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New Nuclear Reactors For The UK: Is This Really A Good Idea?
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clv101
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2008 10:11 am    Post subject: New Nuclear Reactors For The UK: Is This Really A Good Idea? Reply with quote

...not when you take into account the uranium-peak, the energy return on energy invested in the nuclear life-cycle, and the prospect of much of the legacy of nuclear waste being abandoned for ever. However the UK Government are likely to announce a decision to build a new generation of nuclear reactors shortly.

Read more: The Oil Drum: Europe
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STG



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Of course nuclear is a good idea for the UK! For any country who already has a nuclear experience, continuing with nuclear is the best option. And for countries which don't have that experience, it is also a good option...only it will take more time.

And I assume you have read the "lean economy"...because you tend to use the language of the book. Well let me tell you that it is the biggest amount of nonsens I have ever read in my entire life! When you want to post such a ridiculous item, first try to read some really scientific literature like Lamarsch. But coming back to the UK: The UK has a rather large stock of reprocessed fuel (both plutonium [B]and[\B] uranium) which can be reused in the new LWR. But in the long term other reactors (HTR, SFR,SCWR...) will be necessary, because they can use eachother waste and generate eachothers fuel...you don't need one reactor type, you need them all!
And for reprocessing current research is going towards pyroprocessing instead of the PUREX process currently used and explained in the book. So I would advise you to read another book...
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Totally_Baffled



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris

I have to say the issue of nuclear power is probably the one topic I "flip flop" on the most.

There are some very strong arguments on both sides.

One thing is for sure - whoever makes the the final decision is going to get roasted either way! Glad it aint me ! Smile

How about you? The likes of Dezakin, Starvid etc on PO.com/TOD makes some very good points in favour, but then are some really good arguments against(cost,waste etc)
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clv101
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I concluded my position in the debate thus:

Quote:
I wouldn't describe myself as an anti-nuclear environmentalist, I think many of the traditional anti-nuclear arguments are very weak. However I don't think the UK building new nukes is a smart idea today - maybe if we'd started 10 years ago it would have made more sense (ie get them complete before the old ones are offline and before the rest of the world started building like mad). My main objection today is that it isn't the most effective way to spend the billions that several new nukes would cost, it would be better to spend on efficiency improvements (including demand side management) and renewables - I think we could cut our electricity consumption by a third within a decade without much hardship. This would have a faster (and cheaper) effect on the demand/supply balance than new nukes. I'm a fan of the Severn tidal barrage for example and see no good reason why we couldn't be generating at least 15% from wind by 2020.

Regarding EROEI and uranium supply, as I said above I'm not sure. The evidence seems highly conflicted. What does seem clear is that there's a uranium supply crunch coming and a bottleneck in global reactor construction in the short term. These two facts alone mean it's probably the worst time in decades for the UK to be building new reactors.

So in summary, I am anti-nuclear in the UK, but not very far from neutral (10 years ago I might have been just on the pro side of neutral). EROEI and uranium supply are not the main aspects leading to that position.

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STG



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saying stuff like well I want 15% of energy generated by wind power is very easy. But try converting this statement to 15% of instantaneous power, that is the problem with wind, since wind isn't something which is steady! It can be used to follow the load changes on the demand side, but not for base load. And base load is where nuclear power plants are the most good at.
So if you are talking about 15% wind power, you have to add another 10-15% of back-up capacity which is both a misuse of natural and economic resources!

For the UK, well you have chosen the Magnox type reactors I think...And some problems are rising with them. So they need to replaced pretty soon. And actually now is the moment to order a EPR, ACR-1000 or AP-1000. And hope that you can start construction as soon as possible, because otherwise you will probably run into problems with your heavy forgings. So I believe you have no time to waste! As a small fix, an uprating of the PWR in the UK could help a little.

I don't believe much in efficiency improvement and conservation...Well It can (and must to stay concurrential) work for the large industries, but not for the normal consument. Remember, the public are idiots on this topic: They want to consume and have fun. Even those that protest for an emission reduction and so on...That's just the problem with green people, they assume that the tought is enough, well in this case actions speek louder then words.

The other remarks: with a good plan, and good constant goal (not like in Olkiluoto, where they changed the demand for the containment building during construction...) the capital cost are higher compared to other plants...but they aren't gigantic, it is economically feasable. In the context of operation costs, good nuclear power plants operate at the lowest cost (well not if you compare to wind because wind is still for free...).

