Nuclear Meltdown
America’s Biggest Energy Problem
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  • Beauceron

    Fascinating and scary.

    I’ve read about the looming problems our aging infrastructure will cause, but I don’t recall anyone mentioning the nuclear aspect of it.

    • CaliforniaStark

      Yes, with the combination of terrorists and mobile nuclear reactors in semi-trucks, a lot of the aging infrastructure will get blow up.

  • Rodney

    Most nuclear plants in the US have been approved for license extension from 40 to 60 years, and there is talk about pushing them out to 80 years. One industry challenge that is being exacerbated by shale gas is the plants that went merchant 10-15 years ago. Several utilities with only one or two units sold their units to utilities with larger fleets, such as FPL, Exelon and Dominion. When sold, these units were deregulated relative to the public service commissions in the states where they were located. The sales agreements included purchase power agreements for specified periods of time. It is up to these plants to keep their costs within the sale price of the electricity they produce, unlike regulated plants, which get cost recovery from the rate base for any expedient operating costs. These are the plants most vulnerable to early shutdown.

  • Andrew Allison

    It’s obvious that nuclear power generation is the way to go, and equally obvious that the Chernobyl and Fukushima have convined the man-in-the-street that it’s dangerous. The public education effort suggested will take a lot of time and effort. The real problem, however, may be that natural gas makes nuclear power generation cost-ineffective.

    • Fat_Man

      “the Chernobyl and Fukushima have convined the man-in-the-street that it’s dangerous”

      That is not quite right. You should have written that: “The hysterical and technically ignorant leftist mainstream media have misrepresented and lied about Chernobyl and Fukushima to convince the man-in-the-street that nuclear power is dangerous.”

      • ljgude

        Not quite. These power plants are always sold as fail safe and everybody knows what is at stake. If they wee anywhere near as safe as claimed they should have a much better record. Yet they still fail in ways they are not supposed to.l I was down wind of 3 Mile Island when it failed. Reading about the investigation later I realized I was much calmer than I should have been.

        • Andrew Allison

          They are not “sold as safe”. As the article points out, they actually are safer overall than fossil fuel generation.

          • MyWord245

            Probabilistic studies estimate core damage frequency (scientific term for core melt probability) to be some where between 1 in 10000 and 1 in 20000 per reactor year. Most dominated by human performance followed by station blackout (total loss of power in the plant as happened in Fukushima). Hundred reactors operating over their design life time of 50 years (5000 reactor years) one estimates probability of core melt to be about 0.5. That’s why US designs have reinforced concrete containment. Collectively Generations 1, 2 and 3 US designs world wide have an expected core melt probability of 2 in their life time. Its not that there are no surprises either at TMI or Fukushima. At TMI operator was tricked because a steam bubble inversed keeping water on the top and steam below it. Fukushima, operators were cooling down the core slowly not knowing that the Tsunami w’s going to be as high. They could have ‘quenched’ the core if they thought Tsunami would go over the wall. Chernobyl is not an accident, it is absolute stupidity. They were running a deliberate experiment. Key challenges for the future are then, how would you further reduce core damage probability. New generation (Gen-IV) reactors have such designs where fuel can’t melt. Problem these designs face is that NRC is neither smart enough nor driven enough to give credit for natural phenomena (for example hot water rises causing natural circulation) and reduce regulatory burden. Congress is starting to engage and I hope that they will push NRC to develop new guidance for advanced reactors.

          • Andrew Allison

            It’s not just the low probability of a core melt, but the low probability of one resulting in adverse health effects (http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/three-mile-island-accident.aspx).

          • MyWord245

            Totally agree. I’m supporting your argument that they were not sold as safe; people knew there were risks. We put in additional barriers to reduce release of radioactivity. But there is always risk and as you pointed out acceptable risk.

        • Fat_Man

          Another leftist self identifies.

