Newsbytes: Japan’s Tsunami Threatens The Global Warming Movement

From the Global Warming Policy Foundation

The nuclear emergency is Japan will be a disaster for global warming activists. For a start, Japan’s own emissions will most likely rise in the medium term, now that so many nuclear plants – one of the most greenhouse-friendly power sources – have been knocked out:Analysts think Japan will compensate for the shutdown of its 10 nuclear reactors by relying more heavily on traditional fossil fuels.’ –Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, 16 March 2011

Carbon dioxide emissions in Germany may increase by 4 percent annually in response to a moratorium on seven of the country’s oldest nuclear power plants, as power generation is shifted from nuclear power, a zero carbon source, to the other carbon-intensive energy sources that currently make up the country’s energy supply. –Sara Mansur, Breakthrough Institute, 15 March 2011

It was only a matter of time before environmentalists would point toward Japan, say, “We told you so,” and then declare a moral victory for anti-nuclear activism. Merely for the sake of argument, let’s pretend they are right. Eliminating nuclear power might be a nice experiment. But there is one big problem: Environmentalists are trying to eliminate all the other alternatives, as well. All sources of energy pose some sort of risk or cost. Risk-free, cost-free energy is a complete myth and simply does not, and will not, exist. Groups that never propose realistic solutions are simply not worth taking seriously.  — Alex B. Berezow, RealClearScience, 15 March 2011

The main problem with energy supply systems is that for the last 100 years, governments have insisted on meddling with them, using subsidies, setting rates, and picking technologies. Consequently, entrepreneurs, consumers, and especially policymakers have no idea which power supply technologies actually provide the best balance between cost-effectiveness and safety. –Ronald Bailey, Reason Online, 15 March 2011

For all the emotive force of events in Japan, though, this is one issue where there is a pressing need to listen to what our heads say about the needs of the future, as opposed to subjecting ourselves to jittery whims of the heart. Most of the easy third ways are illusions. Energy efficiency has been improving for over 200 years, but it has worked to increase not curb demand. Off-shore wind remains so costly that market forces would simply push pollution overseas if it were taken up in a big way. A massive expansion of shale gas may yet pave the way to a plausible non-nuclear future, and it certainly warrants close examination. The fundamentals of the difficult decisions ahead, however, have not moved with the Earth. –Editorial, The Guardian, 15 March 2011

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98 thoughts on “Newsbytes: Japan’s Tsunami Threatens The Global Warming Movement

  1. It is unfortunate that the concept of ‘nuclear power stations’ is limited to pressurised light water reactors. They are risky and evidently dangerous when failing.

    There are at least two competing nuclear technologies that have been proven to work and there would have been a drastically different outcome had either of them been used in Japan. I am of course referring to CANDU (U235) and Thorium-flouride reactors.

  2. Wait just a minute….what would a tsunami do to an offshore windfarm?

    Not that anybody would really notice…..

  3. Rick says:
    March 16, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Wait just a minute….what would a tsunami do to an offshore windfarm?

    Not that anybody would really notice…..

    Depends on the distance “offshore”. In many cases, the windfarm is far enough out that the tsunami (“harbor wave” by definition) isn’t much of a wave at all. I’d say unless the wind farm were on or next to the shore line, the impact would be minimal.

  4. Hey, can we all ride around in 40 year old cars and shut down the modern car industry if we have an accident? I am not sorry to see the old designs taken off line, nor am I sorry to see AGW pumpers succumb to to reality, but really now.

  5. Crispin in Waterloo says:
    March 16, 2011 at 9:36 am
    It is unfortunate that the concept of ‘nuclear power stations’ is limited to pressurised light water reactors. They are risky and evidently dangerous when failing.

    There are at least two competing nuclear technologies that have been proven to work and there would have been a drastically different outcome had either of them been used in Japan. I am of course referring to CANDU (U235) and Thorium-flouride reactors.

    Of the two the Thorium reactors are the better bet as they fail safe and can be built small and modular. So in theory a roll out of Thorium reactors could be relatively rapid once the planning regulations are clarified as they are NOT PWRs or similar U235 designs that can melt down.

    But emotional politicians both central and local government will be making these decisions egged on by an excitable and ignorant media – so one should not expect a sensible outcome.

  6. Crispin in Waterloo says:
    March 16, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Yes, rule number one for a Nuclear Power Plant should be;

    -When you turn off the Power, the plant is turned off. Period.
    It should not explode.

  7. I hope we are smart enough to realize that the events in Japan raise serious questions about the safety of nuclear power generation and I further hope that, once the dust has settled, we investigate those questions. This is simply common sense. We must not however entertain knee jerk responses on either side. These would fall into one of two categories. On the one side we already are hearing the protests against nuclear energy from the leftist greenies, protests that have simply gained in volume since the Japan earthquake, and are no more valid now that they were before. On the other hand we are hearing from the pro-nuclear forces that nuclear is safe, the system worked, no need for moratoriums, etc. and these too are hard to take seriously.
    Yes, the events in Japan are so far from normal (8.9 quake with 23 foot tsunami) that it would have been miraculous had nothing gone wrong at any of the many reactors in Japan. And yes, the anti-nuclear folks seem to forget this fact.
    But the events did in fact happen, and things did in fact go wrong at some of those reactors. The impact is yet to be fully understood. Given that, a little honest questioning is warranted. In examining these questions we will undoubtedly come up with even greater safety in the nuclear energy industry worldwide.
    And BTW, I am pro-nuclear with some education in the area.

  8. Sorry if my earlier comment is a little OT here. I’ve just been waiting too long to react to all the hype on the situation in Japan.

  9. “Consequently, entrepreneurs, consumers, and especially policymakers have no idea which power supply technologies actually provide the best balance between cost-effectiveness and safety.” –Ronald Bailey, Reason Online, 15 March 2011

    Actually I slightly disagree with that statement. The entrepreneurs know *exactly* where the money (and perceived safety) lie – windpower. The market is completely swamped right now. Companies are queuing up to build wind farms world wide. In fact the size of industry is already well past the point where the democratic governments in the developed world can cut subsidies because to do so means increasing unemployment.

    Will windpower provide enough generating capacity? Why would entrepreneurs care?

  10. The increase in CO2 may be just what we need to save Gaia. Since global warming caused by the current level of CO2 is responsible the recent cold winters, it is obvious we need more GHGs to cause global warming to actually warm thereby returning our climate to its normal state. It’s a delicate balance.

  11. RockyRoad says:
    March 16, 2011 at 9:47 am the impact would be minimal.

    Those stupid Fans don’t float, tell me a 500 mph 30ft high underwater wave miles wide would hit the base w/3 times the power as on land and not end up on shore.

  12. I think this quote: “Environmentalists are trying to eliminate all the other alternatives, as well. All sources of energy pose some sort of risk or cost. Risk-free, cost-free energy is a complete myth and simply does not, and will not, exist. Groups that never propose realistic solutions are simply not worth taking seriously.” summarizes the Big Green organizations. There is currently no realistic alternative to today’s power production methods. Even at several times the cost, wind and solar will never provide more than 1/3 of the total. The lowest cost and safest are coal, gas, and nuclear.

