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# IFR FaD 4 – a lifetime of energy in the palm of your hand

In a newspaper Op Ed last year, I wrote the following:

Imagine someone handed you a lump of silvery metal the size of a golf ball. They said you might wish to put on some plastic gloves to hold it, although that would not be necessary if you washed your hands afterwards. You look down at the metal resting on your palm. It feels heavy, because it’s very dense. You are then told that this metal golf ball can provide all the energy you will ever use in your life. That includes running your lights, computer, air conditioner, TV, electric car, synthetic jet fuel. Everything. Using 1 kilogram of uranium (or thorium, take your pick). That is what modern nuclear power offers. An incredibly concentrated source of energy, producing a tiny amount of waste.

I’d like to explain this statement here in a little more detail.

In earlier IFR Fad posts, I’ve explained that 1 tonne of depleted uranium (or you can also use mined uranium or used nuclear fuel) has sufficient energy to run a 1,000 megawatt electrical power station for 1 year — if run through a fast spectrum reactor. (I’ve also explained, in more detail, some key differences between the fast reactor and light water reactor fuel cycles). What does this mean in personal terms? Time to crunch some numbers…

The Australian population of 21 million currently consumes about 250,000 GWh of electricity per year. That works out to be 12 MWh per person, or 33 kWh per day. (This is similar to the figure David Mackay worked out for the British). A 1 GWe IFR (integral fast reactor nuclear power plant), running at 90% capacity factor, would produce 7,884 GWh of electricity per year. This would, therefore, be enough to satisfy the current electricity needs of 657,000 Australians. Or, to put it another way, one Aussie would require 1.5 grams of uranium per year. If they lived to be 85 years old and consumed electricity at that rate throughout their life, they’d require 130 g of uranium.

Australia’s total energy consumption is about 5,500 petajoules per year (1 PJ = 278 GWh). This includes electricity, non-electrical residential and commercial energy, transport fuels, mining, manufacturing and construction. What if this entire energy consumption had to be met by electricity? It would require the production of 1,530,000 GWh per year, or 6 times Australia’s current electricity generation. Referring back to the figure above, this would require 9 g of uranium per person per year, or ~0.8 kg of uranium for an 85 to 90 year lifespan.

The figure of 0.8 kg of uranium is a little less than the 1 kg figure I cited in the quote at the top of this post, but given the margins of uncertainty we’re dealing with here, it’s close enough. Without getting into complications, and despite being fully cognizant of the first law of thermodynamics, not all energy is ‘created’ equal. Electricity is a particularly convenient and flexible way to package energy, and could, in the future, more efficiently substitute for less efficient energy uses (including electric vehicles displacing oil combustion, electrically driven heat pumps replacing gas, etc.). In short, it’s not that difficult to justify a more conservative figure of 1 kg rather than the 20% smaller value calculated above, especially if population growth, the need to adapt to climate change (e.g. desalination), etc., is also considered. But really, whether it’s 500g, 1 kg or even 2 kg of uranium (or thorium) consumed over a lifetime, it’s still a tiny amount of fuel (and waste).

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Appendix

Out of interest, I’d also like to share some discussions I had last year on this topic, with George Stanford, Tom Blees, Steve Kirsch and Yoon Chang (all members of SCGI — bios here). The figures/units may differ a little from the above, but the bottom line remains the same.

George:

The ping-pong ball (or half-ball) is the volume of uranium that was fissioned to release the lifetime’s worth of energy. It weighs a kilogram or less. The resulting fission products necessarily weigh the same (minus the 0.09% of the original mass that was converted to energy in accordance with E=mc^2). The fission-product elements all have a density much less than that of uranium, so their volume (if frozen into a solid ball and not radioactive) would necessarily be bigger than a ping-pong ball, before any vitrification. But that knowledge really has no practical utility. In an underground repository (e.g. Yucca Mtn), the distance between the tunnels (called “drifts”) and between the waste canisters (whether spent fuel or fission products) has to be such that the temperature in the soil between the drifts does not get too high over the years.

