June 21, 2011
Small Nuclear Reactor Site Planned
Small nuclear reactors might be the ticket to restarting growth of the US nuclear power industry.
This week the Tennessee Valley Authority signed a letter of intent with nuclear-reactor maker Babcock & Wilcox to work together to build up to six small reactors near Clinch River, Tennessee. If the plan goes ahead, these could be the first small modular commercial nuclear power plants.
Babcock & Wilcox has a long history of making nuclear reactors for US Navy ships. This gives them an advantage in the small nuclear reactor market. Whether this advantage can translate into a competitive product remains to be seen. In theory small reactors can be made in a manufacturing plant that can reach much higher levels of productivity than a construction site for a big nuke could hope to achieve.
Babcock & Wilcox isn't the only company trying to compete in the new market for small reactors. NuScale is touting a small reactor design that uses passive cooling. So a loss of power to cooling pumps as happened at Fukushima would not cause a problem for a NuScale reactor as it doesn't use those pumps in the first place.
Smaller nukes can be built underground and can cool down faster. But smaller nukes have downsides. For example, as nukes scale up in size they need less material per unit of output and the cost of a large nuke's security force is spread out over a larger revenue flow from electric power generator. However, faster time to market and other advantages of smaller nukes still might make them competitive.
"and the cost of a large nuke's security force is spread out over a larger revenue flow from electric power generator"
Which simply suggests siting *farms* of small nukes together, so they can share the same security perimeter.
However, 'if the plan goes ahead'; Don't they still have to get NRC approval? That's kind of a problem when the NRC sees it's job as killing off the nuclear industry.
The Navy has such a great safety record with nukes because the Captain of the ship will get the same radiation dose as the nuke worker. So long as CEO's have the company Lear Jet on standy at an upwind airport, nukes are just big expensive budget cuts waiting to happen. I am more concerned with securing the nukes from the accountants than from other forms of terrorism.
For physical security, just locate the small nukes inside prisons. You have in place security and a built in "volunteer" work force to pour water on meltdown should the unthinkable happen.
Small nukes can also be built in a factory, instead of being on-site one-off craft projects. With considerable cost savings. As Brett points out, a facility just has "farms" of then, as many as needed to achieve the desired capacity. And the first ones can come on-line before the last are done, easing the financing issues.
Keep them away from rivers. And oceans. And terrorists.
"As record floodwaters along the Missouri River drench homes and businesses, concerns have grown about keeping a couple of notable structures dry: two riverside nuclear power plants in Nebraska."
"There are two nuclear power plants now surrounded by sand bags that are not showing up in local Omaha news.
The most haunting line I found comes from the updated Omaha Power, intended for employees, but not articulated as such in the warning: "For health and safety reasons, all individuals are cautioned to avoid contact with any flood water.”
"Snippets from the handful of reputable sources reporting let us know that...
"The river is expected to rise as much as 5 to 7 feet above flood stage in much of Nebraska and Iowa and as much as 10 feet over flood stage in parts of Missouri. The corps predicts the river will remain that high until at least August."
"Top Ft. Calhoun nuke plant official: To get to a disaster level floodwater would have to rise 3.5 feet above current levels — No one has a model of what river is going to do, says NWS hydrologist""
The soviets built a portable nuke gen on a truck. That would be very useful in an emergency situation and would not be vulnerable to flooding, tsunamis, etc - just pack up and drive away.
If I could, I'd put a small modular gen under my backyard and sell power to the neighborhood. Yeah, it would be a full time job to maintain and secure, but I wouldn't need to go to work anymore!
Also the lead-bismuth reactors are supposed to be very safe and self-contained:
And another area of R&D is how to design a reactor so that it will burn a high percentage of the spent fuel as its own fuel.
" just pack up and drive away"
I think that violates the "keep them away from terrorists rule" if a car thief can steal a nuke.
Since 1971 Canada has small nuclear reactors called Slowpoke. Some of them sit in university campuses.
