In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in March, the appetite for new nuclear power plants slipped to post-Chernobyl lows. Regulators from Italy to Switzerland to Texas moved to stop pending nuclear-power projects, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) began to reevaluate the safety of all domestic plants. Yet nuclear power still provides 20 percent of America's total electric power and 70 percent of its emissions-free energy, in large part because no alternative energy source can match its efficiency.
One nuclear plant with a footprint of one square mile provides the energy equivalent of 20 square miles of solar panels, 1,200 windmills or the entire Hoover Dam. If the country wants to significantly reduce its dependence on carbon-based energy, it will need to build more nuclear power plants. The question is how to do so safely.
In the 30 years since regulators last approved the construction of a new nuclear plant in the U.S., engineers have improved reactor safety considerably. (You can see some of the older, not-so-safe ones in this sweet gallery.) The newest designs, called Generation III+, are just beginning to come online. (Generation I plants were early prototypes; Generation IIs were built from the 1960s to the 1990s and include the facility at Fukushima; and Generation IIIs began operating in the late 1990s, though primarily in Japan, France and Russia.)
Unlike their predecessors, most Generation III+ reactors have layers of passive safety elements designed to stave off a meltdown, even in the event of power loss. Construction of the first Generation III+ reactors is well under way in Europe. China is also in the midst of building at least 30 new plants. In the U.S., the Southern Company recently broke ground on the nation's first Generation III+ reactors at the Vogtle nuclear plant near Augusta, Georgia. The first of two reactors is due to come online in 2016.
(Click the above image for more details.)
Like many of the 20 or so pending Generation III+ facilities in the U.S., the Vogtle plant will house Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. A light-water reactor, the AP1000 prompts uranium-235 into a chain reaction that throws off high-energy neutrons. The particles heat water into steam, which then turns a turbine that generates electricity.
The greatest danger in a nuclear plant is a meltdown, in which solid reactor fuel overheats, melts, and ruptures its containment shell, releasing radioactive material. (Want more information? Check out our explainer on how nuclear reactors work--and how they fail.) Like most reactors, the AP1000 is cooled with electrically powered water pumps and fans, but it also has a passive safety system, which employs natural forces such as gravity, condensation and evaporation to cool a reactor during a power outage.
A central feature of this system is an 800,000-gallon water tank positioned directly above the containment shell. The reservoir's valves rely on electrical power to remain closed. When power is lost, the valves open and the water flows down toward the containment shell. Vents passively draw air from outside and direct it over the structure, furthering the evaporative cooling.
Depending on the type of emergency, an additional reservoir within the containment shell can be manually released to flood the reactor. As water boils off, it rises and condenses at the top of the containment shell and streams back down to cool the reactor once more. Unlike today's plants, most of which have enough backup power onsite to last just four to eight hours after grid power is lost, the AP1000 can safely operate for at least three days without power or human intervention.
Even with their significant safety improvements, Generation III+ plants can, theoretically, melt down. Some people within the nuclear industry are calling for the implementation of still newer reactor designs, collectively called Generation IV. The thorium-powered molten-salt reactor (MSR) is one such design. In an MSR, liquid thorium would replace the solid uranium fuel used in today's plants, a change that would make meltdowns all but impossible
The sun has 8000 years left. I hope that the nuclear plants survive the 2012 solar CME. They better have it factored in.
@gorash Ignoring what's not even possible? MSRs ARE possible right now, or if not right now, then in the near future. The technology is already established, the fuel source is readily available with less effort and mess required to obtain it than with uranium or plutonium, and they're inherently cleaner, safer and more flexible by design than light water reactors. No, MSRs aren't a magic bullet. Nothing is. That said, it's plenty feasible to get them close enough to perfect fairly soon for the benefits to vastly outweigh the costs and disadvantages of any other presently available method of power generation. The reason why people are focused on the positives over the negatives is at least in part because the positives, in this case, appear to be much greater. No risk, no reward.
Anyway, here's my question: if people are always going to be worried about natural disasters causing meltdowns, why not just use a little common sense and not stick nuclear reactors in places that routinely get hit by large-scale natural disasters? Simply don't put them anywhere that keeps getting whacked by earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis or massive flooding. That still leaves most of the country, so you should be good to go.
