Thorium pellet reactors, et al, are promising technologies for safe and local power generation.
I believe the right answer is a mix of (safe) nuclear, renewables, together with energy storage such as pump hydro storage, can solve our energy needs. Then again, I'm a lay person in this area.
Instead, Germany funded Russia's NordGas II pipeline to replace the nuclear power they turned off with gas. Insane stupidity.
The previous chancellor Schröder, now a foreign Russian energy minister, set the schedule into motion for nuclear shutdown.
"Anglo-Dutch group Royal Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV, France’s Engie and Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall will each provide loans covering 10 per cent of the €9.5bn cost of the pipeline, with Gazprom providing the remaining 50 per cent."
Source: Financial Times, https://archive.vn/pirwk
Also, clean energy is a long way off and Europeans are still going to have to heat their houses. Personally, I'm happy that we're doing business with Russia, rather than being locked into more expensive, US gas imports.
The US has huge natural gas reserves. Are they really importing natural gas?
It's a good idea to have multiple suppliers.
IMO, Trump's sanctioning of Nordstream 2 was mostly economic warfare against an ally (Europe), disguised as geoplitical concerns about Russia.
First, there are the issues of storage and disposal of enrichment byproducts, specifically depleted Uranium Hexaflouride ("DUJF" or UF6).
Second, there's what to do with old fuel rods. Proponents argue this is a solved problem and it can be stored for the long term in geologically stable storage facilities. This is just one political change away from becoming a huge problem.
Neither really scales up to 100x or even 10x current fission energy production.
Third, there's long-term maintenance of a plant. Arguments about the relative safety of fission point to deaths caused by coal. Coal is really the worst fossil fuel. LNG is better. But regardless of the numbers, the failure modes are just much, much worse for nuclear. 35 years later, the Chernobyl Absolute Exclusion Zone still stands at 1000 square miles. Parts of this zone will likely remain uninhabitable for centuries.
I just don't trust governments or corporations for the long term inspection, maintenance and management of fission power plants in the long term.
Lastly, the politics are against fission. This seems unlikely to change anytime soon.
The proliferation issue: Waste burners require processing of spent fuel, which some states believe is a weapons proliferation risk.
The sodium issue: Liquid sodium requires very careful construction of the steam generators and piping to keep it from contacting air or water. This is a sort-of solved problem in that all the sodium cooled reactors have experienced sodium leaks from time to time, but those leaks have been fixed without significant radioactive release. This is an issue that improves with operator experience.
The russians do have one waste burning fast reactor running, the BN-800. If they can do it, so can we. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BN-800_reactor
The US doesn't do this ostensibly due to proliferation risk  however, I am of the opinion that was due purely due to pressure from the coal lobby.
I fully agree with the op, no way nuclear is long-term safe and if we poured the trillions that have been poured into nuclear into renewables the world already would be a lot nicer. But renewables are much harder to monopolize so the big players never really wanted to support them.
Compared to nuclear power? Yeah. Almost by default getting nuclear power up and running requires government intervention and this is where it hurts. There is no privatization money to skim ( unlike renewables ). It is monopolized, but it is monopolized the way government monopolizes things ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_monopoly ).
"if we poured the trillions that have been poured into nuclear into renewables the world already would be a lot nicer. "
It is possible ( I was wrong before ), but I would like you to consider the following:
Solar panels require rare earths. They are called rare not for shits and giggles. What do you think will happen when entire Earth starts looking for them. Consider scalability issues and all of a sudden, digging for oil looks better. We have an interesting view of the coming attractions with Tesla ( https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-25/musk-says... ) and some of the tall tales of him supporting a coup to get the resources he needed.
Similar list of issues run for other renewables with possible exception of geothermal, so I think 'a lot nicer' may be a bit of exaggeration. It is going to sound really cynical, but to me it sounds like pockets where the money reside will change.
That is it. With nuclear -- some of that money will dry up. Hence, partially, the cry out against it.
Rare earths are rare on the market right now, because China managed to monopolize the market. To make it more amusing, extraction of those materials is not exactly easy on the environment, which makes it less likely that Western countries will allow it in their backyard.
With that out of the way what about my argument is wrong?
[1 - 2015] https://www.hcn.org/issues/47.11/why-rare-earth-mining-in-th...
[2 - Info] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Pass_mine
But seems to be in reversal
[3 - 2019] https://www.defensenews.com/opinion/commentary/2019/11/12/th...
