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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 @03:41AM (#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 interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:44AM (#32896792)

      honestly, this is 20 years overdue.

      Maybe nuclear power just needed time to reach critical mass...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Cryacin (657549)
        Finally. The Politicians have stopped splitting hairs, and are going to start splitting atoms.
    • by fyngyrz (762201) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:48AM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sortius_nod (1080919)

        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.

        • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:5, Informative)

          by jlar (584848) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:38AM (#32897274)

          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.

          On the other hand you have a lot of coal (85% of the electricity production plus exports). And coal by a conservative estimate kills 3 or 4 times the number of people who died due to Chernobyl each year!

          Here is an estimate of the number of people whose health is affected by coal based energy production in the USA:

          http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5174391/ [msn.com]

          So in my view the environmentalists are in fact responsible for millions of deaths due to their insistence on yet non-viable clean energy sources and their refusal of nuclear energy.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by pr0nbot (313417)

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

            • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:5, Informative)

              by KovaaK (1347019) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:51AM (#32897650) Journal

              And how do you propose that happens? I'm guessing you are unaware of the fact that all modern nuclear power plants have a negative Moderator Temperature Coefficient. A positive MTC as in Chernobyl means that an increased in temperature causes an increase in power (which loops back on itself).

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                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 KovaaK (1347019) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:40AM (#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.

                  • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:5, Interesting)

                    by Andy Dodd (701) <[atd7] [at] [cornell.edu]> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:42AM (#32899330) Homepage

                    Yeah, Chernobyl could never have happened in the United States:
                    1) Numerous aspects of reactor design (netative MTC, negative void coefficient) make US reactors inherently safer than Chernobyl's reactor (which had, IIRC, positive MTC and positive void coefficient. Void coefficient is the effect that bubbles of steam in the coolant have on reactor power.)
                    2) General operational procedures. At the point the Chernobyl accident occurred, at least 2-3 points where the reactor should have SCRAMed itself and the operators overrode the safety mechanism had been passed.
                    3) Reactor materials and design. Chernobyl had a graphite moderator, i.e. superheated flammable radioactive material in its core. It also had no proper containment building - when it blew its lid, the core was basically exposed to the outdoors. A US-based reactor could likely handle a power excursion like that without significant contamination of the environment - no graphite to burn, and a reinforced containment building to keep the mess inside.

                    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                      by Anonymous Coward

                      Lots of people talk about the positive MTC at Chernobyl, but they don't know what they are talking about. The transient at Chernobyl was too fast for thermal feedback.

                      The big issue was the positive void coefficient and the control rod followers. The coolant in the core of Chernobyl acted as the opposite of a moderator, as a poison. If you form steam bubbles and remove the coolant, then this type of reactor will overpower. All you need is an initiating event. This was provided due to the fact that almost all

                    • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:4, Informative)

                      by CommieLib (468883) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @12:06PM (#32902020) Homepage
                      One last (supporting) comment: IIRC, the reason there was no containment building was that the Soviets wanted to be able to easily crane out plutonium for weapons manufacture. The whole thing was a deathtrap waiting to happen.
            • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:4, Interesting)

              by HungryHobo (1314109) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:13AM (#32899910)

              really?
              Currently the US gets something like 20% of it's power from nuclear.(most of them decades old plants with decades old tech of course).
              It's been that way for decades.
              In that time the US has had exactly zero Chernobyl type disasters.

              Worldwide they provide about 15% of the worlds energy.

              hell there are even quite a few awful reactors which have more in common with Chernobyl reactors than with anything in the US which somehow haven't exploded.

              Given that coal kills vast numbers of people every year(directly through mine accidents and indirectly through health problems caused by smog, heavy metal poisoning and radioactive materials released when mining or burning coal) many lives could be saved by switching even if there was another Chernobyl every couple of decades which isn't going to happen anyway.