Avoiding flood waters is standard advice due to the likelihood of water-borne pathogens such as hepatitis and cholera.
Google earthquakes and Bangla Desh for horrific aftermath of flooding.
Whatever happened to these guys from Los Alamos? - seemed like they had some attention for a while...
Small(size of a refrigerator), completely sealed (and intended to be buried)so pretty safe and easily guarded. Good for 10 years then dig them and send them back for a rebuild. Not suitable everywhere but seems like they could be useful...
"A fire in Nebraska's Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant briefly knocked out the cooling process for spent nuclear fuel rods, ProPublica reports.
The fire occurred on June 7th, and knocked out cooling for approximately 90 minutes. After 88 hours, the cooling pool would boil dry and highly radioactive materials would be exposed.
On June 6th, the Federal Administration Aviation (FAA) issued a directive banning aircraft from entering the airspace within a two-mile radius of the plant.
"No pilots may operate an aircraft in the areas covered by this NOTAM," referring to the "notice to airmen," effective immediately."
I still don't get why no one is seriously pushing thorium reactors.
The mega costs of large scale utility reactors is exactly one of the problems with nuclear power today. We are much better off achieving a good design that can be produced in a factory and shipped to a site. Every large scale nuclear reactor is built by hand on site. But worse, the project has to have funding that cannot yield a return to the shareholders of the utility until it is entirely complete, and the bigger the project, the more cost is implied by the delay in completion. A project that uses a half-dozen smaller modular reactors has far less risk than one that uses a single big reactor. And, if the project makes the provision for it, the first reactor could be producing power before the second reactor was installed.
Above all, we should immediately put a priority on reactor designs that are "walk-away-safe". These designs do not need ongoing power to sustain a shutdown. While we should not fixate on solving the failure that gave us the last disaster, the basic problem of current reactors in use is that they can only sustain a certain level of failure, beyond which the safety systems will fail. We have no excuse to continue down this design path. And we have no excuse for keeping spent fuel in the immediate vicinity of the reactor either. I read that one of the reactors in the US has almost 200 tons of spent fuel in its pool, next to the reactor. We must remove this material to a site were it can be safely stored without the need for power or constant human action.
Bruce is a gas-industry shill; nuclear power makers threaten his paycheck.
The arguments for small, factory assembled nuclear reactors are overwhelming. It's a wonder we haven't moved in that direction all these years. And there are multiple designs with passive safety built in, that don't require complex pumps and generators that might be knocked out. They can be built to order and scaled up in modular fashion to meet growing energy demands. They can be sited close to localized, high demand centers like airports or desalination plants. And they provide redundancy and survivability so some hacker in a basement or blown switching station won't bring down the whole grid.
Jim writes, "Whatever happened to these guys from Los Alamos? - seemed like they had some attention for a while..." Last I read, Hyperion's design was under NRC review, which can take years. But they share the same problem as NuScale - they're new companies with no track record building nuclear plants. Folks like Babcock & Wilcox, Toshiba, and others who have been in this business a long time don't have those handicaps.
Jeff writes, "I still don't get why no one is seriously pushing thorium reactors." Actually, India is actively pursuing this route, with several thorium reactors planned or being built. China is also looking at them, but at pebble bed reactors and other designs as well.
EP, there won't be nuclear power makers anywhere soon if a plant is flooded. And people who try and hide this stuff make most of us wonder about the IQ of nuclear builders and proponents.
Avoiding flood waters is standard advice due to the likelihood of water-borne pathogens such as hepatitis and cholera.
That, and anytime floodwaters rise in commercial or industrial areas and facilities, they can be carrying very high proportions of spectacularly toxic or corrosive chemicals.
"Folks like Babcock & Wilcox, Toshiba, and others who have been in this business a long time don't have those handicaps."
