Perhaps we should reconsider and Revisit Nuclear Power Plants to Meet our Energy Needs ?

Pyan

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France has 70% of its electricity generated by nuclear reactors, plan to reduce this to 50% by 2035, and have never had a major leakage, accident or meltdown. Just saying...

And everyone seems to classify Three Mile Island as a disaster, even though there were no deaths, no injuries and no discernable long-term issues arising from it.

Lessons From the 1979 Accident at Three Mile Island
 
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AllanR

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My message is simple, the nuclear industry has to clean everything up 100 percent or they don't get to do anything.
I grew up by a creek that was laden with PCBs. After a generation the city tried to clean it up, dredged the creek and stored the earth for years. Forward fifteen years and PCBs are leaching back to the surface (they would have had to dredge far far deeper). Brain cancer is common in my old neighbourhood as children played in the creek and people watered the gardens from it.

So should I say, the electronics industry has to clean up everything 100 percent or they don't get to do anything?
 

Venusian Broon

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Secondly, Uranium is a finite limited resource which has already been very successfully mined. Nuclear power can only ever by a stop-gap solution to our need for power generation. At the moment other power sources are only science fiction. There could be Thorium reactors. They were never developed because they don't make weapons grade Plutonium as a waste product.

I see China are going ahead with thorium and having completed, well ahead of schedule (makes a change in this field!), a prototype 2MW reactor. An upgraded commerical version with an 100MW output is apparently due to be constructed by 2030,

As for waste... I'm a simple man... dig a real big hole... *shrug* problem solved.

Well, I'm very glad you ain't in charge.
 

Dave

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Well, I'm very glad you ain't in charge
LOL
The technology for dealing with radioactive waste already exists. Vitrification is an example...

Vitrification and burying deep in geologically inactive areas appears to be a good solution and I've no doubt that nuclear safety and waste management have improved and will continue to do so, however, there are two things that can never be avoided, and those are "Time" and "human stupidity".

To start with, considering the very long length of time, can we be sure any place in geologically inactive?

Just as context, there is at least one hazardous waste site in the UK that is on the coast and is being eroded by the sea, with asbestos falling out of bags onto the beach. There are many others, from before waterproof seals were legally required in landfills, that are leaching poisonous chemicals into aquifers and nearby watercourses. I've just worked on a fly tipping project - the people who fly tip have absolutely no consideration for safety, for the law, or even for other humans other than themselves, they just want to save some money whatever that takes.

Now one would hope that where low level nuclear waste was concerned, more responsible people would be involved in it's disposal and the planning of waste sites would consider the long length of time they will exist, and still be dangerous. However, my point is that they are still run and designed by people, and people have a habit of making mistakes. Sellafield has had a terrible history of water leaks into the sea, and of lies and cover-ups, that mean that the public now do not believe what they are told anymore. And building a nuclear reactor on the west coast of Japan and thinking that it would never be hit by a tsunami? Seriously?

I think there is a lack of consideration of the very, very long timescales these waste facilities need to operate, and some idea that people will always follow rules, will never cut corners to save money, and will always have the best interests of others foremost in their minds. That's quite a big ask!
 

Venusian Broon

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As somebody who spent 32 years working in the nuclear industry, I think my position is obvious. The problem is that most folk don’t understand base load energy supply (the reason why when there is no wind, waves or sunlight you can still turn on the lights etc. at three in the morning. The other thing that people don’t take into account is the finite resources or particular metals needed for solar panels or that wind turbines have a lifespan of around 25 years. They can be recycled but the turbine blades are dumped as waste. Solar panels are around 40 years. We’re building hundreds of wind turbines and solar panels now and we’ll need to start all over in a quarter of a century.

Yes but then Nuclear reactors - which are vast pieces of kit - also have lifespans. For example, I believe that a lot of the current ones facing decomission in the UK had built-in lifespans of ~35 years. And yes, I understand that their lifespans can be extended - with I assume further big investment and better technology. But if a site is decommisioned can you use it for anything else? So both are comparable to a degree.

What I think is missing also is the demand side - we should be trying to cut down our use from the grid so that we don't need vast numbers of fission reactors. Better insulation and double glazing, ground source heat pumps, clever ways to get cooling in warm temperatures, good design of electronic equipment to be more energy efficient etc.

Of course we are facing a massive increase in grid use in the coming decades when we move from petrol/diesel cars to electric, but that's path we're going to have to do.
 

Chris 1978

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On some gusty days in May this year the UK received over 60% of its electricity from the wind. That statistic really blew me away!
 

Foxbat

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But if a site is decommisioned can you use it for anything else? So both are comparable to a degree.
A nuclear site will not be delicensed until the ONR (UK nuclear regulator) is convinced that there is no longer a hazard from ionising radiation. After delicensing, the land should be available for other use.

