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France To Invest One Billion Euros In Nuclear Power 308

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the but-nuculars-will-make-mah-bebbe-a-commie dept.
An anonymous reader writes "France will invest one billion euros in future nuclear power development while boosting research into security, President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday." The Guardian has a more detailed article. It's not a huge investment, but it is nice to see continued commitment to Generation IV reactors by at least one Western country.
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France To Invest One Billion Euros In Nuclear Power

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  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:03PM (#36602180)
    They will make a fortune selling power to all those countries "phasing out" nuclear power with no plan to replace it but the underpants gnomes.
    • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:07PM (#36602270) Journal

      Yep. Spend a billion Euro now, get a nice return on that from Germany and Italy, because they can't meet energy demands.

      • by mridoni (228377)

        Not really an issue for Italy since the last reactor was shut dowin in 1990

      • by sa1lnr (669048)

        And who do you think is going to be building all those new reactors in the UK?

    • by bkmoore (1910118)
      The underpants gnomes...that's the nuclear waste disposal plan.
      • by MachineShedFred (621896) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:11PM (#36602358) Journal

        Except that France has a reprocessing facility that dwarfs other countries' capacity to get useable fuel out of the "waste."

        Nice job not knowing any facts though, and spewing the same non-issues like a good parrot.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gorgonite (79857)
          Except that reprocessing does not solve the waste disposal problem. You need to dispoese the waste from your reprocessing facility. You may spend lots of money (one billion won't be enough) to solve this too, but then some other problem with show up. Even worse, given the probabilities that we see right now then France is due for a big accident sooner or later. That accident will be a surprise to everyone, this seems to me like the only constant in nuclear energy.
    • by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:08PM (#36602310)

      They will make a fortune selling power to all those countries "phasing out" nuclear power with no plan to replace it but the underpants gnomes.

      ... which will work fine until those countries have built enough windmills, dams and solar arrays to no longer depend on France.

      ... and then France will have a problem: indeed, it buys as much electricity from abroad than it sells there. Nukes can only supply base load, and for peak France mostly relies on buying back from other countries (who are constructing storage facilities as we speak).

      If the French aren't careful, they might be in a world of hurt twenty years from now...

      • by Ruke (857276)
        Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but why can nuclear power only supply base-load, instead of peak as well? I've certainly heard that solar and wind are unsuitable to supply base load, as they're not terrifically reliable, but never anything about nuclear being unable to scale to peak load.
        • by demonbug (309515) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:18PM (#36602490) Journal

          Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but why can nuclear power only supply base-load, instead of peak as well? I've certainly heard that solar and wind are unsuitable to supply base load, as they're not terrifically reliable, but never anything about nuclear being unable to scale to peak load.

          It isn't practical to rapidly change the load on nuke reactors, because it takes a significant amount of time to ramp up and down power output. Also, it basically costs the same to run whether you are at 10% capacity or 100% capacity, so it makes sense to run them as near to full capacity as possible. Contrast that with something like a gas-fired powerplant, where you can ramp generation quickly and you are pretty much only paying for the gas you are burning.

          Of course, France announced at the same time as this announcement that they will be going ahead with something like 1.5 billion euros funding renewable resources over the same period, so it isn't like they are putting all their eggs in the nuclear basket - just not abandoning it entirely as others are doing.

          • by EdZ (755139) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:24PM (#36602584)
            A good combination would then to build your new plants near high-altitude lakes. Not only can you pump water up into the lakes to store energy during lulls (and let it flow out through turbine generators during peaks), you can use them as a gravity-fed water source in case of off-site-and-on-site power failure scenarios.The turbines could also act as additional on-site power generators, giving you even more redundancy (off-site grid power, on-site diesel, on-site battery, on-site water turbine, on-site gravity-feed).
            • This sounds great until you have a dam fail and take out your plant.

              Considering the safety of dams, I wouldn't want to put much of value under one.

          • by swb (14022)

            Why not run the plant at some kind of overproduction level? The overproduction could be used for water electrolysis, aluminum smelting or some other energy-intensive task that could be scaled back to meet peak power demands.

            Water electrolysis could supply hydrogen which could be burned or turned to methane for longer term storage and used to also provide peak power.

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              Because then you are building a reactor bigger than you need. What bean counter is going to ok that?

