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Would You Trust an 80-Year-Old Nuclear Reactor? 429

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-off-my-nuclear-lawn dept.
the_newsbeagle writes "The worst nuclear near-disaster that you've never heard of came to light in 2002, when inspectors at Ohio's Davis-Besse nuclear power station discovered that a slow leak had been corroding a spot on the reactor vessel's lid for years (PDF). When they found the cavity, only 1 cm of metal was left to protect the nuclear core. That kind of slow and steady degradation is a major concern as the US's 104 reactors get older and grayer, says nuclear researcher Leonard Bond. U.S. reactors were originally licensed for 40 years of operation, but the majority have already received extensions to keep them going until the age of 60. Industry researchers like Bond are now determining whether it would be safe and economically feasible to keep them active until the age of 80. Bond describes the monitoring techniques that could be used to watch over aging reactors, and argues that despite the risks, the U.S. needs these aging atomic behemoths." Meanwhile, some very, very rich individuals have taken an interest in the future of nuclear power.
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Would You Trust an 80-Year-Old Nuclear Reactor?

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  • I wouldn't. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:23PM (#40757367)

    I wouldn't trust an 80-year-old anything.

    • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:4, Informative)

      by coastwalker (307620) <acoastwalkerNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:32PM (#40757529) Homepage

      Politics not science decides questions like this. You get what you vote for, serves you right.

      • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @08:28PM (#40759529)

        Not me, I voted for the honest hard working guy.

      • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @09:36PM (#40759983) Journal

        It's not got a damned thing to do with voting...unless you consider NIMBYism as a form of voting that is.

        Whether we like it or not folks our need for power is going nowhere but up, rolling blackouts in this heat will frankly leave some folks dead, including elderly and the sickly, and we just don't have any tech that can replace these as of yet. What we need is reliable 24/7/365 power and so far the renewables simply can't give us that so its nuke or coal and NG, take your pick.

        Personally i'd prefer it if we were building those thorium reactors that can power an average city and reprocessing the waste but the NIMBYs have a screaming shitfit. But of course if you talk about building a coal or NG plant they have a screaming shitfit too, hell they even had a screaming shitfit about those wind towers off of the east coast remember?

        Unless you want to go back to living in mud huts and burying the old and sick from heatstroke by the dozens we simply HAVE to have the power folks. As someone who lives less than 150 miles from a pair of reactors frankly I'm more worried about getting hit by a moron texting on his iPhone than i am a meltdown. I'm glad we have those plants as we haven't had a blackout around here in ages and with this heat I know several elderly relatives that would end up in the hospital or the morgue if it weren't for AC, including my parents.

        If you don't want old plants tell the NIMBYs to STFU and build the new designs as fast as we can crank 'em out, simple as that.

        • by houghi (78078)

          rolling blackouts in this heat will frankly leave some folks dead, including elderly and the sickly

          People die. Get over it.
          And no, that does mean I have to go back and live in the mud. It means that I accept that people will die. I think it should not be used as an excuse. It sounds like: think of the children, the sick and the elderly.

          I am a healthy human being and I do not like the heat. That is why I want airco. I do not like to freeze in winter and like my heating. I like to turn on the lights at night

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Whether we like it or not folks our need for power is going nowhere but up, rolling blackouts in this heat will frankly leave some folks dead, including elderly and the sickly,

          That happened in France, a country that is mostly nuclear. When ambient temperatures got too high they had to idle their reactors or dump hot water into rivers, killing off all the wildlife.

          What we need is reliable 24/7/365 power and so far the renewables simply can't give us

          Simply not true. We have solar that works 24/7, and wind is perfectly reliable 24/7 if you just build enough of the things in different places. Plus there is geothermal, hydro and so forth. Rather than waste time and money building more nuclear and then cleaning up after it let's try something else.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by kaatochacha (651922)

            Solar, even in the desert: people complain about the local flora and fauna.
            Geothermal: people complain that you're creating earthquakes.
            Hydro: Dams are Satan's tools.
            Wind: It's killing the BIRDS!