    Yes, I said safest, because when the emotional factor is removed, commercial nuclear power has among the safest track record of any major industry. My guess is that the Japanese (who are not technophobic as western governments are proving to be) will get the unaffected nuke plants at other locations back on line within a few months, and half of those affected by the tsunami back online within 2 years. At least two are toast, but that’s not a safety problem. Their two under construction may be delayed for a year as higher standards for earthquake and tsunami effects are incorporated.

    There are currently 62 commercial nuke power plants under construction around the world, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/reactors.html and I expect the completion dates will slip as a result of mother nature throwing disasters, but only the luddite nations will back away from making tomorrow a better place to live. Remember the words of Jerry Pournelle: “You can’t conserve your way to prosperity”

    And finally, I do know that B. Obama campaigned for President on a platform of raising utility rates “necessarily skyrocket” to get expensive alternative energy into the US mix. Creates Green jobs don’t ya know.

  13. As we continue to dither and argue about what course(s) to take we are getting closer and closer to the point where the system will collapse and a man on a white horse will have to cut the Gordian knot.

    Interesting times.

  14. ShrNfr says:
    March 16, 2011 at 9:50 am
    Hey, can we all ride around in 40 year old cars and shut down the modern car industry if we have an accident? I am not sorry to see the old designs taken off line, nor am I sorry to see AGW pumpers succumb to to reality, but really now.

    ——————————

    Perhaps I missed your point, but the reason we are all “driving 40 year old cars” is because the government has decreed we are not allowed to build newer, safer ones anywhere. As mentioned above, the newer generation Thorium designs sound very promising, but as soon as the word “nuclear” is mentioned, the environmentalist scream and the politicians run for cover. With the information I’ve found, it’s my opinion that it was very unfortunate that the Thorium design lost out at the time for military reasons.

    Unfortunately, it is going to take a long time to address all of the mis-information out there.

  15. Here’s hoping that the tragedy in the making at Fukushima Plant 1, will be a wake up call to politicians across the world. We need to close all Gen1 nuclear reactors as soon as possible and replace the lost capacity with coal/gas and nuclear of more modern, safer design.

    No reactor can be safe from all possible black swan events, so modern multi redundant fail-safe designs are the only sensible way to go.

  16. It keeps getting lost in the discussion that the problems at Fukushimi happened after a 9.0 earthquake, a Tsunami, and then several days of almost continuous 6.0 – 7+ Richter scale earthquakes that the plants have had problems. This in the middle of massive devastation to the surrounding infrastructure and emergency support that would normally be aiding in handling such a crisis.

    The fact that the damage is this minor is a testament to just how well these things were built. There are problems but not nearly to the extent the media is hyping the problems. It should be noted that a lot of the so called ‘experts’ who are getting air time are active in the anti nuclear movement and taking advantage of this to push their view point of how dangerous nuclear is.

  17. “Companies are queuing up to build wind farms world wide. In fact the size of industry is already well past the point where the democratic governments in the developed world can cut subsidies because to do so means increasing unemployment.”

    Or rather, Companies are queuing up to get subsidies to build windfarms . . .

    Increase in unemployment would be short term. Windmill subsidies cost real, long lasting employment. Subsidies take investment funds out of the hands of entrepreneurs and put it into the inefficient, politically driven as opposed to wealth creation driven politicians hands. After the shut down of the useless windmills, ex-employees would move to industries which actually provide a return on investment and other forms of energy supply would supply demand as long as draconian so called environmental regulations are removed.

  18. As a retired engineer (albeit in a different field) one must try to look at the bright side of events. Historically, all engineering improvements have been made for one of two reasons, reducing costs or improving design as a result of accidents. Look at virtually any activity from coal mining to bridge building, from shipping to aviation, all major improvements have been as a result of disasters. We have yet to learn of the number of deaths/injuries that have been caused by failures at the nuclear plant, as distinct from those caused by the earthquake and tsunami, but I suspect that they will be quite low compared with some past disasters.
    The plant has now been stress tested to an extent that would never normally have been possible. To use the hackneyed phrase “lessons will be learnt”, but as in the case of the Tay Bridge, the Titanic and the Comet disasters, the Japanese disaster should not be an end of nuclear power engineering but an impetus to produce better safer designs.

  19. I must applaud the Germans for guarding their nuclear units against tsunamis in central Europe by shutting down seven of them and costing a few billion Euros. Way to go for being proactive! /sarc off

  20. The official response to this situation feels a lot like last years volcanic ash hyper caution in Europe.

  21. Rick: Wait just a minute….what would a tsunami do to an offshore windfarm?

    Good question. For that matter, what would the quake do to an onshore windfarm? Here is a link to a site with pictures of Japanese turbine installations. The one shown is in Fukushima (I think. Can’t read Japanese.) Maybe some of our commenters will find a way to determine how this unit has fared.

    http://homepage1.nifty.com/cubo/wind/japan/nichidai.htm

  22. Nomen Nescio writes:

    “Yes, the events in Japan are so far from normal (8.9 quake with 23 foot tsunami) that it would have been miraculous had nothing gone wrong at any of the many reactors in Japan. And yes, the anti-nuclear folks seem to forget this fact.
    But the events did in fact happen, and things did in fact go wrong at some of those reactors.”

    Excuse me, but the problem that Japan faces at this moment is the result of a bad decision about the site of a nuclear facility. There is not some other problem. If the facility were to explode in a nuclear fireball, that hypothetical reality would be totally irrelevant to correcting the mistake that caused the existing problem at the nuclear facility. Japan is prone to tsunamis because it is especially vulnerable to earthquakes, given that it is located over the conjunction of several major fault lines. In such a location, Japan should refrain from constructing a whole bunch of things anywhere near its coast lines. It should refrain from constructing population centers there. It should refrain from constructing depots of all kinds there. It should refrain from constructing nuclear weapon launch sites there. I hope you get the idea.

    The Japanese decision makers who should be held responsible for the existing problem are not the people who designed the facility but the people who decided on its location, and that latter group will include more politicians than nuclear engineers or executives. We need to identify the responsible actors correctly, not simply run around yelling “nuclear catastrophe.”

    The mistake that led to the existing “crisis” has nothing to do with the safety of nuclear facilities. It has everything to do with the location of nuclear facilities. Why are you trying to change the subject to a non-issue, assuming that you do not work for our now White Hot Fury MSM?

  23. One thing is for sure, the public in the USA and EU will want energy on demand no matter what happens in future. As long as there is enough oil, gas or coal they will vote with their health. If wind and solar are not up to the task they will vote with their health. It’s as simple as that.

