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Power Earth Technology

First New Nuclear Reactor In a Decade On Track 575

Posted by kdawson
from the give-me-the-warm-power-of-the-sun dept.
dusty writes "Plans to bring online the first new US nuclear plant since 1995 are on track, on time, and on budget according to the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA had one major accident with a coal ash spill of late, and one minor one. The agency has plans and workers in place to have Unit 2 at Watts Bar, near Knoxville, online by 2012. Currently over 1,800 workers are doing construction at the plant. Watts Bar #1 is the only new nuclear reactor added to the grid in the last 25 years. From the article: 'TVA estimates the Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor every year will avoid the emission of about 60 million metric tons of greenhouse emissions linked with global warming. ... TVA began construction of Watts Bar in 1973, but work was suspended in 1988 when TVA's growth in power sales declined. After mothballing the unit for 19 years, TVA's board decided in 2007 to finish the reactor because it is projected to provide cheaper, no carbon-emitting power compared with the existing coal plants or purchased power it may help replace.'"
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First New Nuclear Reactor In a Decade On Track

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  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plague3106 (71849) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:32PM (#28774369)

    Common sense prevails. Nuclear is the best option we have right now for clean, cheap, reliable energy.

    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:34PM (#28774407) Homepage

      Or we could just, you know, turn off computers that we're not using.

    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Informative)

      by bunratty (545641) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:46PM (#28774581)
      Agreed. Exactly how nuclear reactors operate makes a big difference, though. If we do not use breeder reactors and build lots of new nuclear power plants, our nuclear fuel might last only a few decades and will generate lots of radioactive waste. Breeder reactors would be able to use most of that waste as fuel, allowing the fuel to last hundreds of years with a fraction of the waste generated.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by all5n (1239664)

        Can't we go back and re-refine the nuclear waste for further use later once we get rid of the stupid "no breeder reactors allowed to prevent proliferation" laws?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by maxume (22995)

          Yes. The continued on-site storage of reactor waste and political failure of Yucca mountain is 'a good thing'.

      • Re:Finally (Score:5, Informative)

        by notarockstar1979 (1521239) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:28PM (#28775233) Journal

        Breeder reactors would be able to use most of that waste as fuel, allowing the fuel to last hundreds of years with a fraction of the waste generated.

        And at a lesser cost in the end, partially because they wouldn't have to mine as much new fuel and partially because they wouldn't have to find places to bury the spent fuel.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What would help a lot is to get the NRC and various companies that produce reactor and genrating equipment together and establish a national standardized reactor design. You know, that approach that seems to have worked for France of all places. Once that's done, companies can compete on bids for parts and construction, but regardless of when and where it's built the primary circuit and controls/instruments will always be built exactly the same and to the same spec and same layout. No deviations. The second

    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thule (9041) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:54PM (#28775523) Homepage

      No thanks to Greenpeace et al that caused nuclear to be financially and politically less viable than coal. Think of what nuclear costs could be if over the top regulations didn't exist. If we can adopt sane regulations to nuclear reactors we would be much less dependent on coal.

      Environmental groups have caused the greatest amount of greenhouse gases than any other group. Okay, okay, I made that stat up.

      Vote Chuck DeVore (A pro nuclear power guy running for Senate in California).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pizzach (1011925)

        Well it's been a few decades since the last "horrible" nuclear accident. The public may be getting ready to face the music and try it again. Looking at history, it looks like the Soviet Union had the worst luck with Nuclear power and accidents. [reference [wikipedia.org]]. It seem like every time there has been a problem it has set back nuclear development by 10 years.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jhol13 (1087781)

          We do not need russians in the equation.

          Every nuclear facility has probability of catastrophic accident. It is a positive number, usually written as "once every XXX years". Now just multiply that number with needed number of nuclear reactors for the whole world and you'll get a number which is IMHO far too small (bad accident every few tens of years).

          I am a proponent of nuclear energy, but not a naive one, we *really* do need wind, solar, conservation ...

