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Power

First New US Nuclear Reactor In Two Decades Gets Permission To Begin Fueling (ieee.org) 167

An anonymous reader writes: The Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar nuclear power plant began construction in 1973. The plant's first reactor was completed in 1996, and it began operation. Work on the second reactor paused in 1988, and only resumed in 2007. That reactor is now complete — the first newly-operational Generation II reactor since the 1990s. The new reactor has been granted an operational license, and it will soon begin fueling. While the Gen II reactors aren't unsafe, they're much less safe than the Gen III AP1000s. "Compared to a Westinghouse Gen II PWR, the AP1000 contains 50 percent fewer safety-related valves, 35 percent fewer pumps, 80 percent less safety-related piping, 85 percent less control cabling, and 45 percent less seismic building volume. ... If an accident happens, the AP1000 will shut itself down without needing any human intervention (or even electrical power) within the first 72 hours."
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First New US Nuclear Reactor In Two Decades Gets Permission To Begin Fueling

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  • Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @07:14PM (#50799669) Homepage
    This is what the stupid scaremongering of the media, some politicians and many environmentalists ends up causing: instead of building Gen III or even Gen IV plants, we're finishing ancient Gen II plants because that's all that's been approved, decades ago. They are quite literally the cause for nuclear energy's relative safety concerns.

    If the government could make its mind up and stop wasting time, the US could rapidly diminish and even eliminate its reliance on fossil fuels without even having to suffer through energy shortages. Allow breeder reactors on top and you'd also eliminate the whole nuclear waste scare while being that much more efficient and cost-effective.
    • Yeah but won't someone thingof the oil company execs and investors? This nuclear shit is going to fuck them over.

      Those lamborghinis arent going to gold plate themselves, you know? Now think about the poor metalurgists and day laborers whom will be out of work. Oh what's that? You didn't think about them?

      I didn't think so.

      • Re: Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday October 26, 2015 @09:02AM (#50802111) Homepage Journal

        "Yeah but won't someone thingof the oil company execs and investors? This nuclear shit is going to fuck them over."
        Funny how such a stupid post get a 3.
        Less than 3% of the electricity in the US comes from oil.
        Coal, and natural gas are the two big fossil fuels used for electrical power in the US. While you do have some cross over between oil and natural gas it is not 100% as far as companies.
        BTW the same thing holds true for anyone that says that solar and wind will help cut the US's dependence on foreign oil.
        They are lying.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I think that no new nuclear reactors have been built in the United States, because no one wants a beta gen III+ nuclear reactor. In the West, there were 3 different nuclear reactors, Areva's EPR reactor, Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor, and GE's ESBWR reactor. GE decided to exit the nuclear reactor business. Several AP1000s, and EPRs have been under construction in Europe and China since the late 2000s. The EPR reactor in Finland is considered a screw up, and is getting major design changes. China hasn't been

      • by nojayuk ( 567177 )

        No-one wants a beta reactor, they want something that will predictably generate electricity at a reasonable cost. That's why virtually every reactor being built today, including the four new-build AP-1000s at Vogtle and Summer as well as the dozens of reactors under construction in China and elsewhere are an evolutionary development of the PWR/BWR concept. The design effort has been concentrated in ever greater cost efficiencies and safety enhancements in larger and more efficient designs generating more el

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MrKaos ( 858439 )

      [sic]This is what the stupid scaremongering of the media, some politicians and many environmentalists ends up causing: instead of building Gen III or even Gen IV plants, we're finishing ancient Gen II plants because that's all that's been approved, decades ago.

      The 2005 Energy act prevents entities like that and local governments from interfering with the placement and approval of Nuclear facilities, including Reactors. Compliance for building a nuclear reactor was established by the NRC's predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission so it has very little to do with the groups you mentioned.

      They are quite literally the cause for nuclear energy's relative safety concerns.

      I'd suggest that it is more the operator of the facilities not complying with the manufacturers recommended operating conditions for the reactors. Windscale, TMI, Chernobyl and Fu

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        It is not a scare though, it is a valid concern as Fukushima has really shown us that storing the spent fuel at reactor sites is a really bad idea when things go wrong.

        It just confirmed what has been obvious for decades. Part of the long chain of fuckups at Fukushima was having stuff "temporarily" on-site that should have had something better than the ridiculous adhoc storage that was used implemented a couple of decades ago.

        Also reprocessing is a method to avoid a shortage of fuel, it's not a waste manag

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

          It just confirmed what has been obvious for decades. Part of the long chain of fuckups at Fukushima was having stuff "temporarily" on-site that should have had something better than the ridiculous adhoc storage that was used implemented a couple of decades ago.