But they still have the handicap of needing NRC approval. Which, as handicaps go, is roughly like loosing your big toe at the neck. Even routine license renewals can take years. Approval of new designs? It's hard to say how long that takes on average, given that you can't average zero samples: The NRC just ain't approving new designs, period.
The nuclear renaissance, I'm sad to say, is going to happen everywhere else. Not in the US.
I'd be more concerned about nuclear power if it wasn't a stone cold fact that organic farms have killed more people in the last six months than civilian nuclear power in the free-world has killed in the last 70. Come to think of it organic farms have killed over a 100 times more people. By that standard, we should ban organic farming before we ban nukes.
Honestly, if 70 years of zero death operation doesn't convince you that a technology can be safely used what could? At some point, you have to conclude that the technology is safe... unless of course your fear of nuclear power is more a matter of mystic faith than empirical evidence.
The anti-nuclear movement was not started by nuclear engineers or scientist. It was started by communist friendly far-left wing liberal-arts grads who thought if they could cripple civilian nuclear power that the US would be forced to disarm all its nuclear weapons (no I don't get reasoning either. I think it was some Marxist assumptions about capitalist causing all bad things and nuclear power was run by capitalist.)
You do have to admire the effectiveness of their hysteria raising powers.. They've been able to turn taking every conceivable precaution, often extreme precautions that they demanded be taken, as evidence of danger. It's like hysteric screamed at you that walking to mail box was incredibly dangerous and demanded that everyone going to get the mail wear a safety helmet. Just to shut them up, people start wearing the damn helmet. Then the hysteric shows back up and says, "See, I told you walking to the mail box was dangerous! Look people have to put on helmets just to do it!"
*Sigh* You can't fight religion.
Unfortunately, radiation scares people far more than, say, diesel particulates or coal particulates. Yet each of diesel particulates and coal particulates have racked up huge kills, unlike nukes. I'd rather live near a nuclear power plant than a highway with lots of trucks going down it or a coal electric power plant.
Humans (with exceptions) do not know how to judge threats. The brain is not well wired to grasp probabilities.
The Duane Arnold nuclear plant in Iowa (the only one in Iowa) is right on the Cedar River. That's the same river which flooded Cedar Rapids and wiped out much of the downtown a few years ago.
Did you hear about the nuclear disaster in Iowa? No? That's because there wasn't even the slightest threat of one. I rest my case.
Duane Arnold's safety in a flood isn't an issue. Plant-size dikes are cheap, pumps are effective, and events where the warning is measured in days and weeks are inherently easier to deal with.
Randall, in theory coal particulate is dangerous. But Ross McKitrick makes a mockery of those theories.
"The particular type of emissions that gets talked about now as the main health concern is called PM2.5, or ultra-fine particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter. According to Environment Canada’s emissions inventory, Ontario’s coal-fired power plants released 699 tonnes of PM2.5 in 2009. Is that a lot? One way to tell is to compare it with another source nobody worries about: residential wood fireplaces. According to the same Environment Canada emissions inventory, Ontario residential wood-burning fireplaces released 1,150 tonnes of PM2.5 in 2009, 65% more than all the coal-fired electricity generation together.
That does not mean Ontario has a crisis of air pollution from wood fires. It means PM2.5 emissions from coal-fired power plants are at levels well below what is considered not a problem when coming from other, more picturesque sources.
The Ontario Clean Air Alliance has published claims that Ontario’s coal-fired power plants cause 316 deaths, 440 hospital admissions, 522 emergency room visits and 158,000 minor illnesses each year. Its numbers are based on a 2005 simulation study for the provincial government that focused almost entirely on the effects of PM2.5. (It also considered ground-level ozone, but emphasized that most of the ozone precursors originated in the United States).