              It is cheaper to make hydrogen from natural gas and buy that to burn for peak power than to bother with making an oversized plant.

            • These reactors are able to generate hydrogen via there temperatures alone. It would seem rather feasible to generate hydrogen and store it in large quantities to run gas turbines for peek load. Just place the peak load plant next to the nuke.

              • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:43PM (#36602926)

                You do not want to burn hydrogen in a turbine, you do not want to store hydrogen. It embrittles everything. It leaks through anything. It is an explosive hazard. It would be far cheaper and safer to just buy and burn natural gas.

            • by vlm (69642)

              Why not run the plant at some kind of overproduction level? The overproduction could be used for water electrolysis, aluminum smelting or some other energy-intensive task that could be scaled back to meet peak power demands.

              Water electrolysis could supply hydrogen which could be burned or turned to methane for longer term storage and used to also provide peak power.

              Intermittent "valley" purchasers will not pay higher normal rates, to the point where it doesn't make economic sense to bother offering to them.

              A large capital expenditure plant doesn't make any money to pay the stockholders when you cut off the power... if you pull the plug 25% of the time, they just lost 25% of their gross revenues and probably more than 25% of their profits... So that means electricity has to be, roughly, over a quarter of their expenses and has to practically be free, to interest them

              • A large capital expenditure plant doesn't make any money to pay the stockholders when you cut off the power... if you pull the plug 25% of the time, they just lost 25% of their gross revenues and probably more than 25% of their profits... So that means electricity has to be, roughly, over a quarter of their expenses and has to practically be free, to interest them.

                It's very important that the investors always get their cut, or they won't let us have any toys.

                Nikola Tesla may have been right about everything else, but we're quite fortunate that he was wrong about his wanting to extract energy from the "wheelwork of nature [google.com]". Imagine the chaos if "investors" had to support themselves with work instead of "investment".

                Imagine the chaos if THAT black swan took flight. :)

                • by vlm (69642)

                  It's very important that the investors always get their cut, or they won't let us have any toys.

                  Regardless if you're doin it for dollars or gaia worship or net positive EROEI calculations, there's no point building something that takes electricity if you're intentionally not going to feed it electricity. I'm not really sure what philosophical or religious outlook supports "building something really big that is really useless"

          • Well you can change the power load, actually. You can do it by pumping water in faster or slower, or by fiddling with the fuel rods to produce more or less power. It depends on the reactor type (PWR and BWR respectively). France, in fact, does just this because they have more nuke capacity than baseload. The term is "load-following capability". The French PWRs can go from 30 to 100% capacity in about half an hour. We even do some of this in the US, apparently, around Chicago - which also has plenty of nuke

          • It isn't practical to rapidly change the load on nuke reactors, because it takes a significant amount of time to ramp up and down power output.

            It's a bit more complicated than that. In principle the power output of a reactor can be brought up and down very quickly. As you insert or remove control rods the amount of fission in the reactor can change within seconds. There is some decay heat to worry about, but in principle you can bring a reactor down by 94% or so within a few seconds, and similarly up again

        • by TheSync (5291)

          Nuclear power plants can not rapidly change power output. Fast changes in power level can lead to instability due to short-lived fission products that don't get burned up with enough neutron flux.

        • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:22PM (#36602550)

          Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but why can nuclear power only supply base-load, instead of peak as well? I've certainly heard that solar and wind are unsuitable to supply base load, as they're not terrifically reliable, but never anything about nuclear being unable to scale to peak load.

          The term you don't know to google for is "xenon poisoning" or the "iodine pit"

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iodine_pit [wikipedia.org]

          Using the most non-technical terms I can, the "ashes" from the "fire" choke it from cranking up for a couple hours when you change the power level.

          Naval reactors work around it by including massive extra reactivity, meaning you have to be really freaking careful when running them. The average Homer Simpson is probably ... unprepared for their rather spirited performance. The other problem is, for the sake of argument, building a naval reactor 5 times bigger than it "needs" to be is affordable. Really, it is! But building a nuke 5 times bigger than "necessary" for a base load plant will make the brains of the bean counters in finance go prompt-critical.

          • by Andy Dodd (701)

            As an example of what happens when a reactor is attempted to be restarted from an iodine pit by someone not competent enough to do so - Chernobyl.