  24. oeman50 says:
    March 16, 2011 at 11:34 am
    “I must applaud the Germans for guarding their nuclear units against tsunamis in central Europe by shutting down seven of them and costing a few billion Euros. Way to go for being proactive! /sarc off”

    Yeah. How long before Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, or Lithuania decides that Germany is ripe for annexation? Actually, some strategically located propaganda in German newspapers would probably do the job. /sarc off

  25. No doubt the Greens are having a field day – ‘Told you so – ya-di-ya-di-ya..’ – but of course back in the real world we have to generate electricity in HUGE quantities worldwide, and fairy breath and butterfly wings just don’t cut it….
    Current contribution to demand in the UK:
    Nuclear – 19%.
    Wind – 1%.

  26. What do the incidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl & Fukushima all have in common?

    They were all functioning just fine until a shutdown was initiated (Three Mile Island & Chernobyl were scheduled events).

    That was the first thing that popped into my mind when Germany announced that for safety reasons, it was going to shut down all the older reactors. I’m no expert in the field, but it seems to me the safest thing to do would be to begin the requisite investigations and allow the running reactors to continue running until they were scheduled for a shutdown or significant risk was determined.

  27. Even here on WUWT we have this spectacular loss of perspective. How many would have been killed if they had all been coal fired plants? How about oil? How about Natural gas or hydro electric? In all of these cases the deaths and injuries would almost certainly have been much larger and all of the plants would have been affected rather than the oldest 25%.

    This is not good news for those of us who think AGW is overblown. Some form of nuclear power is the best long term solution for most of our energy needs. Natural gas is much more dangerous and is valuable as a feed stock.

    I especially love the panic over radiation doses of 2microsieverts per hour like Drudge was featuring yesterday. A lot of us have higher levels in our homes. Everyone who goes on an airplane flight or lives in th mountains or goes to a spa certainly hasa higher doses. If you recieved 57 years worth of this dose all in one hour there is a fairly good chance you would get a tummy ache.

  28. now that so many nuclear plants – one of the most greenhouse-friendly power sources –

    Who thinks that that statement is correct? and how do we figure that? These plants use enormous amounts of coolwater that produce a lot of warm water that produces a lot of water vapor which (apparently, reportedly) is a strong GHG.

    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/more-carbon-dioxide-is-ok-ok

    Apart from that, the warmer water also reportedly causes damage to sealife
    (not so?)

  29. In this situation the Tsunami would have likely wasked bits and pieces of the wind farm ashore as the earthquake itself would have already bent, twisted and mangled them. If you locate them far off shore how do you transmit the power without huge transmission loss. If they aren’t in shallow water you have vastly higher installation costs. To top it all off wind has to be backed up 100% by other sources which do the actual generation most of the time. Any such back up generation is less safe and less environmentally friendly than even these ancient nukes.

  30. RockyRoad says:
    March 16, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Rick says:
    March 16, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Wait just a minute….what would a tsunami do to an offshore windfarm?

    Not that anybody would really notice…..

    Depends on the distance “offshore”. In many cases, the windfarm is far enough out that the tsunami (“harbor wave” by definition) isn’t much of a wave at all. I’d say unless the wind farm were on or next to the shore line, the impact would be minimal.

    In Nova Scotia ANY wind farm is near the shore!

  31. NoAstronomer says:
    March 16, 2011 at 10:12 am
    “Consequently, entrepreneurs, consumers, and especially policymakers have no idea which power supply technologies actually provide the best balance between cost-effectiveness and safety.” –Ronald Bailey, Reason Online, 15 March 2011

    Actually I slightly disagree with that statement. The entrepreneurs know *exactly* where the money (and perceived safety) lie – windpower. The market is completely swamped right now. Companies are queuing up to build wind farms world wide. In fact the size of industry is already well past the point where the democratic governments in the developed world can cut subsidies because to do so means increasing unemployment.

    Will windpower provide enough generating capacity? Why would entrepreneurs care?

    You seem to have confused “entrepreneur” with “rent-seeker.” In today’s culture of corporatism, it’s easy to understand how you can make that mistake. True entrepreneurs follow the market. Rent-seekers try to create the market through favorable regulation and legislation (Al Gore and GE are prime examples).

    The market for wind-power without mandates, tax-breaks and subsidies? Near nothing, because in it’s present state, wind power is unreliable and expensive. Few people would voluntarily choose to use it.

  32. Crispin in Waterloo says:
    March 16, 2011 at 9:36 am
    “It is unfortunate that the concept of ‘nuclear power stations’ is limited to pressurised light water reactors. They are risky and evidently dangerous when failing.

    There are at least two competing nuclear technologies that have been proven to work and there would have been a drastically different outcome had either of them been used in Japan. I am of course referring to CANDU (U235) and Thorium-flouride reactors.”

    Apparently light water reactors have stood firm for 50 years and amongst several hundred units running for all those decades only one has had all its security feature fail to create a disaster.

    So how do you figure light water reactors with less are more dangerous than any other designs and technology? I think everyone need to remember that back then in the 50’s-80’s nobody really knew which design and technology would be the best 50 years later.

    The japanese power plants that is stressed out today are from the 70’s which mean they started planning process in the 60’s.

    However building new ones in the future ought to be for re-using spent nuclear fuel, we should recycle everything of course, and preferably using reactor designs that produce less radioactive waste, or rather stuff that breaks down faster.

  33. John T says:
    March 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm
    “That was the first thing that popped into my mind when Germany announced that for safety reasons, it was going to shut down all the older reactors. I’m no expert in the field, but it seems to me the safest thing to do would be to begin the requisite investigations and allow the running reactors to continue running until they were scheduled for a shutdown or significant risk was determined.”

    Merkel does it because public opinion here in Germany is in total nuclear panic mood; Geiger counters sell like fresh bread (cheap junk), every TV channel has a discussion round with a nuclear “expert” from Greenpeace. And our media mistranslates stuff they read in English language news mistranslated from Japanese sources. Cem Özdemür, the current figurehead of the Green party in Badem-Württemberg, said German peak electricity usage was only 80 Giga Byte (*) [sic] so we could easily switch off nuclear… you get the figure.

    (*) = http://www.nathanaelfalk.org/2011/03/cem-ozdemir-verbaucht-stom-in-gigabyte.html

  34. May I humbly request that all mentions of CO2 increases are put into perspective by linking to total CO2 emissions. As human activities are reckoned to release only approx 4% of overall CO2, any human-derived increases should be divided by 25. Thus a 4% increase (which probably sounds alarming to Warmists searching for things to be alarmed about) becomes, “a 4% increase, which is 0.16% increase of total emissions (from that country)”. That’s much less worrying!

  35. NoAstronomer @ March 16, 2011 at 10:12 am
    “The entrepreneurs know *exactly* where the money (and perceived safety) lie – windpower. The market is completely swamped right now. Companies are queuing up to build wind farms world wide.”

    I actually disagree with this statement. Industry has figured out that the biggest subsidies and lowest risk (wind power is mandated and gauranteed in my home state of Oregon) is in wind. A close study of Reason.tv on this subject shows that by far the largest subsidies per MWhr are in wind an solar.

    http://reason.tv/video/show/tilting-at-wind-turbines-shoul

    If you dont have time for the video, take a look at the graphic:

    In Oregon, we have a wind farm that is 90% taxpayer funded, with the wind energy developer having 10% skin in the game with a gauranteed market for the power paid for again by the energy consumer, representing a potential of 30% ROI (for the developer).

    http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/03/post_20.html

    Read it and weep.