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:33PM (#28774381) Journal

    Inconceivable!

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:02PM (#28774829) Journal
      1.5 years into a 5-year project, the project is on-time and under-budget?

      Quite conceivable, especially since the main contractors (Bechtel, Siemens, Westinghouse) are not operating on cost-plus contracts. But this early into a project, it is a bit premature to assume that it'll continue to be under-budget and on-time. But who knows, maybe it will be. The reputation of the contractors (especially Bechtel, as primary contractor for most of the work) depends on it. This is especially important given that the market for construction of nuclear facilities in the US has the potential to, um, explode over the next decade or two.

      Keep in mind that the biggest boondoggle of over-budget and past-due construction (the Big Dig in Boston) was under budget and on time for the first several years of construction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by michrech (468134)

      I always thought it was : "On Track, On Time, and On Budget -- Pick two"?

  • by Gizzmonic (412910) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:33PM (#28774393) Homepage Journal

    Nuclear power is the only true green power. Environmentalist wackos want us to turn off electricity and live in paper hats, but you just can't turn off civilization, it's too late. We're addicted to electricity and all the joys it brings-refrigeration being tops on the list, of course! So we're going to have to do something else to fight global warming. Nuclear power is that "something else." It's the only practical solution. There ain't no such thing as clean coal, and Americans will not stop their "unsustainable" lifestyle...and why should they, when they can just nuke it up and enjoy as much refrigerated food as before. The refrigerator is the true ambassador of civilization.

    • by dogmatixpsych (786818) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:44PM (#28774553) Homepage Journal
      And of course now that we have such a "green"-friendly president we are now going to build a few new nuclear reactors!

      [Yes, that was sarcasm]. It is unfortunate that our current president and Congressional leadership are so anti-nuclear. You'd think they all still believe the lies and exaggerations of 1960s and 1970s environmentalists. We need to build many more nuclear plants, recycle spent nuclear fuel, and figure out and build better electric cars. That should help out our economy and environment.
      • by ivan256 (17499) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:56PM (#28774743)

        Don't be silly. Our current president is much smarter than that.

        He understands that opposing nuclear technology is much more valuable to him politically than using the technology to reduce our carbon emissions in a significant fashion. And maintaining power is more important than the environment.

    • by Randle_Revar (229304) <kelly.clowers@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:58PM (#28777125) Homepage Journal

      >Environmentalist wackos want us to turn off electricity and live in paper hats,
      Did you mean "huts"? Although living in a giant paper hat might be fun, at least until it rained.

      Anyway, who are these nuts? Where are they? I have read about them, but I have not seen
      any evidence that these creatures still exist in the wild. I am convinced they went extinct
      in the 60s or 70s. Certainly I have not found any in the environmentalist communities I
      frequent.

  • by AJWM (19027) * on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:33PM (#28774395) Homepage

    A nuclear plant also produces less radioactive waste than does a corresponding coal plant. Of course since the latter doesn't fall under the authority of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the radioactive substances in coal ash (like thorium) just get dispersed into the environment along with the stuff that stays toxic forever like arsenic and mercury.

    • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:59PM (#28774787)

      I've often wondered what would happen if they changed that.. A recent Newsweek article was talking about how at the very end of the Clinton Administration, they ruled Fly Ash a hazardous waste, but it was via Executive order (just like we complained that bush did the last few weeks of office) and was undone by the next administration. I wonder what would have happened if that designation was passed "properly" and allowed to stand the last 9 years or so.

  • Applications (Score:5, Informative)

    by TopSpin (753) * on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:07PM (#28774913) Journal

    Here is a map of sites [nrc.gov] for which applications have been submitted to the NRC and are currently undergoing review. None of these will happen until the political will emerges to move the bureaucracy.

  • Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_kress (99356) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:11PM (#28774977)

    I'm kind of neutral about the whole subject. Neat tech, but trusting corporations is not in my nature.

