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Power Technology

The Aging of Our Nuclear Power Plants Is Not So Graceful 436

Posted by samzenpus
from the tests-of-time dept.
Lasrick writes "This is a very thoughtful article on nuclear power plant aging: how operators use early retirement of plants to extract concessions from rate-payers and a discussion on how California's 'forward-looking planning process' has probably mitigated disruption from the closing of San Onofre."
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The Aging of Our Nuclear Power Plants Is Not So Graceful

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  • NIMBY (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fredgiblet (1063752) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @07:00PM (#44088235)
    It's going to be pretty ugly in a couple decades. It would be nice if people could be rational and let us build newer reactors.
    • Re:NIMBY (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 23, 2013 @07:12PM (#44088283)

      The failure to build new reactors is primarily driven by economics. Nuclear reactors require huge capital investment and take a long time to build. They also take a long time to turn on and off, so make an inflexible source of supply that integrates poorly with more variable sources, such as wind and solar. Natural gas, on the other hand, has a comparatively much lower capital investment and time to build for the same generation capacity. The low price of natural gas also makes it extremely competitive with other power sources. Natural gas turbines can also come to full power from a dead stop in 20 minutes and partial power sooner than that, allowing it it integrate gracefully in a world with variable power demand and supply.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by oPless (63249)

        Here in the UK we enjoy almost uninterrupted mains power. No brownouts (a brownout perhaps every eight months which is usually due to maintenance, extreme weather or emergency works), no requirement for external generators nor for a UPS for your desktop PC.

        I understand that the power supply in the US is patchy at best, with frequent brownouts. I think you guys really do need a stable source of power. Nuclear is a good way to supply this. Focusing on renewables won't begin to replace this, nor will it give a

        • Re:NIMBY (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @07:48PM (#44088465)

          Here in the UK we enjoy almost uninterrupted mains power. No brownouts (a brownout perhaps every eight months which is usually due to maintenance, extreme weather or emergency works), no requirement for external generators nor for a UPS for your desktop PC.

          I understand that the power supply in the US is patchy at best, with frequent brownouts. I think you guys really do need a stable source of power. Nuclear is a good way to supply this. Focusing on renewables won't begin to replace this, nor will it give an easily modulatable power supply that reacts to user demand. Sure they take a long time to build, and there's legislation preventing waste processing being done that would wring out more power from the same uranium. So you end up with large waste disposal sites where you wastefully allow spent rods to decay needlessly. That's assuming you still are building old-style reactors. Newer ones have much less waste, more power and frankly are less dangerous.

          Gas Power? Coal Power? Great, Cheap to build but pollute like crazy. Not to mention coal burners actually more radioactive than nuclear power. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste [scientificamerican.com]

          Solution lots of smallish pebble-bed nuclear reactors to do the heavy lifting, augmented with solar, with the odd gas & coal power stations taking up the slack.

          I like a lot of what you say, but your "patchy at best" lead in isn't very convincing. An average American home that hasn't just been through a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake might see 5 minutes without power per year and no brownouts in the occupants' lifetimes. Yes, these things happen, but they're isolated and rare. The brownouts in California about a decade ago, which were the only widespread American brownouts in recent history, were caused by Enron manipulating power markets, not a lack of real power.

          • by arth1 (260657)

            I like a lot of what you say, but your "patchy at best" lead in isn't very convincing. An average American home that hasn't just been through a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake

            So everyone not on the East Coast, Midwest or West Coast?

            >quote> might see 5 minutes without power per year and no brownouts in the occupants' lifetimes.

