Homepage Forums Policy Earthquake v. Powerplants

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  • #9774
    AvatarIvy Matt
    Participant

    Henning wrote: It’s a chance, not a detriment.

    I think it could be either. Or neither. In my opinion, the main thing this situation has to do with nuclear fusion is that it’s a rather dramatic demonstration of what happens (and doesn’t happen) when you turn “off” a nuclear fission reactor, especially when the cooling system fails. One might be inclined to think that, because fusion requires ridiculously high temperatures (or kinetic energy of particles), that it’s even more dangerous than fission, and that a hypothetical fusion reactor will take longer to reach a safe state after shutdown than a fission reactor would. This event could be a chance if it helps more people to comprehend phrases like “critical mass”, “fissile material”, and “chain reaction”, and to understand why they don’t apply to nuclear fusion.

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    #9775
    Avatarjamesr
    Member

    The proposed new build in the UK by EDF and Horizon (aka EON/RWE) will have no government subsidy, and will have all the eventual decommissioning costs paid for upfront by putting aside money from each kWh into a separate fund. Any yet they are still the most cost effective large scale sources of power.

    Both the EPR and AP1000 PWR designs have passive cooling systems and so need no power after shutdown, and have much stronger containment structures. and human proof safety systems – ie if a terrorist, or even a knowledgeable disgruntled worker, took an axe to the plant and started hacking away at things it would still be safe.

    We need new fission plants now, and for at least 50years. It would be great if Focus Fusion works, but in the mean time we need to stick to technology that works. Regular tokamak or inertial fusion is at least that far away that a new generation of fission plants can have a full (ie long enough to payback capital investment) life.

    #9776
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    zapkitty wrote: Errrr…. you seem to be assuming that those threatened by the technology will be deterred by a masterful display of the facts which will also convince the honest skeptics.

    What happens when instead they play to the worst fears of the anti-nukes and have them amplify those fears to the public with a half-billion dollar campaign against the radioactive poison-spewing monsters that those terrorist-enabling crazies want to install in every neighborhood and contaminate the houses for thousands of years?

    The oligarchs don’t have too strong a connection to reality at best and are not shy about callously jettisoning it entirely where profits are involved.

    Oh, I see, you want an area to persuade skeptics of the merits of aneutronic fusion, rather than a space for them to take shots. I was confused because I figured they will be able to take shots no matter what.

    I think we have to get it to work first before worrying about skeptics. Also that those threatened by the technology won’t be able to do much fear amplification. Right now as noted elsewhere, pro fission forces will be going into overdrive to show how safe fission is becoming. If they’re successful, fusion can then be seen as a superior upgrade getting rid of any remaining vestiges of disreputability.

    And ultimately the facts and growing experience will speak for themselves. Consumer demand trumps all.

    #9777
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    benf wrote: Maybe out of all of this the trend toward pragmatism will come back in vogue. Everyone is becoming educated to the relative risks of all of the energy technologies and fusion will look like another reasonable way out, including being profitable. I’m sure the Japanese people would much prefer the news to have gone like this: “Tsunami submerges fusion electric generator facilities. Electricity transmission went off line for a few hours. There has been no detectable radiation increase above normal background levels. Power has now been restored at the facilities to provide assistance and aid to the casualties of the Tsunami and in the cleanup…” “Fusion torches will be employed to salvage and reclaim the large numbers of destroyed ships, structures and transport vehicles to help contain the costs of the catastrophe…”

    Thanks for the quotable visualization!

    #9778
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    Ivy Matt wrote: In my opinion, the main thing this situation has to do with nuclear fusion is that it’s a rather dramatic demonstration of what happens (and doesn’t happen) when you turn “off” a nuclear fission reactor, especially when the cooling system fails. One might be inclined to think that, because fusion requires ridiculously high temperatures (or kinetic energy of particles), that it’s even more dangerous than fission, and that a hypothetical fusion reactor will take longer to reach a safe state after shutdown than a fission reactor would.

    Yes, do we have a description of what would happen to various fusion reactors upon shut down? Shutting down will simply stop the fusion, but it would be nice to have links to authoritative articles about this. Consider that many people have seen “Spider Man II” and that fusion mini-sun was growing out of control until doused by being submerged in water and Doc Ock’s redemptive sacrifice. A fun movie, but the misconceptions are out there.

