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US Nuclear Reactors Among The Oldest In The World

US Nuclear Reactors Among The Oldest In The World

The United States’ 92 nuclear reactors currently in operation have a mean age of 41.6 years, the third oldest in the world.

As Statista’s Katharina Buchholz reports, the only nuclear fleets that are older are those of Switzerland (46.3 years) and Belgium (42.3 years). Also older are the singular reactors in use in Armenia and the Netherlands.

Infographic: U.S. Nuclear Reactors Among The Oldest In The World | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

The U.S. was among the first commercial adopters of nuclear energy in the 1950s, explaining the number of aging reactors today. A building boom between the 1960s and 1970s created today’s nuclear power plants in the United States. The five reactors completed in the 1990s and the one finished in 2016 were all holdovers of delayed construction projects from the 1970s experiencing roadblocks due to regulatory problems and mounting opposition to nuclear energy. The most recent construction start date of a completed U.S. reactor today is 1978 – one year before the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, which further cemented the public’s rejection of nuclear energy and the challenges of updating nuclear reactor infrastructure today. However, two reactors started at Vogtle power plant in Georgia in 2013 will join the grid soon as the newest additions to the U.S. fleet. They too experienced many regulatory and other delays, culminating in the bankruptcy of the reactor construction company. The U.S. government stepped in with a loan so that the project can now be finished almost 17 years after its initial proposal.

The U.S. today is one of only 15 countries which the World Nuclear Industry Status Report lists as actively pursuing nuclear energy. This includes new nuclear programs in the United Arab Emirates, Belarus and Iran that were started in the past decade only, as well as a younger program in China that started producing power in 1991 and today has a mean reactor fleet age of just nine years…

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11 years later, fate of Fukushima reactor cleanup uncertain

Tanks storing treated radioactive water after it was used to cool the melted fuel are seen at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), in Okuma town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, March 3, 2022. The government has announced plans to release the water after treatment and dilution to well below the legally releasable levels through a planned undersea tunnel at a site about 1 kilometer offshore.  (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)
Tanks storing treated radioactive water after it was used to cool the melted fuel are seen at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), in Okuma town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, March 3, 2022. The government has announced plans to release the water after treatment and dilution to well below the legally releasable levels through a planned undersea tunnel at a site about 1 kilometer offshore. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

OKUMA, Japan (AP) — Eleven years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was ravaged by a meltdown following a massive earthquake and tsunami, the plant now looks like a sprawling construction site. Most of the radioactive debris blasted by the hydrogen explosions has been cleared and the torn buildings have been fixed.

During a recent visit by journalists from The Associated Press to see firsthand the cleanup of one of the world’s worst nuclear meltdowns, helmeted men wore regular work clothes and surgical masks, instead of previously required hazmat coveralls and full-face masks, as they dug near a recently reinforced oceanside seawall.

Workers were preparing for the planned construction of an Olympic pool-sized shaft for use in a highly controversial plan set to begin in the spring of 2023 to gradually get rid of treated radioactive water — now exceeding 1.3 million tons stored in 1,000 tanks — so officials can make room for other facilities needed for the plant’s decommissioning.

Despite the progress, massive amounts of radioactive melted fuel remain inside of the reactors. There’s worry about the fuel because so much about its condition is still unknown, even to officials in charge of the cleanup.

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‘Serious’ incident at Finnish nuclear power plant under control

The nuclear power plants in Olkiluoto are located in south-western Finland.
The nuclear power plants in Olkiluoto are located in south-western Finland.   –   Copyright  JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP

Authorities have stated there is no danger after a “serious” incident was reported at a nuclear power station in Finland.

The incident occurred in reactor 2 of the Olkiluoto power station, in the southwest of the country at 12.22 local time (11:22 CET).

But the Finnish nuclear safety authority (STUK) later confirmed that the situation was stable and the reactor had been shut down.

“A severe abnormal disturbance occurred at the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant unit 2,” STUK said in a statement.

“The disturbance was possibly caused by a fault in the purification system for the reactor water… there was no radioactive release to the environment.

STUK added there was no need for protective measures and they did not expect any danger outside the unit. No workers or personnel had been exposed to radiation or injured in the incident.

“STUK started the emergency activities immediately in full force due to exceptionally high radiation levels inside the unit,” said director general Petteri Tiippana.

“There are about 80 persons following the situation, but we do not see an acute threat.”

About a third of Finland’s electricity comes from nuclear power, with four reactors in operation and two under construction.