The waste is not a problem at the moment, there is still enough temporary surface disposal room available. Meanwhile the research for a transmuter is ongoing. In such a system not only the waste can be reduced in toxicity and volume, but also some valuable non-radiactive compounds could be gained!
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goslow



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I used to be completely against nuclear power, now I think it may be a necessary evil to add to our mix of lower-C02 (but definately not zero C02) energy generation technologies. Nuclear could perhaps help us survive coming energy shortages by maintaining a reliable 20-30% of the electricity mix, complementing renewables with its baseload-type supply of electricity.

Seems to me though that nuclear fission is only an option for one more generation of power stations, and beyond 2050 all usuable stocks of uranium and other radioactive material are likely to be running. Several other countries are using nuclear power much more than we, including the French and Japanese, the Indians and Chinese have big plans, and we can expect the option to become less and less economic in years to come.

I suppose the French, Japanese etc are banking on fusion power especially with their hosting of the ITER. Would be nice if it works out but needs a lot of capital investment and energy input, a bit chicken and egg?
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STG



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ITER is an international colaboration, so the UK as a part of Euratom is also involved! Furthermore you have to look at a fusion plant as an energy multiplication system. And again the construction energy input is only marginal.

And seriously stop worrying about the uranium stocks: first of all the price of uranium is very small in the total cost of the fuel cycle. The only high cost for nuclear is the plant itself, the rest is peanuts. And again, better faster (in terms of time) breeder reactors are being developped.

And OK at the moment nuclear is only CO2-low, but when transportation and construction is fuelled with hydrogen or renewables...it becomes CO2-free!
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Adam1



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My position on nuclear before I learned about peak oil was essentially anti, for all the standard green reasons: mainly because of the link to nuclear weapons, the secretive nature of the nuclear industry but also because of the waste and small risk of catastrophic accident.

When I learned about peak oil, I was ready to reconsider nuclear. I felt I had to re-visit my previous objections in the light of the new factors raised by peak oil.

Now, my view - essentially that it is not going to help - is based on the following:

1) No one has demonstrated to me - the posts of the pro-nuclear contributors on TOD notwithstanding - that there is enough EROEI-positive ore available to allow the current nuclear fission technology to deliver net energy services.

2) With the money we would have to spend to continue with nuclear we could do so very much more to build up sources of electrical power that are not going to peak and decline and, crucially, to reduce and manage demand.

3) In the UK, there isn't enough time left now to get nuclear up and running before the upcoming supply difficulties Chris (clv101) and Logica CMG have previously identified start to cut deeply into our existing generation capacity.

4) The energy and financial burden of managing the nuclear sites over the coming decades will be huge. If any of the darker collapse scenarios play out and we lose any coherent form of state, it will not be possible to manage these sites and radio-active material will be released into the wider environment.

5) From a systems resilience perspective, nuclear is going in entirely the wrong direction. It is massively complex and relies on society staying as complex and apparently stable as it currently is, which I consider to be an unsafe assumption.

I found the TOD thread following David Fleming's article, rather depressing. There seem to be people out there who understand the basics of peak oil but who haven't got past the point of latching on to a "silver bullet" saviour technology. Some of the pro-nuclear contributors were what I'd call nuclear fundamentalists. Anyone who questions any element of their faith in the technology is beneath contempt - stupid people who are going to get the hard collapse (of society) that they deserve. For them, there are no problems with nuclear. Questions about EROEI or waste are to be dismissed with a flurry of abusive rhetoric, laced with interminable hyperlinks and techno-twaddle responses to the points raised. Either that or I was just too stupid to grasp their wise words.

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WolfattheDoor



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam1 wrote:
Questions about EROEI or waste are to be dismissed with a flurry of abusive rhetoric, laced with interminable hyperlinks and techno-twaddle responses to the points raised.


My thoughts exactly, along with some dodgy English from them. Do you think the nuclear lobby is getting in with a pre-emptive strike?
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tattercoats



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nicely put, Adam1. I'm about there too.
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goslow



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like you are an expert, I am certainly not though have read widely on the nuclear issue. I heard that ever more amounts of energy are required for milling of uranium ore with increasingly lower % of usable isotopes, so we are at some point to get to zero on the additional energy return. Price is probably not an issue as you say, more the basis availability.

Fast breeder would circumvent this problem by converting the otherwise unused U238 to fissile Pu239 (correct?) but this creates more plutonium in the world, the nuclear industry will never get free of the link to nuclear weapons. That is not a reason for not doing it for energy use, but the risk is there. And no fast breeder programme has been successful so far in UK, France, Japan or Russia.

So I remain quite sure that nuclear fission is just one option to help us through the next few decades, but no longer than that.