It is encouraging to see Popular Science mention the LFTR technology, the true Green Nuclear solution. As a Green, I think I can speak for the sane portion of the Environmental Movement when I say that this is the technology we've been looking for to solve the energy crisis. It is unfortunate that it has been kept under wraps for decades in deference to less capable technologies. The efficiency and inherent safety of the liquid-fuel configuration are 'killer' features.
The Anti-nuclear Movement does have legitimate concerns about nuclear energy, but the need to develop a viable energy policy that is going to safeguard Western Civilization means that we absolutely cannot abandon this energy path. While solar energy is abundant, it is diffuse, which makes it expensive in terms of land, environmental impact, storage, and transmission, and it will never succeed in being competitive with coal. With thorium, we could completely replace the fossil fuel industry in just a few decades- no other technology is remotely ready to do that. Global Warming and Peak Oil make it imperative that we do this now.
With LFTR, its efficiency and high temperatures makes it entirely feasible to synthesize liquid fuels that are cheaper than what is currently available. Who wouldn't want <$2.00US/gal carbon-neutral fuel for their cars? Because these plants can operate without water cooling, we can safeguard our shorelines, rivers, and aquifers. Efficient LFTR desalination plants can bring an end to the global potable water crisis, and their ability to synthesize carbon-neutral fertilizer would go a great deal towards maintaining the productivity of agriculture.
It should be very clear that this technology is vital to National Security. We can and should aggressively pursue this technology. It would not be good for us (psychologically or otherwise) to be at the mercy of China for technology that originated here.
This is not science-fiction, but science fact. Our world will be transformed so much by this technology that it will be known historically as the Thorium Era.
You have yet to demonstrate you possess any scientific knowledge whatsoever. A Google search of your quote lead to an article from salon.com. Really? If this isn't the source I suggest citing information you throw out there.
Also, for your information, I have always loved and endorsed the use of PV's (in certain situations such as on your roof) and other "renewables." I currently am involved with bioenergy research and clean coal utilization.
Side note: If the BN-600 in Russia was a LFTR, why would it be refueled with plutonium. It would be at least 12 years before refueling was necessary and it would be a combination of Th-232 and U-235.
If thorium power is anything remotely like, well, what it's apparently been proven to be, then it's practically as cool as cold fusion.
I do wish that those of you who are concerned about the possibility of accidents or environmental damage would consider that every power generation technology we have causes immense damage in ways we rarely consider, and the only reason nuclear seems any riskier than anything else is that the possible damage is concentrated on one location. Strip mining for the coal to feed one coal plant or the deaths associated with mining accidents for the same, the heavy metals and other pollutants that coal burning releases, etc. has to be weighed against a once-in-a-generation accident like the Fukushima incident (which was, of course, caused by a natural disaster unprecedented in modern history for that region.) There's no question that nuclear power is scary, but that kind of gut reaction is just the *wrong* question. You have to look at the big picture and the full cost-benefit ratio. Saying that the "nuclear dream" is dead, so we need to get moving with the renewables that everyone is talking about, is talking about social sentiments, not production realities.
But the *economic* reality is that the closest thing to a "silver bullet" is going to be natural gas, with the fuzzy possibility of *maybe* some kind of carbon capture system in the next couple of decades. And that's okay to a certain extent, because it's a hell of a lot safer and cleaner than coal, with none of the mining and none of the heavy metal pollutants and half the carbon, but it's not perfect, either.
"Also, for your information, I have always loved and endorsed the use of PV's (in certain situations such as on your roof) and other "renewables.""
i actually agree with this statement. there is no reason why we can't obtain energy from multiple sources.
citing the faults of each technology and addressing those concerns in order to improve upon it, as well as giving other alternatives sounds like logical behavior to me.
so long as we're aware of all the pros and cons of each technology then we would be able to apply it whenever it is feasible and be ready to transition from one power source to the next.
i think versatility is a key part for sustainability.
redundant systems can add extra layers of defense against unforeseen catastrophic disasters.
You know what, humans want to have the cake and also eat it. Sorry, but it doesn't work. Something has to give and stopping overpopulation seems to not be considered so that means we need more of everything. Human race consider nukes safer than birthrate control laws and growing with the technology, as it seems.
Controlling the birthrate can solve most of these issues in 50 years. We're not even going to the global warming issue, it's a matter of resources.