        • As having 23% of the worlds supply that is terrible news.
        • by skids (119237) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:16AM (#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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by oldspewey (1303305)

          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 @10:28AM (#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.

      • by captainpanic (1173915) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:36AM (#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.

        • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:4, Informative)

          by HungryHobo (1314109) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:57AM (#32897100)

          You make a fair point except for this bit.

          "and the shutdown and waste treatment and storage are almost never included in the financial picture before construction starts."

          this line gets repeated over and over and over and over and over and over and over on greeny websites and it has fuck all basis in fact.

          that and "the cleanup costs are unknown"

          It's fair to say that most reactors go over budget when they're being built(it's fair to say that about almost all large complex costly projects) but to imply that all the engineers, accountants and physicists have somehow forgotten to include waste disposal or decommissioning is absurd.

          • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:5, Informative)

            by captainpanic (1173915) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:17AM (#32897458)

            Ok... that remark was based not on the lack of insight with the engineers. It's based on the fact that it's impossible to predict the costs of decommissioning a nuclear power plant 50 years into the future. The shut down is in fact often more than 50 years after it was started up. Costs are often higher than expected (due to increased safety regulations). And I think it's not uncommon that governments have to financially assist companies when reactors are decommissioned.

            • by KovaaK (1347019) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:59AM (#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.

              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by captainpanic (1173915)

                Umm... true.

                But hey, who said that the slashdot discussions have to be objective?

                (Although I (rhetorically?) asked for examples, I have no time to actually search for examples myself. I see that your laser-vision can see through my false argumentation - so this is my completely worthless comeback to save my ass).

                -- in Soviet Russia, nuclear reactors decommission you!

              • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:5, Informative)

                by Firethorn (177587) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:27AM (#32899042) Homepage Journal

                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.

                Or the 'lemons' and plants that were shut down more due to political pressure than economic or ecological reality.

                Picking the first plant off the decommisioned list at the NRC, 'Connecticut Yankee', Haddam Neck, CT [wikipedia.org]. 582MW (half the size of 'modern' reactors).
                Commissioned: 1968
                Ceased production: 1996 (28 years)
                Decommissioned: 2004
                Dome demolished: 2006

                Fact sheet [connyankee.com], because the wiki page is pretty bare
                110 Billion kwh - $4B or so worth of electricity, at low utility rates. 619MW? - may be measuring closer to the reactor, not removing power used to maintain the plant itself.
                Decommisioning costs - not listed, but no federal funds are mentioned other than $34.1M awarded to them by the federal courts due to the feds violating the 'Nuclear Waste Policy Act(NWPA)' - The NWPA had nuclear plants pay the government a fee for each kwh generated, in exchange for them taking nuclear waste, starting in 1998. Yucca Mountain, in other words. Since they never took to accepting waste, CY had to store it themselves.

                Another: 'Yankee Rowe' [wikipedia.org] - 167MW. 1960-1992, 34B kwh produced($1.3B). Built for something like $45M back in 1960. No idea what the real decommisioning costs were, but was certified 'greenfield' in 1996, except for some land storing the waste until the feds pick it up(per law).

                Honestly enough, in my research the feds haven't had to pick up much at all; mostly just paying for waste fuel storage expenses because the feds haven't done their job.

                Now, decommission expenses are a very good reason for plants to want to keep operating; if we're really that concerned, just increase the reserve requirements for decommissioning that are built up over the life of the plant.

        • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:12AM (#32897168)
          In almost all cases, the overruns are dominated by the delays causing inflation and other issues. And the delays are caused by lawsuits. If these are done, they will hit budget only if the government makes them unsuable. And shut down isn't as big as the ones that assumed reprocessing of the fuel, then reprocessing was made illegal. But again, that's a legal, not technical issue.