    I submit that Ronald Bailey has it right.

  36. “The main problem with energy supply systems is that for the last 100 years, governments have insisted on meddling with them, using subsidies, setting rates, and picking technologies.”

    Thought for the day: “If I had a dollar for every time capitalism was blamed for problems created by government … I’d be a fat film-maker wearing a baseball cap.”

  37. Japan has been talking about getting out of Kyoto/Cap and Trade. Maybe this will be the straw on the camel’s back that gets them to come to their senses. Same for Germany. Let’s see what happens to prices of good produced in those countries if they try to go anti-nuke while on C&T agendas.

  38. “In fact the size of industry is already well past the point where the democratic governments in the developed world can cut subsidies because to do so means increasing unemployment.”

    This is untrue from two perspectives. The most obvious refutation is that the number of jobs ‘created’ are actually very small, and come at a high price. More indirectly, what subsidies are actually doing is taking wealth from the public and using it to spend on creating electric power at a higher cost. Apart from the fact that the net effect of this is to destroy value rather than add value, it also commits the fallacy of the ‘broken window’.

    French economist Bastiat used the anecdote of a child who broke a window and wins the acclaim of the onlookers for the jobs created in the glazier business. Bastiat was quite correct in pointing out that the fallacy arises because the onlookers are basing their conclusions on what they can see – the work being given to the glazier. What remains unseen is the fact that the person who has to pay for the window no longer has the money. What they do not see is that money no longer being spent on something else.

    The argument that wind farm subsidies create jobs is just another example of this fallacy. The proponents point to the jobs created (rather few actually – it would probably be better to pay people to dig ditches), but ignore, or do not understand that because the public no longer have that money to spend on goods and services they value, other jobs are lost.

    If governments are afraid to cut subsidies because they are afraid it will increase unemployment, then they are economically ignorant, and are probably followers of Paul ‘the US hasn’t stimulated enough’ Krugman. Let us members of the public show a bit more intelligence.

  39. If Thorium is really so promising we might see in the near future Japan engaging in cooperation with China in its development.
    Would be a mutual benefit for both countries, put them on a progress path and solve their energy supply problems whilst making nuclear really safe.

  40. First off, Japan has only lost about 10% of it’s electric generating capacity. That will be taken care of within a year or so. Second, it’s not many “plants”, it is at most 6 reactors at one plant. Third, there is far too much hysteria over the small amount of radiation coming from this plant. Practically the entire left coast of the US is ready to OD on potassium iodide, if they haven’t already. I’ve already heard people freaking out over an irrational fear of radioactive salmon from Alaska, and glow in the dark veggies from CA.

    Get a grip people. Read some literature on radiation for God’s sake.

  41. I think this is an Ideal solution to most power requirements that are safe and affordable, and will satisfy MOST people from both sides of the climate debate.
    President Obama please it check it out.
    Here is an American Company that looks like a winner to me: Hyperion Mini Power Reactor.
    THIS SEEMS TO BE THE WAY A SMALL INEXPENSIVE NUCLEAR POWER MODULES THAT DOESN’T NEED HUGE EXPENSIVE INFRASTRUCTURE, OR LARGE SCALE TRANSMISSION LINES. THE MODULES CAN BE PIGGY BACKED FOR LARGER POWER REQUIREMENTS. CAN BE QUICKLY BUILT ON AN ASSEMBLY LINE BASIS, INSTALLED AND RUNNING IN A SHORT TIME FRAME. – What’s not to like?
    The Hyperion Mini Nuclear Power Module (HPG) = 25 megawatts = 25 000 kilowatts
    Clean, Safe, Affordable Power where you need it, when you need it.

    http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/product.html

    The Hyperion Mini Power Reactor. It is a small, safe transportable reactor module that is set up and in operation quickly.
    Hyperion Power’s Mini Power Reactor, is a liquid metal-cooled fast reactor, and offers unique safety features and efficiency. The Hyperion does not need water to cool the reactor. Water is not used as coolant; it cannot go “supercritical” or get too hot. The Hyperion only needs a water supply to create Steam or hot water for heating or for the Steam turbines that will generate the electricity. Hyperion can be ganged or teamed together; the modules can produce even more consistent energy for larger projects.
    Housed in a permanently sealed container just 1.5 meters wide by 2.5 meters tall, it’s small enough to be transported by truck, rail or ship. Meeting all the non-proliferation criteria of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), each unit produces 70 megawatts of thermal energy or 25 megawatts of electric power— enough to provide electricity for 20,000 average American-size homes or the industrial equivalent for seven to ten years depending on usage. Nuclear-based power plants can produce heat or electricity 24/7 with no greenhouse-gas emissions.
    Offering a cost-efficient source of clean, emission-free, baseload energy, the Hyperion Power Module will provide crucial independent power for military installations; heat, steam, and electricity for mining operations; and electricity for local infrastructure and clean water processes in communities around the globe.
    Who would have thought that the benefits of generating electricity from huge nuclear power plants… could ever be provided in a small, compact, energy module The size of a shipping container, that can be transported by truck, rail or ship to remote locations wherever reliable electricity and heat for communities, industry, military, mining or any application where heat and energy is needed?

    Once sited safely in its underground containment vessel, an HPM is monitored but does not require a battery of operational personnel. It just quietly delivers safe, reliable power – 70 MW thermal or 25 MW electric via steam turbine – for a period of 7 to 10 years. A factory fresh module is shipped to quickly and simply replaces the reactor package.
    . Hyperion power is also cheaper than fossil fuels and, when you consider the cost of land and materials, watt to watt, Hyperion’s innovative energy technology is even more affordable than many developing “alternative” energy technologies.
    Out of sight and safe from nefarious threats, Hyperion power modules are buried far underground and guarded by a security detail. Like a power battery, Hyperion modules have no moving parts to wear down, and are delivered factory sealed. They are never opened on site.
    Even if one were compromised, the material inside would not be appropriate for weapon proliferation purposes.
    Further, due to the unique, yet proven science upon which this new technology is based, it is impossible for the module to go supercritical, “melt down” or create any type of emergency situation.
    If opened, the very small amount of fuel that is enclosed would immediately cool. The waste produced after five years of operation is approximately the size of softball and is a good candidate for fuel recycling.
    Conceived at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the HPM intellectual property portfolio has been licensed to Hyperion Power Generation for commercialization under the laboratory’s technology transfer program. Inherently safe, the HPM utilizes the energy of low-enriched uranium fuel and meets all the non-proliferation criteria the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). Three factories, spread across the globe are planned to produce 4,000 units of the first design.

    Please forward this info.
    Ted.

  42. @ 1DandyTroll
    So how do you figure light water reactors with less are more dangerous than any other designs and technology? I think everyone need to remember that back then in the 50′s-80′s nobody really knew which design and technology would be the best 50 years later.

