Sunday, May 18, 2014
Nuclear Power Highly Impractical for Future
Subtitle: Nuclear Is Simply Not Possible - Long Term
An interesting article from 2011 gives several points why it is highly impractical to use nuclear power for future energy needs ("Is Nuclear Power Globally Scalable?" Abbot, D., Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 99, No. 10, pp. 1611–1617, 2011, see link).
Professor Abbot concludes that there simply are not enough resources (rare metals for alloys, uranium for fuel, etc) to supply [what he stated is ] the 15,000 GW of electricity the world uses. [ Note: checking the 15,000 GW electric installed capacity shows Abbot is off by a factor of approximately 3, as EIA statistics (see link) show the world had 5,085 GW installed in 2010, the same year Abbot used. ] However, it would only require 55 years at an annual growth rate of 2 percent per year to reach the 15,000 GW as Abbot states in his article. As this article is about the very long-term future, we can accept the 15,000 GW number.
Furthermore, replacing the plants as they reach the end of their life creates huge problems. Using 15,000 nuclear plants online at one time (at 1 GW each), and my number of 40 years life (maximum), this requires 375 plants to be under construction every single day. Stated another way, the world must start up a bit more than one new reactor every day, forever. This is probably a low number, as it is likely that world energy consumption will increase beyond present-day 5,000 GW. If, in perhaps 100 years, the world requires 35,000 GW, then there must be almost 4 plants started up every day. (A growth rate of 2 percent per year over 100 years gives 35,000-plus GW).
More problematically, the world would retire and decommission an equal number of reactors, one per day for the 15,000 demand. Given that many years are required to decommission, there would be thousands upon thousands of decommissioning projects, in perpetuity. Finding appropriate disposal sites for the radioactive remains of all those deactivated nuclear power plants will present quite a problem.
Abbot's article addresses 15 issues, which are good reading but I am not sure how accurate the numbers are. Given the discrepancy in Abbot's claiming 15,000 GW and the EIA stating 5,000 GW installed capacity as of 2010, the article bears close checking. In any event, here are the 15 issues Abbot addresses:
1. Not enough plant sites (away from population, near cooling water, etc)
2. Land area required per plant
3. Embrittlement problem
4. Entropy problem
5. Nuclear waste disposal
6. Nuclear accident rate problem
8. Energy of extraction (mining dilute ores for uranium)
9. Uranium resource limits
10. Seawater extraction for uranium
11. Fast Breeder Reactors
12. Fusion Reactors
13. Materials Resources (materials of construction, rare alloy metals)
14. Elemental diversity
15. Nuclear power and Climate Change
It is notable that Abbot did not discuss the economics of an all-nuclear grid, the load-following problems, and that these issues are greatly increased as wind and solar power are added to the grid. My article Two in Truth About Nuclear Power address this see link.
This article by Abbot serves as a useful starting point for more arguments against nuclear power.
Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California