NEW! Freedom For Fusion

Shortly after the announcement of the political progress being made towards the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, ITER, the Usual Suspects started crawling out of the wood work complaining about it.

We can't have a large scale power source available to us now, can we?

Although fusion is only peripheral to the subject of Freedom For Fission, it is still worth a mention, so I have prepared this small piece on it.

Fingers crossed

Blair says new nuclear power stations will be built and smacks Cameron.
A NEW generation of nuclear power stations will be built with enough capacity to
generate at least as much electricity as Britain’s nuclear industry does today,
Tony Blair told MPs.

Promising stuff if they can deliver (and that 'if' is larger than the power output of a French reactor when it comes to this government). Gordon Brown, the likely next Prime Minister, appears to back Blair on this one, which is good. If so, then there is the chance that something positive could come out of Brown's inevitable premiership, if they don't screw up the process leaving it a mess (and that 'if' is larger than the power output of all French reactors combined!).

As for David Cameron, what does he have to say on the matter? Well I can't find anything. Our blue/green hero seems to waffle on incoherently. He attacked the Queen's speech for only promoting fear without offering solution (Greenpeace must have written it) but he himself seems to offer sympathy without solution. Hell, if he just gave an outright "no", at least he'd be taking a firm position. At the moment, he seems to not want to commit to any solution, merely make speeches about how passionately he cares for the problem.

Oh well, there are a few years left for the Blair/Brown government. Maybe they can get something positive done (there's a first time for everything).

Edit: Blair is so dedicated, he even took a trip to Sellafield. That was nice of him.

Swedish maintenance not what it once was

A transformer at Ringhals 3 catches fire.

You'll note how my headline is significantly less incriminating than AFP's. A transformer isn't directly related to the operation of the reactor, the actual nuclear bit. It is a standard piece of equipment at any power station, regardless of the heat source. Obviously, if such a component does malfunction, production must shut down. It is, in reality, nothing related to nuclear power itself.

Why do I bring this up?

Was I suggesting that AFP were attempting to falsely smear nuclear power by relating it the malfunction of a non-nuclear component, simply because they had the audacity to inform the reader about the heat source for the power station?

Well actually, I wouldn't put it past AFP overall, but I don't think there isn't any evidence to suggest malicious intent here. They were quick to mention that the transformer was located seperately from the reactor.

The point is that while this article is innocent, there are those out there who would try to turn this into anti-nuclear propoganda (not to mention any names beginning Greenpeace), a sort of guilt by association ploy.

In response to this thought, I whipped this one up.

Anyway, no one was hurt in this accident and hopefully the transformer will be fixed and reactor brought back up before the operator loses too much money.

Is Japan on a quest for world domination?

It could be. A bunch of major Japanese technology companies seem to be getting in on the act.

The latest is Hitachi.

They're teaming up with GE in their nuclear operations, which would include as a matter of course, the ESBWR.

Only recently, Toshiba bought Westinghouse from BNFL, which gives them a hand in the ever more popular AP-1000.

And Mitsubishi are getting involved with Areva.

How long before AECL starts seeing Japanese partnership?

The truth is more inconvenient than Al ever thought possible

The IEA is calling for more nuclear power to increase energy security and tackle carbon dioxide emissions.

How inconvenient... for Greenpeace.

It is an inevitability that their house of cards would crumble. Their motivations may be ideological, naive utopian visions of living in a simpler golden age of disease and poverty (Yes their ulterior motives don't invalidate their arguments. The fact that those arguments are rubbish is what invalidates them.), but for the rest of the world, environmental concerns remain genuinely environmental concerns.

As such, the more the threat of carbon dioxide is bigged up by the like of Greenpeace and Stern and Gore, the more people will see that the one large scale and readily expandable source of carbon free power, which has after all worked for the past 50 years without bringing about the apocalypse, is worth a second look in face of a new apocalypse.

Then there's the news of a second African nuclear power station on the cards.

And China planning to add to their already growing list of nuclear projects.

Also inconvenient!

It looks like Eskom's provider is up for bidding. At the moment they have two Framatome units, so it might give the EPR a head start in the race, but that is by no means a guarantee. As for China, they have both many PWRs from a variety of vendors and a couple of PHWRs, so it really is anyone's game to win.

Price-Anderson

Lots of people don't like the Price-Anderson act. It is a Congressional act, which indemnifies nuclear facilities against liabilities from large scale accidents. The industry would pay up to $10 billion of any liability arising from a major accident, but after that, the government would hanle the rest.

The act was created during the days of Generation I way back in the beginning because there was a lot of talk potential for disasters and no emperical evidence on how safe the industry would really be. So the act was there to offer incentives for private industry to get involved. Just last year, it was renewed until 2025.

There are now two questions about this act:
  1. If the nuclear industry is so safe, why does it need the Price-Anderson act?
  2. If the nuclear industry needs the Price-Anderson act, why should taxpayers be asked to foot the bill for protecting them?
Fifty years on from when the act was first passed, it has become apparent that it does not really need it. The liability costs since 1957, about half from TMI, have totaled around 1.5% of the cap on industry liability. We have never been close to requiring the federal bailout.