[6 - 2019] https://web.archive.org/web/20210722231308/https://pubs.er.u...
[7 - 2020] https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/11/20/...
[8 - 2021] https://www.metaltechnews.com/story/2021/09/09/critical-mine...
Some questions do pop up though along the lines of 'everything shortage'.
They don't require them, and most common ones don't even use them.
We already covered Rare Earths not being rare, but since they're not really a big limiter on renewable energy anyway, it doesn't really matter.
So, to a rough approximation, everything is wrong with your argument.
Solar panels do not use rare earth elements. The only element that's fairly rare and commonly used in solar panels is silver, which is used in conductive pastes for cell contacts.
These things are small and cheap.
“ The project features a 345 megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with molten salt-based energy storage that could boost the system's power output to 500 MW during peak power demand. TerraPower said last year that the plants would cost about $1 billion.”
This doesn't solve the significant issues of fuel enrichment and waste storage and disposal however and we need a much better story for those before fission power has any kind of future (IMHO).
I somewhat disagree on your general point, though. Pellet reactor (mostly?) solve the spent fuel issue. Also, I believe that due to unreasonable negative opinion we're behind a few decades where we could be in terms of research.
And as I said in my earlier comment, it is exactly this lack of public support that had (and has) us running old timer nuclear plants (like Chernobyl, Fukushima, and most of the currently operated plants in the US, the EU, and elsewhere).
But I agree 100% that the problems you cite need to solved, and these solutions have to be communicated.
> there are the issues of storage and disposal of enrichment byproducts
Omega Tau did an in depth analysis of all the storage issues, including the byproducts and how they are managed.
These are solved problems.
> what to do with old fuel rods
...same as above. The quantity here is far far smaller than most people imagine and it's a very manageable amount - even if scaled 100x. We're talking about 1 barrel per reactor per year.
> there's long-term maintenance of a plant
Modern Gen III plants are build such that any failure in the control systems, causes the reactor to turn off via a, usually, gravity system - so no power needed to turn off the reaction. They are essentially constantly being told to stay on.
Accidents as we've seen in the past are not possible with Gen III reactors. ...the failure modes are just much, much worse for nuclear
More relevant though is that the success condition for LNG/Coal/Oil/etc plants is Global Climate Change. THAT is the critical issue.
Also, the notion that nuclear storage facilities are somehow massive liabilities when the nations of the world currently already have literally tens of thousands of nuclear bombs/missiles, seems odd. There is a far far greater likelihood of Climate Change triggered nuclear war than nuclear waste misuse.
The real problem with nuclear is public ignorance. What I find a remarkable contradiction is how anti-nuclear advocates claim we need to convince the public that Climate Change is real, but then throw up their hands as hopeless when there's a suggestion that nuclear misinformation should be combated.
Launch failure rates at best nearing 1%, space don't look like our best option here.
"Ces déchets sont constitués, principalement, des matières non
valorisables récupérées après le traitement du combustible usé.
Les matières sont incorporées dans du verre en fusion, lui-même
coulé dans un conteneur en acier. Les conteneurs contiennent
400 kg de verre pour 11 kg de déchets. Les conteneurs, en
raison de la chaleur qu’ils dégagent, doivent être entreposés
pour être refroidis pendant au moins une cinquantaine d’années
avant d’être définitivement stockés.
Le volume total de ces déchets équivaudra à 6 700 m³ à l'issue
de 40 années d’exploitation du parc nucléaire français.
Les déchets à vie longue représentent 10 % du volume
total des déchets et concentrent 99,9 % de la radioactivité."
So 6300 cubic meter over 40 years of operations.
 counting the glass to make them manipulable.
Space: 1999 is a British science-fiction television programme that ran for two series from 1975 to 1977. In the opening episode, set in the year 1999, nuclear waste stored on the Moon's far side explodes, knocking the Moon out of orbit and sending it, as well as the 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, hurtling uncontrollably into space.
But your conclusion is right: nuclear is by far the best power option we have right now.
 "Researchers found that it takes just 1 to 4 years for solar panels to “even out” or “pay back” their energy debt. When you consider the fact that panels are designed to last 20 to 25 years, on average, you can see why that’s an impressive rating." Includes link to source study, https://www.solarmelon.com/faqs/solar-panels-use-energy-manu...
Moreover these panels will degrade over time, so they require maintenance, recycling, disposal, etc. So one hill half covered with solar panels is one thing, but when you have 5 billion solar panels, then yes, it stops looking so green to me. And then you need to get the other 90% from somewhere.
