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Nuclear reactor safety (split from sea levels (which was split from lunar tides))


Rakaydos
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4 minutes ago, MKI said:

Speaking of Radioactivity, has any country seriously re-considered re-implementing (or already has) nuclear power? I know it was more of the rage a few decades ago, but idk where it sits now. Last I checked nuclear isn't really renewable, but it can be clean when done correctly and provide a solid bridge for renewable power in the mean time, and for a long time at that.

 

Until 10 years from now we get the fusion ;D

The biggest problem with fission is that it takes literal decades to build a new plant, once you figure all the paperwork to make sure  you're not building on a fault line or volcano and the walls will be thick enough not to irradiate the workers and you have a solid plan for dealing with the waste, ect ect. All rational concerns when dealing with a potential Chernobyl, but in the time and money it takes to build one, you'd get more out of building renewables.

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2 hours ago, RCgothic said:

It takes about 5 years to build an established design of nuclear plant with an established industry. See France, world leader in clean energy.

Did anyone ever explain why it costs more to build the second / third reactor of the same design?

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44 minutes ago, JoeSchmuckatelli said:

Did anyone ever explain why it costs more to build the second / third reactor of the same design?

The study I quoted there has this to say in brief:

Quote

Tightening safety regulations were responsible for some of the cost increase, but declining labor productivity also played a significant role.

https://energy.mit.edu/news/building-nuclear-power-plants/

More detail is available in the section, "Sources of Increasing Cost."

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2 hours ago, JoeSchmuckatelli said:

Did anyone ever explain why it costs more to build the second / third reactor of the same design?

For one thing existing designs seem to be struggling with the extremer weather that comes with the changing climate, so those designs probably need to be upgraded as well. Seems like there's no silver bullet.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/07/climate-events-are-the-leading-cause-of-nuclear-power-outages/

 

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Fission reactors in the 1960's to the 1980's had very good development speed and for their lifetime the cost was completely reasonable.

On 7/31/2021 at 2:35 AM, SunlitZelkova said:

So the thing in Japan in regards to opposition to nuclear power seems to be that the prevalence of very powerful natural disasters makes nuclear power feel risky. However Fukushima was very clearly a management and design issue with that particular plant, not related to nuclear power as a whole.

Fukushima has two very good lessons that rarely get mentioned.  Another power plant of the exact same design was closer to the tsunami impact.  But that company had engineers that did a proper assessment of the risk and built a sufficiently high sea wall.  So even though the reactor was shut down, the site didn't get flooded and its backup generators didn't get drowned, so the cooling pond circulation was maintained.  The reactor and cooling pond design was crap and those plants should be decommissioned and replaced, but even more important is doing proper site engineering.

EDIT
Onagawa: The Japanese nuclear power plant that didn’t melt down on 3/11
https://thebulletin.org/2014/03/onagawa-the-japanese-nuclear-power-plant-that-didnt-melt-down-on-3-11/

The other lesson is the evacuation.  Which shouldn't have happened because it killed people.  Like most nuclear contamination, it's better to shelter in place, determine exactly what happened, stop anything further release, wait for the short half-life material to decay and clean up the rest.

Better is a design that even in the wore cases won't release radioactivity.

And shutting down reactors now has Japan getting power from burning coal.  Which means more radioactive release.  Because that's allowed, as it's "natural" radioactivity. :(

 

 

Edited by Jacke
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On 7/31/2021 at 2:58 AM, Jacke said:

So the thing in Japan in regards to opposition to nuclear power seems to be that the prevalence of very powerful natural disasters makes nuclear power feel risky. However Fukushima was very clearly a management and design issue with that particular plant, not related to nuclear power as a whole.

But that argument works both ways. Yes, apparently it is possible to build and operate safe reactors, even in disaster-prone areas. But if they manage to get it wrong in a process-obsessed country like Japan, what are the chances that despite the best intentions, we do end up with unsafe plants?