            5 minutes per year is high when it's spread out over dailly 1-2 second outages. Which is what I started experiencing when moving to the US 14 years ago, and have experienced since, living in three different towns and five different homes. Compared to Europe, the stability of hte electric grid here sucks. I never needed a UPS before, but here I can

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            I can't imagine where you could live and see only five minutes without power per year. I've never seen that level of reliability anywhere I've lived:

            • I currently live in the heart of the Silicon Valley, and I've seen several multi-hour blackouts in the past decade, and one multi-day blackout. And I'm not including the rolling blackouts in that total. I'm only counting PG&E infrastructure failures. The joys of for-profit power companies....
            • Things were even worse in Santa Cruz, where we saw several ho
            • by dexotaku (1136235)
              >I can't imagine where you could live and see only five minutes without power per year. I've never seen that level of reliability anywhere I've lived:

              Where I live [Manitoba, Canada] and have lived most of my life since 1975, I could count on one hand the number of times I've seen the power go out longer than an hour. Outages lasting longer than a minute [from lightning strikes to transmission equipment, for instance] are few and far between [2-3x per year]. Outages lasting a few seconds occur now and
        • I'm not sure where you're getting your information from, but we don't have much trouble with that here either. Our biggest issue in that regard is that we still use power poles, which I understand are rare in Europe.
      • Re:NIMBY (Score:5, Insightful)

        by john.r.strohm (586791) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @08:16PM (#44088605)

        With all due respect, you appear to fail to understand the distinction between base load plants and topping plants.

        Base load plants supply the huge amount of power that MUST BE THERE 24x7. Topping plants supply the variable amount that is or is not needed depending on seasons, weather, uncharacteristic heat waves, sudden cold snaps, Pink Floyd concert light shows...

        MOST of the power demand is base load demand. Heating and cooling don't stop. Water pumping doesn't stop. Hospitals run 24x7. Ditto traffic lights.

        For topping plants, there are lots of choices, natural gas being a popular one. For base load plants, there are at the moment exactly three viable choices: hydroelectric, coal, and nuclear (to be precise, negative void coefficient pressurized water reactors). We are maxed out on hydroelectric power: every dammable river in the country has already been dammed. Coal is about the dirtiest power generation technology known to man, as well as one of the most dangerous (Google "black lung disease" someday). That leaves nuclear as Hobson's Choice, if you actually care about environmental and safety issues. (Hint: Of the three, only one emits significant quantities of carbon dioxide.) (For that matter, if coal plants were held to the radiation release limits applied to nuclear plants, it would be impossible to light up a coal plant, because of the radioisotopes in the coal (carbon-14 being the big one) that go straight up the smokestack and into the atmosphere.)

        *ANY* base load plant costs a lot of money and takes a long time to build, because, by their very nature, they are BIG.

        Finally, observe that wind and solar are utterly unsuitable for base load, because the wind doesn't always blow, and the sun effectively "goes out" for several hours every day.

        • the sun effectively "goes out" for several hours every day.

          Well, there are solutions to this. One is to store that power for nighttime consumption, perhaps as potential energy, by adding water to a reservoir, or thermally, by heating something up a lot. Of course, I'd like to see more of a push for space based solar power, which only has to deal with the sun setting twice a year, at the local middle of the night, on the equinoxes. It would take significant investment to set up mining and manufacturing operations in space, but it would be worth it in the end. (And t

        • every dammable river

          Ok ok, relax man. No need to start swearing.

      • Re:NIMBY (Score:5, Informative)

        by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @08:48PM (#44088733)

        Nuclear reactors require huge capital investment and take a long time to build.

        It's true that the capital costs of nuclear power are high, but in all fairness a substantial part of those costs and the time required to build are caused by anti-nuclear pressure groups and other NIMBYs who drag the process out for decades in courts and through environmental review boards as a delaying tactic to discourage development by artificially running up the cost. Meanwhile the world continues to burn ever more and dirtier fossil fuels to make up for lost nuclear generation capacity in national electric grids.

        They also take a long time to turn on and off, so make an inflexible source of supply that integrates poorly with more variable sources

        Which is why you don't turn them off and why the electric grid should never be entirely nuclear. Nuclear is for the portion of the demand that needs constant and consistent base load supply. Because the national energy grids never have zero energy demand at any time of day there will always be demand for some amount of base load power and nuclear fits that profile perfectly. The variable power sources, like wind and solar, can contribute as they're able with the remainder of variable demand being handled by natural gas turbines that can be turned on when necessary to fill in supply gaps and shutdown quickly and easily when not needed.