Europe’s Nuclear & Hydropower Falter With Droughts

Europe’s Nuclear & Hydropower Falter With Droughts

As Europe looks to secure alternative energy sources to Russian gas in light of the war in UkraineStatista’s Anna Fleck warnsa new threat to energy security is stirring, this time from droughts.

The droughts hitting Europe are impacting everything from food to transportation to the environment.

In Italy, the River Po has fallen two meters below its normal levels, seeing rice paddy fields dry out. Meanwhile, Germany’s River Rhine has become so shallow that cargo vessels can’t pass through it fully loaded, pushing up shipping costs, and France’s Tille River, in the Burgundy region, is now a dried up bed covered in thousands of dead fish.

But Europe’s energy production has also been impacted. As Statista’s chart below shows, hydroelectric power has fallen some 20 percent since 2021. This partly comes down to the fact reservoirs have been drying up in countries such as Italy, Serbia, Montenegro and Norway. The latter, according to Bloomberg, usually a major hydroproducer, is even taking the steps to reduce exports in order to prioritize refilling its reservoir’s low water levels so the country can maintain domestic production.

Infographic: Europe’s Nuclear & Hydropower Falter With Droughts | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

Nuclear power too has fallen since 2021. One reason for this is that France has had to shut down several of its nuclear power plants because the rivers Rhone and the Garonne have been too warm to be able to cool down its reactors. France is 70 percent dependent on nuclear energy and is a key exporter of electricity, usually supplying Italy, Germany and the UK. It’s important to note here however, that other problems are troubling France’s nuclear fleet too. A significant number of the country’s power plants have had to be powered down recently due to malfunctions and maintenance issues, which had been delayed because of the pandemic. These combined reasons mean, according to Wired, that the country’s hydropower output is down nearly 50 percent.

Green technocracy’s dirty secret

Green technocracy’s dirty secret

Germany is in trouble.  The IMF has revised its projected growth figures down to just 1.2 percent for 2022.  Even this may prove to be optimistic now that gas imports from Russia have dropped to just 20 percent of what was anticipated prior to the EU sanctions.  With autumn approaching, German industry is anticipating power outages while the population looks forward to food and energy shortages.

The cuts in gas supplies – resulting, apparently, from Canada refusing to return essential turbines following repair – mean that Germany has no chance of building up its gas storage before winter arrives.  And, of course, it is possible that the Russian state will use this moment of weakness to cut supplies even further.  After all, most of the future gas which would have gone to Europe has since been sold to Asian states instead.

Inevitably then, German – and western – media outlets will spend much of the winter talking about “Putin’s energy cuts.”  In reality, it is the European technocracy and its puppet politicians who bear the greater responsibility.  After all, it is they who have spent the last three decades leaving Europe vulnerable to precisely this kind of supply shock.  As Lea Booth at Quillette argues:

“The truth is that the Energiewende was doomed to fail from the start. Germany bet big on solar and wind and shut down their nuclear plants when they should have forgone renewables and expanded their nuclear energy program instead. Germany’s anti-nuclear ideology is so rigid that they closed three nuclear plants in December 2021, despite the global energy crisis, and plan to close their last three nuclear plants this December, despite Russia’s energy extortion.

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Bill Gates’ dumbest idea ever

A legendary nuclear whistleblower’s open letter to Bill Gates over his new love of nuclear power.

Dear Mr. Gates,

I am writing this letter to you because I believe you have crossed the line by leveraging your fortune to maneuver state governments and, indeed, the U.S. Government to siphon precious taxpayer funds supporting your latest atomic contrivance in Wyoming. Of course, how you spend your fortune is your decision.

Recently, the media and governors in western states have become enthralled by you and your team at Natrium to build a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a so-called molten salt-based energy storage system. As a result, you are now asking state and national governments for billions of dollars to bankroll a “fast reactor” concept cooled by liquid sodium.

Your latest “brainchild” ignores 70 years of liquid-sodium-based nuclear failure.

I question your zeal to leverage that fortune by securing additional public funds for an unproductive techno-solution that claims to solve the climate crisis! Your latest technofix will not mitigate the climate crisis.