    Also, when compared to wind and solar, Nuclear is the one power source that allow corporations to retain control of power generation.

    But balancing that is the fact that it's a pretty continuous source of energy...

    What I'd really like to understand (I always ask this and I've never gotten an answer) is why some people are so for it. They aren't going to make money off it, overall it will not save them money (Even those of us who live exclusively off dams don't have THAT much of a money savings)...

    I can understand people being really against it. Fear of the unknown, lack of understanding, history (quite a few people have died in the past)

    I can also understanding someone being somewhat for it (I'd be tempted to vote for one in my city, although the last one here was a complete cluster-fsck) but where does one get the motivation for the positive passion that this topic so often seems to create?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tteddo (543485)
      To me it's the sheer volume of power you get from each reactor. Seabrook in NH is 1244 MW. Our subs measure the amount on uranium fuel used for a core's lifetime in grams. That's all the power used for propulsion, etc. for a period of years. Of course there's a lot more to it than that, but that's what gets me. Compared to 2 hydro dams near here that are 1.2MW or thereabouts a piece.
      I loved it when I was in the Navy and all the protesters against Seabrook, and no one stopped to think that there were at lea
    • Re:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by plover (150551) * on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:05PM (#28776277) Homepage Journal

      Because nuclear power is greener than fossil fuels (the emissions are tiny, solid and containable, and it doesn't destroy whole ecosystems like hydroelectric dams), it's more effective/efficient than terrestrial sources (a nuclear plant is very "compact" compared to the land mass of solar array or a giant farm of 1MW windmills ) and we have enough fuel to run them for centuries (as opposed to oil and gas which are rapidly dwindling, and could be used for other purposes such as plastics and lubrication.) Read all of the above posts to understand more of the benefits. They are very exciting.

      The drawbacks are all about the waste: how do you store a thing that's dangerous for tens of thousands of years? How do you adequately protect a thing that's desired by terrorists?

      As engineers, we see those as solvable problems. But they are never implemented because of the political opposition, not because of any technical reason. And nothing pisses us off faster than pointing out a perfectly valid solution to a problem only to be told we can't do that because some ignorant people are afraid. "No, you can't run a nuclear train through my town, even though the cars have been crash tested at 150 MPH," or "You can't bury that waste thousands of feet below the ancient burial grounds of my already dead great-great-great grandparents, we must honor them properly from within our sacred Casinos."

      That's where my passion comes from, and it's probably not an uncommon sentiment here on /.

    • Re:Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:08PM (#28776319) Journal

      What I'd really like to understand (I always ask this and I've never gotten an answer) is why some people are so for it.

      I consider myself a sane and pragmatical environmentalist. That is, I believe that we shouldn't crap all over the place just because it's easy and convenient for us to do so today, disregarding the consequences of those actions tomorrow. Thus, I believe that we should gradually reduce the use of fossil fuels (i.e. as fast as possible, but without collapsing our economy and inducing quality of life decrease).

      On the other hand, I still believe that needs of humanity come first, and that nature (and, in general, world around us) is something that we should use towards our goals and preserve for the sake of self-preservation; and not something inherently valuable in and of itself, or a god to worship. Thus, I do not support significant scaling back of our energy use - most of it really isn't excess, but is required to maintain our present living standard. Reducing energy consumption would require scaling it back very significantly, and I do not want to see that happen. We can definitely try to trim consumption down where possible, by using more energy efficient machines and technologies (such as those nifty insulated houses that leak very little heat). But in the end, this is still a drop in the ocean.

      The only way I see to reconcile these two viewpoints is to embrace nuclear power (and in perspective, when they get it to work, fusion). It's reasonably clean - yes, there's waste, but that can be fairly easily contained and controlled. It is powerful enough to sustain our energy use, even extrapolating future growth. And it is going to last for very long, long enough to research the next step (be it fusion or something else).

      Nothing else cuts it. Not solar, not wind, and not tidal. I fully support their use wherever possible, but they quite obviously aren't enough to cover our needs without scaling them back significantly.