        Natural gas, on the other hand, has a comparatively much lower capital investment and time to build for the same generation capacity.

        Natural gas is also a valuable transportation, heating and cooking fuel. It's not just power plants that demand natural gas, so it would be unwise in the long run to replace base load nuclear with natural gas. We have many centuries of proven nuclear fuel, but natural gas supplies have waxed and waned over the years along with demand, depletion and development of new supplies. The lifespan of a power plant is measured in decades but nobody can tell you what the price will be for natural gas decades in the future.

        The low price of natural gas also makes it extremely competitive with other power sources.

        For now, but much of the newly drilled glut of natural gas comes from horizontally drilled and fracked wells in tight shale formations where the long term depletion rates are still poorly understood. We might have centuries of gas left in these formations or they might be depleted in a matter of decades; nobody's sure yet because we don't have enough data on depletion rates and demand is also uncertain. For example, increased use of natural gas in commercial transportation may eventually put upward pressure on natural gas prices as an alternative to diesel in those applications.

        Natural gas turbines can also come to full power from a dead stop in 20 minutes and partial power sooner than that, allowing it it integrate gracefully in a world with variable power demand and supply.

        Which is why there will always be a role for natural gas in electricity generation. My point was that we shouldn't lean too heavily on any one technology, but rather seek to optimize the grid by tapping into the different strengths of different generation technologies. We need nuclear, solar, wind, natural gas and even niche sources, like geothermal or tidal, where available. The best solution utilizes a mix of all of these technologies, but as long as there are ignorant, biased and uneducated people we will continue to "debate" whether eliminating one or more of these technologies from the mix is a "good idea", as in the case of the "no nukes" crowd.

        • by winwar (114053)

          "It's true that the capital costs of nuclear power are high, but in all fairness a substantial part of those costs and the time required to build are caused by anti-nuclear pressure groups and other NIMBYs who drag the process out for decades in courts and through environmental review boards as a delaying tactic to discourage development by artificially running up the cost."

          Citation needed.

          For instance, please explain how the failure of WPPSS in the late 70's and early 80's was the result of this versus eco

          • Re:NIMBY (Score:5, Insightful)

            by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @09:42PM (#44088949)

            Citation needed.

            Oh please, really? Do you honestly believe that environmentalists don't deliberately delay power plant construction (especially nuclear) in the United States? Give me a break. Also, I said that it was a substantial cost, not the only cost. The problem is legal and economic, so it cannot be solved by a new reactor design because it wouldn't matter what design was proposed to the environmentalists, they'd still be against it. The legal problems require political not technical solutions and the economic problems are largely caused by the legal and political problems. Dragging out engineering projects, in the courts and through political maneuvering, is expensive and that's were the delays deal economic damage. The environmentalists wouldn't use those tactics if they weren't effective.

            please explain how the failure of WPPSS in the late 70's and early 80's was the result of this versus economic, technical, and competency factors.

            Are you going to tell me that there wasn't a single lawsuit filed or political agitation conducted by environmental groups opposed to a new reactor? I don't believe that the problem is entirely caused by technology or lack of engineering competency.

            Then please explain how the new designs will escape this fate. After all, since there must be places which don't have this problem, these new designs must be operating successfully in large numbers. Where are these places?

            Of course new designs cannot solve what amounts to a problem of politics. As for where nuclear power is widespread, how about France? I think that there are three basic reasons why France was able to build many reactors, using a modified US design (Westinghouse I think) no less, while things have been more problematic here in the US. First, France has almost no natural deposits of either coal, natural gas or petroleum and few rivers to be dammed so for the French it was pretty much nuclear or nothing. Second, the French have a much greater faith in their scientists and engineers than we do here in the United States. The French scientists and engineers in turn work hard to earn and sustain that trust by doing good work. I cannot recall there ever being a serious nuclear accident in France for example. Finally, it seems that the French legal system doesn't allow for NIMBYs to get in the way of projects that are deemed to be in the national interest whereas anyone with money for the filing fees can cause no end of legal trouble here in the United States.

            In any case, it will still take decades for them to come on line in significant numbers at BEST (based on production estimates).