@dhagan No, that was a quote by Thomas B. Cochran and I got the quote from here:
Russia's BN-600 is a fast-breeder reactor, the whole idea is to use plutonium as fuel to breed more plutonium.
Generally speaking, if an event is capable of cutting off the plants power source (such as a tsunami hitting thier generators AND power lines), the reactor is automatically shut down for safety reasons. If it werent for that, I can see no reason why your suggestion wouldnt work.
This comment isnt to deny the positive sentiment of your comment (I agree with it), but some of the current generation reactors operate in much the same way, but rather than fuel density changing, the moderator density changes, regulating power by demand through coolant temperature. To an extent of course.
@gorash : Please describe the process to which plutonium breeds plutonium.
@gorash : Some quick research is showing BN600 as loaded with LEU (to the tune of ~20%) Uranium (235) dioxide fuel... not plutonium. It is a fast breeder though.
I know by "emissions-free energy" they meant these plants don't throw copious amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere... but nuclear isn't exactly "emissions-free" when you count the equally, if not more, hazardous waste they produce.
Don't get me wrong, I'm an advocate of nuclear, and particularly I support more research into thorium-based reactors... I just like the facts to be stated in a straight-forward kind of way.
Emissions implies release. Generally speaking, if all goes as designed, there isnt any 'release' of nuclear material above background levels. It is all stored onsite. A little wordsmithing makes it sound somewhat neater than it really is, but in all reality it isnt all that far from the truth. Baring the occasional tritium release of course (which is generally far over-hyped when they do surface).
@dhagan : I think he is refering to the breeding of Pu239 from U238. I guess the idea is to start with a Pu239 and feed U238 in to offset fuel burn. Not incredibly familiar with the total cycle, but I get the impression that it wasnt originally intended to suppliment itself with Plutonium, but rather breed for another reactor.
And of course I will caveat that with a firm 'but I could be completely mistaken.'
I love it!!! The people who are against the building the new nuke plants haven't EVEN READ THE ARTICLE or COMMENTS.
its too funny. one is talking about water. but there is no water. just sand.
another is talking about uranium but we are talking about thorium.
they come in here and call everyone stupid and idiots, but but offer not a single piece of information for their argument, and when they do, its not even on topic!
its obviousness they just click on the article then go straight to comments, and end up coming off like the biggest idiots of them all.
aligatorhardt: "The pool of water resting above the reactor "
Steven L Jordan :and we've known this since the sixties... why in the livin' hell haven't we converted our entire national power grid to thorium-based MSRs already
BECAUSE we stopped building nuclear power plants 50 years ago!
@robotbetty9: a 20-kilometer radius of Japan is now "closed" and uninhabitable due to nuclear radiation pollution from the six generators.
How is that "clean" energy?
DO you have ANY idea what so ever how bad ONE coal mine is for the envoirment. thats what I thought.
What about HYDRO electric??? every heard of 3 gorges dam? yeah well tell the millions that lost their homes, MILLIONS how clean their homes are. UNDER WATER!
@gorash you don't offer ONE single piece of information to back up ANY of your inane ramblings. you may think nuclear is dead, but plenty of countries INCLUDING the USA are constructing new plants right now. China. France... the list is LONG!
I hate to tell you, but everyone is rolling on the floor laughing at your comments. your simply ill informed.
The article is informative and the comments from you folks making fun of each other is very entertaining. Inka, thanks for the comedy. Everyone is very opinionated about this subject for one reason. History has shown that Nukes do have the chance of disaster. I know, I know you are thinking this guy has an agenda. I do for a reason. When was the last time a wind mill leaked and killed people? When is the last time a solar panel melted down and caused damage? When a Nuke "operates correctly" there is no damage caused (as far as we know), but we do have a hazardous byproduct.
According to the Department of Energy, there are 131 separate sites storing nuclear waste in 39 states across the country. And they're pretty full, too: there are literally millions of gallons of nuclear waste in the US alone, according to the DOE. In fact, at a single site in Fernald, Ohio the DOE counted 31 million pounds of uranium waste product.