The activity of the fission products is dominated for the first few hundred years by just two isotopes — Cs-137 and Sr-90 (each with a half life of about 30 years). Just how the fission products will be disposed of is to be determined. But their heat will have to be managed somehow, which could mean storage for a while in surface facilities with forced-air cooling (although the sensible thing to do with them is to vitrify them and drop them into the silt at the bottom of the ocean). That’s why a calculation of the fission products’ “volume” has no useful meaning, and reveals nothing about the ease or difficulty of disposal.

Steve:

What’s the volume of the waste without the glass? Shouldn’t it be smaller than a ping pong ball?

Tom:

Yoon and I ran some figures one time for total energy consumed per person, for everything: heating and cooling, electricity, transport, etc. After I crunched the numbers I came to the conclusion that an entire person’s energy needs could be met by a chunk of depleted uranium the size of half a ping-pong ball. The waste product would be larger because you embed a little bit of it in a lot of glass, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it might take up half a liter, of which most would be glass.

If I remember correctly, the amount of fission products slightly exceeds the size of the DU, because the smaller atoms into which the DU/Pu has split will be greater in number, albeit smaller, and require more space because as we all know, most of the volume of an atom is space. So you can’t pack twice as many light atoms into the same space as a given number of heavy atoms. As George said, it’s heat, not space, that’s the issue. So you have to have enough glass to keep the heat below the level that will melt glass, I would think, requiring a substantial amount of glass.

George:

The density of metallic uranium is 19 g/cc. Thus the volume of 1 kg is 52.6 cc. That’s a sphere with a diameter of 4.6 cm (1.8 inches) — slightly bigger than a ping-pong ball (4.0 cm). The volume is proportional to what you use for the per-person average energy consumption. The “waste volume” will be larger — maybe about the size of a soda can. But remember, the waste volume calculated that way is irrelevant — for disposal on land, it’s the heat generation that has to be managed, so the volume of the disposal facility is orders of magnitude larger than a soda can.

In the U.S., the energy per person per year is given as 8.25 TOE (tonnes of oil equivalent). If a lifetime is 85 years, that’s 700 TOE. One TOE = 11,630 kilowatt hours, for a lifetime total of 8 million kW-hr. As a rule of thumb, fissioning one gram of heavy metal (uranium) releases 1 MWth-day, or roughly 8 MWe-h = 8,000 kWe-h. So 8M/8k = 1,000 grams — one kg of fissions — which, of course, means one kilogram of fission products. If the average density of the waste form were 2 g/cc, then the volume would be 0.5 liter. Ball-park calculation only, assuming all energy comes from nuclear-generated electricity.

Note that that’s total US energy consumption divided by the number of people (not counting calories derived from food). That’ makes it 850 grams per 85-year lifetime instead of 1 kg. Still in the soda-can range for the fission products (a very crude approximation at best, since the waste form is not defined). Note that burning 700 tonnes of oil produces about 2,000 tonnes of CO2, for a waste-weight ratio >2 million to one (for whatever that’s worth).

Tom:

When Yoon and I did this, we also used figures for total national energy consumption divided by the number of people in the country, so the energy that goes into food and items imported minus the energy that goes into exports gives you a little shortfall (balance of trade and all that). But I think I’ve allowed enough of a cushion in these old calculation I did back then:

A cube of DU sufficient for an American lifetime would be about 0.92 on a side. Figuring a little extra, at .95 on a side, give a volume of .9 cu. in. If in the form of a sphere, the diameter of the sphere would be about 1.2 in, or 30.5 mm, considerably smaller than a ping pong ball. (A ping pong ball is 40 mm, or 1.57″ in diameter.) The volume of a ping pong ball, then, is 2 cu in, more than enough for the lifetime of two people (it would weigh a little over a pound).