How plausible are these claims? If correct, they imply that wood-burning fireplaces cause 520 deaths per year, etc. But that is nothing compared with the implied effects from people driving on unpaved roads. According to Environment Canada, dust from unpaved roads in Ontario puts a whopping 90,116 tonnes of PM2.5 into our air each year, nearly 130 times the amount from coal-fired power generation. Using the Clean Air Alliance method for computing deaths, particulates from country-road usage kills 40,739 people per year, quite the massacre considering there are only about 90,000 deaths from all causes in Ontario each year. Who knew? That quiet drive up back country roads to the cottage for a weekend of barbecues, cozy fires and marshmallow roasts is a form of genocide.
Of course such a conclusion is absurd, but it follows from the screwy way numbers are used in this debate. If we are going to say that 699 tonnes of PM2.5 from power generation kills 316 people, then 90,116 tonnes of PM2.5 from unpaved roads must kill a proportionately much larger number. Likewise, paving just eight-10ths of 1% of Ontario’s dirt roads would cut annual PM2.5 emissions by an amount equivalent to shutting down all Ontario coal-fired power plant units. And then Ontario wouldn’t need to shut them down, and the province could have inexpensive, reliable electricity from them for many years to come."
EP: Cooper was only 18 inches away from shutdown.
"Earlier this week floodwaters came within 18 inches of 902 feet - the mark at which Cooper would be shut down."
But there is more bad news for nuclear:
"Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows.
The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.
Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard — sometimes at hundreds of times the limit."
I post from the NRC blog http://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2011/06/17/rumors-and-the-rising-river/
Rumors and the Rising River
As of June 16, NRC officially remains in normal response mode as the levels of the Missouri River rise and flood preparations are underway at the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant in Nebraska. But behind the scenes there is lots of activity designed to ensure the safety of the plant.
NRC is augmenting its resident inspector staff to provide around the clock coverage at the site. In addition to the two resident inspectors permanently assigned there, four other NRC officials have been sent to site. This includes three inspectors and the chief of the branch overseeing the plant. A roster of other inspectors has been drawn up from which additional inspectors can be dispatched if the need arises.
Officials at the NRC’s Region IV office in Arlington, Texas, have been conducting daily conference calls with the station’s managers to monitor preparations and potential impacts on the plant, which is located about 19 miles north of Omaha. Exceptionally heavy rainfall and snowpack runoff led to this spring’s flooding of the Missouri River Basin that is reported to be the most severe the region since the 1950s and 1960s. Flood conditions are expected to persist for months.
The NRC’s Region IV office has contacted the National Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to review weather and river level predictions. NRC also plans to establish regular calls with FEMA, states and local response organizations next week for coordination purposes.
Events at the site are being closely followed by regional news media and Internet bloggers, whose attention was galvanized on June 7 when the plant declared an Alert following a fire in a switchgear room. The fire was quickly extinguished, but briefly knocked out power to two pumps circulating water in the spent fuel pool. This triggered reports that the plant’s spent-fuel pool was in danger of boiling and releasing radioactivity, prompting unfortunate comparisons with the accident at Fukushima.
As the level of the Missouri River continued to rise over the past few days, more and more news media helicopters buzzed the area. This prompted Omaha Public Power District officials to contact the Federal Aviation Administration with a request that they remind pilots of the NOTAM, or Notice To Airmen, in effect since September 11th, 2001, restricting the airspace around the plant. Similar NOTAMS are in effect for all of the nuclear power plants in the United States, as well as other elements of the critical infrastructure, and are meant to discourage pilots from flying too low or lingering in airspaces.
Unfortunately, this was misinterpreted by some of the media who reported that FAA had closed the airspace over the site. This suggested to some Internet bloggers that things were much worse than officials were publicly admitting, spurring reports that the airspace over the plant had been closed because of a release of radiation. An advisory that had been sent by NRC to the Department of Homeland Security was similarly misinterpreted, leading to reports that operators had flooded the containment building to protect the reactor.
The rumors have been as difficult to combat as the rising floodwaters.
