Nuclear energy phase-out is possible

Sep 06, 2011 By Roman Klingler
Nuclear energy phase-out is possible
Switzerland can build itself an energy future without nuclear power. The ETH Zurich Laboratory for Energy Conversion (LEC), for instance, is researching the potential of wind turbines. Credit: Scanderbeg Sauer Photography / ETH Zurich

Restructuring the energy system without nuclear power by 2050 is in principle technologically possible and economically manageable. However, it will demand a concerted effort by the whole of society. This is the conclusion reached by ETH Zurich researchers in a study they presented at the Energy Talks 2011.

Over the past few months, a group of researchers at the Energy Science Center (ESC) of ETH Zurich have carried out an intensive examination of whether the available options will enable Switzerland to scope out a medium-term energy future without , as decided by the Swiss Federal Council in May. Their answer was yes.

However, a step-by step restructuring of Switzerland’s energy systems during the coming years and decades will require great efforts by all areas of society. Nevertheless, a phase-out is not only technologically possible but would also enable positive long-term growth in all sectors of the economy. The study examined the period up to 2050. The researchers presented the most important results of the study (see box) at the Energy Talks at ETH Zurich on 2 September 2011.

No relaxations in climate targets

The unalterable boundary conditions applying to the ETH Zurich researchers’ modelling calculations are that the global climate targets – a maximum warming of two degrees centigrade – must be complied with. For Switzerland this means reducing annual per capita CO2 emissions from the present 5.2 to less than 2 tons by 2050 and to 1 ton towards the end of the century.

These targets require that, by 2050, this country must achieve, among other things, CO2-free building heating systems, efficient, partly electrified mobility, and minimal CO2 emission in electricity generation, all developments that are expected to be necessary and possible.

Hydroelectric power and new renewable energy sources

One of the biggest challenges facing the studies was to make plausible forecasts of the future electricity supply, which turn out differently depending on economic growth, population development and efficiency increases. For this purpose, the researchers calculated three demand scenarios and predict that, in 2050, Switzerland will have a gross electricity production of between 67 and 92 terawatt-hours (TWh). The most likely medium scenario assumes an annual electricity demand of around 80 TWh.

According to Konstantinos Boulouchos, coordinating author of the ETH Zurich study and Professor of Aerothermochemistry and Combustion Systems, it is clear that hydroelectric power, which amounts to just under 50 percent of total electricity generation and has limited potential for expansion, will continue to make an important base-load contribution. If the remaining 40 TWh is to be provided without nuclear energy, this will need a major expansion in new renewable energy sources, mainly photovoltaic, followed by the localised utilisation of biomass and finally geothermal energy. According to the ETH Zurich researchers, flexible gas-fired power stations or electricity imports will be indispensable to cover demand peaks, at least in the short term. However, foreseeable technological development should enable, from 2020 to 2025 onwards, the construction of combined gas-fired power stations in which the CO2 produced can be captured and stored.

Higher efficiency for system components

Energy efficiency is of key importance for the successful implementation of sustainable energy production without nuclear power and with as few fossil energy sources as possible. Göran Andersson, Professor of Electricity Power Systems and High Voltage Engineering and one of the authors of the ETH Zurich study, says, «Anyone who thinks this just means energy consumption at the consumer’s premises is too short-sighted.» He says that there is an equal need to minimise energy losses in electricity distribution (currently 7 percent) and in storage.

The ETH Zurich researchers see the biggest potential energy saving as being in the area of buildings and mobility, whereby electricity as a proportion of energy production is growing, and electricity will become the backbone of the energy system in the future.

The expansion and optimisation of storage facilities and networking on the one hand and advances in control and regulation technology on the other should contribute to handling energy more efficiently. At the same time, there is still great need for research, e.g. in the area of energy metering technology. This specialist discipline, still in its infancy, develops prediction models for wind and photovoltaic electricity in-feeds with the aim of increasing the overall stability of the electricity power network.

In relation to the expansion and restructuring of the electricity network, the ETH Zurich researchers stress that Switzerland must also be seen as an important part of a future European market.

Seizing the opportunity for re-industrialization

Within the ETH Zurich study, Lucas Bretschger, Professor of Resource Economics, analysed the effects that a progressive restructuring of energy production would have on prosperity and growth. Bretschger concludes that the costs to the national economy of a long-term transformation are small. Although economic development would be retarded slightly compared to growth with the previous energy sources, the ETH Zurich study still predicts positive growth rates (between 0.7 and 1.7 percent).

In the ETH Zurich model, sectors with a large proportion of clean technology and investment, e.g. the electrical industry and some areas of the mechanical engineering industry, would benefit to a particularly large extent from a restructuring of the energy system. Despite numerous technical challenges, the authors see opportunities in the energy turnaround above all to re-industrialise Switzerland through the investments and innovations that will be triggered.