The fuel is made only in Russia 

On the contrary, Mr. Gates, the marketing hype associated with your latest “brainchild” ignores more than 70 years of failures using liquid-sodium-based atomic reactor coolant. It may also unleash a new era of unproductive nuclear spending, increase the risk of nuclear proliferation and put America at risk of becoming dependent on Russia to fuel the reactor. Currently, Russia is the only country in the world that can fabricate this odd high-enrichment fuel. Therefore, your design, if ever built, would make these reactors beholding to Russia for their peculiar fuel unless taxpayers subsidize another massive investment in fuel fabrication facilities. More significantly, the special fuel the Natrium reactor uses is only one-half of one percent below bomb-grade and is called High-Assay Low-Enrichment Uranium, or HALEU…

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France Sees Nuclear Energy Output Plummet At The Worst Possible Moment

France Sees Nuclear Energy Output Plummet At The Worst Possible Moment

  • France, the European Union’s leader in nuclear energy, is seeing a massive decline in output.
  • Though it has been relatively unfazed by the bloc’s ongoing energy crisis, declining nuclear production could pose a significant problem in the coming months.
  • The collapse of French nuclear power generation and Putin’s retaliatory cutback on energy exports to Europe could be disastrous for the continent.

France has long been one of the world’s greatest champions of nuclear energy. France leads the European Union in nuclear production, with the most productive reactors in the bloc, and relies on nuclear power for a larger share of its energy mix than any other country in the world. It makes sense that France should lead the charge for nuclear energy development as they have long been the global poster child for safe and reliable nuclear energy – until now.

A recent flurry of unexpected issues at the Électricité de France (EDF), the state nuclear power operator representing the largest nuclear fleet in Europe, has caused French nuclear energy output to tumble to its lowest levels in 30 years. Around half of the EDF’s massive nuclear fleet has been taken offline, delivering a massive blow to the EU’s energy independence and security in the midst of a worldwide energy crisis.

France has become increasingly reliant on nuclear power in recent years. French President Emmanuel Macron has given nuclear energy an even bigger boost in his time in office. Indeed, in February, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he announced a  €52 billion plan to revitalize the country’s “nuclear adventure.” He has also fought for the inclusion of the emissions-free power source as a “green investment” in the nomenclature of the European Union as the continent moves toward establishing its green energy budget for the coming years.

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Nuclear waste from small modular reactors

Nuclear waste from small modular reactors

Significance

Small modular reactors (SMRs), proposed as the future of nuclear energy, have purported cost and safety advantages over existing gigawatt-scale light water reactors (LWRs). However, few studies have assessed the implications of SMRs for the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. The low-, intermediate-, and high-level waste stream characterization presented here reveals that SMRs will produce more voluminous and chemically/physically reactive waste than LWRs, which will impact options for the management and disposal of this waste. Although the analysis focuses on only three of dozens of proposed SMR designs, the intrinsically higher neutron leakage associated with SMRs suggests that most designs are inferior to LWRs with respect to the generation, management, and final disposal of key radionuclides in nuclear waste.
Abstract

Small modular reactors (SMRs; i.e., nuclear reactors that produce <300 MWelec each) have garnered attention because of claims of inherent safety features and reduced cost. However, remarkably few studies have analyzed the management and disposal of their nuclear waste streams. Here, we compare three distinct SMR designs to an 1,100-MWelec pressurized water reactor in terms of the energy-equivalent volume, (radio-)chemistry, decay heat, and fissile isotope composition of (notional) high-, intermediate-, and low-level waste streams. Results reveal that water-, molten salt–, and sodium-cooled SMR designs will increase the volume of nuclear waste in need of management and disposal by factors of 2 to 30. The excess waste volume is attributed to the use of neutron reflectors and/or of chemically reactive fuels and coolants in SMR designs. That said, volume is not the most important evaluation metric; rather, geologic repository performance is driven by the decay heat power and the (radio-)chemistry of spent nuclear fuel, for which SMRs provide no benefit…

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Wide Awake

Wide Awake

Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.” – Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan was a brilliant scientist, gifted orator, skilled teacher, and effective advocate for his strongly held beliefs. It is no exaggeration to say that Sagan is likely responsible for inspiring more people to pursue a career in the sciences than any other person in history. His 13-part television documentary Cosmos: A Personal Journey – which first premiered on PBS in 1980 and is still stunningly well-worth watching to this day – is widely regarded as one of the best science-themed series ever produced. Sagan knew how to turn a phrase to enchant an audience and routinely did so with a level of passion and charisma that cannot be faked.

In the climactic final episode of Cosmos titled Who Speaks for Earth? Sagan makes an impassioned plea for nuclear de-escalation. The first nine minutes of the piece are particularly spellbinding, and the introduction draws to a close with Sagan walking along a rocky shoreline where he delivers a historic monologue (emphasis added throughout):

The civilization now in jeopardy is all humanity. As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and sky. In our tenure on this planet, we have accumulated dangerous, evolutionary baggage – propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders, all of which puts our survival in some doubt. We have also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience, and a great, soaring passionate intelligence – the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity.

Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet earth. But up and in the cosmos, an inescapable perspective awaits. National boundaries are not evidenced when we view the earth from space…

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Nuclear Power Is No Solution For the World’s Energy Problems

Nuclear power is no solution to the world’s energy problems. Not even close.

It’s important for electric power but electric power is not even 40% of the world’s energy supply—nor is it expected to increase much over the next 30 years.

IEA projects that nuclear power will account for only 5.5% of world energy supply in 2050 (Figure 1). That’s an increase of only 0.5% from 2020.

Figure 1. IEA most-likely scenario is for nuclear to account for 5.5% of world energy supply in 2050—an increase of 0.5% from 2020. Source: IEA & Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

Nuclear power has limited application beyond electric power generation and some heating capability. Yet the outlook is not much better for nuclear to increase as a major source of electric power either. IEA’s most-likely scenario is for nuclear to account for only 12.5% of electric power supply in 2050 (Figure 2).

Figure 2. IEA most-likely scenario is for nuclear to account for 12.5% of electric power supply in 2050. Source: IEA & Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

Electric power currently accounts for about 39% of world energy supply (Figure 3). IEA estimates that it will only increase to about 41% by 2050.

Figure 3. Electric power will increase from 39% to 41% of world energy supply by 2050. Source: IEA & Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2021 is largely in agreement with IEA’s assessment of both electric and nuclear power. Unlike IEA, however, EIA provides data to account for the considerable energy losses during power generation, transmission and distribution. The losses amounted to 64% in 2020 (Table 1).

Table 1. EIA electric and nuclear net power to the electric grid and energy losses. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

When losses are included, net electric power to the grid is expected to increase from 19% in 2020 to 28% in 2050 (Figure 4) instead of 41% in IEA’s evaluation shown above in Figure 3.

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France to build up to 14 new nuclear reactors by 2050, says Macron

French president says ‘renaissance’ of atomic energy industry will help end country’s reliance on fossil fuels

Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron made his announcement during an visit to the eastern industrial town of Belfort. Photograph: Jean-François Badias/AFP/Getty Images
Emmanuel Macron has announced a “renaissance” for the French nuclear industry with a vast programme to build as many as 14 new reactors, arguing that it would help end the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and make France carbon neutral by 2050.

“What our country needs … is the rebirth of France’s nuclear industry,” Macron said in a speech in the eastern industrial town of Belfort, in which he lauded the country’s technological prowess.

The centrist French president, who is expected to announce his campaign for re-election this month, is conscious of a growing debate about energy ahead of this spring’s presidential vote as costs to consumers rise. Environmental issues are also a growing concern among French voters.

Atomic energy provides about 70% of French electricity, and low-cost nuclear power has been a mainstay of the French economy since the 1970s, but recent attempts to build new-generation reactors to replace older models have become mired in cost overruns and delays.

Presidential candidates on the right have supported more nuclear power plants saying France should have “sovereignty” over its electricity, while detractors on the left have warned of the cost and complexity of building new reactors. Environmentalists have raised safety concerns over radioactive waste that remains deadly for tens of thousands of years.

Macron said French nuclear regulators were “unequalled” in their rigour and professionalism and that the decision to build new nuclear power plants was a “choice of progress, a choice of confidence in science and technology”.

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Canada’s offshore wind resources are huge

Nuclear energy is not the solution to achieving Canada’s emission reduction targets. Offshore wind power is safer, less costly, and carries none of the risks of nuclear technology.

Canada’s offshore wind could deliver more energy than nuclear power. The aging CANDU nuclear reactors are being refurbished at substantial cost in an effort to keep them up and running for a few more years. But this is only a stopgap measure.

The six reactors at Pickering will be shut down before 2024; the reactors at Bruce, Darlington and Lepreau will continue to generate power for perhaps a decade or so; but the era of power generation from the CANDU reactors in Canada is drawing to a close.

Canada has committed to reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 40 to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The federal government has made it clear that it considers nuclear power essential for meeting these goals. In 2020, minister Seamus O’Regan, at that time the minister of natural resources in the federal government, stated in a keynote address to the Canadian Nuclear Association, “Our government understands the importance of nuclear energy in meeting our climate change goals…We are placing nuclear energy front and centre.”

But the nuclear technology the federal government is pinning its hopes on is not the CANDU design. The concept now being strongly promoted by the government is small modular reactors (SMRs). An action plan has been launched; the obligatory roadmap has been drafted and published.

At the present time, this action plan is more wishful thinking than a realistic scenario. No prototype SMR has been constructed; the final design has not even been selected from the ten technical proposals currently under consideration. The government’s claim that SMRs will help Canada meet its 2030 emission reduction targets is simply not credible.