    +++++++++

    I make inputs to national standards from time to time and safety is usually involved. On the driving principles of safety is that when safety requires the presence of something, rather than its absence, it is less safe.

    Pressurised light water reactors require the presence of high pressure water (or gas) in order to remain safe, even when shut down (rapidly). Anything that goes wrong with any part of the containment system allows the pressure to drop or the water to escape. The truth of that principle is surely made plain this week in Japan.

    CANDU reactors are only hot when there is heavy water inside the array of fuel rods. The Pickering Nuclear Power Station east of Toronto uses this approach. The water is placed in something like a giant chicken feeder where there is a large container of water filling a ring around the base. With a chicken feeder, removing some water from the ring allows a bubble to rise and a little water from inside replenishes the water removed from the ring. In the CANDU reactor there is no cap on top so the water tries to fall out immediately. It is kept in position by means of air pressure pumped into the cavity surrounding the whole assembly, pushing the water up.

    If anything goes wrong, the air pressure is released. The heavy water falls into and through the trough. The reactor is thus immediately shut off, is safe and does not continue to generate heat as the U235 can’t do that without the moderating influence of the heavy water. If Pickering is hit by an earthquake and tsunami and the entire plant is broken open, it will simply shut off. It does not require the presence of a power, a back-up generator, batteries, intact piping, water and alert controlling engineers in order to remain safe.

    The Banana Index:

    The hyping of the Three Mile Island event on TV thoughout the week is typical of people’s misunderstanding of exposure to radiation. The exposure of the public from TMI radiation was equal to eating a banana (bananas have Potassium 40 in them). CNN has it that ‘No one died!” at TMI. Well, eating a banana doesn’t usually kill people.

    I just returned from Ulaanbaatar where ‘greens’ shriek about ‘uranium contamination and radiation from burning coal’. The matter was studied to death and here is so little radiation that it pales in comparison to standing outside, or walking into a concrete building. Standing outside in the natural and continuous cosmic ray showers exposes you to 18 microsieverts. If you step into a building it increases to 26 microsieverts because the stones crushed to make concrete contain uranium (granite does, you know…). The radiation received from living in a building in Ulaabaatar is the equivalent of eating a banana every two weeks.

    Just because we can measure something does not mean that is is dangerous. Did we not evolve in the radon gas filled radioactive granite caves of our troglodyte forebears?

  43. Since the true objective of green policies is the destruction of the civilization that has given us the highest overall standard of living in history, the tsunami and its aftereffects do not “threaten the global warming movement,” but instead further it.

  44. In the open ocean the wave length of a “tsunami” will be very long and its wave height not tall at all. An object such as a small ship or a properly anchored platform would hardly notice the passage of this wave. Because of the lack of surface features of these waves, tsunami detection uses, among other systems, anchored seafloor bottom pressure recorders (BPR) and companion moored surface buoys for real-time communications, called “ Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART)”; see

    http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/dart/dart.shtml

  45. Crispin in Waterloo writes:

    “Just because we can measure something does not mean that is is dangerous. Did we not evolve in the radon gas filled radioactive granite caves of our troglodyte forebears?”

    One of the great mysteries of this age, the Yuppie and post-Yuppie age, is the total and complete disappearance of memory and of historical imagination. Each and everyone of my students was born yesterday. My meagre hunch is the self-esteem movement. If you are totally focused on your own wonderfulness, you are not going to think about your growth up from primal sludge.

    I hope that someday an explanation of this memory loss phenomenon will be published in some great and wonderful book. I do not expect to live long enough to see its publication.

  46. HenryP says:
    March 16, 2011 at 12:16 pm
    now that so many nuclear plants – one of the most greenhouse-friendly power sources –

    Who thinks that that statement is correct? and how do we figure that? These plants use enormous amounts of coolwater that produce a lot of warm water that produces a lot of water vapor which (apparently, reportedly) is a strong GHG.

    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/more-carbon-dioxide-is-ok-ok

    Apart from that, the warmer water also reportedly causes damage to sealife
    (not so?)

    Not so

    The warm ‘cooling water’ outflows from nuclear plants in Florida are havens for wildlife. In the recent cold that killed many manatees it was the nuclear power plants that kept them alive. Along with many other warm water fish and amphibians.

  47. Patrik refers us to Monbiot who writes:

    “Several writers for the Guardian have made what I believe is an unjustifiable leap. A disaster has occurred in a plant that was appallingly sited in an earthquake zone; therefore, they argue, all nuclear power programmes should be abandoned everywhere.”

    I am at a loss for words. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that Monbiot and I have agreed on an argument. Monbiot, I tip my hat to you. You have a cogent criticism of critics of nuclear energy. (Though, I did state this argument a few days ago.) Now, if he will only come out against the hysteria and panic fostered by the utterly childish MSM, I will salute him.

  48. @Crispin in Waterloo

    “I make inputs to national standards from time to time and safety is usually involved. On the driving principles of safety is that when safety requires the presence of something, rather than its absence, it is less safe.”

    Safety is the concern of those overly worried about their own anxiety.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for safety, however all the safety feature, be it a computer systems or a nuclear power plants, is because our knowledge to design stuff only goes so far, which isn’t especially far, that’s why we go above and beyond and try to imagine the unimaginable and imagine ourselves that we fix that to.

    When you don’t know the dangers, or pressed for time, you don’t imagine the need for “safety” or you disregard it. When you enough to know it is dangerous but don’t know how to offset it with the basics . . .

    But, and even though my argument will stand, doesn’t mean the light water reactors are safe. Observable fact has it that for more than 99.5% of the times the safety features worked. But you want to argue that they haven’t based solely on the Fukushima power plants problem, who’s vital safety measures has worked even though most became null and void due to the tsunamis. The plants was neither designed to stand against a 9.0 earth quake nor a 30 feet tsunami, let alone 200 hundred 5+ earthquakes in less ‘an a week plus a bunch of other tsunamis.

    Would you have wanted a Canadian CANDU plant with a less sturdy structure in Fukushima instead, just because you considered it to be more safe? But what do I know, maybe the CANDU reactors are void potential radiation leaks and disasters and so even safety features just because they’re considered more safe?

    The light water plants still stands in Japan and they were built in the 70’s, designed in the 60’s. Until the CANDU plants, or some fabled nuclear reactor plant, are as numerous as has stand against time and the same forces, nature and economical, as the light water plants has, you can’t really say they’re more safe just because the few existing ones are safe in a safe place.

    But like I said no body would complain if everyone switched to CANDU’s, or the fabled ones, but then only mostly because of all the money switching hands, safety never comes first not even for simple computer users like yourself I imagine. :)

  49. All of the problems are basically the same problem – getting enough water in there to keep things from getting too hot. The moral of the story would seem to be to build these things underwater in future. That way they fail safe. The entire structure can be easily flooded with water in the event of a serious emergency by simply opening some valves. And if the emergency involves an explosion you won’t even need to do that.