          • by sribe (304414)

            Using the most non-technical terms I can, the "ashes" from the "fire" choke it from cranking up for a couple hours when you change the power level.

            Ok, yeah. But if it's really just a couple of hours of delay, aren't utilities by now at least that good at forecasting demand peaks? Isn't it the case that it takes a couple of days to shut down or spin up a coal-fired plant, and that they don't really have any useful range of output beyond on & off?

        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:24PM (#36602596) Journal
          The trouble with nukes(true to a lesser extent of coal and oil, not true of gas turbine, not true of hydro(though some different constraints apply)) is that they do not take kindly to rapid adjustments in output power. Even when SCRAMed, they take a while to cool down, and they are sufficiently expensive(both absolutely and in terms of the ratio between capital costs + fixed costs of operation vs. variable and fuel costs) that if you aren't running them at full output except when servicing them, you are shoveling money away.

          Because of that, you try to set them up so that you have nuclear capacity less than or equal to the lowest continuous(base) load on your grid, and run it at full power all the time. Then, during times of heavier usage, you fire up the cheap, fast-responding; but comparatively expensive per unit fuel gas units, or increase the flow rate at the hydro plants, or whatever.

          If it came to it, you could build nukes to match your peak load; but (since you can't scale them up and down fast enough to match demand) you would have to generate continuously near peak, and then figure out something to do with the excess during off-peak. That isn't an impossible problem(if you have the geography for it, you can used pumped hydro or pressurized gas storage as relatively inefficient; but not hopeless, 'batteries', or you can try to align the demands of certain power-heavy industries toward off-peak times, or try to reduce the peak/base swing by increasing adoption of thermal storage systems in building climate control and other measures, or, worst case, just burning the excess in some huge resistors); but it isn't ideal.

          Nuclear can scale as high as you wish to build it, it just can't adjust output very fast, so you either run it higher than needed in off-peak, or run it at baseload levels all the time.
          • Most of these new systems are designed around the ability to generate hydrogen as fuel so you can shift to producing that off peak.

          • 1, You can store energy in artificial lakes, and get it back with hydro.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped_storage [wikipedia.org]

            2, You can use extra electricity to power water-boilers in households, and that doesn't have to be continous, it only has to meet a daily average power, with a rather low precision. (This is how it works in Hungary, but I guess it's used elsewhere as well.) This unreliable power is sold at a much cheaper rate, and uses separate wiring.

        • by Andy Dodd (701)

          It's very difficult to change the output of a reactor rapidly.

          France and various navies (nuclear propulsion) are the only people who do it.

          It can be done safely (as France and various navies have proven), but if done by someone who isn't competent, Bad Things (Chernobyl) happen.

          However, even if it can be done safely, it is not by any means optimal to run nuke plants in a load-following mode.

          That said - it's a lot easier to create storage technologies to handle relatively predictable demand variations than c

      • by Cyberax (705495)

        "... which will work fine until those countries have built enough windmills, dams and solar arrays to no longer depend on France."

        I.e. "never". Or at least not until 2050, which is close enough. And by that time France will have newer and better reactors, most likely outperforming other alternative sources. Oh, and the world's first fusion power plant is also being built in France.

        "... and then France will have a problem: indeed, it buys as much electricity from abroad than it sells there. Nukes can only su

      • Yes, I am sure that it will never dawn on the french to build storage once the price drops.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They won't be making a fortune, they will be ensuring that their national security is more stable than almost any nation out there:

      1: They won't be depending on Russia for natural gas. German citizens would freeze to death if Russia decides to shut the gas off, so Germany has ruined its national security.

      2: They will have energy where others won't. While the US and China piss on each other over oil and coal, French independence and freedom from the Middle Eastern turmoil is assured.

      3: They can do more

      • by Americano (920576)

        Oh, and the 1 billion Euros... that's a lot more than 1 billion dollars. Euros are immune to inflation, while dollars get printed on a daily basis.

        It's about 1.44 billion USD, to be precise. "A lot more than?" We're not talking orders of magnitude.

        And wherever did you get the notion that the Euro is immune to inflation?

    • 1) Eliminate All Nuclear Power
      2) ???
      3) Profit!!!

    • 1) Spend 1$ Billion dollars in future nuclear power development
      2) ???
      3) Profit!!!

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:39PM (#36602870) Homepage Journal

      They will make a fortune selling power

      First they'll have to make a nuclear plant that turns a profit without public subsidies.

