Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

No advantage in ‘new’ back-to-the-future nuclear reactors for Australia. Is the real motive military?

It is a spurious argument to say any reactor type will reduce Australia’s power industry high level nuclear waste when we produce zero at the moment.
only a devotee of nuclear power would see any advantage in introducing any type of nuclear reactor to Australia. Unless the real motive for such a reactor is a military motive. If so, the O’Brien Committee and the government need to come clean on that.
The waste from the very first molten salt fuelled and cooled reactor, as we saw in the previous post, continues to cost US taxpayers money 60 years later.
The sub text of the picture admits that nuclear industry cannot keep going in the way that it has done since the days between 1945 and now. The industry would disappear if it did not “modernise”.  
Seeing as there actually no new concepts, why not look again, in desperation, at the rejected designs of the past?

Part 2 of A Study of the “Report of the inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia” Australian Parliamentary Committee 2020.       The Industry Push to Force Nuclear Power in Australia    

The Parliamentary Committee recommends, in part, the following: Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government undertake a body of work to progress the understanding of nuclear energy technology by:

  1. Commissioning the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), or other equivalent expert reviewer, to undertake a technological assessment on nuclear energy reactors to:
    1. produce a list of reactors that are defined under the categories of Generation I, II, III, III+ and IV;
    2. advise on the technological status of Generation III+ and Generation IV reactors including small modular reactors;
    3. advise on the feasibility and suitability of Generation III+ and Generation IV reactors including small modular reactors in the Australian context; and
    4.  formulate a framework to be used by Government to monitor the status of new and emerging nuclear technologies.The first item of the recommendation – for ANTSO to compile of reactors according to each one’s status within the table of Generation – 1 to 4 might be a good idea, for many of the Generation IV reactor designs were first envisaged and trialled in the 1950s and 1960s before being discarded. Whereas, at the present time, and since the time the US Department of Energy sought ways of halting the decline of nuclear power’s percentage contribution to global energy supply in the 1990s. For that is the time that the idea of resurrecting old designs and calling them new and “Generation IV” and re marketing them first arose

The waste from the very first molten salt fuelled and cooled reactor, as we saw in the previous post, continues to cost US taxpayers money 60 years later.

In 2014 the Brookings Institute published an essay by Josh Freed entitled “Back to the Future, Advanced Nuclear Energy and the Battle Against Climate Change”. This essay is available to read at http://csweb.brookings.edu/content/research/essays/2014/backtothefuture.html The cover illustration is very interesting.

The titled cover includes the disclosure that the nuclear industry sees a future for previously discarded, old reactor designs. It shows a nuclear reactor sitting below sea level, protected by a combined Dyke / Causeway for levitating vehicles. Huge waves threaten the Dyke, vehicles, reactor and giant Science Woman, who is watching on with skilled impartiality. In the distance, buildings taken straight from the cartoon “The Jetsons” appear. The illustration is also, actually, a reinterpretation of the events which occurred in March 2011 at Fukushima. The sub text of the picture admits that nuclear industry cannot keep going in the way that it has done since the days between 1945 and now. The industry would disappear if it did not “modernise”.

The fission industry is dying as more and more competition arises in the form of alternative technologies in the energy generation technology market. Even Fusion research continues to make inroads toward the goal of successful and economic power generation, but it still a few years off. The 1930s fission patents of Szilard are long in the tooth and actually, in terms of economic energy production has always been a failure. Kick started by governments, the standard designs are trusted by fewer and fewer people, especially throughout Asia. Westinghouse Nuclear, GE Nuclear, Toshiba Nuclear are all bankrupt. British Nuclear Fuels Ltd is broke, Sellafield is broke and a growing cleanup cost liability.

So increasingly, the industry needs a unique selling point, something new and radical, something that solves the old nuclear problems. It needs a product which never fails or spills radioactive materials into the biosphere, it needs a product that will not fail because the grid goes down for a few days, it cannot melt down, catch fire like Windscale, Monju and Fermi 1 did.

Seeing as there actually no new concepts, why not look again, in desperation, at the rejected designs of the past? The essay by Josh Freed (his real name) mentions a company called Transatomic. In contrast to the contents of the Freed article, which claims the old new reactor envisioned by Transatomic run on nuclear waste, Transatomic make no such claim. They state that their proposed reactor would run on liquid uranium fuel. As per the original 50s/60s design. They claim that the Molten salt reactor would create less weight of high level waste.

Because the waste would be continuously removed from the reactor. he corporate website for Transatomic is here: http://www.transatomicpower.com/the-science/ And this, from their web site, is precisely what they promise: Molten salt reactors like Transatomic Power’s are fueled by uranium dissolved in a liquid salt. The fuel is not surrounded by cladding, making it possible to continuously remove the fission products that would otherwise stop the nuclear reaction. The liquid fuel is also much more resistant to structural damage from radiation than solid materials – simply, liquids have very little structure to be damaged. With proper filtration, liquid fuel can remain in a molten salt reactor for decades, allowing us to extract much more of its energy.” end quote. They claim their reactor design produces half the nuclear waste of a comparable conventional light water reactor.

