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Earth Power Hardware

Nuclear Power Could See a Revival 415

Posted by kdawson
from the comforting-bremsstrahlung-glow dept.
shmG writes "As the US moves to reduce dependence on oil, the nuclear industry is looking to expand, with new designs making their way through the regulatory process. No less than three new configurations for nuclear power are being considered for licensing by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The first of them could be generating power in Georgia by 2016."
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Nuclear Power Could See a Revival

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  • glow, baby, glow! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ducomputergeek (595742) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @02:41AM (#32896778)

    honestly, this is 20 years overdue. Especially with the new reactor designs. Now, if we could only reprocess the damn fuel we'd have a clean method of power generation with very little overall waste for a couple hundred years at least.

  • by zwei2stein (782480) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @02:46AM (#32896808) Homepage

    ... currently most eco-friendly power source we have actually used instead of being ignored and feared.

  • Obligatory? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @02:47AM (#32896812)
    Do they automatically post this article every couple months? It seems like Nuclear has been on the verge of revival for a couple decades now. I doubt we will ever see it.
  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @02:48AM (#32896816) Homepage Journal

    Totally agree. Too bad they take so long to build. By the time one is half-built, the dithering morons in congress will probably screw the process uo one way or another. Or the scaremongers will get in there and rile up the fuckarow artists who will go out and get signatures alongside their anti-di-hydrogen monoxide petetions.

  • by sortius_nod (1080919) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:20AM (#32896948) Homepage

    It's one thing I'm pissed off at a lot of environuts for, they have a short sighted view that is just black and white. We don't have any commercial reactors here in Australia, mainly because of the environut movements. If they wanted to do good they'd stop the crap and find out what's real and what's not.

  • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:35AM (#32897010) Journal

    Following hot on the heels of, "American manufacturing is dying because of the unions," we'll see, "America lacks nuclear reactors because of the environmentalists."

    America lacks nuclear reactors because we have a strong oil lobby tied with government, and America lacks manufacturing because it's cheaper to outsource somewhere with lower CoL and a glut of desperate workers. In each case, precisely as is logical, it's the people in control who get to make the decisions and not some group convenient to demonise.

  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:36AM (#32897012)

    They take so long to build... and they're so bloody expensive.

    Name me one nuclear power station that actually went into operation and stayed within budget while it was constructed, operated and shut down agian. Generally speaking, those things become 2-3 times more expensive, and the shutdown and waste treatment and storage are almost never included in the financial picture before construction starts.

    I agree that it seems sustainable. I agree that it's good to consider it - but at least include the entire life-cycle of the damned things before you build them.

  • by Tropico (1855650) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:37AM (#32897022)
    A lot of people talk big on Nuclear Energy as a solution to our energy needs, but when it comes to actually deciding where to build the reactor, or where to put the waste, no one wants any part of it. I don't see any cities or counties volunteering to house a Nuclear power plant or nuclear waste any time soon...
  • Good idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by f3rret (1776822) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:02AM (#32897114)

    Nuclear power is the way to go, pity it wont ever get done though; soon as your Senate, Congress or whoever handles the decisions on these sorts of things decide to move forward on the issue someone is going to stand up and say "Chernobyl", "Three Mile Island" and possibly "dirty bomb" or "fallout (not the game mind you)" and the whole proposition is going to die right there.
    Even if that does not happen there will be widespread protests with other people chanting the words above.
    Not to forget that The West have been continually spurning other countries for wanting to build nuclear reactors for years and years, so suddenly deciding to build more reactors of their own is going to put the US in a tough spot geopolitically.

    The way I see it though is that for the time being fission plants along with a gradual move towards a hydrogen economy offer the best chance for independence from oil. In the long term though we need to focus on getting a commercially viable Fusion reactor design up and running, it is basically the only fuel source that offers any chance of us not having to hollow out our planet in the long run.

  • by LordOfLead (1121501) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:11AM (#32897166) Homepage

    I'm always negatively amazed on this sort of statement.