          Just about every problem with nuclear is related to the legal issues and not technical ones. Get the plants certified and make design flaws unsuable. Have the plants commissioned and built on government land, with eminent domain and unsuable. Then, if we are to give our infrastructure to private companies to be exploited as we currently do with power, sell it to the operator at the contract rate, after the government built it in an unsuable manner. If the operator screws up the operations, they will be responsible. If the plans are faulty, then the government is on the hook. And the plants will get built, and on budget. Otherwise, I don't see nuclear being something that gets built because no one wants to build a lawsuit.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          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

          • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:55AM (#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.

        • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:5, Informative)

          by nukenerd (172703) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:28AM (#32897848)
          Captainpanic wrote :

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

          Sizewell B, a PWR that I was involved in building in the UK, was built within its time and cost budget. Hasn't shut down yet so I can't answer the last part.
        • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:5, Informative)

          by Muad'Dave (255648) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:15AM (#32898148) Homepage

          A major part of the expense and construction delays are due to every reactor design being one-off and requiring individual approval by the government. The industry is now (finally) trying to get 'type acceptance' for a few well-engineered designs that can be built exactly to spec much quickly and for a lot less money.

          My local utility [dom.com] had chosen (see legend) [nrc.gov] the GE ESBWR but has switched [elp.com] to the Mitsubishi US-APWR [mnes-us.com].

        • by Type44Q (1233630) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @09:16AM (#32898906)

          Name me one nuclear power station...

          I hereby christen thee "Sir One Nuclear Power Station."

      • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:38AM (#32897026) Homepage
        But if you don't mind a bit of a long build time, why not something like Dynamic Tidal power? [wikipedia.org] Build a 50km concrete boom straight out into the ocean, another one perpendicular, and there you have an EIGHT GIGAWATT power generator.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LWATCDR (28044)

          Yea that is trouble free... Did you read the one line concerns?
          "Other concerns include: shipping routes, marine ecology, sediments, and storm surges.Other concerns include: shipping routes, marine ecology, sediments, and storm surges."

          So just take a look at that for a second and read it.
          I live in South Florida. Do you know the environmental problems that inlets and jetties cause! Beach erosion destroying habitat for nesting sea turtles and sea birds. Sedimentation causes the loss of sea grass beds and reefs

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Sulphur (1548251)

        Outlaw the di-hydrogen-monoxide bomb.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by M8e (1008767)

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

    • by MacFury (659201) <me@jo[ ]ramlich.com ['hnk' in gap]> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:14AM (#32896928) Homepage

      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.

      The beauty of some of the new reactor designs is that they use old radioactive waste as their fuel source. By some people's estimates we have about two centuries worth of fuel for the energy needs of the entire United States just in our existing stockpiles of nuclear waste. Not only would we not have to mine additional fuel, we would be significantly reducing the amount of waste that we need to store.

      Here's a TED talk that covers the subject:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaF-fq2Zn7I [youtube.com]

      By the end of life of these new reactors, solar should be cheap, efficient and plentiful.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:52AM (#32897090)

        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.

        Also I wouldn't put all my hopes into this without at least one fully functional power plant.

        I am not very fond of nuclear power anymore since I learned about all the corruption and lies around Frances nuclear energy market. That convinced me that even nuclear energy isn't scary enough to make the managers ponder about consequences of saving money on security. Just imagine a fuck up like the oil spill related to nuclear energy.

        • by Cyberax (705495) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:36AM (#32897890)

          "It only reduces the amount of waste if it doesn't produce other kinds of waste in equal amounts."

          It doesn't produce more waste than usual.

          "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."

          There will be waste, but most of it short-lived (decay to safe levels in 100-200 years). Not as harmless as CO2, but quite close not to worry about it much. As for chemical toxicity, the amount of waste is so small (even with our current reactors) that it doesn't matter. If our waste were as poisonous as arsenic but not radioactive we could have just dumped it in the sea without any problems.

        • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:48AM (#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 thegarbz (1787294) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:52AM (#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 tophermeyer (1573841) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:15AM (#32898140)

            People only fear nuclear waste because it is concentrated in a very dense area.

