1951 has never been connected to the grid. Many survivors, meanwhile, arrived years later than promised.

Mr Manley said 2028 is “an ambitious goal” rather than a hard deadline. The project schedule will strengthen over the next two years.

OPG has yet to release a cost estimate, but according to a report released by PwC, Project SMR “is expected to spend $ 2 billion over seven years.” That’s already higher than GE Hitachi’s promised $ 1 billion price tag for a BWRX-300 in 2019. (In public presentations, GE executives said keeping the price below $ 1 billion US was crucial to its plans for exponential customer growth.)

Even so, Mr. Manley said OPG’s intention is for PMS to be competitive with other clean energy options.

Prof Ramana said escalating costs are almost inevitable. The AP1000 reactor, a Westinghouse pressurized water reactor which produces 1,110 megawatts, was originally supposed to cost $ 2 billion. But the price of Vogtle’s two-unit plant in Georgia was estimated at US $ 14 billion, and then topped US $ 30 billion. Westinghouse marketing materials pointed out that the reactor had been significantly simplified, making it less expensive to build, operate and maintain.

“Historically, supplier estimates have always been well, well below what the actual costs are going to be,” Professor Ramana said. “I don’t think there is any reason to expect it to be any different.”

Mr Manley acknowledged that over the past two decades large nuclear power plants “have been challenged to get on time and on budget”. But that’s one of the reasons OPG decided to build an SMR. They “are less costly in capital, simpler, smaller and therefore faster and easier to build,” he said.

It also won’t be the first time OPG has managed a complex and high-risk capital project. The company says the $ 12.8 billion renovation of its now half-completed Darlington station is on time and on budget. This experience has shown that “when we take the time to plan the job correctly, we are able to come up with a good estimate and a good schedule that we are able to stick to,” said Mr. Manley.

Interested in more stories about climate change? Subscribe to Globe Climate Newsletter and read the rest of our series on innovation and adaptation to climate change.

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What the United States could learn from China’s nuclear power expansion Fri, 24 Dec 2021 13:00:00 +0000 One of the world’s great powers is making significant progress towards carbon neutrality. It is not the United States. Like many countries, China is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2060. contrary to many countries, he’s actually doing something to make it happen. This is not a reference to its commitment to stop funding […]]]>

One of the world’s great powers is making significant progress towards carbon neutrality. It is not the United States.

Like many countries, China is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2060. contrary to many countries, he’s actually doing something to make it happen. This is not a reference to its commitment to stop funding coal-fired power plants abroad, nor to its continued expansion of wind and solar power. China’s progress comes in the form of 150 new nuclear reactors, which it plans to build over the next 15 years.

The mere mention of nuclear power is enough to make some wince. There is a strong perception that these plants are dangerous and devastate the local environment. Yet nuclear power is clean, reliable and safe. The traumatic images of nuclear fusions like those at Chernobyl and Fukushima cloud the statistics: coal kills around 350 times more people per terrawatt produced than nuclear.

China’s nuclear power expansion will be the largest in world history, but its merits are beyond mere scope. The country is also a pioneer in the use of “generation 4” reactors, which promise to be safer and more efficient. One of these designs is known as a “pebble bed reactor,” where atomic fuel is enclosed in graphite beads that can withstand more heat than nuclear fission can generate. These pebble bed reactors would be incapable of merging. China on Tuesday became the first country in the world to connect a Generation 4 PBR to the grid. Another is under construction.

The United States and Europe were once enthusiastic about nuclear power, which promised to produce energy “too cheap to be measured.” New plant development peaked in the 1970s, but the collapse of the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979 soured enthusiasm. Seven years later, the Chernobyl incident in the Soviet Union killed him entirely. Two decades later, as governments rethought their aversion to nuclear power, Fukushima in 2011 has acted like a nail in the coffin.

Since Fukushima, however, climate change has altered the equations by which we calculate the merit of nuclear power. The world must significantly increase its electricity production, but it can no longer count on the polluting means to which it has long been accustomed. Solar and wind power are important parts of a carbon neutral future, but there is a fierce debate as to whether they will be enough on their own. As a result, acceptance of nuclear power has increased, with a May study reporting that 76 percent of Americans favor atomic power, the highest percentage since pre-Fukushima.

“If you want to decarbonize the global energy system, you will need a lot of energy, a lot more than we have,” said Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force. “We [support] nuclear at the bend of a bend. It’s not as if we are for nuclear, we are for “anything that can solve the climate problem”.