            Wah, wah, wah it's too hard and it takes to long to get strated so why even try right? There's a productive attitude. You could use that argument against just about anything worth doing. Indeed, just imagine where we might be as a nation today if we allowed that objection to override all good sense. The difficulty of the task should inform our long term planning, but it shouldn't be taken as a reason to do nothing or not to get started. I could trot out that same argument for why we should do nothing about global warming, why bother to do anything now when the benefits won't be seen for decades, but I suspect that you wouldn't like the argument as much in that case.

            Sure, it's not base load, but maybe we should be looking at a solution for that?

            I don't claim to be omniscient, is there something else that we ought to be looking at? Something perhaps that all of the other scientists and engineers around the world have missed? I doubt it, but I'm willing to be surprised. Please tell us your brilliant plan for replacing all of the world's base load nuclear generation with fairy dust and unicorn farts (this ought to be good).

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          It's true that the capital costs of nuclear power are high, but in all fairness a substantial part of those costs and the time required to build are caused by anti-nuclear pressure groups and other NIMBYs who drag the process out for decades in courts and through environmental review boards as a delaying tactic to discourage development by artificially running up the cost. Meanwhile the world continues to burn ever more and dirtier fossil fuels to make up for lost nuclear generation capacity in national electric grids.

          I'm opposed to new nuclear power and also opposed to burning more fossil fuels. You probably think I'm some kind of eco-hippy who wants to return to an agrarian lifestyle, but actually I'm a software engeineer who likes his gadgets and wishes he could afford more air-con and an electric car.

          The solution is twofold. First we need to reduce energy consumption. It's cheaper than building new capacity and pretty easy to do. The problem is that it requires some socialism - going into people's houses and upgradin

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by gman003 (1693318)

        A somewhat-common solution to the inflexible nature of nuclear power is to pair it with hydroelectric power in artificial lakes. During the night, or other low-demand periods, the excess electricity can be used to pump water upstream, filling the reservoir. When peak times hit, that water can be let back down to generate additional power.

        This has certain additional advantages as well. Nuclear plants need cooling water, so building them next to a lake is already fairly common. And as yet another added bonus,

    • Re:NIMBY (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 23, 2013 @07:21PM (#44088305)

      1. The reason reactors are not being built has to do with the cost -- they're not cost-effective for utilities unless they get huge subsidies.

      2. Where are you going to put the nuclear waste? No, seriously, stop joking around: where are you *really* going to put the waste? This has been well-studied, and there's no good answer.

      3. Improving efficiency is faster and more-effective than increasing output in the near term. Sure, we do need increased capacity, but instead of burning money in the form of subsidies lavished on for-profit energy companies, let's commit real public expenditure on real efficiency initiatives.

      • Re:NIMBY (Score:4, Insightful)

        by KiloByte (825081) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @07:32PM (#44088391)

        1. The reason reactors are not being built has to do with the cost -- they're not cost-effective for utilities unless they get huge subsidies.

        Like, say, burning coal and oil? Let's see what the price of those would be if you had to store the waste.

        2. Where are you going to put the nuclear waste?

        Burning coal produces a lot more of radioactive dust which is simply put into the air. Almost any solution for (relatively) easy to secure barrels is better to that. Oh, and besides radioactive stuff, you get carbon dioxide, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and a laundry list of other pollutants.

        So any comparison that is not biased towards combusting carbon-based deposits by many orders of magnitude shows that if we had any shred of rationality we should replace those with nuclear power. Geothermal is better where it's available, wind not really.

        • Re:NIMBY (Score:4, Informative)

          by oPless (63249) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @07:38PM (#44088415) Journal

          Not to mention there's legislation that prevents spent rods being reprocessed. Leaving a lot of nasty radioactive waste about when it could be reprocessed into more fuel, and reused and further being a source for fast breeders.