In retrospect this is why everyone is scared of Nukes. I didn't mean to upset you nuclear engineers. The rest of us would like renewable energy even if it takes up a ton of space. Have you ever driven across country and seen all the extra room we have for solar/wind etc...
with a proper urban planning, cities can be augmented with urban farming as well as the equipments to generate renewable energy from any locally available renewable resources without adversely affecting living space or essential infrastructures.
however, the continued development of MSRs, LFTRs, etc. to the point where 1)it can reliably generate a sustainable fuel source via breeder reactors 2)there would no longer be a radioactive waste product or that waste products could be recycled back into the system.
which i believe is similar to what these next gen thorium based power plants are striving towards. (they're not quite there yet)
nevertheless, harnessing every energy resources efficiently, sustainably, and with minimal ecological impact will eventually lead to larger amounts of energy surplus.
which translates to an increase in development and productivity as well as a post-scarcity of energy.
which means that we will have finally reached the golden age of free energy. which also leads to the increased viability of nanofactories.
at least up to the point where overpopulation is no longer viewed as a burden, but as an incentive towards space colonization.
Nuclear power plants can be self sufficient, and do indeed use the power they create to power their own loads, however, to do so we have to be in whats called Mode 1, which is Power Generation. NRC regulations that allow us to operate, also don't allow us to operate without redunant systems, a backup source of power being one of them.
Basically, the plant has a window it can operate based on extremes, (metal/instrument failures, water boiling, etc.) The NRC gives us boundaries based off of these extreme values, and then individual plants establish their own, tighter boundaries to prevent ever reaching the NRC's limits.
@www.energysqua Indeed! There is plenty of room for a combination of renewables, nuclear, and natural gas sources that would complement each other nicely. However, it is a real pain when the same people who say we absolutely must move to traditional renewable's (i'm talking about wind/solar)are the same people that block massive PV arrays due to a few tortoise (i don't remember the name of the project but I know it was in SoCal).
The reason Thorium is potentially such a great fuel is because a much, much higher percentage of the fuel is actually used than in traditional uranium plants. In traditional uranium plants, once so much of the uranium has underwent nuclear fission, there simply are too many spent atoms compared to fissile atoms, and it becomes inefficient. With Thorium however, essentially you begin with a combination of thorium and uranium and when a neutron is ejected as part of the fission of the uranium atom it has the opportunity to collide with one of the thorium atoms in the fuel mixture. When this happens, the nucleus of the now thorium-233 atom becomes unstable and undergoes beta decay to become Protactinium-233. The Pa-233 undergoes a final beta decay to become Uranium-233 which is also fissile.
Essentially, you begin with a little bit of fissile uranium which undergoes fission ejecting on average 2.5 neutrons, some of which collide with thorium, and some with other uranium. The thorium that absorbs a neutron then undergoes the decays and becomes fissile uranium. Thus, you are generating more fissile material than you are using typically. Of course, it will only generate more than you use if more than one of the ejected neutrons is absorbed by a thorium atom.
Because you are creating fissile fuel as you go along, there are more opportunities for these neutrons to collide, and you don't have to isotopically separate the fuel nearly as often. With the liquid flouride breeder reactors, as of now, I believe they need to be refueled only once every twelve years or so. This means that there would be far, far less waste than with traditional Gen. 1 reactors.
Some of this may not be completely right, but its the best i could generate off the top of my head.
"(i'm talking about wind/solar)are the same people that block massive PV arrays due to a few tortoise (i don't remember the name of the project but I know it was in SoCal)."
i believe there's also some next gen solar PV design that allows the solar cells to be applied as paint. which sounds more versatile than the traditional solar PVC panels.
and there's also transparent solar PVCs that can be attached to glass windows.
which makes these next gen solar PVCs easier to integrate in the urban landscape.
i'm actually kinda enthused about all of these developments in technology. and there's plenty of leg room for more improvements and innovations.
nevertheless, it's astonishing how many inventions there are out there still just waiting to be properly tapped and implemented.
@energysquad by "open land" you mean the farm land that is keeping the nation and a good part of the world fed, of the pristine enviroment that is slowly being degraded anyways just curious, i want you to tell me the enivormental impact of putting up enouch solar, wind, hydroelectric powerplants to replace all of energy needs, fossil and nuclear.......thats what i thought, massive solar farms covering 100's of acres of farm land/praries. Very eco friendly, and read the comments, the MSR/LFTR produce close to 90% less nuclear waste, yes theres some but dramatically less.