China’s nuclear expansion is a double opportunity. The People’s Republic emits nearly a third of the world’s carbon and burns six times more coal than the United States. If nuclear power can reduce these emissions, the entire planet will benefit. An even better scenario would be for China to develop cheap and safe reactors that can be built around the world. Many governments make big claims about reducing carbon, but few have charted the way to actually get it. Switching to nuclear will help.

China does not come out of 2021 in a positive light. In addition to the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party has this year embarked on a Big Tech crackdown and gave a questionable example of dealing with COVID. But on the subject of nuclear power, at least it looks like China has something to learn from the United States.

The United States, for its part, has taken the opposite route. In April, the Indian Point power plant in New York City saw its last reactor shut down. California plans to shut down two reactors in 2025 that generate 15% of its electricity without carbon. Less nuclear does not necessarily mean more solar or wind power, as environmentalists hope, but rather more natural gas. New York’s gas consumption was 30% higher in November compared to the same month last year, according to S&P research, with the closure of the Indian Point plant being a major cause.

PG & E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in Avila Beach, Calif., In 2012.

Bloomberg / CNET

The great costs of nuclear power

The public’s association between nuclear energy and calamity is one of the reasons atomic energy has languished in the West. The other key issue is cost. Nuclear power plants were once relatively affordable to build, but many argue they are prohibitive. The price tag for two overdue reactors under construction in Georgia appears to exceed $ 27 billion.

It doesn’t have to be that way, says Jacopo Buongiorno, professor of nuclear science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He points out many reasons why costs have inflated. First, giant infrastructure projects of all kinds have seen more delays and cost increases in the West, not just nuclear power plants. Second, the United States and much of Europe took a 20-year nuclear hiatus after Chernobyl. The know-how and efficiency of nuclear construction was lost during this period.

Then there are simple organizational flaws.

“In Asia, the company that designs the plant is often the same company that builds and then operates the plant,” he said. “In the United States, we’ve seen the tech companies that create the blueprints for the components and modules toss them over the fence to another company who then has to build them. “

“If the two sides haven’t spoken to each other from the very beginning, there is no guarantee that what has been designed will actually be constructible.”

Nuclear power in the United States has a specific challenge that other industries do not face: the complex web of regulations that has been woven in the years since Chernobyl. China’s method of nuclear expansion is similar to the one proven in France in the 1970s: design a few plants, then build a lot. Meanwhile, different states in the United States have different safety requirements, making it difficult for any company to standardize the design.

“Nuclear needs to be heavily regulated, but it is regulated inefficiently,” Cohen said. “Is it really plausible that we have 27 models in the world? ”

He sees the aviation industry as an example of how to streamline. Companies like Boeing and Airbus only have a handful of aircraft designs. This makes serial production easier, but it also simplifies problem solving. It’s easier to understand why 1,000 planes have the same problem than it is to solve 20 different problems in 20 different designs.

“If China can bring a cheaper unit to the world, just like they brought cheap solar panels, then launch it,” he said.

photo-pebble in hand

The isotropic tristructural fuel, or TRISO, with particles for the design of the nuclear power plant of X Energy.

X Energy

Green future

China’s nuclear ambitions do not stop at its own borders. One of President Xi Jinping’s flagship projects is the Belt and Road Initiative, which sees China building bridges, airports and other infrastructure across the developing world. If China can manufacture efficient reactors at competitive prices, they can be exported across Africa and energy-intensive countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. A senior Chinese Communist Party official said he hoped China would build 30 reactors overseas by the end of the decade.

“China has already announced that it is not going to make any investments in coal overseas, so the next phase of the infrastructure will be nuclear,” said Sha Yu, associate researcher at the Center for Global Sustainability. Yu expects nuclear’s place in China’s energy mix to expand dramatically over the next three decades, from around 4% today to between 15 and 25% by around 2050.

Such advances could prompt the United States to revitalize its interest in atomic energy. Several companies already have new generation nuclear power plants in development. X-Energy has a pebble bed reactor that it hopes will be operational by 2027, and TerraPower, backed by Bill Gates, is progressing towards fusion-proof reactors that operate from of depleted nuclear fuel. NuScale reached an agreement last month to build a small modular reactor in Romania.

The question is to what extent these activities will be supported by the government. There are signs of life. President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill will see just under $ 10 billion spent on nuclear projects, of which $ 3.2 billion will go to developing Generation 4 technology. More was to come in. Biden’s Build Back Better legislation, though the future of that bill is now uncertain.

“The Biden administration’s plan is to have a carbon-free grid by 2030. It’s a huge challenge, and the resources that are currently being discussed are not up to its magnitude,” said Buongiorno of the MIT.

“It’s a fantastic start, but we’re going to need a lot more.”

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