            I have friends I argue with incessantly about these things, who seem to have the odd idea that a solar panel on your roof will power your entire house and everything in it, all day long

      • The problem we have 2 sides of Stupid.

        1. I hate everything nuclear. It is dangerous and scary, and it is a nuclear bomb going to kill us all!!!!!
        2. Nuclear Energy Safe, Clean, Too safe to meter.

        Nuclear Energy is a viable energy source. It is cleaner then a lot of our other major energy sources, and it can be placed in different locations. However it does have a lot of Toxic/Radioactive problems that needs long term (Aka 10,000 years) solutions to deal with. We need to stop being so partisan in Nuclear Ene

        • by ckaminski (82854)
          LFTR - the greatest secret in nuclear power, because it is unsuitable for proliferation and plutonium production.

          Runs on plentiful thorium (nearly too-cheap-to-meter)
          Capable of powering Fischer-Tropche (sp?) carbon fuel generation
          Fails safe in a non-critical mode.

          Look it up. Solves 99% of our problems with nuclear power.
    • Specially my 1926 born grandfather! Who is still very much alive and in better health than most people I know. That is way too suspicious for me!
      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Specially my 1926 born grandfather! Who is still very much alive and in better health than most people I know.

        Can he still contain a nuclear reaction?

      • by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @09:14PM (#40759865)

        I wouldn't trust your grandfather for two seconds.

        Two things:

        1) Old people run dangerously low on fucks, and therefore have much less to give. Not good. Especially, if they can be amused by whatever their addled, senile brains have come up with.
        2) The old adage that youth and skill will always fail when faced with old age and treachery. After years of collecting data on this phenomenon I confidently state this is as true as gravity.

        My grandfather is gone, and I do miss him terribly, but I do also sleep better without worrying what prank he is going to play next. That, and my mother screaming, "get your balls off my couch old man". He refused to wear anything other than a kimono that did not fit him.

    • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:40PM (#40757663)

      Either science and engineering is right or it isn't. If you think engineers can safely build a nuclear reactor and operate it for 40 years, why is 80 years different if they can demonstrate strong engineering judgement? And if 80 years isn't safe, then what arbitrary number is it that it becomes unsafe?

      • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Medievalist (16032) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:51PM (#40757857)

        Either science and engineering is right or it isn't. If you think engineers can safely build a nuclear reactor and operate it for 40 years, why is 80 years different if they can demonstrate strong engineering judgement? And if 80 years isn't safe, then what arbitrary number is it that it becomes unsafe?

        If we were depending on anything as rational as science, engineering or judgement we wouldn't run them past their designed lifespans.

        There's these things called "safety margins" that engineers like, and these things called "new designs" that scientists like, but none of that will be as important as what the rich political donors want. Because the people making the decisions, at the end, will be the politicians.

        • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:47PM (#40758517)

          Okay, pretend you are a nuclear engineer. The reactor you built in the late 60s was designed with large safety margins because much of the material science and thermal hydraulics was not as advanced as it is today. Additionally, the instrumentation was of a poorer design and the accident analyses were performed with computers designed in the 60s. In 2012, the safety margin can be expanded based on what is known, as well as improvements to the plants over the years (like the post TMI changes). 40 years of operating reactors has given enormous amounts of data on material corrosion and neutron exposure.

          These reactors were designed to operate for 40 years in the same way that the Martian rovers were designed to operate 90 days. The designed lifetime is engineering speak for a very conservative rough guess based on current conditions.

          • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @09:07PM (#40759821)
            The safety margins are estimated based upon what is known at that time and can also be too small. That's why these things have been watched like hawks and many portions replaced. The French sodium cooled reactors are a prime example since they were pushing so far into the unknown. They had so many problems that large amounts of equipment were replaced many times.