Ultimately, and in this sense the researchers are passing the ball onto the politicians, the preconditions to ensuring that the planned radical restructuring of Switzerland’s system can succeed are cost transparency and planning security.

Explore further: Matched 'hybrid' systems may hold key to wider use of renewable energy

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FTL4Life
3.7 / 5 (12) Sep 06, 2011
OK, but why would we want to?
jonnyboy
3.3 / 5 (10) Sep 06, 2011
whereas, these researchers will be phased out by 2050 with no effort on our parts.
BenjaminButton
3.4 / 5 (10) Sep 06, 2011
Agreed...why is that desirable. What Switzerland, or indeed Germany do in terms of their future power sources has no bearing on the advancement of Nuclear power research. If they want to make their futures difficult by listening to a bunch of anti-science activists that's their problem...it's not interesting.
Noumenon
4.6 / 5 (51) Sep 06, 2011
Bizarre. It makes one wonder what the true goal is,.. if nuclear energy 'is to be avoided' as well as oil/coal.

If the far left invent reasons not to pursue nuclear power, IMO, it is evidence that they don't want solutions,... that is to say, none that compete with social engineering. Sorry to bring in politics, just attempting to answer the question this article leaves in the air, that so far every poster caught.
Shelgeyr
3.1 / 5 (8) Sep 06, 2011
Hmmm... Nuclear or wind... nuclear or wind... Nope, gonna have to stick with nuclear, thank you.

Granted, between the two (if you rule out normal house current, solar, or a multi-fuel generator) I'm stuck with using a windmill at home, but that's mainly because my HOA really frowns on me keeping an unlicensed reactor pile in my garage. (You should just hear them go ON and ON about it! Bunch of harpies!) So I'm resigned to that.

But for larger-than-domestic purposes, I'm far more comfortable with nuclear being much more reliable, with far greater energy outputs available per (how best to measure this?) acre.

I hope saner Swiss heads prevail, and they don't go down this "phase-out" road to nowhere.
kochevnik
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 06, 2011
..make their futures difficult by listening to a bunch of anti-science activists that's their problem...
I didn't know that fundamentalist xtians were anti-nuclear.
my HOA really frowns on me keeping an unlicensed reactor pile in my garage. (You should just hear them go ON and ON about it!
That's communism! Another socialist failure.
kochevnik
2 / 5 (8) Sep 06, 2011
I hope saner Swiss heads prevail, and they don't go down this "phase-out" road to nowhere.
Maybe they want to leave a better legacy to their grandkids than genetic damage and ailing elders. FYI putting concentrated, permanent radiation in concentrated metro areas is retarded and unnecessary. Amazing how one's perception evolves where the poverty baseline is $100K/yr.
Kafpauzo
2 / 5 (7) Sep 07, 2011
Problems like Chernobyl and Fukushima become impossible if you put every reactor building in a hole in the ground, so large that the entire building is below the level of a nearby river or sea.

Put the reactor's control rooms at a higher level outside the hole, as much as possible.

In the case of a very rare, really extreme accident, simply let water pour in by its own weight and flood the hole. This way you have passive cooling that works regardless of diesel generators etc. Cooling guarantees that you can't get major contamination, it remains very limited and localized.

This means that you have plenty of time for various preparations, and nobody gets hurt. Once your preparations are ready, pump away the water, make any repairs that may be needed after the flooding, start the reactors -- problem solved.

Of course, since these accidents will be extremely rare, you might choose to build reactors that can't be repaired after flooding. Either way, contamination is very limited.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (6) Sep 07, 2011
Problems like Chernobyl and Fukushima become impossible if you put every reactor building in a hole in the ground
There was water under Chernobyl. And when the uranium would hit it, a steam explosion threatened to blow up the facility releasing a significant chunk of the reactor core into the atmosphere. Moreover the amalgamate could not be stopped from penetrating into the Ukrainian aquifer, serving the entire nation. All of Ukraine would then have no water to drink. So no, that's not a good idea. Residential nuclear energy is simply backpedaling from common sense. That's why smart nations are eliminating it and desperate, backward governments are embracing it.
Kafpauzo
4.1 / 5 (7) Sep 07, 2011
Kochevnik, the Chernobyl plant was a disastrous design in lots of ways, but it wasn't my intent to cover all that weirdness in my short comment.

Nobody builds reactors like that today. The idea of putting the reactor building in a hole assumes that it's a modern reactor with normal, modern functionality. With such a reactor, the idea would work very well.

If there's something sensitive like an aquifer below, obviously you must protect this aquifer. With a modern reactor and guaranteed cooling, protection is possible.