So why keep it? The industry sure would like to keep it. Whether it's right or not, they are still benefitting from it. They don't have to pay as much for their insurance. But really, Price-Anderson, as well as other international agreements along similar lines, should be scrapped. No accident in the West has ever come close to needing it. The industry should have full liability for any damage it causes. This is because nuclear power is safe and so won't need to worry much as long as they do their jobs properly. If potential investors don't realise this, then we in the pro-nuclear blogosphere need to work harder.

Second EPR is almost upon us

From the people that brought you around 3% of the electricity consumed by Britons...

Flamanville-3 has been approved by the EU (how nice of them). And where there's one, there'll be others, especially in a place like France. It looks like nuclear power is here to stay in Europe. That's fortunate because the UK will be needed ever more of French electricity as it continues to allow excessive Greeniness to undermine its efforts to look after its economic needs.

There's a press kit available now on the EDF website.

Christmas is coming: how about a trip to Iran?

Iran is now going to be running tours of its nuclear sites.

It's a bid to encourage the world that their nuclear ambitions are peaceful. Of course, the job would be much easier if the tours were extended to IAEA inspectors.

That reactor does look good though. It's probably well worth a photo op.


A world energy read

Key World Energy Statistcs 2006 from the IEA (2MB pdf)

The most noticeable thing about it is how many colours there are. The second most noticeable thing is that is has lots of statistics in it as you would expect.

The graph comes from page 16 showing the nuclear production. Over the period between 1994 and 2004, nuclear production worldwide grew by 20% and within the OECD by 15%.

You may be wondering where all this OECD capacity came from if nuclear power has been "dead" all these years. First, the OECD includes Japan, which is committing to expanding its nuclear sector as part of a strategy of energy security. Second, just because new reactors are not being built, it doesn't mean that capacity is not being expanded. In the US, efficiency improvements and capacity uprates totalling near 5GW, has achieved the effect of adding capacity, without actually building new units.

So to the question of why there has been no new build recently, why build a new unit when there is so much potential to squeeze more capacity out of the ones you've already got?

How not to provoke a forest of crime fighting trees

If you were a White Wizard going over to the dark side and you wanted to produce an army of ugly guys to conquer all the known world, where would you get the power to run your armory?

You could chop down the neighbouring forest. All the wood is probably rich in energy. It's certainly cheap and easily accessible. But there are some drawbacks.
  1. All the particulate and gaseous emissions from the furnaces are probably not good for health and safety. A happy orc is a productive orc.
  2. If this neighbouring forest happens to be filled with walking, talking trees, who hold a grudge, you might end up getting your just desserts Lovelock style.
  3. All the fire coming out of your domain will give away what you're doing. As a key piece of military infrastructure for the forces of the Black land, remaining covert is best.
Now a small fission reactor may be just what Morgoth ordered. Perhaps a CANDU if you can't spare the resources for enrichment. All emissions are contained so you keep the operation invisible. You keep the air clean and don't have to chop down the forest, thereby not provoking your neighbours. If they do decide to attack you regardless, you can keep the reactor sealed underground so even breaking the dam and flooding the surface won't affect your operation.

Nuclear in general is pretty low key. With fossil fuel power, you have smoke stacks bellowing out large amounts of nefarious matter. With big wind, where once was a large area of unspoiled country now lies a field of large metal spikes. But with nuclear you have a tiny area of land containing a few buildings and big golf ball. Far less shipping of fuel in and waste out too makes the whole place much quieter.

You could probably green it up a bit more too. Perhaps a bit of turf on the containment structure, maybe some flora on it. Okay, you would probably need to do a little engineering to make sure everything didn't slip off. Stick a tree or two on top and you have the latest concept in modern architecture: nuclear hobbit holes.

If that fails, you could just paint the thing with a big nature motif. It would fit the rebranding advice over at Potential Energy. This way, the place doesn't stand out so much amidst the greenery surrounding it, something not possible with fossil fuels and big wind.

It would answer Greenpeace's concerns (if such a thing is ever possible short of catastrophic global cooling in Mordor) about terrorist threat. How could any terrorists fly an airliner into the reactor if they can't find it?

Now that's positive thinking.

Metals and nuclear testing

I usually don't go into issues surrounding nuclear weapons because I don't particularly care to defend them. But there is a rather fun myth going around, usually told as a practical joke. It was tried on me today.

I was observing a technician at one of BP's contractors and he tried to sell me on the notion that the Hiroshima bomb magnetised all the metals on the surface of the planet. As proof of this, he used his screwdriver to lift a screw. Hazaaa!! Both politeness and not thinking about it too much when he said it meant I just nodded.

Apparently, because of this, a tool made from metal recovered from beneath the sea, shielded from this terrible effect somehow, is worth three times as much as a tool made from the horribly deformed magnetised metal from the surface.

The notion, of course, that a nuclear explosion can magnetise anything is bunk. There is such as thing as an electromagnetic pulse, which is a burst of electromagnetic radiation. Metals and electrical equipment can act as antennas for this energy, producing very high voltage power surges, which is damaging to electronics, hence the value of the gamma ray bursts as tactical weapons.

