Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

A warning from France, about nuclear delusions of grandeur,

Nuclear: ”  Industrialists are in denial, politicians know nothing about it  

France had the madness of grandeur in wanting to build more and more powerful reactors.

Gaspard d’Allens and Émilie Massemin (Reporterre)  Reporterre 28th May 2022

Nuclear ”  unacceptable  “, ”  industrial disaster  ” of the EPR , France and its ”  delusions of grandeur  “… Pillar of the fight against the atom, the engineer Bernard Laponche warns of the dangers of this technology.

You are reading Bernard Laponche’s great interview. The first part is here .

Reporterre — How do you analyze the return to grace of the nuclear industry by Emmanuel Macron, with the construction of six  EPR2s and the study of eight additional ones  ?

Bernard Laponche — It’s communication  ! This operation is part of the mythology that goes back to General de Gaulle, and that Emmanuel Macron has taken over, according to which civil and military nuclear power is the basis of France’s independence.

EDF ‘s nuclear fleet is going through its worst crisis since its birth. The stalemate of the Flamanville EPR site , the chain shutdowns of reactors due to problems of corrosion and cracks, the problems at the Orano reprocessing plants in La Hague and the manufacture of Mox  [1] in Marcoule, EDF on the verge of bankruptcy … This is unheard of. Between 2010 and 2020, nearly a hundred incidents occurred throughout the park. Bernard Doroszczuk, president of the Nuclear Safety Authority ( ASN ), recognized this on April 7, 2021 during a hearing in the Senate  : “  A nuclear accident is possible in France.  »

In this situation, it seems very difficult to hold a triumphant speech on nuclear power. But the industrialists are in denial, the politicians who promote it know nothing about it. All are surfing on the argument of the fight against climate change to promote the sector.

Why nuclear won’t save the climate  ?

Greenhouse gas emissions are far from negligible. Nuclear fissions in an operating reactor, the source of the energy produced, do not effectively emit CO₂ . But all nuclear activities in a plant in operation – 800 employees on average – or during shutdowns for maintenance work, yes. These activities also very often cause leaks of gases that are very active in global warming, such as refrigerants (1,000 times warmer than CO₂) and especially sulfur hexafluoride (23,500 times more warming). The extraction of uranium from the mines of Canada, Niger and Kazakhstan, the construction of nuclear plants and power stations, the manufacture of nuclear fuels, the transport and storage of radioactive materials and waste also emit considerable quantities of CO ₂ and other greenhouse gases. For example, the work for each fourth ten-year inspection of a 900 megawatt ( MW ) reactor — there are thirty-two of them — mobilizes 5,000 workers, between six months and a year.

…………………………………..  Take the case of the Flamanville EPR : very high CO₂ emissions during construction — several thousand cubic meters of concrete, hundreds of tons of steel and thousands of workers since 2007 — and we do not know still not sure if it will start one day, or when.

Today, nuclear represents only 10 % of the world’s electricity production and only makes it possible to avoid 2.5 % of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. For it to contribute significantly to the fight against climate change, its share in the global electricity mix would have to be multiplied by at least five. Which, given the duration of construction of a plant, is absolutely technically impossible, even in fifty years.

Finally, due to accelerating global warming, power stations on the banks of the river will increasingly be confronted with warming waters and the reduction of this resource, and those on the seashore with rising ocean waters, caused by melting ice.

But above all, the nuclear issue cannot be reduced to greenhouse gas emissions. Other factors must be taken into account when choosing the electricity mix: the risk of a serious or major accident , the radioactive waste which accumulates for thousands of years, the proliferation of nuclear weapons through the enrichment uranium and the production of plutonium, via the reprocessing of irradiated fuel. This technique is unacceptable for the threat it poses to humanity.

As you remember, the setbacks accumulate for the sector. Which do you think is the most serious ?

The management of radioactive waste is very problematic. In the other nuclear-powered countries, irradiated fuel is considered waste as soon as it leaves the reactors. France, on the other hand, reprocesses its irradiated fuel to produce plutonium, initially for the atomic bomb. Nearly 70 tons of this radioactive material are currently stored at La Hague. The plutonium produced is now used to manufacture Mox fuel. Used in about twenty 900  MW reactors , it is more radioactive and more dangerous than ordinary enriched uranium fuel and is not reprocessed once it is irradiated.

The La Hague plant is one of the most dangerous installations in the world. It stores in its pools, unprotected against external attacks, the equivalent of 100 reactor cores in irradiated fuel. And she is aging. Some evaporators are down, preventing the site from operating at full capacity. The risk of bottling the fuels to be reprocessed and saturation of the storage pools is increasing.

It is urgent to stop reprocessing. The Nuclear Safety Authority recently mentioned the difficulties that are accumulating in the management of irradiated fuels. But the sector is stubborn, and prefers to mitigate the risk of saturation by asking to build a new large storage pool .