Abandoning nuclear energy may be a terrible idea. It seems nuclear energy is the safest of all energy sources:

http://nextbigfut...rce.html
rawa1
1 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2011
The cold fusion could wipe out the dirty nuclear fission industry a much faster.
ShotmanMaslo
4 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2011
Rich countries with abundant hydropower could possibly afford to phase out nuclear without relying on fossil fuels. I wonder why would they do that, but if the voterbase desires so, then so be it.

Globally, electricity consumption will continue to rise, even skyrocket due to developing nations consuming more and more energy and after fossil fuels for transportation begin to be replaced. Renewables wont cut it, powerful and cheap nuclear will. Even Fukushima will be just a minor setback in nuclear growth, IMHO.
kochevnik
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 07, 2011
Abandoning nuclear energy may be a terrible idea. It seems nuclear energy is the safest of all energy sources:
Sure it's safer than solar. I mean, what was I thinking???? How many people have died by solar power, ShotmanMaslo? How many people are dying from Chernobyl, will die in Fukushima? How many died from nuclear energy Hiroshima and Nagasaki? I'll make a bet that more died than killed by solar energy and windmills.
antialias_physorg
3.9 / 5 (7) Sep 07, 2011
There are reasons why it makes sense for Switzerland (and other cuntries) to forego nuclear fission.

1) Being dependent on other countries for nuclear fuel is no different than being dependent on other countries for oil. Price hikes will hit you no matter what. Effectively you can be blackmailed by fuel producing countries forever.

2) Lack of space (Germany is half the size of Texas, Switzerland is a tenth the size of Germany). Small countries do not have the space to store their nuclear wastes in out-of-the-way places because there are no such places. You'd be forced to store it right next to large populations centers no matter where you put it.

3) Accidents. Russia and the US can afford to declare hundreds of square kilometers off limits whenever a reactor goes 'bump'. Small countries cannot (since that would mean a sizeable proportion of the country in question - with millions of people affected)
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2011
I'll make a bet that more died than killed by solar energy and windmills.

And hydro, and biogas, ...
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Sep 07, 2011
How many people have died by solar power, ShotmanMaslo? How many people are dying from Chernobyl, will die in Fukushima? How many died from nuclear energy Hiroshima and Nagasaki? I'll make a bet that more died than killed by solar energy and windmills.


When you compare deaths per TWh, nuclear seems to be competitive even with renewables.

http://nextbigfut...ces.html
Kafpauzo
4 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2011
Abandoning nuclear energy may be a terrible idea. It seems nuclear energy is the safest of all energy sources:
Sure it's safer than solar. I mean, what was I thinking???? How many people have died by solar power, ShotmanMaslo? How many people are dying from Chernobyl, will die in Fukushima?


You missed the link that I gave you below the text that you quoted. Solar, wind, coal and others do kill more people than nuclear, when you count people killed per amount of energy.

Just in case you also missed the link in ShotmanMaslo's followup, here's the link once again:

http://nextbigfut...rce.html

How many died from nuclear energy Hiroshima and Nagasaki?


Nobody proposes solving energy problems by dropping atomic bombs.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (6) Sep 07, 2011
You missed the link that I gave you below the text that you quoted. Solar, wind, coal and others do kill more people than nuclear, when you count people killed per amount of energy.
I didn't miss it. I discounted it because it's creative accounting, like Anderson Cooper pimping Worldcom. First, roofing has ZERO to do with solar. Moreover, many roofs here in South California are FLAT; meaning the worker must be drunk to fall. On that note why don't you tally workers killed driving to the construction site. Or deaths due to poor health insurance? That link blithely strikes out the millions exposed to Chernobyl from France eastward. How many CONSUMERS are killed by SOLAR RADIATION, in contrast to NUCLEAR RADIATION. That is the question.
When you compare deaths per TWh, nuclear seems to be competitive even with renewables.
You count BS and ignore upward of a million dead, which makes your link pure BS. Factor in the next 100,000 yrs. of radiation BTW.
Kafpauzo
4 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2011
Kochevnik, I'm sorry, it's your accounting that is creative.

You can't use a technology without producing and installing it. The lives lost during production and installation are just as tragic as those lost due to radiation.

Fatal workplace accidents do happen. In most cases the victims are sober. And these calculations must be based on what actually happens, not on your rather humiliating assumptions about victims being drunk.

The link does include the people affected by Chernobyl. Try reading it more carefully. (It's not my site, by the way, I just find it interesting.)

I've tried inserting Greenpeace's pessimistic 93,000 Chernobyl deaths total. Then the number in the table becomes 2.21. That's still far, far lower than the traditional technologies that nobody gets upset about.

The number of people killed by solar radiation is irrelevant. They are actually quite a few, by skin cancer, heat-stroke etc. But choosing one energy source over the other won't save any of these lives.
Kafpauzo
4.3 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2011
You count BS


This is a physics website. In my physics reference books I can't find BS among the standard units of measurement.

and ignore upward of a million dead,


Do you have a scientifically and technically valid basis for that number?