            Additionally, the instrumentation was of a poorer design

            I'm assuming you are writing about TMI. The instrumentation wouldn't have been considered up to legal standards of even a fertilizer plant at the time, the "clean and safe" myth had won out and allowed some dangerous corner cutting to save cash. Nothing that generates large amounts of heat is safe unless you take care to make it so.
            It's not like designing a lift with a known safety factor. These things are all prototypes to an extent. You don't go to the moon on Apollo 1, and you can't expect the first reactor of any design to be perfect.

          • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @09:22PM (#40759907)

            Yes.. yes.. yes... all good points.

            The question was would you trust it. Considering the rampant corruption in the world, it's a pretty fair assumption that there are going to be financial and political interests steering the "engineering" decisions.

            It's not the reactor that I don't trust. It's not the engineers I don't trust.

            The managers, politicians, and those with financial interests I don't trust for two fucking seconds.

            Put it another way... I would trust being transported from place to place with a transporter beam just fine.... in theory. However, not when operated by a capitalist corporation that is trying to save money on costly maintenance and inspections and has figured out that my accidental death is cheaper in the long run than hiring those expensive "Star Fleet" trained technicians and decides to go with somebody with an online degree.

        • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:5, Informative)

          by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @07:17PM (#40758865)

          There's these things called "safety margins" that engineers like,

          Once upon a time, back when nuclear power plants were first being built, it wasn't especially clear what effect neutron embrittlement would have over the lifetime of a nuke plant.

          As a result, the plants tended to be over-engineered to astonishing degree.

          Newer plants weren't over-engineered to such an extreme degree, but were still over-engineered.

          In other words, the 40 year design lifetime was a VERY conservative estimate. Whether they can survive 80 years is debatable, but that's a question for the engineers/scientists.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by PopeRatzo (965947)

          There's these things called "safety margins" that engineers like, and these things called "new designs" that scientists like...

          And then there's these things, called "profits" that corporations like, so fuck you very much, that reactor is going to stay online.

          And they've got a $500,000.00 campaign contribution made out to your opponent's name that says so.

        • This is a common misconception. Nuclear plants are not "designed to last 40 years". They have no designed lifespan. They are designed to last as long as possible given other safety requirements. The reason why they were licensed for 40 years is because the NRC (AEC at the time) figured that was the least amount of time the plant should be able to run without requiring a major overhaul. At the time, no one knew how long they would really last without requiring such expensive overhauls as to make it not finan

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rei (128717)

        Either science and engineering is right or it isn't. If you think engineers can safely build a nuclear reactor and operate it for 40 years, why is 80 years different if they can demonstrate strong engineering judgement?

        So you think a 20-year-old car drive 400,000 miles runs the same as 10-year-old car driven 200,000 miles?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          If that car was maintained with as much oversight & regulation as a nuclear reactor, then yes, it would run just as well. In fact, it would probably run *better* at 20 years than at 10 just due to upgrades that weren't available as original equipment.

        • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @07:02PM (#40758721)

          Either science and engineering is right or it isn't. If you think engineers can safely build a nuclear reactor and operate it for 40 years, why is 80 years different if they can demonstrate strong engineering judgement?

          So you think a 20-year-old car drive 400,000 miles runs the same as 10-year-old car driven 200,000 miles?

          Do you think a 1 year old car runs as well as a 5 year old car?

          Pick your poison. If you are going to pick an arbitrary number to label 'unsafe', there ought to be some sort of justification.

          My argument is that if the engineering supports continued operation (with longevity modifications as necessary) then that is enough if we believe that engineering is a valid discipline that can design this type of technology. This logic isn't specific to nuclear reactors. It applies to airplanes, bridges, dams, ships, etc. I'm not saying that risk doesn't need to be factored in. It does. But not in a haphazard FUD dominated way without looking at the data.

          Why do we operate dams for over 100 years? The engineering supports it.

          Why do we operate airplanes for over 30 years? The engineering supports it.

          Why do we sail ships that are over 50 years old? The engineering supports it.

          Why do we operate nuclear reactors for over 40 years?