This still does not solve the high level nuclear waste stockpile. It adds to it. Given the competition nuclear power has in the modern world, given that the need for ‘baseload’ energy is now shown to be nonsense, what would 1 or 2 small modular molten salt reactors add to Australia? Would they merely replace coal fire powered generation? SA has not had coal fired electricity for some years now. A combination of solar, wind and storage in SA means SA is a net electricity exporter to the Eastern States. We have back up of gas fired generation which very rarely needed.

Sadly for Transatomic, Green Tech Media state the following at https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/transatomic-to-shutter-its-nuclear-reactor-plans-make-its-technology-public announced the following in 2018:

“Transatomic to Shutter It’s Nuclear Reactor Plans, Open-Source It’s Tecnology.

The startup backed by Peter Thiel won’t be able to build its advanced reactor designs—but it’s making its IP available for others to carry on the work.” Source: Jeff St. John, 25 Sept 2018.as given above.

This gift to the world by Transatomic occurred at the time in Australia when various people began a bombastic and highly enthused campaign to convince Australians that Molten Salt Reactors, fuelled with either Uranium or Lithium or nuclear waste, were Jesus Mark 2. “We’ll Save Yer, just like we did in the Cold War. Solar and batteries are for whimps. We Can’t have solar and wind power in Australia, its a threat to Queensland Coal. Let’s nuclear instead and all make a quick a buck with IP”.

Funny that. Talk about drumming up business prospects and investment funds, and in 2020, floating a float on the back of sympathetic and one eyed Parliamentary Inquiry!

Double or Nothing?

The promise made by Transatomics is that molten fuel/molten salt reactors made with modern techniques will reduce by roughly half the amount of high level nuclear waste generated per unit of power generated. However, at the current time the amount of high level nuclear waste (ie, fission products -the transmutation products described in Szilard’s 1930s patents) and the release of the gaseous forms of these substances into the atmosphere, generated by Australian electricity generation is ZERO.

So the introduction of Molten Salt Reactor into Australia for electricity production will RAISE the production of high level nuclear waste from this activity by 100%. It won’t half, it won’t double, it will increase by x grams per watt. It is a spurious argument to say any reactor type will reduce Australia’s power industry high level nuclear waste when we produce zero at the moment. And if Australia continues on its non nuclear path, that zero rate of power related high level waste will remain zero forever. So where is the advantage for Australia in introducing power reactors in the civilian sphere?

I am led to believe that it will take between 10 – 20 years for any Australian nuclear power reactor to come on line from the time it is approved. By that stage the competition from other forms of low carbon power production will be much, much more severe than it is now. And today, in my opinion, only a devotee of nuclear power would see any advantage in introducing any type of nuclear reactor to Australia. Unless the real motive for such a reactor is a military motive. If so, the O’Brien Committee and the government needs to come clean on that. Not that they will. Such an admission is likely to be impossible for several reasons. Besides, no nuclear industry is free to fully disclose the corporate production and disposition of “special nuclear materials”.

So, I suppose in the end the Committee recommend ANTSO compile a list of reactor types and nominate the current industry PR terms for each type. For the Generational types (1 through IV) have actually very little to do with the chronological order and date range over which each type first manifest as a prototype. The small World War 2 German reactors, of which there were many, are little known, and the US ALSOS project has not disclosed that much about them. Germany had at least 4 reactor programs, 7 ways of enriching uranium. Japan had an Army fission project, a Navy fission project, an Air Force Fission project. All were formally abandoned, ironically , in July 1945. Germany was able to enrich uranium.

This is ancient history, but the world remains fairly ignorant I think, as to which reactor type is the safest, most economic, most reliable and so on. So far, all I have heard from the nuclear industry is PR manufactured originally by the US Department of Energy which relabelled the various reactor designs originated in the US according to a “Generation Number” which is completely detached from the chronological sequence in which they occurred.

In World War 2 Germany was working on heavy water reactors. Does that mean Hitler’s heavy water reactors were Generation III+ ? Of course not. They were Gen 1. As was the Canadian heavy water reactor of World War 2 which supplemented the US plutonium production at Hansford. If the Candu reactor is Gen III+ I’m Father Christmas. What the US DOE is doing with its naming is using marketing techniques to sell old concepts as new ideas.

Car companies do the same when naming cars. Makers of garbage trucks send salesmen around to Council depots extolling the virtues of the Gen IV 2 ton rubbish truck, complete with compactor, a tilt tray and 8 track stereo sound. And Depot managers get given toy model rubbish trucks they sit on their book cases to show how technically astute they are in the field of garbage.

Same deal here. It’s a no brainer. Yet, start collecting lists from ANSTO Mr. O’Brien. Great idea sir. It’ll keep you off the streets for awhile.

March 3, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, spinbuster

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