        • Jim__L

          Oh come on, don’t you believe in Murphy’s Law? Since anything that can go wrong will go wrong, then logically, if nothing went wrong, nothing could possibly have gone wrong. 😉

  • CaliforniaStark

    A lot of the reason that nuclear power is losing support is the operational and maintenance failures associated with the industry. The San Onofre nuclear reactor in California was forced to permanently shut down after a radiation leak in 2012. A report prepared for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission blamed its operation:

    “Higher primary reactor coolant temperatures and higher steam pressure caused tube-to-tube contact resulting in dangerous and potentially deadly tube ruptures,”

    Southern California Edison challenged the report, and instead blames a Japanese contractor for building faulty replacement steam generators, which failed decades ahead of schedule.

    “As far back as September of 2013, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) identified flaws in how Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) used its computer codes to design the failed steam generators at SONGS,” Edison said in an email. “The NRC further issued a ‘Notice of Non-Conformance’ against MHI for its flawed computer modeling in the failed design.”

    The engineer who wrote the Nuclear Regulatory Commission report stated one of the problems with preparing it was the logs had been destroyed. “If those logs have not been destroyed, they will show immediately whether or not Edison risked the lives of 8.5 million Southern Californians by redlining the Unit 3 generators,” he said.”

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sdut-san-onofre-reactor-leak-redlining-2016jul19-story.html

    You can talk all you want about the benefits of nuclear power, but when its existing operation is run like a clown show, the public is not going to support it. They are certainly not going to support current nuclear technology being placed in semi-trucks, as a sort of “rent-a-nuke”. Do you really believe this statement is reassuring?: “each and every one of these modular reactors would need staunch defense from potential terrorist attacks.” Could see very questionable groups going to court claiming their civil rights are being violated by not being allowed to own a modular reactor.

    Agree that thorium or molten salt reactors are the wave of the future; and developing these technologies should be where the research and funding is focused.

    • MyWord245

      Assuming that you are not a troll, here is the full picture. SONGS is a Pressurized Water Reactor that uses a system called steam generators to make steam. Original ones wore out and they placed the replacement order with MHI. There is absolutely no doubt that MHI screwed up the design/fabrication. Their design, placement of welds and supports led to intense vibrations (generally known as tube-to-tube fretting). Many reactors in the past have gone through these problems and have repaired by replacing some tubes. A recent example is Palo Verde unit. Fretting causes pin-size leaks that allow some the water from the reactor core (@ 2000 psi) to leak into the steam side. But none of them leave the containment (Note also that leaks of this sort are common in any plant, plants usually plug the tubes). SONGS could have/should have followed a more measured approach like Palo Verde, but they exacerbated the problem. They were in negotiations with MHI to get a new steam generator when NRC inserted itself into the issue. By the way Crystal River is another plant that closed down during SG replacement due to engineering screw up. Having said that here is the take away. These plants are engineering marvels that require precise fabrication. Walking through these plants or on one of the off-shore oil rigs is a feeling un matched by anything else. So don’t be harsh on the operators; what we have done is that US pretty much off-shored much of this capability and now the expertise is going away.

  • Fat_Man

    “you cannot in good conscience advocate for a low-carbon future without including nuclear power in your plans.”

    They really don’t care. Their goal is the impoverishment and the demoralization of the working class. And their plans are going very well. Just look at the spike in opioid addiction deaths.

    • Jim__L

      Environmentalists’ goal is to feel good without thinking too much about it, and claiming they’re still smart because they agree with “scientists”.

  • FriendlyGoat

    My guess is that natural gas picks up any slack in base load generation for at least the next two decades.

    • CaliforniaStark

      And that is a good thing. The increased use of natural gas has resulted in the U.S. having a significant reduction in green house gas emissions, unlike most other countries — including Germany, which likes to tout its environmental credentials.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Perhaps. I somehow just don’t see us proceeding much further with nuclear other than to keep the old reactors running for as long as they will or can. So gas seems the most likely fallback to me. We tell ourselves we now have A LOT of it, after all, and it’s the best of the fossil fuels.

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