Public Affairs Region IV
Moderator Note: In addition to the NOTAM, which remains in effect for all nuclear plants, in response to a request from Fort Calhoun on June 6, the FAA issued an additional NOTAM tightening, but not closing, the airspace around the plant. Aircraft are now restricted from flying within a two-mile radius of the plant below 3,500 feet.
One way to tell is to compare it with another source nobody worries about
It is a source environmental agencies worry about but diffuse sources are more difficult to deal with than concentrated sources. Also private sources are more difficult to regulate than commercial sources.
ps. unpaved roads are mostly situated in lightly populated areas while coal plants need to be closer to population centers
Oh oh. No more sanding and salting in the winter!
"Resuspended road dust is an important contributor to ambient particulate matter (PM). In areas with significant snow
events, the use of wintertime roadway abrasives for traction control can result in increased PM emissions."
Oh oh. Don't burn anything ... or drive anywhere.
"Fine particles are produced any time fuels such as coal, oil, diesel or wood are burned. Fine particles come from fuel used in everything from power plants to wood stoves and motor vehicles (e.g., cars, trucks, buses and marine engines). These particles are even produced by construction equipment, agricultural burning and forest fires."
No cooking either ... especially BBQ.
"Indoor air quality (IAQ) of a restaurant has increasingly received a lot of public concerns in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, there is limited data about the IAQ of Hong Kong restaurants. In order to characterize the current IAQ of local restaurants, four restaurants in metropolitan Hong Kong including a Korean barbecue style restaurant, a Chinese hot pot restaurant, a Chinese dim sum restaurant and a Western canteen were selected for this study. The results of this study showed that the mean concentrations of CO2 at restaurants with gas stoves for food cooking in dining areas exceeded the range from 40 to 60% indoor CO2 concentrations at restaurants without gas stoves in dining areas. The average levels of PM10 and PM2.5 at the Korean barbecue style restaurant were as high as 1442 and 1167 microg/m3, respectively. At the Korean barbecue and Chinese hot pot restaurants, the levels of PM2.5 accounted for 80-93% of their respective PM10 concentrations. The 1-h average levels of CO observed at Korean barbecue style and hot pot restaurants were 15,100 and 8000 microg/m3, respectively. Relatively high concentrations of CO2, CO, PM10, PM2.5 benzene, toluene, methylene chloride and chloroform were measured in the dining areas of the Korean barbecue style and the Chinese hot pot restaurants. The operations of pan-frying food and boiling food with soup in a hot pot could generate considerable quantities of air pollutants."
Regards PM2.5 particulates danger: It probably depends very heavily on what the particulates are made of. Partially burned hydrocarbons, fully burned hydrocarbons, and dirt are going to have different levels of carcinogenicity.
As for the possibility that wood-burning fire smoke is bad for you: My impression is that a lot of evidence exists to support that idea and that evidence has been collected on people who burn wood for cooking in very poor countries. I could be wrong. But that's my impression.
Korean barbecue: Yes, probably unhealthy. But a good Korean barbecue restaurant in Japan tastes pretty good in my limited experience.
Meat cooked on a barbecue has more carcinogens than meat cooked on a stove.
If these are indeed small shipboard type reactors similar to ones uses on Navy ships ... then the major concern is going to be the fuel. Civilain power plant type reactors use fuel enriched by 3%-7% U235 .. and the Canadian CANDU's use natural uranium... but shipboard reactors use weapons grade 90%+ U235 for fuel. That means security problems at the reactor sight, transporting the fuel to the reactors .. the whole enricnment cycle being expanded to accomidate civilian power plants... That does not sound like a good way to increase domestic security.
And if, for whatever reason having a reactor core that contains a significant ammount of weapons grade HEU involved in an accident.. especially one like Fukushima where you have a melt down / melt thru and at least in reactor No.1 indications of occasional spotanious criticality.. you could be looking at a significant risk of a "prompt criticality" contribution such as occured with the SL-1 , Chernobyl, and Vinca to name but a few.