Nuclear fusion would be nice....all the glitzy sci-fi futures are powered that way. Low pollution and abundant fuel sources. So they say. But if PO affects all large construction after the next couple of decades, I think it would be hard to construct enough stations to replace all those defunct fossil fuel and nuclear fission stations. Unless we convert all transportation to electricity and somehow manage a virtuous circle of power stations providing the power for new power stations (self-replicating, like).


STG wrote:
ITER is an international colaboration, so the UK as a part of Euratom is also involved! Furthermore you have to look at a fusion plant as an energy multiplication system. And again the construction energy input is only marginal.

And seriously stop worrying about the uranium stocks: first of all the price of uranium is very small in the total cost of the fuel cycle. The only high cost for nuclear is the plant itself, the rest is peanuts. And again, better faster (in terms of time) breeder reactors are being developped.

And OK at the moment nuclear is only CO2-low, but when transportation and construction is fuelled with hydrogen or renewables...it becomes CO2-free!
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Bandidoz
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

STG wrote:
It [wind] can be used to follow the load changes on the demand side

Completely wrong. Most renewables supply (convert) energy when it's there; they don't load-follow (the only renewables that can load-follow are biomass/biogas). Which is why we need to work on demand management (it's a complete paradigm shift that we'll need to grasp). The uninformed-environmentalist's idea of nuclear+renewables cogeneration is an utter folly.

My personal opinion on nuclear fission is that it should remain at a small scale to maintain the expertise in the UK. It should be used where "compact" power is required (nuclear submarines) and the Uranium should be conserved to provide starting current for future Fusion reactors. I've read enough WNA articles to be concerned about the future of Uranium production.
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Andy Hunt



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

STG wrote:
And OK at the moment nuclear is only CO2-low, but when transportation and construction is fuelled with hydrogen or renewables...it becomes CO2-free!


And an example of a nuclear reactor which has been built using only renewable energy, and whose fuel is mined, milled and delivered using only renewable transport fuel would be . . . ?
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Adam1



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not an expert; far from it. I got A level Physics and Maths (poor grades, 1970s vintage) and I understand the basics. One of the points about grasping peak oil and its implications is it gives you a set of tools or criteria (EROEI, peaking, infrastructural implications, scalability etc) which allow you to ask yourself the right questions when presented with a "new solution" to the problem. For me and, I'm sure, for others on the PS forum, peak oil awareness has also raised other issues around limits to growth and how energy determines so much about the nature of our society, values, inequality etc.

My world view is still pretty technophile but peak oil awareness has made me more conditional in my "belief in technology". It terms of judging energy options, I'm quite ready to bet that, say wind turbines, are likely to continue improving in efficiency or that we are likely to be able to build ones that will work better at the micro-level, in choppy conditions. That's because those developments don't rely on inventing something new; we are just refining an existing, relatively new technology. When nuclear types claim that we just need to build, say, breeder reactors to solve the fuel problem, I'm more sceptical, as this isn't refining an existing technology, it's a complete departure from the reactors in commercial use. An example in the nuclear field of a refinement of the existing technology would the new Finnish reactor compared to most of the reactors in the UK. As I understand it, the Finnish reactor should produce more electricity and less waste for each kg of enriched uranium.

I don't discount the idea that humanity or our successor species will eventually be able to harness the sort of energy implied by nuclear fusion. They will have to be much more mature. Indeed we will have to at some point, if we want our species to persist beyond the life of our sun. However, it's hardly an immediate problem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale

WolfattheDoor wrote:
Do you think the nuclear lobby is getting in with a pre-emptive strike?


The nuclear sector are certainly using climate change and will use peak oil as another reason why we should go for nuclear. I imagine they are probably just being opportunistic.
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STG



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andy Hunt wrote:
STG wrote:
And OK at the moment nuclear is only CO2-low, but when transportation and construction is fuelled with hydrogen or renewables...it becomes CO2-free!


And an example of a nuclear reactor which has been built using only renewable energy, and whose fuel is mined, milled and delivered using only renewable transport fuel would be . . . ?


Seriously the same goes for all power generation at the moment:

Solar Panels: Mining of SiO2 (which is sand) => purification (high energy cost: heat) => making a (semi-)poly or monocristal (again high energy cost: heat) => cutting it into pieces (lot's of material loss, which can be reused luckily) => making the solar panel, with semi-conductor technology (again high energy cost) => assembling the panel

Okay there are also thin film panels, but they have a lower efficiency. The point is that in all these steps energy is used, where none of them are renewable.

The same goes for wind turbines, and when placed at sea heavy ship oil is used for transportation...very renewable!

But in the not to far away future more of this could be done by nuclear and/or renewables...so your argument doesn't make any sence
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