        • by toygeek (473120)

          I personally drive a 25 year old SUV with 340K miles on it. Its mostly original. I don't believe the engine has been replaced, nor have any of the other major components. It has seen regular maintenance, and it is a good, reliable old truck. It was built to be stout (its siblings raced in the Paris-Dakar rally, and won!) and it was built to last a long time.

          So, if an 80 year old reactor was engineered to last that long, and was properly maintained during its lifetime, why not?

      • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Local ID10T (790134) <ID10T.L.USER@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:44PM (#40758481) Homepage

        Either science and engineering is right or it isn't. If you think engineers can safely build a nuclear reactor and operate it for 40 years, why is 80 years different if they can demonstrate strong engineering judgement? And if 80 years isn't safe, then what arbitrary number is it that it becomes unsafe?

        But in fact they designed and built it to operate safely for 40 years...

        We have been lucky that they were being conservative (as most good engineers are) and it has lasted 60 years. I'd rather not push my luck to 80 years.

        If it were designed and built to last 80 years, yes I would trust it to last 80 years. We know a lot more about nuclear physics than we did when these plants were designed. We have a much better understanding of what not to do, which gives us a much better understanding of what to do. If the engineers say that the new design is good for 80 years, great. If the engineers say that it is good for 40 years, I am certainly not going to try and talk them into 80 years. That would be the difference between engineering and politics.

      • by tragedy (27079) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @07:05PM (#40758747)

        If you think engineers can safely build a nuclear reactor and operate it for 40 years, why is 80 years different if they can demonstrate strong engineering judgement?

        If I can safely run 40 feet along a pier without falling into the water, why is 80 feet any different?

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      I don't see a problem. Engineers double estimates to ensure safety. For critical situations like military (or nuclear) they triple or quadruple their estimates. So I don't see a problem with a reactor being extended from 40 to 80 in lifespan since it was probably designed to handle 120 years. I wouldn't go beyond double though.

      • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by slew (2918) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @07:57PM (#40759285)

        I see a problem. Although engineers usually have large safety margins, the margin is only relative to the known data at the time. Over 40-60 years, better data points become available which may not have been apparent when the original margin was computed resulting in a much smaller real margin.

        The problem: although people can do recomputations for the problem that are obvious to newcomers (a 35yo experienced engineer 60 years later is 95yo consulting engineer long retired or dead), how many built-in assumptions did the original designers make that weren't thought to be critical design issues are now violated by new information? Probably quite a few. How will this likely be addressed? By ignoring this issue because is it too expensive to address.

        Your attitude is similar to what was pointed to in the Challenger report, appendix F [nasa.gov]. To paraphrase: If it is true that if the reliability was so high that it could handle 120 years, it would take an inordinate number of tests to determine it (you would get nothing but a string of perfect results from which no precise figure, other than that the probability is likely more than the number of years so far). But, if the real probability of failure is not so small, similar reactors would show troubles, near failures, and possible actual failures with a reasonable number of trials and standard statistical methods could give a reasonable estimate.

        However, sometime people attribute the lack of actual failure as proving the design and "go-with-their-gut" instead of using available statistical methods to do real analysis change the definition of margin to justify their conclusions.

        Given the number of reactors is small and we have seen trouble and near failures in some reactors of similar design already (such as the one pointed out by this article), perhaps this estimate is a bit optimistic? Just sayn...

      • by shugah (881805)
        As you say, engineers double estimates to ensure safety.

        There are really good reasons for these safety margins. There are variations and tolerances in every single component and in the environment that each component is subjected to. These range from impurities in materials, variation in workmanship, tolerances in moving parts, variation in the levels and types of radiation, temperature pressure components are exposed to and a lot of unknown variables such as the long term effects of exposure to variou
      • by dbIII (701233)
        Sometimes it's nice to be thought of as a magician, but with simplistic posts like the above it's not always nice. Sorry kids, it's not magic, safety factors are not always like that, and modes of failure are not always linear so assuming double the life is naive. Do you really thing an aircraft (for example) has everything twice as strong as it needs? Think of all that extra mass you'd have to move around, that extra fuel and the loss of carrying capacity. For all other designs there are tradeoffs for
    • Re:I wouldn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by korgitser (1809018) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:09PM (#40758079)

      I might trust an 80 year old reactor, but I wouldn't trust the suits running it.