Factor in the next 100,000 yrs. of radiation BTW


That's the one strong argument.

For a very long time I was strongly opposed to nuclear fission power based on this argument. 100,000 years is a ridiculously long time. It's 20 times longer than the time since the stone age. There's no way we can deal with such a time span with technological reliability.

But modern nuclear energy includes emerging technology for transmutation. Spent nuclear fuel becomes re-usable as fuel in new reactors that transmutate it into elements that become safe after just a couple of hundred years. Storing this material deep down in mountains for just a couple of hundred years is fully realistic.
PTK
5 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2011
Why are we not using "Thorium" nuclear power..

It is cheaper, more efficient & Uranium reactors can be retro-fitted.
It's a Safe Tech vs Uranium.
Unable to meltdown & of all things CANNOT be used in Nuclear Weapons.

Thorium should be sold to countries that refuse to sign the 'Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty' to gradually wean them of Coal, decreasing emissions & providing a cleaner living environment.

Spent Plutonium & Uranium can also be burnt up in the reactor to a safer level before being stored.

Thorium All The Way
kochevnik
2 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2011
Spent nuclear fuel becomes re-usable as fuel in new reactors that transmutate it into elements that become safe after just a couple of hundred years. Storing this material deep down in mountains for just a couple of hundred years is fully realistic.
So realistic, in fact, that Yucca Mountain project was cancelled, in part because no container could be designed with a lifetime over 10,000 years. The hidden quake fault and threat to the water table didn't help matters.
Do you have a scientifically and technically valid basis for that number?
Yes. Though I doubt you can read Russian language.
In my physics reference books I can't find BS among the standard units of measurement.
Aspergers?
kochevnik
3 / 5 (4) Sep 08, 2011
Kochevnik, I'm sorry, it's your accounting that is creative.

You can't use a technology without producing and installing it.
Your cherry picking is a joke. Rooftop falls can be circumvented with simple measures like ropes. Moreover, roofs are accessed all the time for inspections, leaks, and re-shingling. Did you realize the average roof is repaired every eight years? Roof safety is an issue for OSHA. Roof safety has nothing to do with SOLAR RADIATION. Whereas it is proven that NUCLEAR RADIATION kills will great prejudice.

Your link isn't a scientific study, but some guy's blog. Notable how he hides his name? Could that be because he's shilling for a nuclear firm?

More hilarious, you ignore the fact that most rooftops in South California are flat. Also solar can be installed on siding windows, which must eventually be replaced regardless of the fact that a few will fall on pedestrians and cute babies. Because that will be your next "blog study."
kochevnik
3 / 5 (4) Sep 08, 2011
The number of people killed by solar radiation is irrelevant. They are actually quite a few, by skin cancer, heat-stroke etc.
The sharp rise of skin cancer is due to the imbalance of omega 3 vs. omega 5 oils. Undoubtedly the sun cures more than it kills by generating vital vitamin D. Modern diet causes skin cancer. Besides, nuclear radiation is an undisputed killer which, upon release, is irreversible. Unlike drowning in water or heat stroke from over-exertion, which are easily preventable.
There's no way we can deal with such a time span with technological reliability.
My point exactly.
That's still far, far lower than the traditional technologies that nobody gets upset about.
Dr. John W. Gofman predicted that 424,300 people in the Soviet Union and 526,700 elsewhere, including other parts of Europe, will develop cancer over the next 40 years as a result of the Chernobyl accident. The next 10,000 yrs? Far more.
bluehigh
1 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2011
Nobody proposes solving energy problems by dropping atomic bombs.


It would significantly reduce consumption if applied to the most energy greedy 300 million. Lets have a vote worldwide to get a consensus and then safe in the knowledge that the morality is settled ...

Kafpauzo
3.5 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2011
So realistic, in fact, that Yucca Mountain project was cancelled, in part because no container could be designed with a lifetime over 10,000 years.


I said "a couple of hundred years". That's 200 years, approximately. The spent fuel is transmuted into elements that become safe in some 200 years.

Yes. Though I doubt you can read Russian language.


Greenpeace makes extreme efforts to show as large numbers as possible, and yet they can't come up with anything even remotely similar to your millions.

The fact that you believe in those numbers is no proof.

Aspergers?


It's called "joking".

I hoped my joke would remind you that this is a debate among grown-ups, not a children's sandbox. You're supposed to be polite, you're supposed to speak like a grown-up, thinking and reasoning, without childish outbursts.

By wording it as a joke I tried to make the reminder friendly.

Since you didn't understand such an obvious joke, yeah, maybe you do have Asperger's.
Kafpauzo
4 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2011
Rooftop falls can be circumvented with simple measures like ropes.


Yes, and the spreading of radiation can be prevented by containment.