    What about the nuclear waste? Many countries using nuclear power still don't know where to put it, and probably won't for centuries to come. In the meantime the waste is "safe-deposited" in "interim storage facilities". That's a problem the entire nuclear industry hasn't solved since the inception of the nuclear industry.

    And what about availability? Just like oil, there's only a limited quantity of U-233 and U-235 available on Earth. If that's used up, that's it!

    Sorry, but nuclear power is definitely NOT eco-friendly.

  • by Wansu (846) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:41AM (#32897292)

    When I saw the subject line, the first thing that came to mind was a nuke plant accident in the US analogous to the Deepwater Horizon, creating our own version of the Red Forest.

  • by init100 (915886) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:42AM (#32897304)

    I know, and as a supplementary option it might be okay. But I strongly oppose those who argue that we don't need any local power generation, since all the power we want is available in the Sahara desert.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:17AM (#32897462)

    Personally, I think there's plenty of blame to go around. Environmentalist wackjobs shouldn't get a free pass on their irrational fear of nuclear power just because the oil and coal industries (and their workers, represented by large unions) want to keep making money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:23AM (#32897496)

    In France, shutdown and waste treatment are taken into account since the beginning of nuclear energy. But this has never been taken into account for wind energy otherwise, it would have been evident that wind energy is far too expensive.

    Nuclear is by far the best available energy production mean. Radioactivity is very easy to detect, this allows to control very accurately all involved pollution. This is not the case for all chimic pollution where the proof of the origin is always discussed.

    Even taking into account all the measures that are present in nuclear and not in others energy sources, nuclear remains the best solution for now. In the future, solar power remains the most promising. The available technology needs to be improved a lot before it is really usable. In the mean time, nuclear should be favored..

  • by pr0nbot (313417) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:23AM (#32897500)

    If there were as many reactors as are needed to replace coal stations, we might see many more Chernobyls.

  • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:55AM (#32897680)

    Decommissioning costs for wind power might not always have been taken into account when plants were build, but at the end of the day it's still more than an order of magnitude less than construction cost ... so it doesn't really factor into the cost of wind energy. The same can obviously not be said of nuclear power.

    Not a fan of wind energy, too unreliable, but I recognize FUD when I see it.

  • by KovaaK (1347019) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:59AM (#32897706) Journal

    I noticed a pretty sharp contrast between you asking for evidence of nuclear power working well, and you providing evidence of nuclear power not working well... Let's compare:

    Name me one nuclear power station that actually went into operation and stayed within budget while it was constructed, operated and shut down agian.

    Given the long lifespan of nuclear power plants, a significant portion of them are still operating today. Asking for an example that completed its entire lifespan is basically asking for the first-of-a-kind reactors and very early generation when people were still learning the hard way. You are bound to see tons of costly mistakes made that were corrected by the industry as they followed in the footsteps of the pioneers.

    So, that's the level of detail that you ask for, and this is what you provide in support of your argument:

    And I think it's not uncommon that governments have to financially assist companies when reactors are decommissioned.

    So, you think... but you provide no source or examples. You give no background on the situation that may have caused this hypothetical, but it is clearly a bad one.

    This, my friend, is a double standard.

  • by M8e (1008767) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:16AM (#32897794)

    I'll give you my dihydrogen monoxide gun when you take it from my cold, wet hands!

  • by Orgasmatron (8103) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:30AM (#32897858)

    So the NIMBY hordes are secretly funded by the oil industry? Seems unlikely to me considering that the oil industry hasn't been able to build any new refineries here for decades because of essentially the same NIMBY nutjobs.

  • by aramosfet (1824288) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:47AM (#32897946)
    If only we could combine the atoms instead of splitting...
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:48AM (#32897954)

    Also consider that radioactivity is not the only danger with the waste. The materials involved are also very toxic.

    Pfft. Break them down long enough and they decay into lead. I've nary heard one word about lead toxicity. ~

  • by mqduck (232646) <[mqduck] [at] [mqduck.net]> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:52AM (#32898004)

    honestly, this is 20 years overdue. Especially with the new reactor designs.