            This is a point that I think a lot of environmental activists miss entirely. The highly concentrated nature of nuclear waste is a benefit to nuclear power, no? I have trouble seeing how people do not see this as inherently better than the current distributed CO2 spewing systems. It's not like we're going to run out of places to safely store nuclear waste, but we are in a position where we are very rapidly poisoning the atmosphere of the entire planet.

        • by KovaaK (1347019) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:26AM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It's all very nice in theory. In the mean time two types of reactors get build in number. Water moderated reactors (great safety record, but limited fuel) and molten salt reactors (catastrophic safety record, NIMBY please).

        All those other designs are interesting, but by the time they are production ready solar should be cheap, efficient and plentiful.

    • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hamsterdan (815291) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:56AM (#32897096)

      CANDU can already use spent fuel (along with dismantled warheads)

      (according to wiki)
      *CANDU fuel can be manufactured from the used (depleted) uranium found in light water reactor (LWR) spent fuel.*

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candu#Fuel_cycles [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:glow, baby, glow! (Score:5, Informative)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:02AM (#32897116)

      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.

      Integral Fast Reactors [wikipedia.org]
      On-site reprocessing of fissile materials to feed the reactor, with only minor extra fuel input required (almost 1.0 ratio reacted fuel, after reprocessing) and can be used to "burn" waste products of other reactors.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wansu (846)

      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.

    • We actually can, I think - and not with breeder reactors. I work in an industry that sometimes provides equipment to nuclear power plants and I've heard recently that there are new designs that can use the waste materials without them having to be concentrated in a way that raises fears of nuclear proliferation.

    • > Now, if we were only allowed to reprocess the damned fuel

      ftfy

  • What's with the LFTR [energyfromthorium.com] design, is that just some crackpot idea or is is the canine testicles?
    • I have no idea what you're talking about, but I'm praying it's the canine testicles one.

    • Re:Thorium (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:50AM (#32896826)

      There problem with that design is there IS no design. It's a great idea (probably), but there's a lot of work between "good idea" and "ready to deploy"... and for some reason, people insist on a whole lot of testing and failsafes for nuclear plants. AP1000 has taken years and years to develop, and it was just a "relatively" simple upgrade of the AP600 design, compared to changing EVERYTHING for thorium.

      • Re:Thorium (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:26AM (#32897838)

        Except there WAS a demonstration LFTR reactor built at Los Alamos and operated for several years back in the 50s and 60s.

        LFTR has several advantages over Uranium based reactors.

        • Thorium is a thousand times more abundant than fuel-grade Uranium.
        • We have enough Thorium inside the continental US to supply our energy needs for millenia.
        • LFTR reactors produce a tiny fraction of the nuclear "waste" that Uranium based reactors do.
        • LFTR reactors have a simpler cooling requirement than conventional reactors (at a cost of a more complex chemical reprocessing requirement).
        • The nuclear reaction in a LFTR reactor is inherently thermaly self-regulating (similar to pebble-bed reactor design); i.e., no nuclear runaway reaction.
        • The LFTR reactor design is failsafe. In the event of an accident, the Thorium fuel drains out of the reactor into a storage tank and the reaction STOPS.

        We don't have to change EVERYTHING for Thorium RIGHT NOW, but maybe we should be start investigating LFTR technology again so that a decade or two from now so we WILL HAVE a safer, more reliable alternative to Uranium based reactors.

        Yeah, I know, LFTR reactor is redundant.

      • by MtViewGuy (197597)

        Except they've built actual thorium reactors to test the technology--and that was many, many years ago at the Idaho National Laboratory in Arco, ID. As such, the technology is a lot more mature than you think.