Solar will not have the efficiency to replace everything for the better part of a century at my guess,(an un-educated one but mine still the same)
I only managed to read 1/2 of the comments. So forgive me if this has been covered but...
The people being called "anti-nuke" here are generally right for the wrong reasons. The people blasting the anti-nuke folks are generally right that a lot of comments are reflexive and uninformed. However, even countering the misconceptions about radiation, they fail to get at why we are in the fix we are in.
1. Nuclear is not cheap. The reason that it appears cheap is that running costs (operating costs) of the CORPORATION are used for comparison - often to the Life Cycle costs of something like solar or wind or hydrodynamic (tide/wave) power systems. When s/w/h systems are priced in popular media, subsidized and unsubsidized prices are used to make the point that the tech will not truly be competitive until **unsubsidized** prices reach parity with quoted prices for NG/Coal/Nuke plants.
However - and let's stick with nuke plants - Nuclear reactors are very heavily subsidized in quite a number of ways. As a national policy, we have chosen U-plants (primarily) because Uranium & Plutonium fit into strategic national defense plans. LFTR tech never had a chance in the 1960s/70s because LFTR would not create Pu for the rapidly proliferating MIRVs that were just coming on line.
Moreover, "life cycle" for renewables is cut prematurely short, with the panels amortized to $0 when the 10 year life cycle is used primarily because that is the horizon by which most investors want to be turning profits. The fact that panels can produce at 80% rated efficiency even 50 years out is not considered at all in life cycle calculations.
In sum: Nuclear isn't cheap. It's certainly not as cheap as coal or NG. It didn't make it as our primary electrical source because **even with dramatic subsidies** Nuke couldn't make it in the marketplace.
2. Pro-nuke people exaggerate the position of responsible anti-nuclear energy (RANE for short) advocates. A good example is the person above who says that "nature" is disproving the anti-nuke argument, b/c there is supposed to be a "dead zone" of thousands of square miles around Chernobyl. In fact that is exactly what RANE advocates DON'T say. They say that biological forces will concentrate certain radioisotopes in ways that will enter the human food chain. This concentration will lead, according to RANE, to excess cancers not otherwise found in the general pop. 3 people in 100 will die early, according to some estimates.
If you had a 3 percent chance of losing decades off your life just by where you built your home...would you build in the risky place or the non-risky place. Theoretically you could ban food production in that area and suffer much lesser risk, but in most countries in the world - definitely including the Ukraine, Finland & Russia - local food is the primary source (in some cases the vast majority source, though I don't think that applies to U/F/R) of food. Plus, you don't really know for sure if the supermarket is buying from a local source or trucking things in. Further, local food is an important source not just because of trucking expenses, but because it is cheaper to grow food than buy it. All those local residents who hunt or farm or garden just to survive would be out of luck in a no-local-food zone.
That would mean only the relatively wealthy could afford to live there. But it is exactly the relatively wealthy who have the options that allow them NOT to live there.
So you have massive depopulation or dramatic increases in social costs such as medicine and loss of productivity (due to both illness and death).
This sounds horrible to say, but if the radio contamination was in a country with extremely low productivity, no advanced medicine, and crappy life expectancy, Chernobyl would likely make little long term difference. In urbanized countries, however, it makes quite a large difference.
These are the consequences of accidents. Not "dead zones" where nothing will grow, but "dead zones" where the economy will not grow.
The thing about increased death from coal is that the effects are so widespread that you can't reasonably get away from them. Thus, as bad as the effects are, they don't create economic dead zones. Coal deaths are only avoidable through social consensus. Nuke deaths are avoidable through individual choice. That's the difference that makes nuclear more of a threat to economies.
LFTR, with a better safety potential CAN fix this. HOWEVER...we have no working LFTRs. Getting widespread implementation of LFTR is easily as far over the time horizon as widespread use of SmartGrid tech & distributed generation.
3. The waste problem is so difficult and so expensive that as of yet we have no solution.
Again, LFTRs will prevent the problem from getting worse as the absence of actinides (and super-long-term radioactivity generally) means that we would (for that future portion of the waste) only need to plan safety procedures that can last centuries, not many thousands of years. That's a much easier job.
However, LFTR is only 1 of the reactor designs being proposed and the ones being implemented are all Gen3/+. This means that they will still be generating more of the same waste with which we currently cannot deal.