Here are Yoon’s numbers that he wrote me about on July 31, ’07, upon which I based the above:

Yoon: Regarding your question, this is my rough estimate. EIA reports that the energy consumption in 2006 was about 100 guads (1quad=10 to 15th power Btu). This divided by 300 million population and multiplied by 70 years of lifetime gives 23 trillion Btu. One gram of uranium fission (direct or after converted into fissionable isotopes) yields one MW-day energy, or 86.4 million Btu. Therefore about 260 gram (9 ounces) of uranium required per person’s lifetime. The uranium density is 19 g/cc, so 260 gram is about 14 cc in volume or somewhat less than one cubic inch. The above calculation assumes all thermal energy equivalent. All electric energy society will require more energy to account for the efficiency loss in converting the electric energy back to thermal energy needs.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Yoon isn’t planning to live as long as George. Then you see that I failed to account for the electric to thermal conversion he mentioned in the last paragraph for space heating. Nevertheless, I should think it’ll still be way less than a ping-pong ball per person, even assuming we all live as long as George plans to, and then some.

George:

If I take your 260 grams, multiply it by 85/70 for lifetime estimate, and by a factor of 3 to account for efficiency of conversion to electricity, I get 947 grams — just shy of the1 kg I came up with. Our calculations therefore agree very well, when using the same assumptions. By the way, I said “not counting calories derived from food.” Energy required to make the food is of course an important part of the picture. I do hope to make it to 85 — that’s only 4 years — but the envelope is indeed closing in.

## By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

## 165 replies on “IFR FaD 4 – a lifetime of energy in the palm of your hand”

Brought over from Open Thread 3:

Kaj Luukko, on 25 April 2010 at 9.30 Said:

I been told that IFR eliminate the risk of proliferation. But:

“If, instead of processing spent fuel, the ALMR system were used to reprocess irradiated fertile (breeding) material in the electrorefiner, the resulting plutonium would be a superior material, with a nearly ideal isotope composition for nuclear weapons manufacture”

From here:

http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/ota/Ota_1/DATA/1994/9434.PDF

Could someone explain? I think I know the answer, but I’m not sure.

First there is no reactor design that will eliminate the risk of proliferation. Every type of nuclear reactor design can be operated as a breeder and make more Pu than it burns, while arguably it would be somewhat easer, and faster to use an IFR, it is not a reason to reject this technology.

Second. Proliferation isn’t an accident waiting to happen, rather it is a very seriously considered decision made by a nation that feels that they have no other choice but to deploy a nuclear arsenal, or risk being destroyed themselves.

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Regarding Kaj’s question, to add to DV82XL’s more fundamental point.

Third, it would only be ideal isotopic Pu if the ALMR was run on a short cycle. Fourth, you would need to attach a PUREX-type reprocessing plant to the ALMR in order to extract this Pu. So this is not a question about the IFR, it’s about a some generic reactor + aqueous reprocessing facility.

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Peter Langsays:

Thank you, Charles Barton, for your excellent posts today. And thank you DV82XL and Barry Brook for your replies. I have learnt a lot out of this exchange.

I put this discussion together with Ziggy Switkowski’s view that we are unlikely to see Gen IV being rolled out on a commercial scale until 2030 at the earliest and perhaps later. And that is in the countries that develop it; it will probably be much later until it is a realistic option for Australia.

Putting these thoughts together with various comments in these above posts (quoted below) and my thought bubbles stemming from these, I come to the conclusion that Gen IV is a long way off and Gen III may or may not be the best way to get started in Australia. If Gen II is cheaper for Australia, then why not get started with Gen II? We know that Gen II is 10 to 100 times safer than the coal. So, if Gen II would produce electricity more cheaply over its life than Gen III (all the costs properly included in all options), then I am for Gen II. I realise going with Gen II may incur a higher cost for FOAK for Gen III when we transition from Gen II to Gen III, and this cost should be considered in the analysis as to whether we should start with gen II or Gen III. There are many factors to be considered, including fitting 1000MW Gen III power plants into the Australian grid (Gen II’s are smaller and ideally sized for the Australian grid as it is now).

We need to focus on what is the least cost option. In my opinion safety is not an issue because all nuclear is far safer than anything we have now and far safer than most industry. Likewise, ‘nuclear waste’ is a trivial issue. The cost of electricity from nuclear power plants already includes the cost of managing ‘nuclear waste’ or ‘once used nuclear fuel’.

Some quotes that caught my eye and my thought bubbles:

Charles Barton

IFR backers could be better advocates for their favored technology, by adopting greater candor.

Wow. Wouldn’t it be great if the wind and solar advocates would heed some of that statement.