"While the nuclear industry is safe and clean, as a whole the possibility of a disaster  with large area ramifications is a near-certainty"

I'm not against nuclear power but it continues to amaze me that, as an industry, the total lack of understanding that saying "it's impossible for things to happen" when every decade or so something happens is not going to win the trust of the public. Too many engineers in charge is my guess.

 

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2 hours ago, Kerbart said:

But that argument works both ways. Yes, apparently it is possible to build and operate safe reactors, even in disaster-prone areas. But if they manage to get it wrong in a process-obsessed country like Japan, what are the chances that despite the best intentions, we do end up with unsafe plants?

I think you're getting it back-to-front.  That even in Japan, they get it wrong.  But they can also get it right, because at Onagawa another corporation got it right, to the point that the Onagawa reactor was the local evacuation safe site, even thought it received a greater tsunami impact.

TEPCO got it wrong.  Let's dig into that and find out why it went right in one location and wrong in another.  Then work to fix things so that all of them get it right.

Edited by Jacke
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If we have 1 major nuclear related disaster every decade or so is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Obviously its bad in terms of there was a problem. But how many nuclear plants are working 24/7 just fine all over the world for decades without any issue? Furthermore how much power do those generate in their lifespans compared to more traditional means, which also have their own issues, just not as "radioactive" ;D

 

If the goal is to find a reason to not go nuclear (disaster/issues) there's plenty of "large scale evidence" because every time there is a problem, it turns into a big deal. But, what is its safety overall when comparing those "once in a decade" disasters to how many are running no problem?

 

 

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1 hour ago, MKI said:

If we have 1 major nuclear related disaster every decade or so is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Obviously its bad in terms of there was a problem. But how many nuclear plants are working 24/7 just fine all over the world for decades without any issue? Furthermore how much power do those generate in their lifespans compared to more traditional means, which also have their own issues, just not as "radioactive" ;D

 

If the goal is to find a reason to not go nuclear (disaster/issues) there's plenty of "large scale evidence" because every time there is a problem, it turns into a big deal. But, what is its safety overall when comparing those "once in a decade" disasters to how many are running no problem?

 

 

A couple "off the bat" reactions to this-

1. Well if we are hypothetically going to have 1 major nuclear related disaster every decade it becomes a guessing game for everyone who lives around a nuclear power plant as to "who will be next".

2. If you are continually having disasters, that is still a problem despite the low frequency.

IIRC, most major nuclear accidents have been caused by management issues anyways however, so it isn't a problem with nuclear power itself as much as it is the way we *have* gone about doing nuclear power. I think "it was only one" is a poor argument in defence of nuclear power though, because despite it being only one that "one" was major and presumably immensely bad.

Instead of trying to excuse or downplay such problems because of their low tendency to cause a major accident, it would be better to say "there is a potential number of bad things that could happen, but this is how we are going to prevent such issues".

As to how easy it would be to such fix such issues I have no idea. One might argue that solving management and personnel related issues is even hard than engineering related issues.

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2 hours ago, MKI said:

If we have 1 major nuclear related disaster every decade or so is that a good thing or a bad thing?

What about all the non-nuclear disasters?  For something on the low end of the scale right close to where I live, there's the Hub Oil explosion back in 1999.  Sure, *only* two people died, but read down at the bottom under "Site Remediation" for what was needed to be done.

That's one little chemical plant explosion.  How many of them or similar events happen?

They go up to Bhopal disaster in 1984.  Like the nuclear incidents, a complex set of shortcuts and failings lead to the event, but much more criminal here.   Lots of deaths.  What's worse, many who survived did so with lung damage.  Which means they had a very high fatality rate when COVID-19 came to India.  Including journalist Rajkumar Keswani, who reported on many of the wrongs leading up to the event and afterwards.

The nuclear industry, with all the stupid things done which lead to incidents which lead to contamination, injury, and death, is run better that all other technical industries around the world.  There can be flaws (like Fukushima and TEPCO), but there are those who do learn and do the right thing (like Onagawa and the Tohoku Electric Power Company).