As regards efficiency, solar is nowadays not bad, there's a reason it is the cheapest energy in many countries, especially during the summer months.
Okay, currently it is Norway and it kinda works, but that really doesn't look too good just now...
- end sarcasm
So it will push the real renewable energies off the net, and we'll need gas turbines to handle day to day fluctuations.
This is why nearly all nuclear plants under construction today are occurring in non-democratic nations.
There is no huge spike. And since the decision to shut down the nuclear plants, also coal has decreased massively, even more dramatically than nuclear.
I’m looking forward to diesel at €2.10/l, e5 at €2.50/l, heating oil at €110/100l and electricity prices x3. What a time to be alive.
«the plant used the cover of the Chernobyl – which had released a cloud of radioactive waste over western Europe – to pump their own waste into the atmosphere, believing no one would notice
“It was done intentionally,” Schollmeyer said. “We had problems at the plant and I was present at a few of the meetings.”
The problems related to balls of radioactive fuel getting stuck in the plant's pipework.
“Some clever dick suggested we clean out the pipework by pumping helium through it. He thought that no one would notice because of the Chernobyl cloud.”»
«The emissions from the THTR were initially not noticed. However, an anonymous informant from the workforce of the THTR-300 informed supervisory authorities and environmental associations about a hidden radioactive emission on May 4, 1986.»
«Only when an unusually high concentration of 233Pa was detected in the exhaust air of the THTR-300 from the chimney, which could not come from Chernobyl but only from the thorium of broken fuel elements of the THTR-300, it gradually became clear that there must have been significant radioactive emissions from the THTR-300 into the environment.»
Nonsense. Nuclear energy could power much more in France, it's only for political reasons that the grid managers do not ramp up nuclear production to meet demand, thus having to import electricity at times. The nuclear-powered baseline could be much higher without issues others than political (% of renewable energy in the mix)
> Fessenheim liegt in einem Erdbebengebiet, das Kraftwerk ist gegen einen Flugzeugabsturz oder Anschlag unzureichend geschützt. Zudem kam es immer wieder zu Pannen.
That says: It was in an seismic active zone, unprotected against plane crashes or terror attacks. There also were a bunch of accidents.
Those old reactor designs weren't safe.
It is though. For CEA experts at least. And considering what those experts did to the EPR, i'm pretty sure they are not as "pro-edf" or "pro-nuclear" as the Green tell they are.
> Fessenheim was a huge security risk and would not have passed any security checks in a country not as fanatically pro-nuclear as France.
You're dissing CEA engineers and physicists here.
> That says: It was in an seismic active zone
This reason is bullshit. Fessenhein is a PWR reactor, unless you have something like 7 on the Richter scale, the reactor will likely just hold. On a 7, you have leakage risks, and maybe on a nine you'll get a meltdown?
Do you think its likely to get a 7 or more there?
> unprotected against plane crashes or terror attacks.
True, plane crashes are not an issue though, unless you know exactly where the core or the pool is (one is a much much bigger issue than the other obviously). And to engage security mesures you need to either: push a big button, or cut electricity. Once the grid is down, there is no way to make the core explode, and if you take more than 30 minutes to put a bomb on it, it probably won't even meltdown. To reengage the reactor you need knowledge, so a sabotage is still possible.
> There also were a bunch of accidents.
True, and bad ones. Hiring contractors is good for us, earning that much doing pretty much nothing, but ultimately bad for the company, especially when you need to keep competency at a high level. Not the only nuclear plant in France where incompetency reigns from what i heard.
> Those old reactor designs weren't safe.
Untrue, but true for fessenheim. No commercial French reactor active right now are as unsafe as let's say Fukushima, because our Gen2 were that much better (as were the US's). Not as well designed as CANDUC type, but PWR are stable and do have passive protection against a chain reaction or a leak. Also, you can just move the core out and voila, no more nuclear reaction. Anyway. The second wave was improved upon "thanks" to the TMI incident, and even older reactors got better passive risk reduction upgrades and better detection.