        They've designed a new type of reactor (liquid fluoride thorium reactor) that requires a tiny fraction of the space needed by a uranium water-cooled reactor and also by design cannot melt down, either. As such, since thorium is way more plentiful than uranium, we have a source of fuel that could potent

    • Re:Thorium (Score:5, Informative)

      by RudyHartmann (1032120) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:26AM (#32896972)
      Actually, thorium should not be anymore complex (probably simpler) than a uranium/plutonium based reactor. But all the years of the cold war and the lure of nuclear weapons has prompted all the engineering to be spent on uranium/plutonium reactors. It's not a physics problem. It's just that since all the current reactors are uranium/plutonium, the engineering is far more developed. From a physics standpoint, thorium is well understood. But from an engineering perspective it is mostly still experimental. If energy production is your only motive, eventually thorium has to win over current conventional reactor designs. It's just a matter of time. Heck, even with the current reactors, the main reason we have nuclear waste is because we do not reprocess fuel. You can thank Jimmy Carter for that decision too. But fast breeders that would have used the waste make it easier to get the resources to build weapons too. War sucks. We need LFTR's!!!!!!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by RudyHartmann (1032120)
        I forgot to mention that LFTR's have the potential to produce energy so cheaply, that oil, coal, solar, etc will become irrelevant. Fusion is the dark horse if they EVER figure that one out. So far tokamaks have just been government research projects that sucked in billions of dollars. But if we ever get to the moon we have a chance for mining helium 3 which might make these fusion reactors work. But that is a HUGE engineering problem compared to thorium reactors. Google and Bill Gates have invested boatloa
  • by zwei2stein (782480) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:46AM (#32896808) Homepage

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

    • by turing_m (1030530) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:24AM (#32896968)

      The biggest issue I have with using nuclear energy for power in a widespread fashion is that it is the most dense source of energy known to man by far, and once used it's gone. Future space exploration and colonization will probably require nuclear fuel, especially if it's beyond the solar system.

      Meanwhile we have deserts that are receiving orders of magnitude more solar energy than the world currently uses, that could be harvested using technology we have today.

      • by init100 (915886)

        Meanwhile we have deserts that are receiving orders of magnitude more solar energy than the world currently uses, that could be harvested using technology we have today.

        It could work in the US, which has its own deserts. But do you really think that we in Europe want to give Muammar Qaddafi and his neighbors a big red on-off switch for our entire electricity grids? We cannot rely on these unstable states, which means that we must generate our own power.

    • by Tropico (1855650) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:37AM (#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...
      • by kvezach (1199717)
        Advanced reactors can deal with the waste problem. I like the energy amplifier [wikipedia.org], which generates the neutrons required for fission externally. That means that there's no chance of a meltdown (just turn off your neutron source) and that the neutrons can also be used to transmute waste into less harmful types. More conventionally, you also have the sodium-cooled fast reactor [wikipedia.org] (basically the IFR, developed further).
        • The problem with sodium is that if it ever cools, it solidifies. If you ever go offline, you need to continuously heat and pump your sodium coolant to keep it from freezing. Maintenance on the system is tricky, at best. So I hear.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            No, that's not "the" problem with using sodium as a coolant, and neither is chemical reactivity (hot sodium explodes energetically in the presence of a standard atmosphere) -- both problems can be engineered around, or avoided completely by using NaK (for example). Modern engineering practices are unlikely to lead to the sorts of "condensation" jams seen in the Fermi meltdown or the SRE. However, "condensation" itself remains a serious problem.

            That is, the problem with sodium as a coolant is that the hi

  • Obligatory? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @03:47AM (#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.
    • Re:Obligatory? (Score:5, Informative)

      by KovaaK (1347019) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:13AM (#32897780) Journal

      Highlights in the past 4 years:

      • In 2007, NRG files for two ABWRs as the first mover in quite a while.
      • This year, the Obama Administration has awarded loan guarantees for new reactors and more are being pushed.
      • While the Finnish OL3 reactor is taking more time and money, major lessons are being learned as it is the first reactor being built in nearly 3 decades.
      • Four reactors are under construction in China.
      • More small reactor firms are popping up and gathering attention.
      • New uranium enrichment plants are being built, and one has a green light from the NRC to begin operations in New Mexico.
      • The nuclear supply chain is ramping up with new component manufacturing plants being built in Louisiana, Virginia, Ohio, and elsewhere.