          Precisely. I'm not against the idea of developing nuclear power but any rational person looking at the facts will uncover that it has a lot of problems that need to be fixed. It has the potential to solve problems, if it is done right however all to

      • It is not a scare though, it is a valid concern as Fukushima has really shown us that storing the spent fuel at reactor sites is a really bad idea when things go wrong.

        Was that any bit of the issue in Fukushima? I wasn't aware with the spent pools causing issues, only the failure to pump water into the reactors so that they could cool properly while shutting down, which was mostly caused by the 50hz/60hz issues of Japan's electric grid, with the generators being washed away in the flood (or just damaged), and an absolute destruction of most roads feeding the plant preventing new generators from being brought on site.

        What problems were caused by the spent fuel pools? Tho

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      If the government could make its mind up and stop wasting time, the US could rapidly diminish and even eliminate its reliance on fossil fuels

      I'm not sure about that, unless by "make its mind up" you mean the government makes a big intervention into the economics, rather than merely streamlining the regulatory process. The crash in natural-gas prices has really killed the fundamental economics of a lot of nuclear plants that were in the works. With the huge up-front capital costs of nuclear plant constructio

      • The capital costs are high because we choose to let them be high. The materials and labor of building a nuclear plant are a small fraction of the cost of building one. Most of the money actually spent is spent on delays. No design changes are allowed, no matter how trivial, without regulatory approval, which takes time. But even that pales in comparison to the legal fights. Every challenge, no matter how frivolous, gets their day in court, usually their year in court, and like whack-a-mole, as soon as

        • You could probably streamline the entire process a lot by removing all (except for normal planning approval) of the regulation for building the plant and moving it all into the approval for fuelling the plant. If you need to make changes during the building process, that's fine, you can make any changes you want, as long as you pass the safety audit before trying to turn it on.
          • It was that way (Score:4, Informative)

            by dfenstrate ( 202098 ) <dfenstrate@@@gmail...com> on Monday October 26, 2015 @06:39AM (#50801609)

            That was the regulatory regime beforehand, and it resulted in the most colossal waste of money ever: Shoreham [wikipedia.org]

            The combined (construction & operating) license regulatory regime [nrc.gov] is intended specifically to prevent such wasteful endevours, The design, construction, and operation of the facility is approved largely upfront to ensure the plant can actually be operated when it's built.

            • COSTS OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS - WHAT WENT WRONG? [pitt.edu]

              A major source of cost escalation in some plants was delays caused by opposition from well-organized "intervenor" groups that took advantage of hearings and legal strategies to delay construction. The Shoreham plant on Long Island was delayed for 3 years by intervenors who turned the hearings for a construction permit into a circus. The intervenors included a total imposter claiming to be an expert with a Ph.D. and an M.D. There were endless days of reading a

          • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

            Except nobody would want to do it that way. Its like remodeling a residence ( or building one ) you get inspections as you go. You want the city's you want the assay guy to confirm the foundation you dug isn't to close to the property lines before you pour cement, you want the electrical, and plumbing inspectors to let you know something isn't acceptable before you close up the walls.

            Waiting to the end of the construction process to do safety audits sounds like an expensive mess likely to lead to a lot of

            • There's a difference between doing inspections and requiring sign-off. It's perfectly acceptable not to require regulatory sign-off until the end, but still have people confirming along the way that you're meeting the requirements that the person doing the eventual audit will require.
        • The capital costs of a reactor build are high because it's an expensive piece of construction, not simply because of delays etc. Every other large project including coal-fired and natural-gas generating plants also have to spend money up front preparing plans, covering the likely environmental impacts and dealing with protests.

          Nearly all modern-build Gen-IIa and Gen-III reactors like the AP-1400, the EPR, ESBWR etc. are significantly larger than the original Gen-1 and Gen-II designs, each generating well ov

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Blame the banks for not wanting to risk money on new designs. Everything else is just kicking the cat.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Watts Bar Unit 2 was nearly finished in 1998, but was mothballed because it wouldn't make enough money. That's why the design is so old. It was started in the 1980s, but economics prevented it being finished. They were not about to scrap it and spend even more money just to do safety upgrades to a newer, safer reactor when the old design meets current regulations.

      Nuclear's problems are all about money. Politicians and protesters are not very effective - if they were then we wouldn't have so many coal plants

    • Actually, we need CONgress to quit fucking around and push a bill for Support for gen 4 companies such as trans atomic and flible. Both designs can burn thorium and/or nuke waste. Oddly, O likes nuke power and would support it.
  • If an accident happens, the AP1000 will shut itself down without needing any human intervention (or even electrical power) within the first 72 hours."

    I imagine that means the plant could be completely inactive (decay heat [wikipedia.org] will be down to the point of not requiring active cooling) within three days, but as written it's not reassuring.

    And while "Generation II" sounds good, so were Fukushima and Three Mile Island. We should be building Gen 3-4 by now.