    This event could be a chance if it helps more people to comprehend phrases like “critical mass”, “fissile material”, and “chain reaction”, and to understand why they don’t apply to nuclear fusion.

    Opportunities for education abound.

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    Are you morsing me?

    #9779
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    jamesr wrote: The proposed new build in the UK by EDF and Horizon (aka EON/RWE) will have no government subsidy, and will have all the eventual decommissioning costs paid for upfront by putting aside money from each kWh into a separate fund. Any yet they are still the most cost effective large scale sources of power.

    Both the EPR and AP1000 PWR designs have passive cooling systems and so need no power after shutdown, and have much stronger containment structures. and human proof safety systems – ie if a terrorist, or even a knowledgeable disgruntled worker, took an axe to the plant and started hacking away at things it would still be safe.

    Sounds great! Do you have links to this? What’s the time scale on this, and does it mean that the other plants have to retrofit? Also, how does this compare to the thorium reactors and other fission advancements proposed? I’d love to play up the fission race as well.

    We need new fission plants now, and for at least 50years. It would be great if Focus Fusion works, but in the mean time we need to stick to technology that works. Regular tokamak or inertial fusion is at least that far away that a new generation of fission plants can have a full (ie long enough to payback capital investment) life.

    The problem is that the Energy industry is happy to stick with things that work and does not aggressively pursue research into new frontiers. A different meaning of “inertial”. More energy spent defending the status quo is less energy spent pushing for research. We can’t be satisfied or complacent here. We need to demand more options and stand for a pro-research ethic.

    #9780
    Avatarjamesr
    Member

    Reports on the EPR and AP1000 can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/newreactors/reports.htm These are part step 3 of the generic design assessment (GDA)

    The final part (step 4) is almost complete. This article puts the EPR slightly ahead http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?sc=2059059

    Hopefully since these plans are so far down the road, the events in Japan will not stall proceedings too much.

    #9781
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    Thanks!

    So they’re OK with earthquakes and disgruntled employees with hammers. What is their stand on proliferation risks? Per ASP paper:

    The second, and very strong, reason for rapid action is based on a recent analysis from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory of the consequences of increasing dependence on traditional nuclear power on worldwide stocks of plutonium. Increasing energy demand, and the relative cheapness of nuclear power, even compared to coal, will drive nations toward uranium and fission. Experience shows that countries with such reactors will tend toward reprocessing fuel and purifying plutonium. According to the report, a ten-year delay in commercialization of fusion power, from first implementation in the 2030s to the 2040s, would result in the additional world-wide availability of from 800,000 to 4,000,000 kilograms of plutonium by the year 2100. Just 8 Kg is enough to make a bomb. “Leakage” of just one one-hundredth of one percent of this plutonium will create an unacceptable added risk of nuclear terrorism. The major implications for national security need no emphasis.

    #9782
    Avatarjamesr
    Member

    My take on proliferation has always been that if any organisation (state, terrorist group etc) has the resources to handle spent nuclear fuel and reprocess it into a bomb, or even just handle it and package the waste into a dirty bomb, without killing themselves in the process. Probably has the resources to build a reactor buried in a mountain and do it themselves from scratch without having to steal it.

    #9783
    AvatarTulse
    Participant

    jamesr wrote: My take on proliferation has always been that if any organisation (state, terrorist group etc) has the resources to handle spent nuclear fuel and reprocess it into a bomb, or even just handle it and package the waste into a dirty bomb, without killing themselves in the process. Probably has the resources to build a reactor buried in a mountain and do it themselves from scratch without having to steal it.

    That’s probably true for building an actual nuke, but dirty bombs are very easy to make, and if you’re not worried about eventually dying from radiation poisoning, the handling techniques don’t even need to be very fancy. A very small group of relatively non-technical people could slap one together from the appropriate materials (which are basically a van full of fertilizer and fuel oil surrounded by some spent rods), much more easily than such a group could build a reactor to breed the radioactive material.

    #9784
    Avatarrashidas
    Participant

    Death Knell for the Nuclear Power Industry:

    The recent disaster in Japan will be very bad for the nuclear power industry around the world. Just as Chernobyl did 25 years ago, this disaster will brand fission power as dangerous and unreliable in the public mind, regardless of the efforts of the nuclear industry to explain it away. I doubt that any banks, insurance companies or other financial institutions will support building more nuclear power plants. Only centralized autocratic governments like China can continue to build them, and public opinion will be against it in any populated area.