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:24PM (#40757395)

    Like building new reactors to replace the old ones.

    • by busyqth (2566075)
      If only new reactor designs were safer than the old ones...
      • And just what makes you think they're not?

        • The newer ones were built in a much stronger regulatory climate, which is not to say a much more stringent one, but instead one in which the regulations were constantly changing during construction.

          As a result, newer plants have a lot of "engineering modifications" on top of their original designs, and every one of those modifications is a potential point of failure because the system was not considered as a whole when the regulation was decided, and the minimum delta necessary to comply with the regulation

      • by Lisias (447563)

        The core issue is: they are!

        Stop and think: it was needed a full, cataclysmic tsunami to make Fukushima colapses. This is not small shit.

        Granted, I'm not saying modern reactors are safe. But they're a lot safer than the old ones - or perhaps, less unsafe.

        But they're not cheap.

        • by Uberbah (647458) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @09:04PM (#40759797)

          Stop and think: it was needed a full, cataclysmic tsunami to make Fukushima colapses. This is not small shit.

          Yeah, a once in a thousand year event. But how many places on the planet experience a "one in a thousand years" event in a given year? How about after hundreds of new reactors are built around to world to meet increasing power needs and as replacements for old reactors?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by roc97007 (608802)

        They could [thorium.tv] be [wikipedia.org].

    • by SomePgmr (2021234)
      Yeah whatever happened with thorium reactors? I thought those were supposed to be the super-safe, super-cheap, panacea of future power. I even seem to remember China was going all-in on them... but I haven't heard anything in a long while.
      • by Delarth799 (1839672) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:38PM (#40757627)
        If the word nuclear is in any way shape or form associated with something it is evil and will kill millions of people and explode and spew radiation across the land because nuclear.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mlts (1038732) *

        They are safe and cheap...

        But coal is "safer" [1] and cheaper.

        I get a bit cynical when I see people grumbling about old nuclear technology. To use the car analogy, it would be akin to banning cars since someone's Edsel or Packard threw a rod.

        [1]: Safer because it doesn't conjure up the radioactive boogyman, even though some statistics say coal plants toss up more radioactive crap in the air on an annual basis than nuclear reactors even use.

        • by dasunt (249686)

          [1]: Safer because it doesn't conjure up the radioactive boogyman, even though some statistics say coal plants toss up more radioactive crap in the air on an annual basis than nuclear reactors even use.

          According to a study done by under the Bush administrator, coal power plants kill 24,000 a year, including 2,800 lung cancer deaths [msn.com], in the US alone.

          A more recent source "only" blames coal for 13,000 deaths a year in the US.

          We would be outraged if normally functioning nuclear power plants caused even a t

        • by fsterman (519061)

          Except when an Edsel or Packard throws a rod, it wouldn't render entire cities uninhabitable for thousands of years.

      • by mug funky (910186)

        the problem is the near pure U233 that can trivially be extracted from the thorium fuel cycle. that stuff's very good for making nukes.

        i don't see it as a problem - anyone who wants nukes and has the capability to solve the not insignificant design challenges involved, already has nukes.

        anyone who does not, wont get them from thorium when magnox plans are available essentially for free.

    • Agreed. I'm all for safe, clean nuclear energy. But equipment wears out. It's an inevitable fact of life. Eventually these plants will need to be decommission. So do so when recommended. Just move the fuel to a new plant or process the fuel into something else useful.

  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ericloewe (2129490) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:26PM (#40757427)

    Get rid of them, build new ones. Simple enough, but of course, there's always the usual group, saying how bad nuclear power is... The only thing that accomplishes is a mixture of more coal/natural gas power plants and increasingly old nuclear reactors, operating way beyond their designed lifespan.

    • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:39PM (#40757643)

      I agree political opposition is a big problem, but afaict the capital costs and potential liability are a big problem as well.