What a bomb can also do is irradiate either through the blast of neutrons or through the dispersal of fallout. Strictly from the untrustworthy grapewine, this irradiation has caused problems for nuclear power stations, whose materials are strictly regulated. The radioactivity in regular metals is too much for it. Any waste from this metal, such as segments of piping, that has not come into contact with any core materials, must be treated a low level waste with all the extra expense that entails.

But magnetising the metals on the surface? No.

The word on Forsmark

Some news from SKI on Forsmark.

The incident at Forsmark 1 did not come near a meltdown, no emissions to
the environment occurred as a consequence of the event, and the number of safety
systems that were activated proved sufficient. A comprehensive evaluation put
the event at 2 on the seven-point INES scale.

The most serious aspect of the incident in SKI's view is that safety
systems that should have been independent of one another were not sufficiently
separate.

So the fearmongering - shock horror! - was baseless. Not only that but it turns out the flaw was a failure to follow the principles of defense-in-depth wth its multiple, independent redundancy. Proper application of defense-in-depth would have prevented all the panic. There is nothing wrong with the principles of nuclear engineering. They just have to be followed.

And even then, the designers of Forsmark-1 still did a good enough job that this error failed to ultimately jeopardise safety in any serious way.

The word on Forsmark

Some news from SKI on Forsmark.

The incident at Forsmark 1 did not come near a meltdown, no emissions to
the environment occurred as a consequence of the event, and the number of safety
systems that were activated proved sufficient. A comprehensive evaluation put
the event at 2 on the seven-point INES scale.

The most serious aspect of the incident in SKI's view is that safety
systems that should have been independent of one another were not sufficiently
separate.

So the fearmongering - shock horror! - was baseless. Not only that but it turns out the flaw was a failure to follow the principles of defense-in-depth wth its multiple, independent redundancy. Proper application of defense-in-depth would have prevented all the panic. There is nothing wrong with the principles of nuclear engineering. They just have to be followed.

And even then, the designers of Forsmark-1 still did a good enough job that this error failed to ultimately jeopardise safety in any serious way.

Panic attack: The second coming!

It's even worse this time because nothing actually happened. A power transient in the Swedish National Grid caused Forsmark-1 to SCRAM. Normally, this would be hard for even Greenpeace to spin this particularly dastardly, but two of the four emergency diesel generators failed to come online. This is fine for keeping the reactor safe, but of course, the purveyors of FUD enjoy wondering what could have happened if the transient had taken out all the generators.

From the NY Times:
Some experts have likened the incident to the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island
nuclear accidents, while industry officials have scoffed at such comparisons.

They're right to scoff. While Chernobyl's meltdown was due to prompt criticality, which allows for an uncontrollable power surge, the near-miss scare stories about the Forsmark SCRAM are all related to a lack of adequate dissipation of decay heat. This scenario is somewhat similar to Three Mile Island, though it would require a drop in coolant levels, for it was the portion of the fuel above the water line in the core, which melted. There was no loss of coolant at Forsmark, so this comparison is also slightly stretching it.

But never doubt the ability of the media and interest groups to turn a relatively benign equipment malfunction into an almost full-scale disaster. It is somewhat telling that what they're calling the worst accident since Chernobyl is entirely based around fear or what might have happened, rather than what did happen. Speaks volume for the safety record of the industry.

Anyway, I have produced a write-up on it.

There's also some good stuff around the blogosphere, particularly from the WNA and NEI.

Panic attack: The second coming!

It's even worse this time because nothing actually happened. A power transient in the Swedish National Grid caused Forsmark-1 to SCRAM. Normally, this would be hard for even Greenpeace to spin this particularly dastardly, but two of the four emergency diesel generators failed to come online. This is fine for keeping the reactor safe, but of course, the purveyors of FUD enjoy wondering what could have happened if the transient had taken out all the generators.

From the NY Times:
Some experts have likened the incident to the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island
nuclear accidents, while industry officials have scoffed at such comparisons.

They're right to scoff. While Chernobyl's meltdown was due to prompt criticality, which allows for an uncontrollable power surge, the near-miss scare stories about the Forsmark SCRAM are all related to a lack of adequate dissipation of decay heat. This scenario is somewhat similar to Three Mile Island, though it would require a drop in coolant levels, for it was the portion of the fuel above the water line in the core, which melted. There was no loss of coolant at Forsmark, so this comparison is also slightly stretching it.

But never doubt the ability of the media and interest groups to turn a relatively benign equipment malfunction into an almost full-scale disaster. It is somewhat telling that what they're calling the worst accident since Chernobyl is entirely based around fear or what might have happened, rather than what did happen. Speaks volume for the safety record of the industry.

Anyway, I have produced a write-up on it.

There's also some good stuff around the blogosphere, particularly from the WNA and NEI.

NEW! Double standards

Throughout the blog, I've made numerous references to double standards the Usual Suspects apply between renewables and nuclear. So I decided it was time to put them together in a proper webpage.

So I did.

I also merged the pages about FUD and motives into a single page.

UPDATE 5/12/6: As quick as it appeared, it's gone. Short half-life. The material is now mostly covered here.