  • Lost Time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:18PM (#28775091)

    I think it's great to see new nuclear power coming online, but it's too bad this is simply the completion of a project begun in the 1970's. There hasn't been enough work done in the US to advance the design of nuclear power stations in the last few decades. I wonder how much more efficiently these stations could be built and run today if we had been focused on the problem all this time.

    • Re:Lost Time (Score:5, Informative)

      by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:55PM (#28776707)

      I think it's great to see new nuclear power coming online, but it's too bad this is simply the completion of a project begun in the 1970's. There hasn't been enough work done in the US to advance the design of nuclear power stations in the last few decades. I wonder how much more efficiently these stations could be built and run today if we had been focused on the problem all this time.

      Actually, there's been a lot of work on reactor designs over the last decade o so:

      GE has the ABWR and SBWR plants, and ABWRs have been built in Japan,

      Westinghouse has the AP-600 (now AP-1000), and

      CE had the System 80+

      Of these, the SBWR and AP-1000 are probably the most advanced, in the sense of passive safety systems and i teh SBWR's case, natural circulation. Both are attempts to simply construction and operation to reduce costs and increase safety.

      The AP-1000 and SBWR will probably be the next generation of US plats, built at existing sites where multiple units were planned but not built; since those sites have already passed NRC site approval.

  • I heard... (Score:5, Funny)

    by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:21PM (#28775127)

    that they were just waiting on Windows 7.

  • by dcollins (135727) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:42PM (#28775389) Homepage

    "TVA's board decided in 2007 to finish the reactor because it is projected to provide cheaper, no carbon-emitting power..."

    Where does the waste go? (TBD) What is the cost of waste disposal? (TBD) Have they factored that cost into their calculations? (No)

    • by IICV (652597) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @06:56PM (#28776185)
      TBD is better than the answers you get for coal:
      • Where does the waste go? (Into the air, including all the little radioactive uranium and thorium particles that live in coal)
      • What is the cost of waste disposal? (Absolutely free, because we're just farting it all out into the atmosphere. Not quite as cheap when you factor in the increased incidence of cancer in those who live downwind, though.)
      • Have they factored that cost into their calculations? (Nope, and that's why we have the problems we do today.)
  • by confused one (671304) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:48PM (#28775445)
    What's with the reference to the coal fly-ash spill in the middle of the summary about TVA building nuclear power plants?
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:53PM (#28775503) Journal
    The summary is all over in terms of calling it new plant, when it is really a new reactor. But that is a good start. It would be nice if the pubs would push the concept of even 1 new nuclear plant / every 4 states. Heck, the stimulus money could have done a nice job of funding this and allowing us to move nicely to electric cars.

    With that said, I do think that we need to continue with AE esp Geo-thermal and Solar Thermal. Both are capable of base load power, which is really what is needed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @06:14PM (#28775773)

    No one answers the question: Where are you going to put the waste? You can't recycle or reprocess everything and whats left is mind bogglingly bad.

    The reason is, there is no answer for a 250,000 year problem like that. Even if you find a 'solution' to keep it out of the easy to parts of the world we use you still have left future generations a crap load of trouble in addition to what every they will have to deal with.
    Thanks mom.

  • by Kizeh (71312) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:27PM (#28776919)

    The title is pretty misleading, as it omits "US." One might also look outside of the US borders for some examples of how new nuclear power plants are coming along -- or aren't. [nytimes.com]

  • by VoidCrow (836595) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @05:21AM (#28779459)

    The following links are to a couple of interesting Google Tech Talks on Youtube, covering the subject of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. Carlo Rubbia (Nobel-winning physicist) is pushing another class of thorium reactor - the accelerator-driven system.

    I hope you find them of interest - they're quite long.

  • Nuclear (Score:4, Funny)

    by AP31R0N (723649) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @09:18AM (#28780617)

    Nuclear... the OTHER n-word Americans are phobic about.

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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