          Besides Pebble Bed reactors are the way to go.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by macpacheco (1764378)

            The issue is economical.
            As far as burning light/heavy water reactor nuclear waste, the way to go is Sodium Cooled IFR reactors, that burn existing nuclear sludge, in the end producing waste that has less than 1% of the radioactiviy of the nuclear sludge that fed it, and can burn depleted uranium too, and thorium too.
            Those reactors will be the solution to use the remainder of the nuclear waste, as we move to a nuclear free world in the near future. Those will be the last reactors to be shutdown eventually.
            Re

      • 1. How much of that is natural cost and how much of it is paranoid over-regulation? How many subsidies do the existing power companies get for things like "clean" coal?

        2. There's several designs that either leave very little spent fuel or leave the fuel in contained chunks that are easily disposed of, additionally there's reactor designs that eat the spent fuel from other reactors and spit out less dangerous waste. The problem with waste is not a technical issue from what I've seen, it's a political
        • by winwar (114053)

          Actually it's both technical and political.

          For instance, the nuclear waste repository was sited in Nevada for political reasons. It was not a good site otherwise. The best sites were excluded early on for political reasons.

          Second, we use the reactors we use because they work and we are familiar with them. At least most of the time. Yes, there are other designs that might work better. In theory. But based on how well the current ones "work", I doubt it.

      • by Telvin_3d (855514)

        1. The reason reactors are not being built has to do with the cost -- they're not cost-effective for utilities unless they get huge subsidies.

        Subsidies and long term planning for essential infrastructure is one of the few things that almost everyone agrees is firmly in the role of government. Why even subsidize it? Just build it and run it and screw corporate profit. Break even on the power generation and reap the benefits of increased industry.

        2. Where are you going to put the nuclear waste? No, seriously, stop joking around: where are you *really* going to put the waste? This has been well-studied, and there's no good answer.

        There are many good answers, most of which were figured out before the first nuclear plant was ever built. The most popular seems to be sealed off at the bottom of extremely deep and stable mines. The catc

    • by MacTO (1161105)

      The issue is that people assess risk differently. Some people look at the probability of a bad event multiplied by it's magnitude, others just look at the probability of a bad event, others just look at the magnitude. People may not do the math explicitly, but that's effectively what's going on in their head. Now how do you say which method is rational. I like probability of a bad event multiplied by it's magnitude. On the other hand, I will acknowledge the people who are concerned about the magnitude

    • Re:NIMBY (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Virtucon (127420) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @08:08PM (#44088571)

      a couple of decades? Let's see with San Onofre offline California residents are paying more in electrical rates now and the power is being generated by more mainline gas generation to make up the shortfall. This article indicates to that it may be difficult for California to meet it's CO2 goals because of the need to burn 360 million cubic feet of gas per day to make up for the loss of the reactors at San Onofre. [rawstory.com]

    • by icebike (68054)

      It's going to be pretty ugly in a couple decades. It would be nice if people could be rational and let us build newer reactors.

      Well it is happening, but the focus these days is on more plentiful smaller reactors.

      Westinghouse is beginning fueling tests on the SMR Reactors [westinghousenuclear.com], which are small enough to be delivered on a couple flatbed trucks. They are engineered for 225 MWe . [nytimes.com]

      The Babcock & Wilcox Company is designing their own model [generationmpower.com] as well as NuScale [nuscalepower.com]. Most of these are in the 180 MWe range.

      It seems that they are well on track for being available in a couple of decades, maybe in as little as 5 years for the Westinghouse models.
      Our

  • At least the kind of jumbled-up ad hoc reactors Americans like to build. What's going on with space-based solar power?
  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@ovi. c o m> on Sunday June 23, 2013 @07:42PM (#44088443) Homepage

    The last time I commented to a post on this subject I saw my karma go from excellent to good because of rabid pro nuke folks modding down anything that asked questions of real long term cost and un subsidized cost of nuclear power per G/Watt versus wind or solar actual costs.

    It would be nice to have a real discussion about this with citations to factual numbers, but there seems to be a foaming at the mouth "nuclear power is the only answer" bunch here that wat to obfuscate real data.

    Even asking questions about factual discussion of long term nuclear power ACTUAL cost will prolly cost me Karma.

     

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      wat to obfuscate real data

      How else would someone get big expensive nuculer reactors installed??