  50. Re
    “March 16, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Of course as has also been noted the CO2-GW sect are also (still?!) promoting the total lie that CO2-GW encourages earthquakes. This link usefully exposes that deceitful drivel- http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=7394

    For more on solar-lunar earthquake links and the dangerous times we live in please see- http://www.weatheraction.com/displayarticle.asp?a=326&c=5

    Thanks, Piers”

    Please plot solar activity or “lunar activity” against the same earthquake plot. I take it that if you don’t get any correlation you will admit your “earthquakes are caused by the sun” theory is a lie too?

  51. Theo Goodwin,
    at 11:49 you responded to my post.I suppose I should apologize for not writing more clearly My intention was to suggest we all get a grip before we go off on tirades either for or against nuclear power, and to refrain from placing blame until some questions are answered.
    But apparently it’s been plenty long enough for you to have not only determined the exact cause of the failures here, even though most of the rest of us haven’t even learned the extent of those failures, but you have also determined that it is politicians who are to blame. Bravo!
    And no, I do not work for the MSM. In fact if you read my second post you will have seen that it is because of the hype that I wrote in the first place.
    Finally, while most of the hype is coming from the anti-nuke leaning members of the media, those who declare nuclear energy to be safe, period, if not for the politicians, are of no more use to me. Why can’t we say, ONCE THE DUST HAS SETTLED, let’s look at things and figure out what went wrong and what went right and how to improve in the future, even if siting of these plants is indeed one of those things that went wrong.
    Thank God I’m not one of your students.

  52. For various strange and mysterious unknown reasons, the current US Administration and ABC News (US) track closely. One might think they are working together. For example, on Tuesday (March 15) ABC had a report on counterfeit goods like pharmaceuticals and DVD’s. As reported on CNET the same day, the White House is asking Congress to tighten up intellectual property rights for things like pharmaceuticals and movies (on DVD’s). Possibly reflecting CNET’s focus on technology, they highlighted:

    The White House today proposed sweeping revisions to U.S. copyright law, including making “illegal streaming” of audio or video a federal felony and allowing FBI agents to wiretap suspected infringers.

    The White House announced they still support nuclear energy. On Tuesday’s ABC World News, Nightline, and today’s Good Morning America (link), they were trying to ratchet down the radiation hysteria by showing the radiation we are normally exposed to, from bananas, air travel, granite and marble, red Fiestaware… Sure seemed like they had read the banana post and comments. They likely owe Anthony an “inspired by a post on” credit, if not royalties.

    Tonight on World News, the WH clarified the President’s position. He favors small modular reactors. To get a feel for what it sounded like they were describing, well, you can read the long-winded, well-detailed, and mysteriously perfectly-timed virtually-an-ad comment by the enigmatic “Ted” above.

    (BTW, will posting on YouTube become a possible felony?)

  53. There has been little said about the very large Onagawa nuclear plant, which was much closer to the epicenter of the earthquake, and like Fukushima is placed right on the shoreline. It seems to have survived intact. It is much more modern (1995) than Fukushima (1970); some of the problems at Fukushima may be associated with its age.

  54. Curiousgeorge says:
    March 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    ‘First off, Japan has only lost about 10% of it’s electric generating capacity.’

    It’s more like 20%. At least 8 fossil plants are down as well.

    The first backup power for a nuclear power plant is a nearby fossil plant(The grid).
    Then on site diesel. Then batteries.

  55. Some dumb questions
    It looks like they are having trouble keeping the spent fuel pools cooled.There has to be a reason why.The line about generators doesn’t cut it anymore.They could have a thousand generators there in an hour I assume.
    Why can’t they drop ice in?I know the ice would melt instantly,but if they poured enough in?What about liquid nitrogen?Or would that create an explosion?
    I have the feeling that this crisis is going to drag on for days,it looks to me like a battle is going on with neither winning.I hope I’m wrong when I say it could go either way.I wonder how much radiation will be released if the cooling fails?Has the cooling they have been doing lessened the radiation?

    http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

    Is the IAEA being alarmist?Or are they downplaying?

  56. @Noelene says:
    March 16, 2011 at 6:34 pm
    Is the IAEA being alarmist?Or are they downplaying?
    ——
    REPLY

    I highly recommend keeping an eye on this site, it seems to be the best of the nuclear industry information sources:

    http://nuclearstreet.com/nuclear_power_industry_news/b/nuclear_power_news/default.aspx

    We have multiple system failures building up to a catastrophe, I don’t think the most alarmist scenarios presently being discussed will turn out to be dire enough. I sincerely hope I am wrong in this.

    The tsunami damage following the earthquake seems to be primarily responsible for all of the system failures, rather than the earthquake itself. Right now, the loss of coolant in spent fuel pools is an unpleasant complication that makes the situation far worse, as these don’t have even minimal containment. Bad…very bad.

  57. @Noelene

    It looks like they are having trouble keeping the spent fuel pools cooled.There has to be a reason why.

    The spent fuel area is on an upper floor of the building. Spent fuel rods are stored immersed in a pool to stop them overheating. A crack in the pool would be all it takes to make a big problem.

    The line about generators doesn’t cut it anymore.They could have a thousand generators there in an hour I assume.

    The issue with generators is that the electrical switch room where generators would normally be plugged into the plant electrical system is in the basement, and the basement is currently full of sea water. That is a nasty problem which a thousand generators won’t fix.

    Why can’t they drop ice in?I know the ice would melt instantly,but if they poured enough in?

    The reactors are in sealed containment vessels. Water is pumped in through pipes. It is hard to pump ice through a pipe. Ice might be more useful in the spent fuel area. But we are talking about a big pool which would require a lot of ice. Water is just easier to find in the quantities needed. Water is plenty cold enough to do the job.

  58. In such a location, Japan should refrain from constructing a whole bunch of things anywhere near its coast lines. It should refrain from constructing population centers there.

    Power plants are always by large flowing water, to achieve the cooling. A nuclear reactor works by generating heat, which means cooling in essential. Japan is short of the big rivers which suffice in other countries, and anyway the big rivers tend to have big towns.

    You can’t build a major nuclear power station inland in Japan.

    In fact you can’t build much inland, because a) it is quite mountainous, and b) major industrial cities need cheap transportation, which come from being coastal (or riverine).

    There are lots of things the Japanese do wrong, but building their cities and power stations on the coast is not in that number. Large cities worldwide are generally coastal, unless the country has navigable rivers. Power stations likewise.

  59. Aren’t pebble bed reactors considered fairly safe since they shut down if the pebble bed overheats?

  60. Jim K;
    Just to make it clear, the energy of a tsunami in the open ocean (deep water) is in the speed and length of the wave; it is very small in height, just a few inches.

    When it approaches shore, it is forced to slow, and then the water piles up into a deep (high) wave.

    So offshore rigs (whether oil or wind, etc.) in deep water are rarely harmed by tsunamis.

