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From what I've heard (through two or three levels of separation), the regulatory agency on Nuclear power is stiflingly draconian. Getting any kind of new technology implemented is prohibitively difficult and expensive, which just adds to the list of disincentives in venturing into nuclear power.



The regulatory agency on Nuclear power is stiflingly draconian.

That's a feature. It's why Harrisburg, PA is still populated.


You don't need Draconian regulation to have effective regulation.


Average time from final designs to shovel in the ground is about 10 years. So already your tech is obsolete by the time you start building. I do agree there should be TIGHT regulations, but there certainly is a limit. Also, it has a lack of subsidies, compared to the other sectors.


So already your tech is obsolete by the time you start building.

Cutting edge tech tends to be unproven and unreliable tech. When you can lose an entire city if things go wrong, worrying about having the latest tech is the wrong priority.


Who said anything about cutting edge? I don't care what you're building, but 10-20 years between when you start to design and have a finished product is too much time.

They have a lot of research reactors, but honestly, the only way you're going to get bigger and safer reactors is if you scale up those research reactors. There is literally no other way. And we WANT to improve safety. Don't we? I'm not saying to use cutting edge. I'm saying use what has been proven at smaller scale and is well tested. Not two generation old technology.

> When you can lose an entire city if things go wrong

This is EXTREMELY unlikely. Even when things go wrong.


This is EXTREMELY unlikely. Even when things go wrong.

It may currently be extremely unlikely -- due to the very regulations and processes you are decrying. But, if people like you get their way, the odds go up of seriously bad things happening.


This is actually how the industry as a whole thinks. I like to think expert advice, especially on difficult to understand concepts (hey, we're talking atomic physics here), should be held with more credibility than the layman.

I work in a related industry, part of which is in space radiation mitigation. If you have any real questions about disasters I'll be happy to answer the best that I can. But forgive me if it appears to me that you are the one who is jumping to conclusions, preventing real progress, and harming lives.


I used to moderate a gifted list. It was around 300 people, all of whom were used to being the smartest person in the room. So they tended to default to assuming that if you disagreed with them, you were merely uninformed and stupid. It took a while to convince people to talk to each other respectfully and from an assumption that both people are smart and informed and their different points of view are not merely evidence of stupidity.

I occasionally see that same pattern play out on Hacker News. It would behoove you to check your ego at the door and assume that most of the people you speak with here are also well informed. In the mean time, I see no real reason to try to engage you further. Meaty discussion is never founded on chest-beating and condescension.


How would you balance the two? From my experience "most" industry is ~10-20 years behind research. That's how long it takes to work out the kinks, be that mobile phones, cloud computing or AI. So while the US and Europe mess around spending stupid money on ITER the Chinese will be rolling out molton salt reactors leaving the west behind, and that 'sucks'. But these are big projects, running them like a Turkish ticket website would be a catastrophe. How exactly would do you re-balance the checks and balances?


So there are certain aspects that can be be iterated upon faster than others. Something like shielding is going to be faster, and can be iterated upon, compared to something like the main reactor. That may also be because that's what I'm more familiar with.

I am also in favor of more small reactors, vs fewer large reactors. I think this provides a higher safety level and ease of upgrading. Plus you can just bury these entire reactors in the ground.

As for regulation, I agree that it should be strict. But the process needs to be streamlined so it doesn't take too long. That time is prohibitive to the technology (see the new reactor construction and it bankrupting Westinghouse). I don't have the answers to how you would optimize the system, but I think think we need to open the discussion up. Start asking questions like "Is covering the first $12b of damage reasonable for all reactor types and sizes?" "How do we ensure that a reactor type is ready to move from research to production?" And such. I don't think "let China test them" is a reasonable response either. The questions get brushed off because most of the public is still afraid of the technology (see this thread. I doubt many of HN users has worked anywhere related to this field, but look at how many have strong opinions). But the people that work in it have less fear. It is like working with anything dangerous, you have to always be aware of it, but that doesn't make it too dangerous to even handle.


From what ive read about nuclear technology, the reason the west has big non salt reactors is that they wanted them for making nuclear bombs. providing energy was a by product of making nuclear weapons.

That also accounts for much of the delays, they are using the tech for so many naughty things they need to wait for staff turnover on the project so no one knows too much about what they are doing.

So while I agree we need to "open the discussion up", I dont believe that discussion will be allowed because of the war politics involved.


> wanted them for making nuclear bombs

This was definitely a big part, but there's a lot that goes into it. Things like enrichment plants. The proportions of 235 vs 238 is substantially different in a bomb vs power plant. This is how we can tell what the Iranians are doing. So using big uranium plants is an excuse to make a lot of 235 and 239Pu.

But just because the past was focused on war efforts, doesn't mean the future needs to be. Many technologies transition from the military to public sectors. And I'm happy to see that talk about nuclear in the news more often, because I think this is the way to open up the discussion. Unfortunately, more people currently oppose nuclear[1]. And one of the most harmful things I see is that there is this idea that the tech isn't green. Because we don't have a battle of green vs nuke vs fossil fuels. It is really green vs fossil.

[1] http://www.gallup.com/poll/190064/first-time-majority-oppose...