      Remember "Safe, clean and too cheap to meter"? That was forty years ago. We still haven't even come close.

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      Yup, Germany is going to be at the mercy of either France (nuclear) or Russia (gas).

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Not if they are willing to burn coal. Which if either of those makes noise they will do

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:07PM (#36602260)

    ...President Sarkozy kissed his pinky.

  • They'll make a fortune selling excess to the Germans.

    • Quite. Although the germans have said they won't use nuclear power - they will. It's just that they'll use FRENCH nuclear power, since the french can - apparently - do it better than the germans.
    • Blitzstrom! French power rampaging over the border!
  • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:12PM (#36602360)

    I mean, I love Final Fantasy comics as much as the next guy, but apparently France is batshit insane for it!

  • Hydrogen Production? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:18PM (#36602482) Homepage Journal

    An international task force is developing six nuclear reactor technologies for deployment between 2020 and 2030. Four are fast neutron reactors.
    All of these operate at higher temperatures than today's reactors. In particular, four are designated for hydrogen production. [world-nuclear.org]

    Don't we have a crapload of unused base load power in this world which we could use for hydrogen production?

  • Canada is selling it's nuclear industry to private interests.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/ottawa-to-sell-aecl-to-snc-lavalin/article2078110/ [theglobeandmail.com]

  • This is good news (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:29PM (#36602702) Homepage

    At least someone isn't giving up.

    Still, the lessons of Fukushima Daiichi are serious. There are a sizable number of reactors out there which will melt down if they lose cooling pump power. (The reactors and the pumps at Fukushima survived the earthquake and tsunami. Cooling continued until the battery bank ran down, then stopped. All the damage shown in photos is from later hydrogen explosions.) That's unacceptable. There has to be backup passive cooling.

    All plants should have catalytic hydrogen recombiners [iaea.org] to prevent hydrogen explosions. There's no excuse for not having those. That should have been fixed after TMI, decades ago.

    Long term storage of used fuel rods on site has got to stop. After initial cooling, those need to go to dry cask storage.

    The really tough issue is evacuation zones. Indian Point in New York has 19 million people within 50 miles.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "All plants should have catalytic hydrogen recombiners [iaea.org] to prevent hydrogen explosions. There's no excuse for not having those. "

      All plants should have some fucking insurance, what's the excuse for that?

    • is that all reactors should have waste heat generators. Seriously. This issue would not have happened had they simply had attached one or more waste heat generators that could use the heat coming from the piles to run the pumps. Amazingly, they can only run when the nukes are running above 90C or more, which would then require cooling. Oddly, nobody is thinking that way. They put in diesel generators that require zero issues, but are likely to have more issues. Sad, sad, sad.
  • Yea, it is always nice to see reactors being built close to other countries borders to minimize risk.

  • I wonder if any of that money will go towards moving away from uranium 235? If anything, France would be a good candidate to show the western world that thorium 232 is a viable fuel source. All we'd lose is the plutonium and we really don't need more nuclear weapons anyways. Just about everything that sucks about using uranium nuclear fuel (scarcity, goes critical if not cooled, needs to be enriched, unusable waste) would go away.
  • I'll charge them 1% of whatever they're going to spend on "boosting security" to advise that they do not build reactors in flood planes or on fault lines.
    • Whoops! Flood planes should be flood plains; though floods do tend to congregate on low-lying planes.
  • This is probably going to be more like 1 billion Euros for Areva [areva.com]. As others have said at least some first world country will be developing the next generation nuclear reactors.
  • by Paracelcus (151056) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @03:47PM (#36603002) Journal

    You can bet that France and Germany are going into the Nuclear energy business together, only the reactors will be in France. Must be that the political landscape makes this kind of shell game plausible to the German people (let's move the reactors over the border) after all French fallout wouldn't dare cross into Germany.

  • USA is NOT going to abandon our nukes. Simple as that. Hopefully, we will spend more on THorium R&D and soon. Likewise, we need to spend more on building a new IFR, but this time, make them SMALL (as in 300-500 MWe). By doing that, they can be constructed in a factory and then transported. In addition, rather than building brand new power plants all over the place, we simply enhance the current and shutdown ones with this new equipment. Then we are able to 'burn' all of this 'waste' fuel and simply bury

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