An article on end of life management at Harwell (part of which will be developed into Harwell International Business centre).
 

Vladd67

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If Invented a time machine, I would go forward in time to see what the winning number for the next lottery jackpot is going to be. ;)
I seem to remember that being tried in the series 7 days, the atmospheric disturbances caused by the time machine changed the result of the sporting event bet on.
 

Elckerlyc

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Interesting discussion. And Nuclear Energy might be necessary to fulfill our needs. On the long run.

However, considering the number of downsides and technological problems that needs to be answered (see this thread) before Nuclear Plants can be put forward as a serious solution to our energy needs, it will be 10 - 15 years before Nuclear Plants can even make a small begin with replacing fossil-fueled energy. Building nuclear plants take a lot of time and money. You can spend your money only once, so no budget to explore, examine or build other, alternative, energy sources. All this means a delay of about 10 - 15 years (per plant), while we need to seriously fight CO2 emissions now.
Does the answer really lie in technological solutions? Development of new technologies takes time and a lot of money, while the problem grows and grows. It has been mentioned that (the intention) to seek the solution in technology is a subtle way of procrastination, to evade acting now.
Perhaps, for the here and now, the answer is not new energy sources but the self-restraint to limit our consumption of energy. That boundless, uncompromising consumption lies at the heart of our problem.
If you live in a low lying country, as I do, the next 10 -15 years of our worldwide combined effort to reduce CO2 emissions could very well mean whether those low lying countries will remain habitable due to rising sea-levels.
 

Robert Zwilling

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I have no doubt more plants will be built without anyone paying for the past damage done. I don't like to brag, but 3 Mile Island was an American built reactor and operated as it was supposed to. The two sites in my state were cleaned up, they dug down below ground level and carted away a lot of dirt. The area is ready for any kind of development, including farming or restoration to a natural state. I wonder how long it has to sit there before people don't mind living on an old nuclear power plant site.

Because there is no national nuclear waste depository, the nuclear waste, contained in 43 steel-reinforced concrete casks hold all the fuel the plant used over the years of its operation, and some radioactive reactor parts is still there on the property. The casks can withstand extreme weather and they’re safe enough to walk up to and touch, but the material isn’t supposed to still be here. There is no national depository to hold the waste even though all the commercial plants were built with the provision that the government would take in all the nuclear waste after the plants were decommissioned. Farther north, at another decommissioned plant, it cost 10 million a year to guard the nuclear waste that was never taken off the property. Can't find what it cost to guard the waste here. The total bill for the government not taking the waste from all the decommissioned or soon to be is guessed to be 23 to 50 billion, but no idea how long a time period that covers. It does not cover damage due to weather related incidents. I use weather related the same way the news uses the term gang related.

Because the plants were not run as a manufacturing site, waste materials were not dumped into the ground. But all around the rest of the state, the military and industrial manufacturing, which made the state rich (the plants are now gone and so is the money) dumped an incredible amount of material into the ground, all of which is slowly moving down as huge plumes into the underground water supplies. The nuclear weapon production sites also have the same problem. Probably the only place that practice worked was at Los Alamos, which is in the middle of a desert. The Hanford Plant which manufactured weapons grade material, in Washington, has a large underground plume that has been mapped and it's progress charted to show it is heading for the Columbia River. A very big river. It was built in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project and closed after the end of the cold war. The site is now the US most costliest environmental clean up site.

Bill Gates, of microsoft fame, is bankrolling various projects, including a 345 megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with molten salt-based energy storage that could boost the system's power output to 500 MW during peak power demand. The expected cost is 1 billion dollars. The nuclear reactors are called Natrium reactors. Supposedly they generate less waste (maybe cause they are smaller?), but the waste is said to be more radioactive than conventional waste. The first plant would be built in Wyoming, a state that is loaded with petroleum, uranium, and a lot of coal, and is looking to be the leader in future energy development. They already are generating a lot of power from alternative sources. They are also heavily invested in making Wyoming the home of crypto currency.
 

Mon0Zer0

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France has 70% of its electricity generated by nuclear reactors, plan to reduce this to 50% by 2035, and have never had a major leakage, accident or meltdown. Just saying...

And everyone seems to classify Three Mile Island as a disaster, even though there were no deaths, no injuries and no discernable long-term issues arising from it.

Lessons From the 1979 Accident at Three Mile Island

Take this with a pinch of salt, but I met a guy at a convention who claimed he had just finished working for a company involved with disposal of nuclear waste from french reactors, and he said they had completed an inspection of barrels of waste that were stored in the bowels of the earth and many of the seals were now rotting away. They hadn't yet had a leak, but that he was deeply concerned that they would eventually rupture and the waste eventually find its way into the water table.