You guess that more people can be saved by introducing ropes on rooftops. But people already use ropes on rooftops. And yet fatal accidents happen.

You guess that rooftop risks can be eliminated. The linked blog is not based on vague guesses like your theories. It's based on reality, on what actually happens out there, on real statistics, carefully listed.

More hilarious, you ignore the fact that most rooftops in South California are flat.


The shapes of rooftops in Southern California is irrelevant. Most of the world's population lives in other places.

Besides, nuclear radiation is an undisputed killer which, upon release, is irreversible.


Fossil fuels are an even worse undisputed killer. If you really want to save lives, focus on technologies that kill more people. Your persistent fear of the safer technology is irrational.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2011
You can't use a technology without producing and installing it.

Does the 'statistic' include deaths due to mining accidents? Irradiation of miners? The fallout from thousands of years of storing this gunk in mines that are already leaking?

I thought not.

The point is: what kind of effect does this type (or any other type) of technology have on the quality of life. Solar has none, wind has some (as there seem to be some effects from low frequecy sound and intermittent shading for plants constructed too close to homes). Hydro has none. Biogas has some (CO2 and NOx - though the CO2 is taken from the atmosphere first). Nuclear has little but over a looooong time (thousands of years) which mounts up. And it has a LOT once one breaks down. Coal/oil has a lot.

Fossil fuels are an even worse undisputed killer.

No one is disputing that. However, arguing that pitch black is darker than black - and that therefore black is white - is fallacious.
Javinator
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2011
Problems like Chernobyl and Fukushima become impossible if you put every reactor building in a hole in the ground, so large that the entire building is below the level of a nearby river or sea.


The fuel would require continuous cooling which means that there needs to be a steady flow of incoming and outgoing water. All outgoing water/steam (whether it be pumped out, diffused through the ground, boiled off, or evaporated) would carry contamination with it. The entire large basin would be severely contaminated as well as the insides and outsides of all flooded equipment.

The contamination would not remain localized in this kind of situation and decontamination of this scale would be an incredible effort.

Building the reactor in a hole near a higher, essentially unlimited, water supply introduces the serious hazard that the actuation valve(s) could fail sending water to the building accidentally and creating a large, expensive, dangerous mess.

More dangerous than safe imo.
Javinator
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 08, 2011
Besides, nuclear radiation is an undisputed killer which, upon release, is irreversible.


That is a completely false statement as the effects of low level radiation are highly disputed. Generally a "better safe than sorry" approach is taken. Deaths and effects from high level exposures are extrapolated linearly to low dose rates to estimate cancer risk at low levels of radiation (Linear, No Threshold or LNT model).

Low level radiation studies have been inconclusive, but the conservative approach is still taken and dose is to be reduced/avoided as much as possible.

I'm not saying low level radiation is safe, but to state it's an undisputed killer is incorrect. At certain high dose rates this is known. At lower dose rates it is not known.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2011
(Linear, No Threshold or LNT model).

Thresholds are only applicable when you are dealing with chemical systems where you can have buffer systems that can compensate for a low levels of a substance being present.

Radioactivity is a physics process. The effect is stochastic in nature (i.e. whether a piece of DNA is damaged to the point where it causes the cell to become cancerous is a matter of probability). Probability driven processes have no threshold.

The problem with low dose experiments is that the variability of natural background radiation is high (and you can't start interning people into controlled environments for decades)
Javinator
4.5 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2011
Radioactivity is a physics process. The effect is stochastic in nature (i.e. whether a piece of DNA is damaged to the point where it causes the cell to become cancerous is a matter of probability). Probability driven processes have no threshold.


Actually, whether a piece of DNA is damaged to the point where it causes the cell to become cancerous is a matter of probability has been called into debate and the mechanisms are still being studied.

Here's a good report: http://citeseerx....type=pdf

Again, I'm not saying low levels of radiation don't increase probability at all, but to definitively conclude that it does increase probability and how it increases the probability is erroneous given the current information.
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2011
Radioactivity is a physics process. The effect is stochastic in nature (i.e. whether a piece of DNA is damaged to the point where it causes the cell to become cancerous is a matter of probability). Probability driven processes have no threshold.


But DNA radiation damage is a physics and biochemistry process. DNA repair mechanisms may distort the simple linear relationship, there is even a hypothesis that low doses of radiation are beneficial for DNA integrity.

http://en.wikiped...hormesis
Kafpauzo
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2011
Does the 'statistic' include deaths due to mining accidents? Irradiation of miners?


Yes, it includes them.

Are you similarly honest about the full chain when you discuss solar and wind? Do you similarly include everything, from the extraction of raw materials, through the processing, construction and installation, and everything else during the entire process?

The fallout from thousands of years of storing this gunk in mines that are already leaking?


After transmutation it's 200 years, approximately.

I thought not.


Why did you assume that?