Even if we stopped reprocessing, the question of waste would still arise. What do you think of the only seriously studied project in France to bury them 500 meters underground in Bure (Meuse) ?

………………….. There are many criticisms and questions about this project, in particular from the Environmental Authority , independent experts, environmental organizations and local populations: on the legacy to future generations of hazardous waste for hundreds of thousands of years, on the risks during the 150-year period of construction and operation, on the choice of clay, on the risks of fire, hydrogen production, water pollution, etc. Such experiences abroad of deep burial of chemical or nuclear waste have proven to be catastrophic: Stocamine in France , Asse in Germany , WIPP in the United States. In addition, the cost of Cigéo, not yet estimated [4] , would be considerable, not to mention the CO ₂ emissions of such a project………………………………..

The number of reactors currently shut down is historically high. How do you assess the state of the park  ?

France had the madness of grandeur in wanting to build more and more powerful reactors.

After the French natural uranium graphite gas ( UNGG ) model was abandoned in 1969, France bought the American Westinghouse license for pressurized water reactors. Framatome  [5] was tasked with implementing the 1974 Messmer plan and delivered the first 900  MW reactors under Westinghouse license. EDF has thus built 34 reactors in less than ten years, which is a performance.

Framatome then developed a 1,300  MW model , then achieved a further power jump of around 1,450  MW . This latest model presented design problems from the start. The Civaux and Chooz plants were delivered two years late.

The difficulties continued with the EPR , of 1,650  MW , a veritable industrial disaster. The Flamanville EPR began construction in 2007 and was due to start in 2012. It has accumulated failures: concrete of its platform, welds to be redone several times, refusal of control command, falsification of equipment certificates, delivery of a non-compliant tank… The cost of the EPR , initially established at 3 billion euros, is now estimated at 19 billion euros by the Court of Auditors . The two Taishan reactors in China, built faster and commissioned in 2018 and 2019, are shut downsince the discovery of radioactive leaks from damaged fuel sheaths – without the cause of this phenomenon being understood yet.

……….. Every time you increase the power of a reactor, you have to redesign everything. The calculations to be performed are extremely complex. But if these leaks turned out to be linked to a design problem, it would be catastrophic for EDF , because all the EPRs would be affected.

Finally, for several months, EDF has been faced with a problem of corrosion and cracks on the emergency cooling circuits connected to the primary circuit of several reactors in the fleet, primarily its most powerful reactors (1,450 megawatts) at Civaux and Chooz, but also those of 1,300  MW and probably those of 900  MW . The Civaux, Chooz and Penly reactors have been shut down for several months and will perhaps remain so for years, for inspections after cutting and examination of the parts concerned in the safety cooling circuits ( RIS ) and the cooling circuits at the stop ( RRA), for repair. All reactors must be checked by the end of 2023. The cause of these faults is still poorly explained  [6] and would be multifactorial: quality of the steel of the parts, method of welding, layout of the circuits…

Currently, between a third and a half of EDF ‘s reactors are shut down due to these difficulties and almost daily incidents on such and such a reactor.

During the war in Ukraine, civilian nuclear power became a military target with the seizure of the Chernobyl and Zaporijia power plants. How do you view this new risk  ?

In Ukraine, the Chernobyl power plant, located on the northern border with Belarus, was equipped with four Soviet RBMK reactors commissioned between 1974 and 1983. After the 1986 disaster on reactor 4, the other three were definitively stopped between 1991 and 2000. There now remains on the site the destroyed reactor containing the molten core protected by a sarcophagus, a new arch intended to confine the radioactivity, but not at all designed to withstand strikes ; three reactors to be dismantled ; as well as storage facilities for irradiated fuel and radioactive waste. Many workers remain on site. The entry of Russian tanks into the prohibited fenced area of ​​​​2,600 km 2produced significant resuspension of radioactive aerosols and air contamination. Russian soldiers who dug trenches were irradiated. On March 30, the Russian army began to evacuate the Chernobyl site.

( Zaporizhia)…………………………………..The reactors, even shut down, and the storage facilities for irradiated fuels, must be supplied with cooling water and therefore constantly supplied with electricity. They are therefore extremely fragile vis-à-vis any external aggression in a situation of armed conflict or terrorist attack. Even if the reactor itself is not targeted, any bombardment, missile or shell can lead to a loss of water, by the piercing of a pipe for example, or of electricity by loss of the network or lack of fuel for emergency diesels. With the key to a risk of serious accident as in Three Mile Island (United States), even major as in Fukushima and Chernobyl. This intrinsic fragility is a warning for all nuclear plants and power stations in the world.

 Reporterre 28th May 2022  https://reporterre.net/Nucleaire-Les-industriels-sont-dans-le-deni-les-politiques-n-y-connaissent-rien

May 30, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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