There are plenty of reasons to oppose current nuclear tech.
LFTR has some major advantages, but no one is building commercial LFTR plants. The time for a "nuclear renaissance" is not now. WHEN LFTR becomes commercially viable - IF that happens - then we can talk.
LFTR deserves no more of less enthusiasm than S/W/H projects which nuke advocates so like to disparage. Other nuke tech deserves much less.
What we have to remember with the AGW threat is that the world and its biome will survive just fine. What changes with climate is where people can live. If the US becomes less agriculturally productive, but Canada becomes MORE so, the world as a whole goes on....but people in the US suddenly pay much more for food than they are used to. And people in Canada pay less (trust me, most food is pretty expensive up there). This will drive people to move from the US to Canada.
Likewise from Mexico to the US ...only even more than today. Likewise around the world people will be shifting because the lives they have known have become too expensive to continue living - either they must move to retain their lifestyle or they must move AND adopt a completely different lifestyle.
This is a vast economic threat. With vast economies comes vast violence - people are willing to kill for a lot less than a billion dollars.
We must replace this economic threat by burning less carbon. However, replacing it with a different threat to our economy only works if the new threat is substantially less.
The truth is we can't even establish the costs to our economy until we know how much it costs to store radio-waste for 10k years. And however much it costs, we know that it won't show up on the corporate bottom line.
I for one am not willing to promise companies an amount of money = "whatever it takes" and still assume that they are the cheapest option around.
These are the primary RANE arguments. Adopt them or not, but lets have the radio-reactionaries and the pro-nuke people both try to argue about facts and not boldly joust straw men.
I should have said above "other FISSION tech" not other "nuke" tech deserves little enthusiasm. Certain FUSION ideas have as much promise as LFTR does. General Fusion - covered by PopSci fairly extensively - has what I think is even more promising technology. Safety systems are far less needed and costly in such acoustic fusion reactors, for instance. We have no idea what, in the long run, GF's approach might cost, but it seems hardly less likely than LFTR to reach economic costs of generation...IF the next round of reactor testing goes as promised. While the same can be said of LFTR it is true that the LFTR concept has a much more successful past history than fusion has had. While the individual reactor designs in LFTR might turn out to be viable or not, they don't have to get over the hurdle of proving the physics works the way GF does.
Still, there's no reason to think the physics *won't* work. So I rate GF & LFTR almost equally in likelihood of economic viability.
gorash why so scared? Ohhhhh nuclear energy should be so safe before we change from coal!!! ohhhhhh Look. We should already have these reactors. They got batted down because some capitalist scumbag had money in what we are using now. Its like everything else in this raggedy country. The needs of the rich outweigh the needs of the many, or the country, or the environment. We have completely turned the country over to the prigs and elitists that produce funds to finance their own scabby desires and lame ass ideas and then manipulate the less educated and easily impressed into backing them through the media, pressure, or worse.
The truth of the matter is We need this technology.
USA isnt the foremost power in the world anymore... We aren't even going to be in the race to be that power again. We have created a generation of spoiled self entitled do nothings while china and india have been Grinding education and intelligence into their youth.
You can thank capitalism for that too.. Making Education a commodity instead of a responsibility for every single American.
We need to prepare now for the next century if there is any desire at all by any of you to make The United States of America more than a footnote in a future history lesson. Our Grid is TRASH! The maintenance and upkeep of this fossil has easily cost more than recreating a better and far more stable supply of energy. And All these energy companies collect their profits and distribute them and charge the everyone else for maintenace and running costs. Electricity Should Be Free. America needs a decade break from sending hundreds of billions of tax dollars to aid other countries to bend to our will. and concentrate on revamping our infrastructure. I see this technology as a viable first step.
What would our economy be like right now if we weren't all slaved under the yoke of parasitic energy companies? The days of competition being the spark that drives forward our technology breakthroughs has come and gone and large industries and corporations are killing progress for profits.
Why aren't our tax dollars being spent on projects that make our people and our lives better? And easier to live. I am a disabled vet I refuse welfare and I can't even eat every day anymore. But that didn't stop our local coal burning energy company from raising its rates.
If any of you have a better solution than ooooohhhh lets wait for something better... The time is now to speak up. Otherwise how about you just remain silent.