There's a lot of room to improve and it can be done.  It takes good ideas being developed, tested, and used, like engineers getting surgeons to use checklists to improve surgery and reduce mistakes.  I've heard of that from the nuclear industry and not enough from elsewhere.

 

2 hours ago, MKI said:

Obviously its bad in terms of there was a problem. But how many nuclear plants are working 24/7 just fine all over the world for decades without any issue? Furthermore how much power do those generate in their lifespans compared to more traditional means, which also have their own issues, just not as "radioactive"

Some of the problems with other industries is literally radioactive, like burning coal.

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3 hours ago, SunlitZelkova said:

IIRC, most major nuclear accidents have been caused by management issues anyways however, so it isn't a problem with nuclear power itself as much as it is the way we *have* gone about doing nuclear power. I think "it was only one" is a poor argument in defense of nuclear power though, because despite it being only one that "one" was major and presumably immensely bad.

But that seems to be the problem with large nuclear powerplants. The question then becomes: how do we take management, out of the equation all together? I'm hopeful about small thorium/salt reactors that can run autonomously and be buried underground without any need for intervention; the less can go wrong.

 

2 hours ago, Jacke said:

What about all the non-nuclear disasters?  For something on the low end of the scale right close to where I live, there's the Hub Oil explosion back in 1999.  Sure, *only* two people died, but read down at the bottom under "Site Remediation" for what was needed to be done.

That's one little chemical plant explosion.  How many of them or similar events happen?

The after-effects of those disasters are short-lived and impact a relative small area. The fallout from Chernobyl (see what I did there?) lasted over 20 years for farmers in Norway and Scotland with hundreds of thousands of sheep producing unusable milk and meat.

In addition, if a chemical plant blows up, 90% of the damage is visible. Nuclear contamination is invisible and in the aftermath locals have to rely on government reports how safe things are; the same government that told them in the first place that everything was perfectly safe and nothing, absolutely nothing could happen.

From a rational point of view it's hard to argue with nuclear energy but it's such an amazing PR disaster that makes it an incredible hard sell.

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On 7/30/2021 at 9:35 PM, MKI said:

Last I checked nuclear isn't really renewable

Anyway, to the shock of many (except probably the French government ;)) it's made it into the EU Taxonomy of green projects.

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12 minutes ago, DDE said:

  

Anyway, to the shock of many (except probably the French government ;)) it's made it into the EU Taxonomy of green projects.

Nuclear is in an awkward place, classification wise. Technically, mined uranum is not a renewable resource, but because it isnt formed from compressed carbon products, it isnt a "fossil fuel". If green is defined as "not contributing to climate change", then nuclear absolutely IS a GREEN technology. But it still is NOT a RENEWABLE energy source, only a long-lasting one.

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20 hours ago, Kerbart said:

But that seems to be the problem with large nuclear powerplants. The question then becomes: how do we take management, out of the equation all together? I'm hopeful about small thorium/salt reactors that can run autonomously and be buried underground without any need for intervention; the less can go wrong.

I don't think anything can be designed to be a perfect. Obviously less people = less risk, but this is a known factor with any system.

20 hours ago, Kerbart said:

From a rational point of view it's hard to argue with nuclear energy but it's such an amazing PR disaster that makes it an incredible hard sell.

To think just roughly 60 years ago, everyone would of been clamoring for nuclear technology, and now its a "tough hard sell". Thats 1 lifetime, I wonder if  such technologies could make their way back into the good side of the public eye on a more widespread level. Because with humanity's energy needs, going nuclear seems like the next logical step... until someone figures out fusion in the next 10 years :P 

 

Fun-fact, I have a shelf of uranium glass in the other room ^.^

Edited by MKI
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58 minutes ago, MKI said:

To think just roughly 60 years ago, everyone would of been clamoring for nuclear technology, and now its a "tough hard sell". Thats 1 lifetime, I wonder if  such technologies could make their way back into the good side of the public eye on a more widespread level. Because with humanities energy needs, going nuclear seems like the next logical step... until someone figures out fusion in the next 10 years :P 

Presented without any context to offer:

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^ I really hope so. We need nuclear power in this world right now. Green renewables are great and all, but they aren't going to be enough basically ever, and we can't wait until fusion becomes economically viable. We can't afford to keep using fossils as a stop-gap for this long, and nuclear is the only alternative we have right now.