    I hear modern offshore oil rig designs are completely, reliably safe too.

    *Waits for Troll moderation from nuclear zealots*

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:52AM (#32898010)
    But then CO2 isn't the only problem. A relatively recent designed powerplant (note not a fuel reprocessing plant, or CANDU reactor or anything else fancy, but simply a modern heavy water reactor) which produces a testube sized amount of radioactive waste is equivalent to a coal plant which aside from the CO2 it produces will also produce 300kg of highly radioactive flyash.

    Repeat after me. Dilution is not the solution to pollution.

    People only fear nuclear waste because it is concentrated in a very dense area. I mean fuck I'd be more worried about the toxicity of the waste of any number of the hundreds of thousands of chemical plants we have around the world, rather than a few hundred plants in the insanely regulated nuclear industry.
  • by William Robinson (875390) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:10AM (#32898106)

    I'm guessing you are unaware of the fact that all modern nuclear power plants have a negative Moderator Temperature Coefficient.

    Yes, and sometimes accidents are good examples to tell (scare?) operators why not respecting safety procedures could be dangerous. I am kind of inclined to believe that no amount of research in design could make it foolproof. God creates better fools.

    My 2 cents.

  • by skids (119237) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:16AM (#32898150) Homepage

    Just as long as you are equally pissed at the corporate culture that has given nuclear power a bad name via poor administration of their plants.

    "Environuts" as you call them would have a lot less to complain about if corner-cutting bean counters hadn't been in charge of the currently running reactor base.

  • by confused one (671304) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:17AM (#32898164)

    Nuclear can and has been used directly for heating. There are plenty of urban areas which already have centralized steam plants for heat, where this could be implemented easily. If it bothers you to think that the steam heating your building passed through a steam generator attached to a reactor, then, use heat pumps powered by nuclear generated electricity. You will be warm.

    You are correct though, about petroleum use in transportation -- it's going to be around for a looong time. And I admit that, though there is a nuclear plant 12 miles from where I'm sitting, my house is heated with gas.

  • by KovaaK (1347019) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:26AM (#32898264) Journal

    It only reduces the amount of waste if it doesn't produce other kinds of waste in equal amounts. Also consider that radioactivity is not the only danger with the waste. The materials involved are also very toxic. I highly doubt that even the newest generation of nuclear reactors takes in fissable heavy metals and outputs something at most as dangerous as CO2. I would be happy if you prove me wrong.

    One of the major benefits to nuclear power is its energy density. If you got your entire life's worth of energy usage (including heating, electricity, and transportation) from nuclear power, the amount of uranium fuel you would have consumed would be the size of a baseball. It would be converted into a wide variety of materials, and some indeed would be toxic (many radioactive, but for varying durations). But think of how easy it would be to deal with the quantity of material. Given reprocessing (as I assumed anyway), it would be below background radiation levels in 300-500 years.

    Try to get your life's worth of energy from fossil fuels (as you mostly do right now), and you are dealing with materials that are just as toxic, but the quantities would be larger by a factor of about 2 million. You can't bury that anywhere. It's going all over the place.

  • by Muad'Dave (255648) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:32AM (#32898332) Homepage

    ... the oil industry hasn't been able to build any new refineries here for decades because of essentially the same NIMBY nutjobs.

    Thereby keeping supply 'artificially' short while demand is high? Sounds like a perfect plan to me, kinda like the diamond industry.

  • by KovaaK (1347019) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:40AM (#32898434) Journal

    MTC isn't a safety procedure. It's an innate part of the design that causes the reactor to passively avoid becoming Chernobyl. And it's far from the only design feature to do that. Better fools may be able to cause great damage to specific components within a nuclear power plant, but they would have to redesign the entire thing to get it to blow up.

  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:14AM (#32898872)

    It's one thing I'm pissed off at a lot of environuts for, they have a short sighted view that is just black and white.