      Source [blogspot.com]

      And of course, the article that was for this story has more information. But who reads that?

    • by Racemaniac (1099281) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:32AM (#32897866)

      Isn't it amazing that this nuclear revival is happening in the year of the Linux desktop!

  • by Narcocide (102829) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:10AM (#32896916) Homepage

    I thought I saw this supposedly quite safe "Pebble Bed" small-scale reactor design reported on then linked to by Slashdot some time ago, but I don't see it mentioned in the article. I am not having luck finding it in the Slashdot search either. Did I dream that? One of the important features of it was that it was "walk-away safe" - as in, were the cooling system to catastrophically fail, it could not achieve "meltdown." In fact, it could be safely repaired and re-started with very little material damage whatsoever.

  • Forgot to add 'In the US'. Lots of other countries are still using it and building new ones.
  • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:35AM (#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 Dachannien (617929) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:17AM (#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 FuckingNickName (1362625) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:36AM (#32897560) Journal

        Environmentalist wackjobs shouldn't get a free pass on their irrational fear of nuclear power

        Yes, but you're not going to get anyone on-side by complaining about "wackjobs" with an "irrational fear". It is quite healthy and rational to fear nuclear power, just as it is healthy to fear a tiger - but the response to fear doesn't always have to be to run away. Translate into a list of perceived hazards; provide explanation of how resultant risks are managed.

        It is also important to be honest about the unique problems of nuclear power - waste management in particular - with a demonstration of how any expansion of a nuclear power programme can be matched by increased waste containment.

        Fossil fuel lobbyists aren't going to change their minds because they already know you're right - it's just not in their interest to admit it. But some environmentalists are simply misguided by a lack of knowledge of nuclear power or by rhetoric from those who have a pecuniary or power interest in pseudo-environmentalism (Greenpeace, PETA, etc.). These organisations aren't "wackjobs" either - they're working on the same basis as the fossil fuel lobbyists.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Orgasmatron (8103)

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Muad'Dave (255648)

        ... 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 Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:59AM (#32897104) Homepage

    http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/ff_new_nukes/ [wired.com]

    KTHXBYE.

    (But seriously, seems like a good idea from what I've read.)

  • Good idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by f3rret (1776822) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:02AM (#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 jcochran (309950) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:03AM (#32897408)

    Nuclear power is one of the cleanest sources of power we have so far. Now if Obama will correct the damn stupid mistake Carter did, things will be a heck of a lot better. Yes, we have a nuclear waste problem and it's a large one. But it's not a technical problem, it's a political problem. President Carter back in 1977 issued a directive that stopped reprocessing of civilian nuclear waste. Mind, the US nuclear industry was built with the assumption that waste reprocessing would be available. So the result is that we have more waste than planned for being stored for longer periods than planned for, all because of a decision to change the way things were done. And said decision was made without putting into place an alternate method of handling the waste. Yes people, we have a nuclear waste issue, and if Obama can reverse the brain dead stupid decision made 33 years ago, that would be one of the best possible things he could do for the United States. But some people still hear the word "nuclear" and suddenly their brains and reasoning turn off and they start thinking worse case issues and problems ignoring the fact that many of the problems are political and not technical. What about cost overruns? Well, stop dragging them into court attempting to stop construction. What about the nuclear waste? See the beginning of this post people. What about Three Mile Island? Your point is? The safety measures worked and the public never was in danger. During TMI, they debating for *three days* about whether or not to evacuate the area. Next time a damn bursts, be sure to take three days to come to the decision about heading for high ground. The safety measures *worked* even though the operators practically did everything they could to screw things up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by giorgist (1208992)
      To think that Carter was the last President that was an Engineer !! Now all we have are lawyers