    • Re:...hours? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ChumpusRex2003 ( 726306 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @07:38PM (#50799777)
      The AP1000 has 72 hours of decay heat removal capability in the event of total loss of onsite power. If no action is taken to replenish cooling water, then decay heat would cause overheating and overpressure of the containment building and require venting of the containment building to the atmosphere. Radioactivity release from such venting is likely to be low unless meltdown or fuel damage has already occurred. Due to the large inventory of water within the containment building, decay heat is unlikely to result in meltdown for many days following the exhaustion of the containment cooling water.

      In order to ensure integrity of the containment, additional cold water would need to be pumped into the containment building roof tank within 72 hours. This could be by restoration of the electrical supply, use of diesel powered water pumps held on site, use of portable water pumps held near site, or by use of fire pumps.

      The ESBWR which is the main competitor to the AP1000, meets the Gen3+ requirement of 72 hours of decay heat removal without operator intervention. Like the AP1000, no diesel or grid power is necessary to meet this requirement. Like the AP1000, the ESBWR has 2(N+1) redundant UPS systems with 72 hours of battery autonomy for shutdown control and monitoring equipment. However, the ESBWR has a 7 day reserve of cold water for containment cooling. In the event of operator inaction, the UPS batteries will deplete after approximately 72 hours, but passive containment cooling will continue for up to 7 days before water tanks would need to be replenished.
      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Could they use the heated containment water to drive a Stirling engine which would pump more water?

        I'm not a nuclear scientist (let alone a rocket scientist), but somehow it seems like there's a way to (relatively simply) use the heat from containment cooling to pump water.

        And is there a reason the containment water couldn't be a loop with a cooling stage so it could be self-replenishing? It seems to make more sense if you consider the idea of the containment heat being used to drive pumps which circulated

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Fukushima's reactors were a first-gen BWR design(believe it was reactors 1-4), and had been dealt with problems by the environmentalists and all that in terms of upgrading the plants themselves away from that design.

      But CANDU reactors have had that built into them for years now, and are a ACR-1000 design, no power or power failure to either the SDS1 or SDS2 and the reactor automatically shuts down dumping 90% of the heat in under 2 seconds. I live within 60 miles of Bruce Nuclear(2nd largest nuclear plant

    • will be down to the point of not requiring active cooling
      Depends what you call active cooling!
      Needing a pump? Or needing 'enough' water?
      You did not read the link you quoted?
      Spend fuel rods, or fuel rods removed for other reasons need water cooling up to 20 years!

      From you link:

      About 1 hour after shutdown, the decay heat will be about 1.5% of the previous core power. After a day, the decay heat falls to 0.4%, and after a week it will be only 0.2%.[1] Because radioisotopes of all half life lengths are present in nuclear waste, enough decay heat continues to be produced in spent fuel rods to require them to spend a minimum of one year, and more typically 10 to 20 years, in a spent fuel pool of water, before being further processed. However, the heat produced during this time is still only a small fraction (less than 10%) of the heat produced in the first week after shutdown.[2]

      If no cooling system is working to remove the decay heat from a crippled and newly shut down reactor, the decay heat may cause the core of the reactor to reach unsafe temperatures within a few hours or days, depending upon the type of core. These extreme temperatures can lead to minor fuel damage (e.g. a few fuel particle failures (0.1 to 0.5%) in a graphite moderated gas-cooled design[3] or even major core structural damage (partial meltdown) in a light water reactor[4][5] or liquid metal fast reactor). Chemical species released from the damaged core material may lead to further explosive reactions (steam or hydrogen) which may further damage the reactor[6]

  • Less is more? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dereck1701 ( 1922824 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @07:56PM (#50799855)

    The article goes on for quite a bit about how much less "safety related hardware" newer plant designs have but I highly doubt that that says anything about how safe a reactor is or not. What DOES make a difference is fail safes, regular inspections, backups, emergency response plans, all with a design double checked by someone with a high school level of common sense. What has caused most of the major nuclear disasters? Rank stupidity. Fukushima was caused by the idiotic placement of backup generators and associated control hardware, in a basement and the subsequent failure of plant operators to call for necessary resources. Chernobyl was caused by them futzing with the reactor outside of normal operating procedures and then activating an emergency system that was not designed to handle those modifications. Three Mile Island was caused by a lack of appropriate sensors to recognize a lack of coolant in the reactor caused by a faulty relief valve. Knowing the reactor coolant level/pressure/temperature with certainty, having the ability to shutdown the reaction, and the ability to keep the reactor cool are the only things you need to prevent 99% of nuclear disasters. I'm not saying that designing a nuclear plant is easy, but keeping your backup cooling systems above water, not experimenting with a full sized nuclear reactor & knowing if your coolant is pouring out of a relief valve would seem to be no brainers that shouldn't have been missed.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Fukushima was caused by the idiotic placement of backup generators and associated control hardware

      That certainly exacerbated the problems are Fukushima, but was not the cause.