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Germany closes half its remaining nuclear power plants

Germany closes half its remaining nuclear power plants

The shutdowns of three plants take place as Europe faces one of its worst-ever energy crises and as support for nuclear as a low carbon energy is, once again, on the rise.

Germany's Grohnde nuclear power plantThe Grohnde nuclear power plant is one of three being shut down on Friday

Germany is to shut down three nuclear power plants on Friday, as part of the country’s phase-out of nuclear energy.

The closures take place as Europe faces one of its worst-ever energy crises and as nuclear power is, once again, gaining support as it produces significantly less carbon dioxide.

The plants in Brokdorf in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, Grohnde in Lower Saxony and Unit C at Gundremmingen in Bavaria in the south are being taken off the grid.

The decommissioning process will take two decades and cost €1.1 billion ($1.25 billion) per plant.

Germany: The end of nuclear power plants

Where does this leave nuclear in Germany?

This means that in 2022, Germany will have just three nuclear power plants — in the states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony.

They are due to cease production in exactly a year’s time, cutting nuclear energy output by around four gigawatts — equivalent to the power produced by 1,000 wind turbines.

However, two plants that produce fuel and fuel elements for export may continue to operate.

The closures will officially end the nuclear phase-out for domestic energy production started under former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel’s government made the decision in 2011 after the accident at the Fukushima atomic power plant in Japan.

An earthquake and tsunami destroyed the coastal plant in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

Germany's Brokdorf nuclear power plantThe Brokdorf plant is one of three nuclear power stations in Germany being shut down on New Year’s Eve

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Germany “Imperils” Power Grid By Pulling Plug On 3 Nuclear Plants

Germany “Imperils” Power Grid By Pulling Plug On 3 Nuclear Plants

As nat gas prices surge in Europe, Germany is kicking off the new year by moving ahead with plans to shutter three of its six remaining nuclear power plants, making good on a commitment made in the aftermath of Japan’s disastrous meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The decision was championed especially vigorously by the Greens, who are now helping to rule as part of Germany’s new “stop sign” ruling coalition. But soaring natural gas prices across Europe mean this concession to the environmental lobby couldn’t come at a worse time.

Above: One of the shuttered plants, located in Gundremmingen. Source: Reuters

It’s a decision that could have consequences for the US. As we have complained before, the AOC-backed “Green New Deal” mostly excluded nuclear, by far the most efficient and useful alternative to fossil fuels, instead choosing to rely solely on inadequate “renewables”. And as Reuters adds in its report, Germany’s decision to pull the plug represent an “irreversible” pivot away from an energy source deemed “clean and cheap by some.”

Here’s more from Reuters:

Germany has pulled the plug on three of its last six nuclear power stations as it moves towards completing its withdrawal from nuclear power as it turns its focus to renewables.

The government decided to speed up the phasing out of nuclear power following Japan’s Fukushima reactor meltdown in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the coastal plant in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The reactors of Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen C, run by utilities E.ON and RWE shut down late on Friday after three and half decades in operation.

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New England is an Energy Crisis Waiting to Happen

New England is an Energy Crisis Waiting to Happen

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” – Carl Reiner

At its core, the human body is a symphony of chemical reactions. The complexities and interdependencies of the molecular machinery that makes our bodies function are almost too staggering to ponder. As any chemist can attest, chemical reactions are usually quite sensitive to temperature, and sensitivity to temperature varies substantially across reaction pathways. As such, temperature control not only dictates reaction rates, but it also influences product and byproduct distributions. At one temperature, two reagents might react cleanly to produce a desired product with high purity. At a different temperature, an undesirable pathway might become more kinetically favored, leading to the accumulation of unwanted impurities.

One of the miracles of the body is its ability to maintain strict internal temperature control, which allows it to regulate the speed and product distributions of the myriad of chemical reactions that are occurring inside you as you read this. The equilibria are delicate, so much so that fluctuations of a mere few degrees can be fatal. This concept of “normal” body temperature is widely understood, but its direct, vital connection to the core chemical reactions occurring inside you is less well known.

Because internal temperature is critical to sustaining life, the body has developed elaborate heat management systems, including discomfort nudges (like shivering and sweating) that are meant to directly generate or shed heat and motivate you to relocate to a more suitable environment. If you stand outside for a few minutes in the winter wearing nothing but shorts and a t-shirt, you become uncomfortable rather quickly. Return inside to a warm fire and a rewarding comfort envelops you. Just don’t get too close to the fire, lest the body be forced to nudge you back outside.

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