The future of reactors seems to be Thorium molten salt. China is heavily investing in these at the moment. They're supposed to be cleaner and not susceptible to meltdowns, so much safer.

 

Robert Zwilling

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The waste disposal is the main problem with nuclear power. Not accidents or malfunctions, just all that waste piling up all over the world.

Trying to barrel anything up will eventually corrode over a long period of time and radioactivity only speeds up the process. All the reactors in the various US states were built with the provision that the federal government would take the nuclear waste off each site. That never happened as envisioned, the waste is scattered around the country and is left on site in many locations. The low grade waste can be disposed of. Embedding nuclear fuel rods and hot accessories in a big block of something, would probably require some pretty big blocks of something. Another problem is that once the original container becomes defective, the original material needs to be pried out of the corroded container and now there are two piles of radioactive waste. Or the original waste and the container container are treated as a single item and now a bigger item has to be encased in something even bigger.

Government space programs are getting more industrious again, and private industry is stepping in to help lift the heavy loads or do it all. It wouldn't be far fetched to imagine private industry deciding to deal with the waste themselves. Shipping it out into space was extraordinarily expensive, though probably the cost was worth it considering the long term costs. The price of space cargo is getting cheaper which means the radioactive waste might end up in space, or even on the moon. It's tempting to ship it into the sun, but it might burn up before it got inside the sun, and the blowback might ride the solar wind stream back out past Earth.
 

Parson

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The waste disposal is the main problem with nuclear power.
But that's one of the reasons fusion is so potentially game changing. Nuclear fusion reactors produce no high activity, long-lived nuclear waste. The activation of components in a fusion reactor is low enough for the materials to be recycled or reused within 100 years.
 

Vertigo

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Battery technology is advancing very quickly and some people believe we can have huge storage batteries. I'm sceptical.
There is a local active planning application for a battery storage plant near me which is up for approval right now. So someone believes the technology is up to it right now and is prepared to invest a lot of money in a major project.

These can be discontinuous. i.e. say a city has millions of idle electric cars all charged and plugged in (sitting at work garages or homes....most cars are not in use at any given time). A grid could take from this battery (a fraction from each) to meet spike demand and then refresh the batteries once the demand lowers.
The problem with this is that there must a mechanism in place to compensate the car owners. Sure the power taken is 'replaced' but all batteries can only run a limited number of charge cycles so doing this will degrade the expected lifetime of those car batteries.

But that's one of the reasons fusion is so potentially game changing. Nuclear fusion reactors produce no high activity, long-lived nuclear waste. The activation of components in a fusion reactor is low enough for the materials to be recycled or reused within 100 years.
On top of that I believe there is no risk of runaway reactions as in fission power plants. The worst that can happen, I believe, is containment failure and then the superheated plasma could, potentially, do a lot of local destruction but without any contamination.
 

.matthew.

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I consider it a colossal waste of money to invest in green energy and batteries right now. Let other countries shoulder that expense then pick up the tech once it's matured and dropped in price.

Take wind farms, we've got plenty around the UK but there are still developments being made like banks of smaller ones that appear to be more efficient, more reliable, much cheaper, and easier to repair. What a waste of money the biguns were :)

Same for battery technology. Using Lithium-Ion for large scale storage is inefficient and will need to be completely replaced after a relatively short time period.
 

Parson

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@.matthew. --- I don't know where you come from, but if it is from one of the Western Democracies, the question is -- Who better than us to shoulder a large part of the developmental cost? I believe this is an "all-hands-on-deck" moment and everything needs to be done.
 

.matthew.

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@Parson Literally anybody else. Remember that the west pays a premium on literally everything we buy, and these technologies would also arguably produce better results in less developed regions that are currently expanding their power grids with coal and gas. Plus it's logistically easier to build from a standing start than it is to shoehorn in all these technologies onto an established grid.

On top of this, the west would be far better off planning for the effects of climate change rather than trying to prevent it, which quite clearly isn't an achievable goal. In all seriousness, the reductions we'd have to make to even slow it down would require that every person on Earth matches the carbon footprint of the average Indian.

Additionally, while the west may be 'prosperous' there's a staggering amount of debt to deal with and the money would be better spent on dealing with problems we face right now.
 

Parson

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Can't say I agree with much of the above and I won't argue further or we might stray into politics. Suffice it to say that governmental debt is not the same thing as individual debt because no country I know of is on "gold standard" economy. All monetary exchange is based on assumed value rather than "real" value. We can spend whatever money people/politics deem necessary to do until that assumed value changes.
 

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