      The earthquake damaged the plant, including the emergency cooling system and parts of the plant monitoring system. Then the tsunami did further damage and made inspecting critical parts of it impossible. Even after the emergency pumps failed, there was a working backup. They had fire engines on site that were pumping coolant into the reactors, or so they thought.

      What turned an emergency into a disaster was the damage to the emergen

    • The article goes on for quite a bit about how much less "safety related hardware" newer plant designs have but I highly doubt that that says anything about how safe a reactor is or not.

      Actually it does. When using the HAZOP / LOPA techniques which have been common in plant design for years you consider every safety related device as a Layer Of Protection. If you're targeting a common residual risk, then having less Layers Of Protection implies the process is either of an inherently safer design (likelihood of risk is reduced) or that the consequence of a major incident is lower. This is fundamental to how safety related devices are assigned; you start with where you are, and where you wan

  • "Compared to a Westinghouse Gen II PWR, the AP1000 contains 50 percent fewer safety-related valves, 35 percent fewer pumps, 80 percent less safety-related piping, 85 percent less control cabling, and 45 percent less seismic building volume. ... If an accident happens, the AP1000 will shut itself down without needing any human intervention (or even electrical power) within the first 72 hours."

    And now, with electrolytes!

  • Lots of power (Score:5, Informative)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @09:24PM (#50800231)

    As I understand it the US has about 18GW of solar PV installed capacity with about a 28% capacity factor - so roughly 5 GW of actual power generation.

    These two reactors together will generate about 2.2GW with a 90% factor, or around 2 GW.

    One power plant, 40% of the capacity of all PV in the country.

    • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @10:36PM (#50800499)

      One power plant, 40% of the capacity of all PV in the country.

      Well sure, but what happens when the sun goes down, causing that nuclear plant to stop generating power until the next morning, huh? How about THAT Mr. Smartypants?

    • Re:Lots of power (Score:5, Informative)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday October 26, 2015 @03:57AM (#50801333)

      As I understand it the US has about 18GW of solar PV installed capacity with about a 28% capacity factor - so roughly 5 GW of actual power generation.

      PV solar capacity factor for the U.S. is about 14.5% [wikipedia.org], about 18.5% for the desert southwest for fixed-mount panels. This is a physical limitation imposed by geometry, the movement of the sun, and typical weather conditions.

      The 28% capacity factor the EIA gives for PV solar is for utility-scale PV solar installations. These generally track the sun and/or use concentrators (for some odd reason, capacity factor for PV with concentrators is calculated based on the panel's max generation without a concentrator - i.e. they can theoretically exceed 100% capacity factor).

      Power generation for PV solar in the U.S. [eia.gov] for 2015 (Jan-Jul) has been 13,841 GWh. Divide that by the 5113.5 hours in 7 months and you get 2.7 GW average production. That's missing the fall and winter months for the latter half of the year so the average generation by December will be slightly lower than that. Doubling the Jan-Jun production yields an annual average of 2.6 GW. If you divide 2.6 GW by the 18 GW of installed capacity, you get a 14.4% capacity factor as expected.

      These two new reactors will generate 77% as much power as all of the country's installed PV solar.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        Good catch. That really underscores the difference between installed capacity and actual capacity.
    • WTF, what the funk.
      Why is obviously everyone who uses the dreaded term 'capacity factor' such an idiot?

      As I understand it the US has about 18GW of solar PV installed capacity with about a 28% capacity factor - so roughly 5 GW of actual power generation.
      Politely speaking: you understand it wrong.

      First of all you are mixing up GW with GWh ... very important, as the CF describes the relation between max ENERGY dvided by actual ENERGY produced by a plant.

      Rest assured a 1GW solar PV plant will produce 1GW when t

  • "Compared to a Westinghouse Gen II PWR, the AP1000 contains 50 percent fewer safety-related blah, 35 percent fewer blah, 80 percent less safety-related blah, 85 percent less control blah, and 45 percent less seismic blah.

    So if I get the math right, it sounds like it's 45% less earthquake resistant, 85% less under control, and ... carry the 1, 130-165% less safe all around. This makes me kind of nervous. But we got the facts -- at least that they're not spinning it to try to make the situation sound better than it is.

    • So if I get the math right

      You don't because having more stuff doesn't make a plant safer. A larger, more elaborate safety system is less robust than a smaller, simpler one. Less to go wrong means it's safer. A pump replaced with passie piping shapes is safer because there's one less pump to need emergency power and to break.

  • So why does it take so effing long to approve this? What if the delays are engineered, no pun intended, to make the reactor obsolete before it ever gets brought online?

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