    This disaster will also be bad for aneutronic fusion, as fusion (which to the ignorant public sounds like fission) will be tarred with the same brush. This will make fund raising for fusion research even more difficult than before the disaster.

    #9785
    Avatarjamesr
    Member

    Tulse wrote:
    That’s probably true for building an actual nuke, but dirty bombs are very easy to make, and if you’re not worried about eventually dying from radiation poisoning, the handling techniques don’t even need to be very fancy. A very small group of relatively non-technical people could slap one together from the appropriate materials (which are basically a van full of fertilizer and fuel oil surrounded by some spent rods), much more easily than such a group could build a reactor to breed the radioactive material.

    Spent fuel is SO radioactive that it cannot be transported without heavy specialized shielding. Even if a terrorist got into a facility housing spent fuel, or hijacked a train/boat transporting it they would not be able take it out storage, or if it is already packaged up to open the container and get more than 100m without keeling over dead. At this level of exposure you die withing minutes not days/weeks, so even if you’re prepared to die you can’t get as far as making a bomb out of it.

    So short of strapping enough explosive to blow a whole reinforced transport container into order to disperse the contents, high level waste is not that much risk for dirty bombs.

    The main risk for dirty bombs as I see it is raw uranium, unused fuel, and radioisotopes prepared for medical uses. ie. stuff that is safe to handle as long as it isn’t ingested or inhaled, and is transported all over the place without much security.

    #9786
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    jamesr wrote:

    That’s probably true for building an actual nuke, but dirty bombs are very easy to make, and if you’re not worried about eventually dying from radiation poisoning, the handling techniques don’t even need to be very fancy.

    The main risk for dirty bombs as I see it is raw uranium, unused fuel, and radioisotopes prepared for medical uses. ie. stuff that is safe to handle as long as it isn’t ingested or inhaled, and is transported all over the place without much security.

    Guys, could we stop short of giving directions on how to make a dirty bomb on this forum? That would be nice.

    #9787
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    rashidas wrote: Death Knell for the Nuclear Power Industry:

    The recent disaster in Japan will be very bad for the nuclear power industry around the world. Just as Chernobyl did 25 years ago, this disaster will brand fission power as dangerous and unreliable in the public mind…

    This is mostly because people calculate risk as a function of actual risk multiplied by outrage.

    Perceived Risk = (Actual Risk)*(outrage)

    Take being killed by toxins while working in energy when the energy is coal, vs. nuclear. The death toll is much higher, and quite horrible with coal, but we’re used to it. Nuclear energy, is nuclear! And even one extra cancer is unacceptable.

    It seems they still have a chance to contain this. Some amazingly brave people are working on it. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42101198/ns/world_news-asia-pacific/ As long as they can contain this it’s not that bad. Impressive even, considering it was an 8.9 quake and a tsunami.

    Ah, some numbers. Compare: Even without unprecedented global geo-catastrophes to trigger them, coal mines routinely kill and poison a lot of people. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_mining#Safety Over 6000 miners in one year in China. 10,000 new cases of black lung every year in China, 4000 in the US. Over 100,000 people have died in America from coal mining since that industry started (average of 1000 a year. Much less recently). I don’t think the history of nuclear energy has anywhere near that many deaths or cancers behind it. Re Chernobyl:

    # Two Chernobyl plant workers died on the night of the accident, and a further 28 people died within a few weeks as a result of acute radiation poisoning.
    # UNSCEAR says that apart from increased thyroid cancers, “there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident.”

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/chernobyl/inf07.html

    Nuclear energy is a pretty useful thing. Nuclear weapons, in contrast…We spend hundreds of billions nursing those weapons so that one day we can rain down destruction. The outrage against nuclear energy might really be misplaced frustration about weapons.

    #9788
    AvatarTulse
    Participant

    Rezwan wrote: Guys, could we stop short of giving directions on how to make a dirty bomb on this forum? That would be nice.

    Sorry, Rezwan. (Although, in all fairness, I initially learned the basics of dirty bomb design from 24 and Castle, so I doubt this forum is providing any new info not available from broadcast television and Google.)

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