Charles Barton

But my reading of statements from the IFR camp suggests that some high status IFR backers, are probably at the very least threatened by the potential of LFTR technology.

Well, I hope we don make as big a mistake as we have by putting all our eggs in the renewables basket, as we have been doing for the past 20+ years. Remember Bob Hawke’s “Ecologically Sustainable Development” completely engulfed the Australian government bureaucracy and then the state bureaucracies and led to our various mandatory renewable energy schemes and massive subsidy schemes. Meanwhile, nuclear was not to be mentioned and not to be considered options analyses. I hope we don’t do that again, but suspect we will continue to do so.

DAV2XL

History is full of great technology that never made it out of the gate, because of poor business acumen, and that was overtaken by something inferior, backed by those that were out to succeed first, and produce a good product later.

Is this what happened to cause nuclear to fail in the west between about 1970 and 2010, and renewables to succeed so well during this time despite being a hopeless product?

Barry Brook

Even with regards to Gen III, I’d be much more of a “friend” than a “fremeny”, as I consider this technology to be far superior to any other existing method of industrial-scale power generation that is currently commercially available, and should be pursued with great vigor over the next few decades.

Why do you mention only Gen III and exclude Gen II as an option?

Charles Barton

There was the letter from John Shanahan to John Holdren, that I was approached to sign. The letter contained a long statement supporting IFR development, but no mention of the LFTR. I responded that I would sign the letter if a couple of words were changed, and a couple of sentences about the potential of the LFTR were added. Similar requests were made by other LFTR advocates, but our requests were rejected. I would not see this deliberate exclusion of mention of the LFTR as a friendly act.

Thank you for pointing that out. I did not realise that had occurred. That is quite unfortunate and disappointing.

At any rate, the SCGI appears to be a IFR club from which LFTR advocates are in effect excluded.

That does seem like a mistake. What is the reason behind this? Is it being reconsidered? Can it be corrected?

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Nuclear energy went into hiatus in some countries for a number of reasons, mostly in my opinion due to the lobbying activities of Big Carbon. But the industry did not help itself with its defensive posture after Three-Mile Island, and its failure to spin the event in its favour.

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Douglas Wisesays:

I have found the above comments, initiated by Charles Barton to be very interesting. Barry has been promising an IFR and LFTR comparison for some time and I have been looking forward to it. Pending its arrival, I have been scratching around in various sources and trying, as a layman, to differentiate between the two technologies with respect to their pros and cons. My conclusions are summarised below and I would welcome any corrections that would further my education:

IFR pros:
1) 4th generation technolgy receiving most worldwide research effort involves molten metal cooling. IFRs thus may get to finish line first.
2) Better breeders (cf LFTRs)
3) Commercial pyroprocessing shouldn’t run into any serious technical difficulties.
4) Inherently safe, low pressure and metal fuels all suggest the possibility of plant construction costs lower than for Gen 3s.

IFR cons:
1) Higher start charges required (cf LFTRs)
2) Can’t exploit thorium and rely on U/P cycle (proliferation concerns?)
3) Don’t operate at very high temps – less eficient electricity, less hydrogen potential. (cf LFTRs)
4) Will cost savings noted above be outweighed by need for extra heat exchange loops and other avoidance measures to prevent sodium fires?)

LFTR pros:
1) Exploits Th/U cycle
2) Low start charge (can be U or P)
3) Lends itself to small module, factory build and, given inherent safety etc, has potential to be much cheaper than Gen 3
4) Can operate at high temperature, producing electricity more efficiently with potential to produce hydrogen.

LFTR cons
1) Not a lot of active research going on. Why? Do the experts know of more problems than proponents admit to or are aware of? Even if not, will the technology lag behind IFR?
2) Reprocessing technology may be less well developed.
3) Poorer breeding potential than IFR
4) Potential corrosion problems may not have been properly solved.

Problems for both clearly relate to low cost of uranium which make once through systems attractive and more certain for purchasers. I also understand that nuclear plant designers are heavily reliant for continuing income streams on the manufacture of fuel rods needed for refuelling. They have negative incentives to move towards Gen 4 while the nuclear industry is privatised.