What's the point of discussing your assumptions and guesses? The website is available for you to read.
Kafpauzo
3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2011
[...] if you put every reactor building in a hole in the ground [...]

The fuel would require continuous cooling which means that there needs to be a steady flow of incoming and outgoing water.


The amount of water in the hole is huge, so it takes huge amounts of energy to raise its temperature. Any strong heatsource in the water will cause convection. If the water does get hot, you get efficient cooling at the surface.

Does a stopped reactor and some stored spent fuel really produce such amounts of heat that this becomes problematic?

And do the heavy elements really reach the surface and evaporate there in quantity?

All outgoing water/steam [...] would carry contamination with it.


Filtering is possible: http://www.nytime...pco.html . If the hole has suitable lining, the water stays put until you remove it in a controlled manner. Controlled removal is much better than the uncontrolled releases in current designs like Fukushima.
Kafpauzo
3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2011
[...] a hole near a higher, essentially unlimited, water supply introduces the serious hazard that the actuation valve(s) could fail [...]


We already have huge dams with villages and cities downstream. If we can entrust entire villages and cities to dams, we can entrust reactors to them.

The entire large basin would be severely contaminated as well as the insides and outsides of all flooded equipment.


You'd design the system with flooding in mind, so the flooding water doesn't enter the reactor or the spent-fuel basins. The radioactivity is contained so that it isn't spread by flooding.

But the hole does _not_ replace other precautions. We'd have exactly what we have today, except after "impossible" multiple-system failures like Fukushima, surrounding landscape and communities are much better protected.

Society can't afford a nuclear drama every few decades. It gets people irrationally scared, so they shy away from the good solution. The hole removes the drama.
Javinator
5 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2011
There are still holes in your logic.

You'd design the system with flooding in mind, so the flooding water doesn't enter the reactor or the spent-fuel basins.


But isn't that the whole point of the emergency cooling? It HAS to be designed to send water to those places.

We already have huge dams with villages and cities downstream. If we can entrust entire villages and cities to dams, we can entrust reactors to them.


Dams are specifically designed never to let go. What you're proposing has to have a mechanism to allow it to empty directly into the fresh and spent fuel when required for emergency cooling. Rather than a system that must be injected, the potential energy of the water is always there. A failure of equipment could result in a flooding of the fuel and reactor building.

Con't.
Javinator
5 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2011
And do the heavy elements really reach the surface and evaporate there in quantity?


Water soluble fission products will dissolve (cesium salts) and spread quite easily through the water. Also, many fission products are gaseous (noble gases) or are volatile at ambient temperatures (radioiodines).

You also mentioned that there will be natural circulation from convection. The highest current will be between the greatest temperature differential (ie. between the fuel and the surface). The fuel is both where the flow will originate (ie. water will flow away from the heat) and is the source of your contaminants (ie. fission products).

Does a stopped reactor and some stored spent fuel really produce such amounts of heat that this becomes problematic?


Yes it does depending on how huge this hole you're describing is. Fresh fuel, even from a shut down reactor, still generates lots of heat.

Cont't.
Javinator
5 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2011
Filtering is possible: http://www.nytime...pco.html . If the hole has suitable lining, the water stays put until you remove it in a controlled manner. Controlled removal is much better than the uncontrolled releases in current designs like Fukushima.


Trying to design this lake sized basin you're describing to be completely water proof would be extremely difficult. How could this be tested and proven after implementation? Also, while the water itself may be able to be filtered (although such a huge amount would be very difficult... it would be like remediating an entire lake via filters), the ground and all of the equipment would become so contaminated that I couldn't see any of it being safe to work in for some time.

I like nuclear power and it's good that you're thinking of ways to make it safer, but this type of passive cooling has been studied and due to safety and engineering issues, it's unfortunately not realistic.
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2011
Liquid fluoride thorium reactors are not pressurized, and they dont need cooling in the conventional sense.
hard2grep
not rated yet Sep 10, 2011
We will not get rid of all the reactors. That is absurd! We use them for more than energy requirements. Besides, How would large scale scientific experiments take place. Would the military give them up?
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2011
@ShotmanMaslo there is even a hypothesis that low doses of radiation are beneficial for DNA integrity.
True, it's called sunlight.

