Saturday, April 15, 2017

NRC and DOE to Hold Third Advanced Reactor Workshop

Subtitle: With BWR and PWR Failures; Now Vendors Grasping Desperately

From the NRC news site for April, 2017, this item 17-016 (see link) is excerpted below   

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy are continuing their joint
workshop series on innovative reactor technologies, April 25-26, in Bethesda, Md.
“We are encouraging interested parties to continue discussing the most efficient and effective path forward to safely develop and deploy advanced reactors in the United States,” said Vonna Ordaz, acting director of the NRC’s Office of New Reactors. “We expect to discuss topics such as modeling and testing innovative technologies, as well as how vendors might approach getting their designs approved for U.S. use.”

"The NRC defines advanced reactors as those technologies using something other than water to cool the reactor core. The NRC is currently discussing one such advanced design with a vendor considering applying for design certification. The NRC remains available for early-stage discussion with other potential advanced reactor vendors." -- end excerpt

Sowell Comments

The NRC reviews and approves nuclear reactor designs only on the issue of safety; it does not concern itself with costs to design, to construct, to operate, to refuel, to repair, to perform maintenance, nor to decommission.  These advanced reactors, as NRC defines them, would include reactors that use things such as molten salts, liquid sodium, helium, and supercritical CO2 as the primary coolant.  

What is most interesting is the question: "Why even consider advanced reactors when existing nuclear power plant designs are supposedly the safest, most reliable, and cheapest form of electricity on the planet?"  That question is, of course, posed in jest by me but the claims are stated loudly and often by the nuclear proponents.   The facts are quite the opposite, as shown in the 30-article series on SLB "Truth About Nuclear Power."  (TANP)  see link

Just on the construction cost basis, nuclear power plants that use the PWR (pressurized water reactor) technology such as Westinghouse AP-1000 cost 9 to 10 times as much for the same output, compared to natural gas-fired CCGT (combined cycle gas turbine) plants. 

Operating costs on a $/MWh basis are also higher or about the same for PWR plants, when compared to the CCGT plants.  

Load-following is quite easy and very safe for CCGT plants, but a PWR nuclear reactor has great difficulty in adjusting load.  Operating at reduced rates to follow the load requires the nuclear plant to increase the sales price of electricity to obtain a constant revenue stream.  PWR plants are already too costly to operate, as evidenced by the many shutdowns in the US. Increased operating costs to load-follow make a bad situation even worse.  

Given all the above, and those points to not include any safety nor decommissioning costs, perhaps it is no wonder that nuclear designers are back at the drawing board, scratching out new designs in an attempt to overcome the failures of BWR and PWR reactors. 

Two of the new technologies are discussed in the TANP series, with thorium -powered molten salts, and gas-cooled high-temperature reactors in Articles 28 and 29, respectively. 

Perhaps this time, some creative nuclear designer will find a way to make nuclear power safe, cheap, and reliable.   It is instructive to remember that if all power plants were nuclear-powered, the changing loads on the grid require that the plants run at approximately 50 to 60 percent on an annual average basis.   Minimum loads occur at night in the Spring and Fall seasons, and typically reach approximately one-third to one-fourth of maximum or peak load.   Peak load typically occurs in mid-afternoon on a late Summer day.    However, some grids have peak loads in the Winter as heating demands are greatest.    These issues are discussed in some detail in Article 2 of TANP (see link)  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

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