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1 hour ago, K^2 said:

^ I really hope so. We need nuclear power in this world right now. Green renewables are great and all, but they aren't going to be enough basically ever, and we can't wait until fusion becomes economically viable. We can't afford to keep using fossils as a stop-gap for this long, and nuclear is the only alternative we have right now.

But fusion as a viable energy source is only 20 years away!!

(of course it's always 20 years away, including 20 years from now...)

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18 hours ago, MKI said:

I don't think anything can be designed to be a perfect. Obviously less people = less risk, but this is a known factor with any system.

To think just roughly 60 years ago, everyone would of been clamoring for nuclear technology, and now its a "tough hard sell". Thats 1 lifetime, I wonder if  such technologies could make their way back into the good side of the public eye on a more widespread level. Because with humanity's energy needs, going nuclear seems like the next logical step... until someone figures out fusion in the next 10 years :P 

 

Fun-fact, I have a shelf of uranium glass in the other room ^.^

Modern American reactors are already as safe as they can be made. The containment vessel is 1m thick reinforced concrete that's impervious to any breach short of a warhead. It uses the water itself as the moderator, so in the event of a leak or localized overheating the reaction will stop. Finally, it uses convection instead of active pumping so there's no danger associated with loss of electrical power. 

 The dry cask storage and transport of the waste is also completely safe. It's fun to watch the films of the torture tests the NTSB put them through. 

 If there's any achilles heel to safety, it's the transfer of spent rods to and storage in the cooling pond. The cooling pond must remain filled with water and some safeguard in place for the possible chemical explosion that could result from overheated rods, such as a natural catastrophe somehow draining the cooling pond.

Rakaydos is correct in that the biggest problem is the exorbitant up front cost and long lead time. Also the NIMBY objections by people who don't realize just how safe these designs are.

I also concur with K^2; Green renewable energy has made great strides and all, but it is still only a tiny fraction of our energy source and cannot be implemented quickly enough to take over the lion's share of our energy needs on a timescale measured in decades.

Best,

-Slashy 

Edited by GoSlash27
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I'm enjoying the parenthetical retitling of the threads lately. 

 

That out of the way - the Green movement proponents of the 80s who were so vehemently against nuclear have actually been part of the resurgence in interest in nuclear, from what I can tell.  Some of the more educated among them looked at the coal / petrochemical pollution risk vs long term nuclear risks and they are actually now advocating for nuclear energy, while others are simply not protesting. 

There is still the NIMBY problem... But more than that - getting plants completed and new ones authorized is a problem 

https://www.google.com/amp/s/api.nationalgeographic.com/distribution/public/amp/environment/article/nuclear-plants-are-closing-in-the-us-should-we-build-more

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On 8/2/2021 at 5:53 PM, SunlitZelkova said:

Instead of trying to excuse or downplay such problems because of their low tendency to cause a major accident, it would be better to say "there is a potential number of bad things that could happen, but this is how we are going to prevent such issues".

SunlitZelkova,

 As I said in my previous post, the 'potential number of bad things that could happen' have been addressed. We have found ways to prevent them and they are implemented in the design.  It is literally impossible for anything like TMI, Chernobyl, or Fukushima to ever happen in modern designs.

 While management can be blamed for previous failures (aside from Fukushima), the ultimate blame rests with designs that were insufficiently 'fail safe' to tolerate such mismanagement in the first place.   

Best,

-Slashy

Edited by GoSlash27
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