    Whereas people who use terms like "environuts" are typically paragons of nuanced, critical thinking.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:28AM (#32900210) Homepage Journal

    In this case yes.
    Environmentalists are well educated people that have an honest concern for the environment and are reasonable.

    Environuts protest the launching of space probes because they use nuclear power. Bring up Chernobyl when trying to scare people away from using modern nuclear reactors. And want to ban all air craft "even those at say 20,000 ft" from over flying national parks so that they can commune with nature undisturbed.

    They usually follow some guru or organization that tells them what is bad and what is good and they follow them with out question.

    Environmentalists are what everybody on the earth should be.
    Environuts are a real pain in the rear, hurt more than help, and generally give Environmentalism a bad name.

  • Bad analogy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@gmaiWELTYl.com minus author> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:12AM (#32901068) Journal

    So there is as much chance of seeing another Chernobyl as their is as seeing another Titanic.

    That would be a better analogy if the Titanic was built with the thinnest metal to save money, was loaded to capacity with lit candles and TNT, had no watertight hull compartments, lifeboats or flotation devices, and was run into into an iceberg at full speed on purpose as a "test."

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:22AM (#32901244) Journal
    Nukes could have VERY LITTLE WASTE. The problem is that ppl like Kerry (and even W) have KILLED IFR which would use up nearly all of what is considered waste.
  • by necro81 (917438) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:40AM (#32901538) Journal
    I have not forgotten it, I just recognize the infeasibility of it. Even over a 40-year build out, we would have been hard pressed to build enough nuclear power to displace petroleum as an energy input even for today's usage, let alone synthesizing petroleum replacements.

    This graphic is particularly informative [doe.gov]. Alas the units are a bit archane (quadrillion BTUs, or quads, as a measure of energy. One Quad = ~300 terawatt-hours), but you can see the relative proportions easily enough.

    Electrical energy is about 40% of our total energy consumption in the U.S. Transportation is about 30%, industrial ~20%, residential ~10%. The U.S.'s energy comes about 37% from petroleum, and only about 8% from nuclear. So, to replace the energy petroleum gives us, we'd need to have about 6 times as much nuclear energy as today, or about as much energy as we get from coal and natural gas combined. Most of that natural gas goes to heating and industrial processes, not electricity production. That's just energy for transportation and heating - it doesn't begin to cover the petroleum we use as feedstock for various industrial processes.

    If my math is correct, it's about another 1200 GW of installed nuclear capacity - about as much power as the entire US grid currently produces. At a cost of several billion per GW of nuclear plant, that works out to a couple trillion dollars. So not only would our total electrical production need to roughly double, but it would leave the grid about 2/3 nuclear-based. I know that there is precedent: France's electric grid is 80% nuclear. But France's electrical power output is a relatively tiny amount of energy compared to US's nuclear capacity today.

    Nuclear power is not a panacea, end of story.
  • by john.r.strohm (586791) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @01:11PM (#32904124)

    OK, so if you're going to insist on a full cycle accounting for nuclear, you in all honesty must also insist on a full cycle accounting for coal.

    That one gets ugly FAST. You have to include black lung disease fatalities and suffering. You have to include fly ash. You have to include transportation costs. (Burning coal requires moving a LOT of coal around the country.) If you believe that carbon dioxide is evil, you have to include carbon dioxide mitigation costs. And so on.

    Read "The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear", by Dr. Petr Beckmann. It is politically incorrect in the extreme, and very hard to find these days, but the data is good.

  • by Szechuan Vanilla (1363495) on Thursday July 15, 2010 @10:48AM (#32914526)

    >has basically ZERO accidents

    Do you believe everything you read? Do you think the USN goes around broadcasting all it's "unusual events"?

    Can you possibly fathom the subtle concept that the Navy finds valid security reasons or other, less-authentic excuses to suppress the information?

    Quick quiz: how many USN nuclear reactors are now on the bottom of the world's oceans? (And yes, that does count as an accident: it's called a "lost source" type.)

    Go read a book.

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