You should read your own links: "...argue that there is no evidence for hormesis in humans and in the case of the National Research Council, that hormesis is outright rejected as a possibility."
@Kafpauzo Are you similarly honest about the full chain when you discuss solar and wind? Do you similarly include everything, from the extraction of raw materials, through the processing, construction and installation, and everything else during the entire process?
Your juvenile beancounting fails to distinguish workers who voluntarily assume occupational risk from the civilian population, many who want no part with your environmental terrorism.
@Kafpauzo The shapes of rooftops in Southern California is irrelevant.
Most efficient sun falls near the equator, where flat roofs are common without snowfall. This is actually a prerequisite.
kochevnik
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 10, 2011
Rooftop falls can be circumvented with simple measures like ropes.
@Kafpauzo Yes, and the spreading of radiation can be prevented by containment.
Odd how that "contained" radiation keeps escaping. I guess you never heard of diffusion? FYI all engineering has specs. When they are exceeded, the population is irradiated.
@Kafpauzo Fossil fuels are an even worse undisputed killer.
Funny I didn't know solar, tidal, hydro and wind energy was fossil energy.
@Kafpauzo Since you didn't understand such an obvious joke, yeah, maybe you do have Asperger's.
I concur. Your posts are jokes.
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2011
Odd how that "contained" radiation keeps escaping. I guess you never heard of diffusion? FYI all engineering has specs. When they are exceeded, the population is irradiated


The cost of civilisation, just like falling from rooftops in case of solar. Modern nuclear plant designs are very safe. If you believe we can power the world on renewables, fine, but I dont think it can be done, not in foreseeable future.

Electricity demand will skyrocket, and nuclear as a safe, clean and powerful source of energy will be key to meet our energy needs.
Kafpauzo
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 11, 2011
Fossil fuels are an even worse undisputed killer.

Funny I didn't know solar, tidal, hydro and wind energy was fossil energy.


Nor did I say that they are.

My point is: Why campaign against nuclear, when fossils kill almost seven thousand times more people per unit of energy? Why waste time on nuclear when fossils are six thousand nine hundred and fifty times worse?

fails to distinguish workers who voluntarily assume occupational risk from the civilian population, many who want no part with your environmental terrorism.


Almost all the 6950 fossil-fuel deaths are civilians.

Rooftop falls can be circumvented with simple measures like ropes.

@Kafpauzo Yes, and the spreading of radiation can be prevented by containment.

Odd how that "contained" radiation keeps escaping. I guess you never heard of diffusion?


And your "circumvented" rooftop accidents keep happening.

I suppose I should retort with aggressive jabs like yours, but it gets tiresome.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2011
My point is: Why campaign against nuclear, when fossils kill almost seven thousand times more people per unit of energy?

You will find that each and every one who is campaigning against nuclear is ALSO campaigning against fossil fuels.
Don't make it out like this is a black/white decision between nuclear and fossil fuels - it isn't. We need to get rid of both.

WEith nuclear only providing a fraction of the electricity (and energy) used it is much easier to switch that off first.

Basically it comes down to quality of life. Do you want to live next to a nuclear plant (or a coal power plant). No? But I bet you would have no problem with living next to a loar power plant. There is your answer: quality of life.
Kafpauzo
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 11, 2011
There are still holes in your logic.


Of course there are holes, that's the (w)hole point! :-D

But isn't that the whole point of the emergency cooling? It HAS to be designed to send water to those places.


Not at all. Here in Sweden, all nuclear reactors are cooled by a nearby river or lake. The external water is _never_ sent all the way into the reactor. Unthinkable! Instead, heat exchangers transfer heat from internal to external coolant.

Heat exchangers work well even when the reactor is running at full power. A turned-off reactor produces far less heat.

Dams are specifically designed never to let go.


Dams are specifically designed to let through water, both to drive turbines and to regulate water levels bypassing the turbines. The amount of water that streams through both these paths is regulated all the time by technicians. This does not make dams collapse.

Dams are a solved technology. It's been solved for centuries. The Roman empire had dams! >>
Kafpauzo
1 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2011
>> But maybe it's cheaper to dig the hole a hundred meters from the lake, with pipes for the water.

The hole is obviously not lake-sized. It's large enough for the reactor building plus some margin. Filling it takes many hours.

Come to think of it, heat can move from the flooding water to the lake through heat exchangers. Again, this is enough when the reactor is running full speed, and when it's stopped there's far less heat to remove. Put one pipe high and one low for circulation by convection.

What you're proposing has to have a mechanism to allow it to empty directly into the fresh and spent fuel when required for emergency cooling.


As I said, you'd build the system with flooding in mind. The flooding water probably doesn't need to enter the pool inside the building around the reactor vessel. The flooding water would cool the reactor core's coolant and the spent-fuel storage coolant through heat exchangers.

I can't see any need for the contamination that you describe.
Kafpauzo
5 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2011
Do you want to live next to a nuclear plant (or a coal power plant).


I would definitely prefer living next to a nuclear plant, since a fossil-fuel plant is seven thousand times more dangerous to my health.

I also have very strong doubts about living next to a plant that makes solar panels. I'm under the impression that they use some very unhealthy chemicals.

And, unless I'm mistaken, wind turbines are sometimes made with glass-fiber composites using large amounts of glue that I suspect may be rather unhealthy.

But despite all my debating here, I'm not really a strong nuclear proponent. But I do lean somewhat strongly toward it.