      The biggest problem is liability, which I believe is currently covered by a government guarantee. It is puzzling, though, that nobody big will take on construction of a nuclear plant without substantial government liability protection and guarantees. Dick Cheney even said that "nobody" would build a plant without that protection, because they don't want to take on the potentially unlimited liability if something really bad happens. But why would you be worried about a risk of an accident that basically can't happen due to modern safety protections? Skeptics suspect this reveals that the risk isn't as close to 0% as claimed. Another explanation is that it is but the management of power companies are out of date with their information, or irrationally conservative on the matter.

      • by dasunt (249686)

        Dick Cheney even said that "nobody" would build a plant without that protection, because they don't want to take on the potentially unlimited liability if something really bad happens. But why would you be worried about a risk of an accident that basically can't happen due to modern safety protections?

        Even a hypothetical foolproof reactor will not prevent a class action lawsuit if disease rates go up in the vicinity of the reactor.

        Nuclear is such a boogyman that correlation may equal causation for a jur

    • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Medievalist (16032) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:57PM (#40757921)

      Yeah, it's all the fault of those damn greenies. There's no way the entrenched powers who actually control things could possibly have anything to do with it - secretly, you know, a bunch of dirty hippy flower children control all the world's investment banks, that explains everything!

      Let's face it, in the USA "greens" have less power than dog fanciers. This Rush Limbaugh meme of blaming them for all US nuclear power issues is hilarious.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Let's face it, in the USA "greens" have less power than dog fanciers

        Bull fucking shit.

        Ever hear of the northern gateway pipeline in Canada? There's thousands of fake petitioners on the committee hearing list for the environmental oversight meeting up here in Canada placed on there by various groups linked directly to Tides Foundation Canada, and the Tides Foundation in the US. Including people in other countries who didn't sign up.

        They do it in Canada, they do it in the US. If you don't think they do, you're woefully ignorant.

    • Break down the one old reactor with the most spent fuel, and dispose of all the waste including the spent fuel. In return you can have two shiny new reactors of the most modern design. Repeat.
  • I think it's pathetic that it's the 21st century, and we've harnessed the power of the atom to boil water to make steam to make electricity.

    • by busyqth (2566075)

      I think it's pathetic that it's the 21st century, and we've harnessed the power of the atom to boil water to make steam to make electricity.

      Dunno.. Sounds to me like that's more impressive than burning old plant and animal carcasses dug up from underground to boil water to make steam to make electricity.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Yeah. And where's my flying car?

  • No worries (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dak664 (1992350) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:30PM (#40757483) Journal

    Well sure the regulators would not extend the license unless it was absolutely safe. And the power companies know they would get a painful slap on the wrist if anything went wrong.

    • The trouble is the slap on the wrist is just that - a slap and no more. It should be a capital crime (electric chair for added irony, or perhaps radiation poisoning) for the entire board, CEO down, if a nuclear power plant were to melt down.

  • SimCity (Score:5, Informative)

    by dg41 (743918) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:30PM (#40757487)
    If I learned anything from SimCity it was to never let your reactor stay online beyond its intended life - unless you have disasters turned off, of course.
    • Wait, I thought the whole point of Sim City was to create the best city you could, only to play with the multitude of options at your disposal to destroy it.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:40PM (#40757657) Journal

    Wait, we are [wikipedia.org].

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:41PM (#40758441) Journal

      I'm not sure what your point is.
      I really wonder who thinks the comparison between a huge chunk of steel reinforced concrete and the corrosive environment of a nuclear reactor is somehow insightful.

      Ultimately, a dam's lifespan is determined by the build up of silt behind it.
      The Hoover dam will be put to rest when either the silt builds up high enough or
      the cost to maintain it is higher than the cost to remove it. Whichever comes first.

    • by trout007 (975317)

      Concrete gets stronger the longer it cures. Metals tend to corrode and fatigue.

      Although the age they were built does help. They didn't have as advanced analysis as we do today so they tended to overbuild things to compensate.