      G
  • Nuclear for Oil? (Score:5, Informative)

    by necro81 (917438) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @06:23AM (#32897502) Journal
    Why does everyone think of nuclear power (or coal, or natural gas, or renewables) and oil as some sort of zero-sum game? Oil is used for three things mainly: transportation fuel, heating fuel in some parts of the country, and as a raw material for industrial processes. Nuclear power is good for one thing: generating electricity. While I will admit that there is plenty of small ways that we can trade off oil usage for nuclear-generated electricity, there aren't many wholesale ways of reducing oil consumption via nuclear. Are you going to heat your New England home with nuclear electricity? Will you create plastics feedstock from nuclear electricity? Even though in both cases one can do these things, we aren't about to because it's cheaper to do them using oil.

    The big one is electricity, and I for one am pessimistic that we'll see a wholesale shift away from gasoline/diesel (i.e., more than 1/3 of all vehicles on the road propelled by electrical power)in anything less than 25 years.

    And even then, it's not like we'll magically be trading nuclear electricity off for only imported oil. Oil is a global commodity. The determining factor of where the U.S. gets its oil from is where how much it costs. If it's cheaper or more profitable to bring it by tanker from the Middle East than it is to pull it from the Gulf of Mexico, you can bet that is where we'll get most of it. In truth, where does the U.S. import most of its oil from? Canada. Mexico provides us with as much oil as Saudi Arabia. We get more from non-OPEC nations than we do from OPEC [lots of stats here [doe.gov]]. I am glad that the summary used the term "dependence on oil" rather than the more politically useful "foreign oil". I just wish that everyone else could wrap their head around it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by confused one (671304)

      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, thou

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KovaaK (1347019)

      You are correct, and the summary is stupid. Nuclear is ideally a replacement for coal and natural gas power plants. Of course, if electric vehicles take off, then we could see more of a use for nuclear in transportation. Then again, maybe people are taking the Ford Nucleon [wikipedia.org] seriously.

  • The first is almost ready (was approved in 2002) and 2 more have been recently approved by parliament. The current 4 plants produce a total of 2721 MW, which is 30% of the total finnish electrical power, and the fifth, soon to be put into use (around 2012 - ok, soonish), will add another 1600 MW. The other two, recently approved, plants would add about 1400-1500 MW each.

    The interesting thing is, the plants were approved mostly based on economic criteria, but everybody had in the back of their had the higher

  • Could? COULD!?!? (Score:4, Informative)

    by StickyWidget (741415) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:34AM (#32898368)
    There are 2 plants under construction RIGHT NOW in South Carolina, with tentative dates in 2016 for operation.

    Nuclear IS back.

    ~Sticky

  • ideology and facts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @08:50AM (#32898582) Homepage Journal

    Same discussion in europe as well.

    What pains me is that facts don't matter, ideology does. We want to get out of nuclear power, says a majority here in Germany, but it leads to no new nuclear power plants being built. Which sounds fine until you realize that it means the old ones continue to run. And run. And run. The most unsafe ones, some built in the 1960s.

    Would I rather not have something that can blow up horribly in my neighbourhood? Uh, yeah. But given the choice between a 1960 reactor that is long past its expected life span, and a new more modern one, why are we picking the 1960s?

    Ideology, plain and simple. Stupidity and greed.

    To the power companies, the old ones are more profitable - no expenses building a new one, but full profit.
    To the politicians, they don't want to be seen "supporting" nuclear power by issuing permissions for new plants. But they don't want to turn down the briber^H^H^Hlobbyists, either and not endanger the power supply, so they make - the worst choice possible. Congratulations.

    Why are we paying these guys, again? To represent us? A twit and a braindead hooker could do better.

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