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      /. karma > nuclear energy discussion

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @09:35PM (#44088919)

      I don't think they're shills. Fanboys, perhaps, but not shills. Honestly, the nuclear industry just doesn't seem big enough to warrant forum shills. Talking heads or TV experts, yeah, possible shills, but not Slashdotters. We're not that important.

      I, for one, think nuclear is something we need to be using more, but I'm advocating a nuclear+hydro+geothermal+solar+wind+tidal as a replacement for coal+gas+oil, not as a pure nuclear solution (at least, until we get fusion working - if fusion delivers on its promises, I would have zero issue with a pure-fusion power grid). But if you want to advocate a pure-renewable system, I wouldn't downmod you (I've actually got mod points right now).

      Just a suggestion, though? Saying "we need more studies" or "what's the *real* cost?" tends to come across more like FUD than actual debate, particularly when you're coming from a position that is just as questionable in those areas. Maybe they're thinking *you're* the shill?

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      Isn't Karma a renewable resource?

      Oh.. If you replace Nuclear power with (X) whatever X is that's quite a chunk of power to replace. In 2011, according to this [world-nuclear.org] Nuclear power in this country produced over 821 billion kWh of power. If you replace that with X, we need to know what that replacement cost should be, right?

      How many wind Turbines that kill about 600,000 birds / year including Eagles/Hawks/Owls. [grist.org]
      We're not building any more large Hydro projects, and we have drought in most of the country presumably

  • by gallondr00nk (868673) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @07:53PM (#44088489)

    Quoth TFA:

    It is unrealistic to assume that complex new technologies will have a significantly better experience.

    I might be wrong, but I was of the understanding that the 1970's generation of nuclear reactors were mostly based on designs proven a decade or more earlier. Is the article suggesting that in fifty years there has been little progress in making them more economical to build and run? This seems hard to believe.

    Nuclear power, for good or ill, strikes me as one of the few ways to lever ourselves out of the hole we dug mining fossil fuels. It boggles the mind that in Europe despite having the potential for clean, cheap and abundent energy in nuclear power we're still building fucking gas fired power stations.

    • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by InvalidError (771317) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:23PM (#44089425)

      Is the article suggesting that in fifty years there has been little progress in making them more economical to build and run?

      The biggest problem is that while specialized parts and materials may become more readily available which should translate into lower prices, regulations and safety requirements have become a whole lot tighter over time and costs associated with that have increased much faster.

      You can compare this to the aviation industry where a bolt that would cost $0.10 at the local hardware store if you were allowed to get it from there ends up costing $20 because of certifications. It sounds completely nuts but that's how it is in fields obsessed with safety and regulations... if you watch Mayday (a show/documentary that recreates the story of real crashes and near-catastrophes), there are a few episodes where maintenance engineers ended up with hundreds of deaths or at the very least terrorized passengers on their conscience for things as simple as using the wrong - though seemingly identical - bolts.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @08:05PM (#44088553) Journal
    Instead, what is needed is for us to produce new reactors such as thorium or the IFR, so that these can replace what is on-site and then burn the 'spent' fuel that is there. By doing this, we can cut our 70,000 tonnes of waste down to 5,000 tonnes of waste, while making a tidy profit and preventing any future accident.
    • by winwar (114053)

      Or you create a lot of mini-Hanfords. Yes, that's hyperbolic but I wish people wouldn't say that reprocessing or something similar is the answer. There's a reason we don't do it. One reason is the cost. But it also produces more waste. Hopefully not as radioactive, but there is more waste.

      And those new reactor designs? Still unproven. Why will they work better that the current versions? Note, I'm not asking why they should, I'm asking why they will.

      There's a reason that nuclear plants are being phas

  • by imikem (767509) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @08:05PM (#44088557) Homepage

    What I find utterly baffling is that research in this field appears to be dead in the USA, Europe and Japan. We seem to be content to watch China, India and a few others design and build the next generation of nuclear reactors. Then we will have the privilege of spending money to decommission our own hopelessly obsolete reactors. We will pay higher rates as the availability and diversity of power sources is reduced. We will endure unreliable swings and reduction of supply. We will pay for electricity generated by the new guys on the block. We will watch as yet more industry moves where there is cheap, reliable power.