  • Technical Analysis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dont_forget (71107) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:48PM (#40757799)

    The process currently requires that licensee demonstrate using technical analysis that the vessel is fully capable of performing its design function for the entire licenses period. As long as technical analysis demonstrate that the vessel will continue to function, why not allow the plants to extend their license indefinitely? If the stress on the vessel due to cooldowns, heatups, and neutron flux is less than the margin for performing its design function, then preventing a extending license is an action based on fear not science.

    A common misconception is that plants were only initially licensed for 40 years due to technical concerns. As it turns out the AEC (the predecessor to the NRC) just picked an arbitrary amount of time to issue operating licenses. There was not a technical basis to the 40 year time period. That being said, some manufactures may have used the 40 year time period as a design input for reactor designs. However there is no mysterious phenomenon that causes the reactor to turn into a pumpkin.

  • I nearly died today (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sjames (1099) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @05:58PM (#40757945) Homepage

    No really, I came within a cat's whisker of having a terrible blowout at highway speed and being crunched by an 18 wheeler.

    But what actually happened is I didn't drive anywhere today, so I didn't have a blowout, so I didn't lose control of my car, so I wasn't crunched by an 18-wheeler.

    WHEW, that was close!

    OH, and the Davis-Besse reactor didn't cause any probvlems either.

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:07PM (#40758057)

    Quote:

    Task Force Conclusions
    The lessons learned task force (LLTF) concluded that the DBNPS VHP
    nozzle leakage and RPV head degradation event was preventable. While
    this review was primarily introspective, this question could not be
    answered without considering industry activities and DBNPS’s per-
    formance. At DBNPS, early indications of RPV corrosion were missed
    such as radiation element system filters being clogged by boric acid and
    corrosion fines, the build up of boric acid deposits on containment air
    cooler fins and large amounts of boric acid deposits on the RPV head.
    The task force concluded that the event was not prevented because: (1)
    the NRC, DBNPS, and the nuclear industry failed to adequately review,
    assess, and follow-up on relevant operating experience, (2) DBNPS
    failed to assure that plant safety issues received appropriate attention,
    and (3) the NRC failed to integrate known or available information into
    its assessments of DBNPS’s safety performance. Furthermore, an NRC
    investigation concluded that DBNPS did not adequately execute the
    boric acid corrosion control program in response to an NRC Generic
    Communication, and the NRC did not adequately review the industry
    implementation of long term commitments, such as the commitment to
    maintain a boric acid corrosion control program.

    The problem is not the age of the reactor, but proper implementation of safety reviews. I hope this will be changed.

  • by bobbied (2522392) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:21PM (#40758231)

    Start letting industry build new ones! There are some excellent modern designs which would be a great improvement on safety and even some that can help us dispose of high level long half life waste by converting it to stuff with shorter a half life. We are simply storing this stuff at the plant that generates it right now and that's CRAZY. We should be using it to generate power with these new reactor designs.

    Start reprocessing all the spent fuel into forms where we can use it again. There is 40 plus years of used fuel assemblies just sitting inside these plants that could be reprocessed and reused with the side benefit of making the physical size of the high level waste much smaller and easier to handle. The waste can be encased in glass or ceramics and made ready for long term storage. Which brings me to the final thing we need to do...

    Get one or more high level waste sites completed ASAP so we can start dealing with the *real* problem here. I'm worried more about the thousands of fuel assemblies just sitting in storage pools corroding than the danger from aging power plants springing leaks and melting down. We need to get this really dangerous stuff into more secure locations and stabilized environment where it can be stored in a more permanent way.

  • by H3xx (662833) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:22PM (#40758237) Homepage

    I trust the sun.

  • Old or new reactors? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nkwe (604125) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @06:25PM (#40758285)
    I wouldn't trust one built 80 years ago. I would be more likely to trust that one built today can run 80 years safely. We have learned a lot since we started making reactors and they have gotten safer over the years. (I know that there aren't reactors that old yet, but the point is the oldest still operating were not designed for that life span; the newer ones have a better chance of being engineered for longer life.)
  • Clarity (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grendol (583881) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @07:05PM (#40758745)
    Often, discussions about nuclear energy tend to run rampant with misinformation and hyperbole. I offer the following points for clarity, context, and thought.