Just a lay persons opinion, but setting up civilian reactors to run on HEU has got to be the next dumbest thing since storing spent fuel rods on the roof and to keep making nuke waste with no safe place to store it.
Randall, PM 2.5 mortality is most likely a fraud designed by environmental fanatics to kill off their "enemies -- coal, cars etc.
"Enstrom’s offense was to catch out the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in an act of bureaucratic hubris. CARB ignored Enstrom’s epidemiological work to the effect that “fine particulate pollution” had no significant effect on human mortality and relied instead on another study that asserted the opposite. Enstrom discovered that the rival study, riddled with scientific errors, was written by a man with fake credentials. But he found himself opposed by some of his UCLA colleagues—and promptly non-reappointed to the position he had held at UCLA for 34 years.
Enstrom was eager to talk with me, but not about his personal situation. What matters more to him is that another scientific committee has completed a draft report on “fine particulate pollution” that essentially reproduces his results. Better still, the report in its draft form is clearly written from a hostile perspective. The authors strain to reach conclusions that might vindicate CARB but are stuck with data that vindicates Enstrom."
"The relationship between fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and mortality in California is a very important issue, because this relationship has been used to justify extremely costly diesel regulations that have been recently approved by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). These regulations are designed to reduce the diesel particulate matter (PM) emitted by vehicles and equipment powered by diesel engines. Based on the 2008 CARB staff analysis, PM2.5 exposure contributes to 18,000 annual deaths in California and diesel PM exposure contributes to 3,500 annual deaths in California. These numbers of deaths are primarily based on the small positive relationship between PM2.5 and mortality found in national cohort studies dating back to the 1980s.
However, there is substantial epidemiologic evidence from five independent sources that there is no current relationship between PM2.5 and mortality in California.
First, the 2000 Health Effects Institute Reanalysis Report by Krewski et al. found no significant relationship between PM2.5 and mortality in California based on an analysis of 1982-1989 deaths in the 1982 American Cancer Society (ACS) Cancer Prevention Study (CPS II) cohort. These findings have been discussed in the March 2001 US EPA Second External Review Draft Air Quality Criteria for Particulate Matter and in the July 23, 2001 US EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) presentation by Lester D. Grant. Second, my December 15, 2005 Inhalation Toxicology paper showed no relationship between PM2.5 and deaths in 11 California counties in the 1959 California Cancer Prevention Study (CA CPS I) cohort during 1983-2002. Third, the December 2008 Environmental Health Perspectives paper by Zeger et al. found no evidence of a relationship between PM2.5 and 2000-2005 death rates in the western region of the US (California, Oregon, and Washington) among 13.2 million enrollees in the Medicare Cohort Air Pollution Study (MCAPS). Fourth, the 2009 Health Effects Institute Follow-up Report by Krewski et al. found no significant relationship between PM2.5 and mortality in the entire US during 1999-2000 based on an extended analysis of 1982-2000 deaths in the CPS II cohort. Fifth, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) WONDER data base for U.S. mortality shows that, compared with the 2000-2005 United States total age-adjusted death rate, the California rate is 9% lower and fourth lowest among all 50 states. The low California death rate is consistent with the findings in the 2005 IT and 2008 EHP papers and does not support the analysis by CARB that PM2.5 and diesel PM causes premature deaths in California. It is very important that the current relationship between PM2.5 and mortality in California and the US be independently reanalyzed and objectively evaluated before extremely expensive CARB diesel regulations are implemented in California. This subject is directly relevant to the issue of the health benefits that can be linked to controlling a pollutant such as diesel PM. Since this subject is currently evolving, the most recent developments will be discussed, in addition to the results above. "
PM Sources National
PM 10 - Road Dust is 16x more common than electrical generation sources
PM 2.5 - Road Dust is 2x more common than electrical generation sources
OTOH, Washington State - Home Wood Fires is #1
Montana - Forest Fires and Road Dust
Texas - Road Dust by far ...