I think nuclear fission power plants will never be safe, because it always will produce neutrons for breeding plutonium for nuclear weapons. I believe the best option to power mankind future energy needs will be the aneutronic fusion, neutron-free, no radioactive wastes, no nukes.
please, please google LFTR. it is a viable technology, it can be implemented tomorrow, its safe, and there is little chance of LFTR from being weaponized. Y you ask do we not use it right now for all our energy need? Easy because the people that create fuel for the current nuclear reactors don't want it to happen, because they make there money from the fuel they put into these reactors. LFTR use thorium, it cheap, and easily attainible, on the scale of Tin, in the abundance of Aluminum. The nuke industry makes its money from the fuel not the power it generates. Till someone makes a consious effort to change then it won't happen. @johnson, the ability to breed plutonium at the levels to create nuclear weapons in an LFTR is so slow that no one will use it for that specific reason.
From the article:
"America’s total electric power and 70 percent of its emissions-free energy, in large part because no alternative energy source can match its efficiency".
Efficiency has nothing to do with it. Actually, most nuclear plants are not highly efficient, because many in the US were built with the attitude that they did not have to be efficient. The reason they are used is because they generate large amounts of baseload power. One of the most touted features of a nuclear plant is its "capacity factor", which is its ability to stay on most of the time, producing at or near its theoretical potential. The problem, of course, is that energy demand is not constant and you can't easily turn a nuclear plant down during the night when demand is less. So nuclear just keeps cranking out the power, whether we need it or not.
The problem with nuclear is that it is way too expensive, even under ideal conditions. In cases of emergency it costs more than society can afford. No insurance company will touch these liabilities, so the government has to insure it. We can see how well that worked in Japan.
Gen III+ sounds like a modest improvement, but no great shakes, especially if regulators are not diligent about making sure that the safety features are actually used and remain functional. That is one of the problems now with the "backup generators" which are often not up to the task of even providing a few hours of backup power. 800,000 gallons of water sounds like a lot, but that is about the amount of water needed in 1 minute to cool a 1GWhe reactor in case of a serious rise in temperature.
Other passive designs instead of LFTR do exist, such as Pebble Bed Moderated Reactors. LFTR sounds fine except that the Indian government has invested considerable money in them and not seen the advantages that proponents keep touting.
@bicrip 06/29/11 at 6:22 pm
To equate a technology like (LFTR) that is based on work with actual power plants that have actually produced a net positive energy output over a 5 year period in reasonably compact designs with the massive, expensive research projects of what you call General Fusion (magnetic confinement and inertial confinement designs) that have not yet even achieved break-even point is nonsense to put it mildly.
In General Fusion, it isn't a matter of whether the physics works. It's a matter of is the engineering practical enough to make any sense economically if the physics does work. If the massive ( www.iter.org/factsfigures ) ITER actually breaks even by 2030 and beyond that is actually able to put power on the net by 2040. It is still just ONE facility.
Give the drastically smaller engineering scale of the LFTR, it's entirely possible to have a LFTR online producing power to the grid before 2020 and even before the ITER construction is completed. Given the modular design that from an engineering perspective would allow construction of LFTR's on an assembly line much like Boeing produces planes at a cost low enough that by 2030 there could be thousands of LFTR's producing power for the grid by 2030-2040 when one ITER is just beginning to add some power to the grid.
In 500 years, you may be able to pop a Mr. Fusion micro powerplant in your antique DeLorean, but fusion won't be the answer to whatever may or may not happen with the environment or energy independence in the next 50-100 years even in the most sunny expectations.
LFTR's could. There is a difference.
@aarontco "Other passive designs instead of LFTR do exist, such as Pebble Bed Moderated Reactors. LFTR sounds fine except that the Indian government has invested considerable money in them and not seen the advantages that proponents keep touting."
By making this comment, you just proved that you are not as informed as you think you are and most likely the rest of what you wrote isn't any better.
FYI, the Indian government's thorium work has NOTHING to do with LFTR or the technology LFTR is based on. What they have been trying to do is use thorium as a fuel in solid form which allows them to use it in pressurized water systems much like the current conventional solid fuel uranium based reactors. For many engineers, this isn't seen as a very sane approach. In fact, many consider it just nuts and of only marginal sense in a country like India which is Thorium rich and Uranium poor.