If I were to believe all Charles Barton says (and I would like to and have no reason not to), I see more advantage to LFTRs than IFRs with the sole exception of breeding potential which doesn’t matter in the short term. For me, the ideal would be to go for both, flat out in the R&D and development stages. If both then looked good, I’d accelerate LFTR rollout faster than IFR but would still want IFR to produce more start charges for continued rollout and sustainability.

My conclusions are, I think, based on logic but the logic is unguided by any technical expertise and may thus be profoundly flawed.

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Douglas Wise, I am attempting to work out truth standards for claims about future nuclear technologies. Standards include:
1. “Beyond a reasonable doubt,” which would imply that doubts have been tested, but not found credible. Many statements about generation IV technology cannot be made with such truth claims.
2. “Probable cause to believe,” there are strong and reasonable arguments that the statement is sufficiently plausible to warrant further investigation.
3. “A preponderance of evidence suggests,”The statement has received some tests, although not enough to conclusively exclude doubts. However, no test provided strong evidence that the statement was false. Further investigation is warranted.

Discussions about the potential of Generation IV technology for the most part fall into the 2nd or 3rd category. There has as of yet been insufficient tests to exclude reasonable doubts, but we lack evidence that tends to reinforce the doubts. Further investigation is not only warranted but desirable because of the potentials of IFR and LFTR technologies.

We do know that molten fluoride salt reactors have been operated at temperatures of up to 700 C, for example, and can be operated at that temperature for periods of up to 3 years. If the argument is about a longer time, the truth standard will probably have to be lower. It is possible to heat liquid salt to 1200 degrees C without boiling. There are materials that might withstand the 1200 degree heat, but how long they would last in a reactor core has not been tested. Again a lower truth standard would have to be applied to the discussion.

What we know right now would not rule out the usefulness of either the LFTR or the IFR. it is conceivable that they could play complimentary roles in a post carbon energy order. My thinking now is that advocates of Generation IV nuclear technology have more to gain than loose by joining forces, and further that the interest of society would best be served by doing so. This does not preclude healthy competition between us, and playing the devils advocates.

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Barry:

Third, it would only be ideal isotopic Pu if the ALMR was run on a short cycle. Fourth, you would need to attach a PUREX-type reprocessing plant to the ALMR in order to extract this Pu. So this is not a question about the IFR, it’s about a some generic reactor + aqueous reprocessing facility.

Actually this was the point I was looking for. Did I now understand correct: You can breed weapon-grade plutonium in the IFR but after PYROPROCESSING it still remains as a mixture of uranium, plutonium and zirkonium? This mixture is of course not suitable for weapons, so you can still say, that IFR as it self is not capable of pure weapon grade plutonium production?

The source I was referrerig was a bit confusing in this case, I think. It is also in wikipedia.

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John Morgansays:

Kaj, thats the way I understand it. You could potentially produce a mixture of elements in which the plutonium is a good isotopic mix, but without a means of chemical separation, the other elements present will confound the weaponization. You could produce weaponizable plutonium from an IFR, but you would need to short cycle it, and you would need a PUREX type facility.

This is not quite the scenario you quote describes. They speculate about the production of chemically and isotopically pure (enough) plutonium just within the IFR by short cycling, and then separating the plutonium from the hot actinides within the pyroprocessing module.

This seems unlikely to me. The advantage of using electrolysis for reprocessing is that it is not a very good separation process. It has enough resolution to remove the neutron poisons from the fuel, but not enough to produce chemically pure plutonium.

In order to separate elements by electrolysis, you need them to have different reduction potentials – the voltage at which they change from salt to metal. The reduction potentials for some actinides are roughly:

U -0.1 V, Np -0.3V, Am -0.9V, Cm -1.2V, Pu -1.2V.

So the uranium is easily separated from the plutonium, but the plutonium is not easily separated from the americium, and can’t be separated from the curium.

The first step of the process is to dissolve the metal fuel in the salt bath, under an applied voltage. Then the uranium is plated out on an iron electrode at low voltage. Then the plutonium is captured in a second liquid cadmium electrode at a higher voltage. Because of the large reduction potential of plutonium, it will also capture the Cm, the Am, and anything else left in the salt bath with a reduction potential under -1.2V. This would include small amounts of quite a lot of isotopes, including some residual uranium since the first step will not be a perfect separation.