    1) Just to be clear: There are NO 80 year old reactors. If Chicago-Pile 1 was still operating, it would turn 70 this year. The oldest currently operating nuclear reactor is the Oyster Creek facility. This reactor came online December 23rd 1969 making it 42 years old curerntly. This is according to Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyster_Creek_Nuclear_Generating_Station [wikipedia.org]

    2) All NRC regulated reactors have maintenance performed on the systems every outage, to the point that much of the facility is newer than the day it turned on. This is due to maintenance and repair activity, as well as upgrades to improve efficiency. The article calls this "midlife refurbishment". The industry does this because it is easier and less costly than a new reactor. The thought process of the industry is that it is easier to tear down and rebuild under the existing license than it is to get approval for a new license. If the industry could feasibly replace a reactor vessel, I would bet they would.

    3) ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code Section 3 is a good code. Creep, Fatigue, Corrosion, and many other issues are addressed in this code that the non-nuclear codes for B&PV only tough upon exotic need, and then refer the engineer to the section 3 code. I encourage you to read it.

    4) Some reactor operators send material samples to the Advanced Test Reactor at the INL for accelerated radiation age testing. This information is sought by the reactor operators to gain a better understanding for themselves about their own equipment.

    5) Reactors are designed for a much longer life than 40 years, but the NRC set the 40 year license to force a mid-life review. Reactors get far better treatment than any car or plane that most people have ever have ridden in. In this context, a 40 year old reactor properly maintained is very possibly not a safety concern.

    6) The Davis-Besse RPV head mentioned by the article was a case of criminal conduct in the eyes of some people, and is not considered normal operating behavior by people I have met from the industry. Whatever the facts are, the indictment can be found here. http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/documents/indictment.pdf [corporatec...porter.com]

    7) Reactors designed to operated under the NRC have a "defense in depth" safety approach. The reactor and facilities are given a design basis accident that is a conservative forecasting of potential accident scenarios.

    8) The NRC has a glossary available to you http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/glossary.html [nrc.gov] note the term "meltdown" is not there. Many people associated with the nuclear field feel that it is a poor term that does not adequately describe a problem's behavior or severity. This is borne out of the use of the term for several reactor failures that all had different designs, behaviors, and severity of failure.

    9) New reactor designs offer some stimulating improvements. The Generation 4 reactor effort can be found at http://www.gen-4.org/ [gen-4.org] currently the US is operating Gen 2 reactors.

    • The profit motive. As long as for-profit companies are running nuclear power plants, pennies will be pinched and corners will be cut. It's a question of when, not if.

      Cases in point: the location of the Fukishima reactor, U.S. plants turning off earthquake sensors to save money, U.S. plants wanting to stop evacuation drills, and the top U.S. regulator being forced out because he (gasp) wanted to focus on safety. Which costs money.

      New technology is great, but we need to get the profit motive out of nuclear

  • by epine (68316) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @11:58PM (#40760717)

    U.S. reactors were originally licensed for 40 years of operation, but the majority have already received extensions to keep them going until the age of 60.

    It would have been damn stupid to license them for any other duration. Forty years is about the minimum for the operators to feel confident about the horizon to recover their capital cost, and it gives you a long time to gain experience (which was thin on the ground in the 1960s) about how long this kind of facility actually lasts.

    The forty year original term had ZERO absolutely ZERO implications on whether anyone back then believed these reactors would run another zero to fifty years after the original license term, and I'm sure many suspected that even making it to forty years was something to be hoped for and not necessarily expected, no matter what was stated in the original design guidance.

    In engineering terms, there's no other way to do it. The problems begin when graft enters the license extension process, and when the expensive process of monitoring how well your facility is holding up is forsaken in exchange for a corporate jet and a lot of fancy dinners in Washington.

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

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