That's because fossil is moving our planet toward very serious disaster for our descendants to inherit. And I can't see wind and solar replacing fossil, and overtaking it, enough to give everyone on Earth a decent standard of living. And the statistics on that website are quite surprising and very interesting, very much worth thinking about.
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2011
Do you want to live next to a nuclear plant (or a coal power plant). No?


I live next to a nuclear plant (few kilometres) and I dont feel endangered. There is a bigger chance that a meteorite falls on my head and kills me than that plant. I do enjoy cheap and clean electricity it produces, too.
jsa09
not rated yet Sep 12, 2011
I have trouble with accounting systems that say hydro electric causes no problems. Those huge dams cover a great deal of land and also change the seasonal water flow downstream. two major effects already. Both flood mitigation and changes to erosion and soil deposition have huge ecological affects that tend to be ignored in calculations of energy creation.
kochevnik
not rated yet Sep 12, 2011
I have trouble with accounting systems that say hydro electric causes no problems.
Dams are not a solved technology. The Roman Empire did not encounter the scaling problems we have now. All dams contend with the issue of silt collecting in the reservoir, diminishing the collectable potential energy with time. Consequently, all dams have limited lifetimes and some are already useless or have short lifetimes. Wave collection, although in it's infancy, has the practically unlimited potential to solve man's energy needs.
LuckyExplorer
not rated yet Sep 12, 2011
This ignorance is incredible:
"Electricity demand will skyrocket, and nuclear as a safe, clean and powerful source of energy ..."

Two accidents of that dimension within 25 years - perfect safety!

Not talking about smaller ones which did not harm people just because of good luck.

If we really want to power the future with nuclear energy, it needs a lot more of nuclear power plants.
Calculating the number of accidents in relation to the number of power plants gives then a result that makes me uncomfortable.

Placing all these power plants in a "safe" distance to cities is impossible. Calculating these potential exclusion zones into the costs for nuclear power, every other source or energy safing will be cheap.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Sep 12, 2011
Two accidents of that dimension within 25 years - perfect safety!


Not perfect, just good enough. And both of these accidents happened on old designs. Anti-nuclear sentiment is one of the reasons why old plants are not replaced for new plants, so until this changes, we may possibly expect more in the future.

If we really want to power the future with nuclear energy, it needs a lot more of nuclear power plants.
Calculating the number of accidents in relation to the number of power plants gives then a result that makes me uncomfortable


Modern and future nuclear plants will have very low deaths per TWh, comparable to renewables. There will be accidents, but it will simply be the cost of civilisation.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 12, 2011
I also have very strong doubts about living next to a plant that makes solar panels. I'm under the impression that they use some very unhealthy chemicals.

And, unless I'm mistaken, wind turbines are sometimes made with glass-fiber composites using large amounts of glue that I suspect may be rather unhealthy.

The question was: would you rather live next to a
a) nuclear power plant
or
b) solar power plant

Notice: power PLANT - I didn't ask whether you wanted to live next to a factory that produces solar panels. But OK, let's include that:

would you rather live next to
a) a factory making wind turbines
b) a factory making solar panels
c) a uranium mine
kochevnik
not rated yet Sep 12, 2011
Now we have this morning one killed and three critical in an explosion at the Marcoule nuke plant. The safety keeps improving...not. Of course nuke plants would never be a terrorist target, spewing radiation across much of Europe or the USA. The technology is just too damn good and our leaders are far too aware of all possible outcomes. Besides the plant can be built with the new technology, which is 100% safe since no plants use it yet.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Sep 12, 2011
And another 100 dead from a gasoline pipeline blast in Kenya.
http://www.bbc.co...14879401

I think these incidences well illustrate the difference between 'what might be achievable if we built everything to 100% optimal safety standards' and 'what will be achieved when we let companies - always on the lookout for the cheapest route - build stuff'

I'm more comfortable with cheap solar panels falling off their pedestals once in a while than cheap nuclear reactors going boom once in a while.
Javinator
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
Not at all. Here in Sweden, all nuclear reactors are cooled by a nearby river or lake. The external water is _never_ sent all the way into the reactor. Unthinkable! Instead, heat exchangers transfer heat from internal to external coolant.


All current nuclear plants work that way. The primary coolant contacts the fuel directly in a closed loop and it is cooled through heat exchangers via a secondary coolant. Most common nuclear plants use water (heavy or light) for primary coolant and light water. Both are circulated using pumps. This is how they normally operate. Normally is a key word here, though.

Emergency cooling requirements depend on whether you need to replace the secondary coolant or the primary coolant due to a line break or equipment failure. To replace the primary coolant (which is a major concern in a LOCA or loss of coolant accident) you need to inject something directly into the core. This is what was done in Fukushima using seawater to prevent/slow the meltdown

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