Your citation suggests three ways to produce weapons material from an IFR:

1) Use it to breed plutonium conventionally. But this requires PUREX refining to separate the plutonium.

2) Process multiple fuel batches just taking out the uranium in the first step of the separation, allowing the plutonium to accumulate in the salt bath. This will concentrate the plutonium in the bath. But it will also allow the other fission products to accumulate as well. I don’t see how this helps – you would still need further chemical refining of the recovered plutonium – PUREX again.

3) Take the recovered plutonium mixture, and run it through the process again and again to clean it up. But even this can’t separate contaminants that have reduction potentials close to plutonium. It would never clean the plutonium of curium, for instance, and I doubt it would be very effective for, say, the americium. You still need further chemical refining.

So I think the basic idea of the IFR as being unable to produce weapons material without an additional PUREX capability still stands. I don’t think this study claims otherwise, either, if you read carefully. I would also expect the additional intensive operations in the hot cell and deviation from standard operation would be easily detectable, and any attempts along these lines would not get very far.

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Peter Langsays:

Dougla Wise

I also understand that nuclear plant designers are heavily reliant for continuing income streams on the manufacture of fuel rods needed for refuelling. They have negative incentives to move towards Gen 4 while the nuclear industry is privatised.

I don’t believe this is a valid statement. I believe the nuclear industry, like all businesses is do everything it can to get the cost of nuclear power down so it can compete with coal, and so it can offer a viable option in as many markets as possible. What is stopping them from being more competitive are the constraints society has imposed on the nuclear industry. These constraints are what is preventing a faster adoption of nuclear energy world wide.

Society, especially in the west, has required these constraints be imposed on the nuclear industry. The western governments have effectively forced similar constraints to be imposed on nuclear in the developing countries. This has been achieved by making the IAEA implement ever more stringent standards – dictated by the west. That is us!! Our commons!!

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Douglas Wisesays:

Charles Barton:

Peter Lang:

You doubt the validity of a statement I made. You may be right to do so. I was only quoting something I’d gleaned in Wikipedia and it may well be that you are more of an authority on the mores of nuclear plant designers. I just hope you weren’t knee jerk-reacting to a perceived anti-capitalist statement.

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Douglas Wise – Wikipedia’s nuclear articles are routinely filled with FUD from the antis. I have just finished a long e-mail exchange with one person who wished to use the US courts to force the removal of some entries on depleted uranium, who noted that I had been in a protracted battle over that subject on the Wiki six years ago.

For the record, the fuel cost is the least expensive concern in running a nuclear power station, and the particularities of the nuclear fuel market would make it difficult for any reactor designer to leverage the fuel for future profit.

In short reactor operators buy uranium at all stages in the refining process, and contract for SWUs and fabrication services separately in a very complicated set of transactions that will get the uranium from yellowcake to fuel rods as cheaply as possible.

If down-blended HEU or MOX is involved the process becomes positively bizarre, with imaginary quantities of uranium technically changing hands and SWUs that have already been used traded as if they were a commodity.

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Peter Langsays:

Douglas,

“You doubt the validity of a statement I made. You may be right to do so. I was only quoting something I’d gleaned in Wikipedia and it may well be that you are more of an authority on the mores of nuclear plant designers. I just hope you weren’t knee jerk-reacting to a perceived anti-capitalist statement.”

Is this a bit of sarcasm? No, I wasn’t knee-jerk reacting (I don’t think). It seems obvious to me that the nuclear industry wants to grow its business and expand its markets. It wants to be able to provide nuclear power at the cheapest possible cost. So, if it can find a cheaper way it will. Arguing that it would try to inflate the price of nuclear electricity, in the way you suggest, would be self defeating – at least while the industry is in the market growth stage.

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Douglas Wisesays:

Yes,Peter, I have to admit to the vice of sarcasm.

I would agree with you if you were discussing typical industries. Even then, though, the virtues of planned obsolescence are alluring.