    When we've had enough of all that, we'll spend money to license their designs since we made a point of making "intellectual property" central to our international agreements. Those countries will be more than happy to throw our IP regime regime right back in our collective face.

    The NIMBYs, the willfully ignorant, and a few well-meaning critics have "won" in the West, and so thoroughly that even building research reactors has become impossible. The above will be their "prize".

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @08:51PM (#44088747)

      What I find utterly baffling is that research in this field appears to be dead in the USA, Europe and Japan.

      Why would any company in their right mind research new reactor designs in countries where the government won't let them be built?

    • by fermion (181285)
      In terms of who owns the technology, it really does not matter. The countries that are going to use the most reactors can pay for the research. That is not the US. Unless we put into some sort of cap and trade, or end fracking, the nuclear reactors are just not going to make any sense. Fission reactors are not too cheap to meter. They require the same sort of loan guarantees that wind or solar requires. In the end licensing fees are going to be infinitesimal compared to the markups GE are going to incl
    • Civilizations rise and fall. We will give things one one by one: auto industry,nuclear power, space, high energy physics, fastest computers, tall buildings, high speed rail, commercial aircraft. Each time we will tell ourselves that we could do these things, we just don't want to anymore.

  • by meustrus (1588597) <{meustrus} {at} {gmail.com}> on Sunday June 23, 2013 @08:34PM (#44088683)
    Please don't talk about "early" retirement like it's bad to retire nuclear plants too early. The real problem in the world is that they are not being retired at all long past their originally intended lifetime. These power plants are literally blowing up. Every first world nuclear disaster involves an old power plant that should have been retired a long time ago. This is a serious problem caused by people thinking that they can just eke a little more out of these reactors instead of spending the huge amounts it takes to build new ones. So please, don't tell the world that we should be wary of "early" retirement like there are even any reactors that young anymore.
    • by meustrus (1588597)
      Aaaaand read TFA. The summary is absolutely f***ing terrible. The article is precisely about why these reactors need to be retired, the reasons they aren't, and an economic argument that they shouldn't have been built in the first place (I think they should have but that's beside the point). The summary implies that retiring these reactors is some kind of scam to "extract concessions from rate-payers". That phrase may appear once in TFA, but it's as an argument not to rely on nuclear power in the first plac
  • "early retirement of plants to extract concessions" -- leverage and coercion right there.

  • thoughtful, eh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by doom (14564) <doom@kzsu.stanford.edu> on Sunday June 23, 2013 @10:51PM (#44089261) Homepage Journal

    As the US nuclear fleet ages and the "nuclear renaissance" ballyhooed over the last decade fades into history, having failed to deliver on its promises, these early retirements will be closely scrutinized ...

    You know, it could be that the author is somewhat biased... The entire article is about problems with the design of large nuclear plants-- hard to repair and expensive to build, it says-- so the obvious conclusion would be to build smaller, more flexible designs, right? But just to guard against Wrong Think it closes with this note:

    This skeptical approach should apply to the new darling technology of the nuclear industry, small modular reactors.

    And:

    The public is hearing exactly the same promises about standardization, modularization, learning curve cost reductions, improved safety, and fast construction schedules that were made-and broken-in regard to earlier reactor designs.

    I might point out that since in fact, the safety of the nuclear industry is exlemplary by any reasonable standard -- like deaths/kilowatt -- maybe one should also be skeptical about these accusations of broken promises?

  • by sjames (1099) on Monday June 24, 2013 @08:54AM (#44091891) Homepage

    These are not nuclear technology problems, they are toxic politics and even more toxic business practices.

    The actual technical issue is failed replacement steam generators, in both cases due to management gambling on cheaping out and losing. Somehow though, it's 'impossible' to replace the defective steam generators even though they were already replaced once?!? I guess we';re getting stupid fast if we already forgot how.

    Put the owners on the hook for it (rather than the ratepayers) and watch how fast they come up with a solution that gets the plants safely back online.

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