But, Fessenheim did had a lot of troubles (and by troubles, i mean incidents from human origin), and while the cuve could probably last another 30 to 40 years, the PWR tech also have big wear and tear effect on surrounding equipements. The CEA accounted for this in their rapport, and precognized a long downtime to put thing in order.
ie. Gerhard Shroder, former Chancellor of Germany who oversaw the beginning of their nuke shutdown, and now works for Rosneft! (A giant Russian fossil fuel company controlled by the Russian Government)
But, in a more practical world, there’s not much of a choice if we want an energy source that’s not killing us by air pollution. In the other hand, we seem to be yet again passing the problem onto future generations. Perhaps they’ll have the science to resolve nuclear waste but there’s no guarantee.
At the end of the day, we’re currently consuming too much for the technology we have versus the population of the planet wrt to our biosphere.
There are a few obvious fixes but none are palatable.
- They claim nuclear could create a million of jobs in Europe. What kind of jobs ? Is that job creation or job swapping ?
- Switching to nuclear power guarantees energy independence. But where is the uranium we need ? How can we guarantee delivery ?
The argument I hear against building new nuclear plants is that it's basically too late:
- it takes 30 years or more to build one
- it usually costs twice as planned
- it's way more expensive than renewables
- renewables can be deployed now
I do believe we should have built more nuclear plants 20 or 30 years ago but we were drunk on cheap oil and gas.
They were abandoned because the price of uranium is so cheap it's not economical to mine it, but that can change if the economics of the situation change (ie, it suddenly becomes impossible to Import)
Regardless the point is moot. The amount of uranium required isn't that huge.
Would you like to know why we didn't?
Because climate activists told us 20 years ago that
- [a nuclear power plant] takes 30 years or more to build one
- [a nuclear power plant] usually costs twice as planned
- [nuclear power is] way more expensive than renewables
Then we (Germany) wasted 20 years building renewables, and now we are nowhere close to fulfilling our Kyoto commitment, and got the most expensive electricity anywhere in the world. Well done, climate activists!
How they got the operators to agree to the early shutdown is less clear. By offering a good deal, I guess. It's only taxpayer money, after all.
Why nobody set plans in motion to replace it? I don't know. My best guess is, because politicians are unbelievably stupid. They really don't know anything about electricity. They really don't get that excess electricity in Juli doesn't help you in cold, dark January. Annalena Baerbock stated publically: "The grid is all the battery we need." At that level of incompetence, who knows why anything happened.
With enough political will and accepting more reactors in numbers I believe in 10 years, we could get plants up and running in 5 year timeframe.
Are you aware that Hinkley Point is build by the EDF a French company...they sure don't lack proper experience but the project is still all OP listed.
Fission is no solution for the crisis.
Those fantasies would cost immense amounts of money in the decades it would take to build up your "super experience". The cost and speed of improvement of renewable sources do not justify anything like that.
You can read up some background here: https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-pr...
I'd imagine having the green label will make export sales better as companies can bulk up their `green` quota of energy supplies much easier and that stigma hasn't helped.
[EDIT ADD] If you look at the commissioning dates of the bulk of Frances reactors and the life-cycle of those reactors. You will notice that within the next ten years - many reactors will need decommissioning. So a push to get them labelled as green is very much in Frances interest to justify replacing end of life reactors. Otherwise they may well fall foul of energy production quota targets down the line by the EU.
One guy said they had lost a lot of their know how when building nuclear plants abroad and were spread too thin now to manage all the plants.
He also said that privatization of small contractors to conduct routine maintenance had led to tighter schedules and an increase in small accidents. He wasn't confident the nuclear park was safe enough.
Most signatures are from Eastern Europe. It'd be great for France's finances to build nuclear plants in western Europe, the west has a strong anti nuclear stance at the moment.
Yes, this is probably the biggest issue for nuclear, and the biggest safety risk.
Some contractors are good. If you work in software, you know what percentage of them are good, and from those, what percentage actually get shit done.
> Cleanup started in August 1979 and officially ended in December 1993, with a total cleanup cost of about $1 billion
The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) project - http://skirsch.com/politics/globalwarming/ifr.htm
So, by this definition, Uranium is not a fossil fuel.
This is a nonsense comment. The point of STORAGE is to do nothing with it. It's supposed to just sit there.
Also, the only "leak" mentioned in the article, was not a leak at all. It was contained in the secondary container and then moved back into a new primary container. ...and it wasn't even radioactive - it was "just" nitric acid.
This is simply not true.
The EU is trying to adress this with a mechanism called CBAM (Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism). It's complicated and not sure how well it'll work out, but claiming that this is not adressed is wrong.
Are you aware of research about reducing methane by feeding cows a small amount of seaweed? I'm guessing no.