  61. Thanks Ian
    Looks like a lot will be learned from this incident,like don’t put power access in basement for one.

  62. There was hype in some cases about Fukushima. In most cases there hasn’t been enough information on the overall picture. There really was danger of meltdown more than once. That was not hype. And there was a 40% chance that if meltdown did happen it could penetrate the cement and steel casing. That is the catastrophe many could say would have been Chernobyl-like. That was real also. It also was not hype.

    Yesterday the entire core of #4 was removed and placed in a spent fuel cooling pool. The water in that pool boiled off leaving the spent fuel and the core of #4 exposed. The spent fuel pool at #3 also boiled down. It is not clear yet how this happened. This is where the increased radiation that lead to evacuation came from yesterday. This is also where all the fears of a scenario worse than Chernobyl and a radioactive cloud came from yesterday. (Michio Kaku was quoted this morning about the point of no return being near.) They are not allowing people to get in close to these pools. That is why the helicopters are being used. It is being reported that the helicopters are dumping water on a reactor. But that is not true. The water is being dumped into the boiled off pools. A police water cannon used for crowd control has been called in also to spray water in from a distance. As soon as the pools are filled with water humans can go back in. The filling of the pools may be done by now. I don’t know. I haven’t heard an update.

    There is good news.

    There is wire rigging from the grid being run to the site to supply power for pumping water to all rods for cooling. The picture could change much for the good then.

    What is more good news is that some power is on in #6. This also could provide power for pumping water. They are also attempting to run wiring from #6 to #5 since #5 is only running on battery power. If those batteries run down they will find themselves with a similar problem that #1 to #4 are in now.

    There is a nuclear ‘cloud’ but it is not as strong as some are saying it is. The winds are blowing west to east so it is all being blown out to the ocean. If all fuel can be cooled the danger level will go dramatically down

    Let’s all pray for that.

    More details can be heard at the link here. It will begin download after clicking on it:

    http://k002.kiwi6.com/hotlink/sv7uwgz99w (there is an audio glitch in the interviewers end of the phone, but not and the nuclear engineers end)

    It is an interview with a Navy nuclear engineer (ret). He has given the best updates, by far.

    There are 5 interviews with him at this link, scroll down:

    http://georneys.blogspot.com/

  63. amabo,

    Thanks for the memories:

    “In America, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, Party finds YOU.”☺

  64. Noelene says:
    March 17, 2011 at 12:14 am

    That article seems a bit alarmist.
    The IEAE says that reactor

    The reactors are not the problem at the moment. It’s the cooling pools that are the problem. This is one point where confusion is coming in.

  65. Just some thoughts: I think we need better education on the matter. I have realized that my knowledge of nuclear plants dated from… James Bond! And 60s Bond at that. I had no idea how the reactors work. And from the total blank from MSM journalists, they had no idea either. So education.

    Secondly, the Japanese’s media management has been terrible. It has made things worse.

    One of the worst things about nuclear is all the hush-hush secrecy. My grandfather worked for civil nuclear power and his job was only discussed in hushed tones as he had had to sign the Official secrets act.

    Get some light in there! (And l don’t mean solar !). It’s easy to spook people because they have no idea about even the first principles.

  66. Obviously there are lessons to be learned. Technical ones, not just the obvious “don’t take any notice of the Greenpiss experts” lesson.

    But anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the history of the Industrial Revolution will be aware of the fearful disasters in early coal mining, with early steam engines, early power generators and so on.

    Even today, it is likely that many more people die every year in Chinese coal mines than have died from nuclear power, across the world, ever.

    If the response in the early days had been to shut everything down in kneejerk reaction, most of us would still be spending our days out in the fields with only a few horses or oxen to help out.

    Of course the Greenies would think this was a GOOD thing. So long as they didn’t have to do anythng useful.

  67. There are lots of things the Japanese do wrong, but building their cities and power stations on the coast is not in that number.

    Building them on the East Coast was wrong. The West Coast is less exposed to tsunamis, and is less vulnerable to earthquakes. The longer transmission lines needed are a price worth paying.

  68. A police water cannon used for crowd control has been called in also to spray water in from a distance. As soon as the pools are filled with water humans can go back in.

    I’ve read analyses on the Zero Hedge site that state that it would take months to fill the pool at the rate a water cannon can deliver it. (Assuming it’s 100% on-target.) Of course, it’s the lowest foot that’s the most important, because that’s where any melt-down puddle is located.

  69. So what’s going on with those self-contained Toshiba mini-nukes made for small service areas?

  70. “I’ve read analyses on the Zero Hedge site that state that it would take months to fill the pool at the rate a water cannon can deliver it.”

    Well I haven’t seen the analyses but I found a water cannon on the net that releases 250 gallons/minute, which is enough to fill an olympic-sized swimming pool in 1.8 days.

  71. China has 13 reactors working right now, has 27 under construction and an additional 83 in its longer-view forecast. That would be 123 compared to 52 outside of China today. China has 48 coal-fired plants coming on-stream in the next 4 years.

    How do the warmists say China is “green”? It is just getting power from where it can at the levels it will need.

    As the rest of the world has to do. If Germany stops nuclear, can’t afford solar, can’t depend on wind, WILL NOT retreat to candle power (obviously), then Germany must be (if not coal) looking to shale gas. From Russia. (CO2 generated out-of-state is not a German enviro-problem.)

  72. As far as I know, in a CANDU you lift the rods out of the heavy water and the reaction stops. If for some reason you cannot lift the rods, drain the heavy water and the reaction stops. If for some reason you can’t drain the heavy water you could dilute it with regular water and the reaction would stop. Failing all else, blow a small hole in the side of the reactor, the water drains and the reaction stops.

    Am I wrong?

  73. Crispin in Waterloo,

    Re your eulogy for CANDU reactors, remember they are efficient PU 239 producers and it was a Canadian supplied reactor that India used to supply the fissile material for its first nuclear weapon test in 1974.

  74. From Philip Finck on March 17, 2011 at 9:08 am:

    Am I wrong?

    Somewhat, but not totally. You could read the Wikipedia entry, but for detailed info The Canadian Nuclear FAQ by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock is very good. The most-relevant sections are:
    A.15 How are CANDU reactors controlled?
    D.2 What are the CANDU safety systems?

    Besides the containment, there are 3 main safety systems, all independent and fully automated. The control rods in question are dropped in by gravity. A high-pressure neutron poison, gadolinium nitrate, can be injected into the low-pressure heavy water moderator. Both are sufficient to shut down the reaction. Then there is the Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS), first phase uses high-pressure water injection using pressurized nitrogen.

    Note the reoccurring theme, everything is loaded, primed, and just waiting for their individual triggers to be pulled, which is normally done automatically but can be done manually.

    You are correct, if the heavy water drains away then the reaction shuts down. But that stuff is pricey, it is highly preferred that heavy water is not released into an open environment nor diluted with light water. Thus I expect they are designed to not allow the heavy water to drain out in an emergency.

  75. Just a general question about spent fuel, raised by one of Ian H’s comments above. If the spent fuel is so hot, why is it no longer used to generate energy? Can it not be used in a different technological configuration, even if it is no longer fissioning sufficiently for the needs of the nuclear reactor itself?