By design.

People will oppose/support whatever they are told to as a general rule.

if facts mattered, we would never of had a majority of people supporting the dropping of white phosphorus on the kids of Iraq (at the time)

It wasnt that long ago people were being told wind and solar "would never be green" due to the manufacturing costs.

But none of that changes the basic question. how would you balance the over design v speed trade off. Especially when every change to the initial design adds a few mill $'s to the bill.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/climate/nuclear-power-pro...


> People will oppose/support whatever they are told to as a general rule.

I would argue that this prevents total human progress though. But we won't get into that because it is a huge discussion.

Again, I'm only in a related field, so take my answers with a grain of salt (pun intended). I also don't have the answers to regulations. That is an extremely complicated topic. But I can bring up problems that I'm aware of.

I also don't know how to speed up the bureaucracy. I'm a scientist, not a politician. We have some reactors in the US that were built in <5 years. This is true in other countries too. <5 year construction time is reasonable to me. Just not 10. When you're operating for 25 years that is too large of a percentage. My simple answer would be "look at what has been effective in the past and emulate it. Improve upon it." But I think there is little drive to do this given the public opinion. And I think it would take a large study to figure this out, though I'm sure someone has but I'm not aware of it.

The most important thing I think that needs to be changed is that there needs to be a smoother path from research reactors to commercial reactors. I know a major problem is that no one will insure new reactors. There is this idea that if it hasn't been done commercially then it is unproven. I'm sure part of this is fear and part is bureaucracy. Unfortunately we always have to take a leap at some point. We can't just wait for China to build reactors and say "Oh, well it works there, so it is proven." China wouldn't be building them if they weren't confident in the designs.

I am also in favor of smaller reactors. Many of these newer generation reactors can be created quite small. Their outputs are lower than the large reactors, but you gain a significant level of safety. This is on top of the benefits from new generation reactors (less waste, significantly higher efficiency, and passive meltdown mitigation solutions). I think a way to encourage the use of smaller reactors is to reduce the max pay for cleanup in event of disaster. Currently plant owners must cover the first $12b (which is significantly more expensive than the average cleanup cost in the US). If you have smaller reactors they literally cannot contaminate as much.

> NYT article

Here we're running into the problem where things are cheaper when they are mass produced. When you don't build reactors for quite some time you have to reinvent processes. Now I will also say that the AP1000 is a gen III+ reactor (and has passive protection), but the Watts-Bar is gen II. Also remember that the first gen III was built in 1985 (commissioned in 1980). We've been slow to implement new technology in this field. The average of tech is around 20 years since invention to mass production, we're nowhere near that. This may be just personal frustration because I work in an area where two industries are extremely slow to implement progressive designs, space and nuclear.

Why I, and many others, think nuclear is essential for the future (you can find a lot about this in the most recent Paris talks): It is the only significant energy source that can provide constant power (and a lot of it). Wind and solar do not operate continuously, and are highly dependent upon environmental conditions. Hydro and geothermal also don't have these limitations. We currently don't have the battery storage technology to utilize a power system based upon only wind, solar, hydro, and geo thermal. Adding nuclear to this suite of technologies helps fill that gap, while being extremely environmentally friendly. The waste isn't nearly the problem that the public thinks it is, mainly because there isn't much total waste.


So, I was with you right up until you got back on your hobby horse of insisting that other people on HN are merely stupid idiots with unfounded opinions and this is the only reason they might disagree with you:

The questions get brushed off because most of the public is still afraid of the technology (see this thread. I doubt many of HN users has worked anywhere related to this field, but look at how many have strong opinions).

This is not a good basis from which to make an argument and it actively undermines the process of effective public discourse.

I am trying to be helpful here. I am sure you won't see it that way because it is public and it is critical of your remarks and that won't feel very good. But, maybe you could be the one in a million people who decides to use that fact as evidence of the truth in my statements that attacking other people doesn't strengthen your argument instead of being one of the other 999,999 people who just insist what I say is irrelevant because it hurt your feelings, while failing to see the irony there.

Best.


A nuclear power plant has a lifetime of over 50 years, so it pays to make sure you're doing it right.

It's like complaining that space probes and satellites use outdated processors and other computer technology. The Deep Space Climate Observatory was launched in 2015 with a 17 year old processor.


And now you're seeing a shift to smaller satellites with shorter operation lifetimes, and in lower orbits. This allows for use of off the shelf hardware and faster iteration. The barrier for this was brought down because it is cheaper to send hardware to space and the idea of a cluster of small sats isn't crazy anymore (because you need many satellites to provide continuous service to a specific ground location when using LEO).


> Also, it has a lack of subsidies, compared to the other sectors.

It has significant federal R&D and liability-related subsidies, as well as other federal and, in several states, state-level subsidies. Nuclear is by no means deprived of subsidies.


And a stream of potential employees flowing, fully-trained, out of the military.


There's a huge subsidy in that the Federal Government subsidizes the disaster insurance.


Owners of plants are responsible for the first $12b. 3 mile cleanup was well under this. So I'm going to have to disagree. But I'll give a caveat, it is a sample size of 1. A major accident would cost much more, but they are extremely unlikely.




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