  76. From vigilantfish on March 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm:

    If the spent fuel is so hot, why is it no longer used to generate energy? Can it not be used in a different technological configuration, even if it is no longer fissioning sufficiently for the needs of the nuclear reactor itself?

    After reprocessing to separate out the different radionuclides, they can be used in radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG’s), where thermocouples transform the heat to electricity. They’re used in satellites, the Soviet Union was fond of them for unmanned facilities. There were even small plutonium-238 “long life batteries” used in pacemakers.

    But what is “spent fuel” from a light water reactor, where the fuel is surrounded by neutron-absorbing light water, is usable fuel for a CANDU reactor.

    Plutonium can also be extracted from spent nuclear fuel reprocessing. While this consists usually of a mixture of isotopes that is not attractive for use in weapons, it can be used in a MOX formulation reducing the net amount of nuclear waste that has to be disposed of.

    Plutonium isn’t the only fissile material in spent nuclear fuel that CANDU reactors can utilize. Because the CANDU reactor was designed to work with natural uranium, CANDU fuel can be manufactured from the used (depleted) uranium found in light water reactor (LWR) spent fuel. Typically this “recovered uranium” (RU) has a U-235 enrichment of around 0.9%, which makes it unusable to an LWR, but a rich source of fuel to a CANDU (natural uranium has a U-235 abundance of roughly 0.7%). It is estimated that a CANDU reactor can extract a further 30-40% energy from LWR fuel.

    Recycling of LWR fuel does not necessarily need to involve a reprocessing step. Fuel cycle tests have also included the DUPIC fuel cycle, or direct use of spent PWR fuel in CANDU, where used fuel from a pressurized water reactor is packaged into a CANDU fuel bundle with only physical reprocessing (cut into pieces) but no chemical reprocessing. Again, where light-water reactors require the reactivity associated with enriched fuel, the DUPIC fuel cycle is possible in a CANDU reactor due to the neutron economy which allows for the low reactivity of natural uranium and used enriched fuel.

    Several inert-matrix fuels have been proposed for the CANDU design, which have the ability to “burn” plutonium and other actinides from spent nuclear fuel, much more efficiently than in MOX fuel. This is due to the “inert” nature of the fuel, so-called because it lacks uranium and thus does not create plutonium at the same time as it is being consumed.

    CANDU reactors can also breed fuel from natural thorium, if uranium is unavailable.

    When thinking about all this spent fuel laying around in cooling pools, and how in the US we lack both reprocessing and a long-term disposal facility where “spent fuel” can be sent instead of reprocessing, you may see why I’m so upbeat about CANDU’s. That “spent fuel” from the light water reactors is fuel waiting to be packed into a CANDU, we can start with less-dangerous un-enriched uranium as well as other fuels, and efficiently “burn” the fuel more completely than in a traditional light water reactor. Add in the built-in safety factors, and what’s not to like? All of our nuclear power plants should be CANDU’s.

  77. From Dave Andrews on March 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm:

    Re your eulogy for CANDU reactors, remember they are efficient PU 239 producers and it was a Canadian supplied reactor that India used to supply the fissile material for its first nuclear weapon test in 1974.

    Ha, good one. That was the CIRUS reactor, which was decidedly NOT a CANDU.
    Wikipedia: CIRUS reactor
    The Canadian Nuclear FAQ by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock: F.2 Did India use a CANDU reactor in the 1970’s to make an atomic bomb?

    CIRUS was a research reactor, based on the NRX research reactor which “…initially served as a prototype heavy-water plutonium production reactor, conceived during the days of the WWII Manhattan Project under a tripartite agreement between Canada, the U.S., and Britain…” It was designed for making plutonium for atomic bombs, and had other uses.

    CANDU reactors are NOT efficient producers of Plutonium-239, no more than an ordinary light water power reactor. There is a large section about this in the Canadian Nuclear FAQ, reading it may help alleviate your knowledge deficit.
    F.4 How easily can an atomic bomb be made with spent CANDU fuel?

    Power reactors produce reactor-grade plutonium, which is a mix of isotopes that is highly undesirable for nuclear weapons. Weapons-grade plutonium, containing 93% or more of Pu-239, is normally produced in a special weapons-grade plutonium-production reactor. While not technically impossible to eventually separate out weapons-grade plutonium from spent reactor fuel, it is very difficult and very risky. Nations producing atomic bombs have far more efficient ways of obtaining weapons-grade plutonium than messing around with spent nuclear fuel. Would-be terrorists likely wouldn’t have the expertise or equipment, it’s far easier for them to obtain and use non-nuclear explosives, plus spent fuel is safeguarded which makes it very difficult to steal.

  78. From the Guardian article linked:

    “I think it will make a lot of governments, authorities and other planners think twice about planning power stations in seismic areas,” said Jan Haverkamp, European Union policy campaigner for environmental group Greenpeace, which opposes new nuclear reactors and wants existing ones phased out.

    Well, aside from the obvious fact that these old units handled the most severe earthquake in Japan in recorded history just fine — the online units automatically SCRAMmed* — and the fact that the FSAR (Final Safety Analysis Report) required before licensing to construct a plant in the US typically consisted of perhaps ten meters of bookshelf full of binders, about a quarter of which was devoted entirely to seismic studies IIRC, this silly twit may have a point.

    The actual Guardian editorial from which the article’s quote is taken is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/15/nuclear-power-after-the-flood

    =====
    * SCRAM refers to rapidly dropping the control rods fully into the reactor to shut down the nuclear reaction as fast as possible. Engineering legend hath it that the term comes from “Safety Control Rod Axe Man”; in the first experimental reactor, one engineer was standing on a catwalk above the reactor vessel with an axe ready to cut the rope holding up the control rods in case of some design miscalculation.

    This is probably apocryphal, but you never know…

  79. Ian W (March 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm) points out that the warmed cooling water from electric plants provides a haven for wildlife.

    Just to reinforce the point: The outlet from the old Zion-Benton plant on Lake Michigan near the Wisconsin/Illinois border was a favorite of the local fish. I used to participate in sailboat races out of Waukegan harbor; one of our race markers was near the outlet (some 30 feet or so below) and shooing the trolling fishermen out of the way was always a nuisance. (The Great Lakes are coooold; falling off the Yacht Club dock during a party will sober you right up! Apparently the fish don’t like it much either…)

  80. @ kadaka (KD Knoebel)

    Thanks for the information. I live near a CANDU reactor, but had never heard of the possibility of reusing the spent fuel from LWRs. I suspect the environmental extremists would get all up in arms if that were attempted (dangers of transporting the stuff, plus the fact they want to avoid making reactors more efficient and hence more attractive to the public).

  81. Henry@CraigGoodrich

    Hi Craig! I am getting conflicting statements on whether that warmed water is good or bad. My instinct also says it must be good.
    Maybe it is different if the nuclear plant uses salt water or fresh water? (so far I have seen at least two reports saying that it is not good for marine life).

Comments are closed.