In the case of nuclear plant designers working in the private sector, things may be much less typical. I think I read, for example, that GE had made no money at all (and lost a great deal) in that part of its business that focused on nuclear power. GE has a current Gen 3 design that it hopes to sell into a difficult market (from a regulatory and financial perspectives) and is in competition with Westinghouse and Areva and, soon, many others. It knows that sales of its Gen 3 units will be backed by continuing income from fuel rod manufacture. It needs to recoup its expenditure. However, its research scientist employees also have a paper design for a Gen 4 reactor (Prism) which needs a lot more money spent on it before it can be validated and made ready to go. What would you be concentrating on as a priority if you were GE’s CEO?

I think that it is very unlikely that we will see a rapid and large deployment of Gen 4 plants if matters are left to private NPP designers for very good and sensible economic reasons. If we want Gen 4, we need national governments, preferably acting collectively, to push the technology forward. This is not to imply that private companies should be sidelined as I suspect that a lot of the necessary expertise, certainly in the case of Western nations, resides therein.

As you know, Peter, I’m a total layman so all the above may be absolute rubbish. Continue to feel free to point out the errors in my thinking and i promise not to take offence.

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Charles, I’m not talking about “IFR advocates” in the “IFR camp”. They, whoever they are, can speak for themselves if they choose. I’m talking about me. Don’t try too hard to generalise. – Barry

Barry, I have pointed out some problems with initiatives that you have been or are associated with, but I don’t hold you responsible for the problems. it would be better for use to work together. Indian research has pointed to a good case for the inclusion of thorium in the IFR core. and in fact i understand that GE-Hitatchi is considering it. Since, U-233 is not a preferred fuel for the IFR, It would be desirable to use it in thermal reactors, since U-233 is an excellent nuclear fuel in thermal neutron energy ranges. Does that mean that IFR backers, belong in the Thorium Energy Alliance? Quite possibly so.

Most LFTR backers would agree with the mission statement and goals of The Science Council for Global Initiatives. We could bring quite a lot to the table including the beginning at least the beginnings of a comprehensive carbon emission mitigation plan, as well as solutions to problems that the IFR could not handle. We have the potential to provide industrial process heat of somewhere close to 1200 C. We have potentials to offer standby, peak and load following generation capacity, Even if you argue with us bout which technology would be ready sooner, which technology offers the most rapid scalability, or which technology could produce electricity at a lower cost, you will probably admit that the LFTR can produce some tasks that the IFR probably can’t. What the iFR can do, is breed more rapidly than the LFTR can. The neutron economy of the IFR would make better use of actinides in spent nuclear fuel, but adding thorium to the IFR core might increase that efficiency. If you add thorium to the IFR core, you would breed U-233. What would you do with it?.

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One of the peculiarities of the nuclear fuel cycle is the way in which utilities with nuclear power plants buy their fuel. Instead of buying fuel bundles from the fabricator, the usual approach is to purchase uranium in all of these intermediate forms. Typically, a fuel buyer from power utilities will contract separately with suppliers at each step of the process. Sometimes, the fuel buyer may purchase enriched uranium product, the end product of the first three stages, and contract separately for fabrication, the fourth step to eventually obtain the fuel in a form that can be loaded into the reactor. The utilities believe – rightly or wrongly – that these options offers them the best price and service. They will typically retain two or three suppliers for each stage of the fuel cycle, who compete for their business by tender.

Because this is the nature of the market, any attempt to corner fuel rod manufacturing by designing such that there would be a single source would have more of a damaging effect on reactor sales than would be recovered from fuel assembly sales.

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TeeKaysays:

Peter Lang, on 25 April 2010 at 13.14 Said:

“Why do you mention only Gen III and exclude Gen II as an option?”

Why should we build more Gen II when Gen III/III+ does essentially the same thing, but with better design features? They’re ready to go.

I think pushing for older generation plants is a dead-end approach. Regardless of how cheaply they could provide electricity, and regardless of how good their safety record has truly been – there’s simply far too much stigma attached. The majority of the public don’t like it and the government won’t touch it. It’s the advanced nuclear power plans that are getting more and more people excited.

If you want to convince more of the public that fission is the only true option for replacing combustion, you’ve gotta convince them that “it’s different now” – which it is, really.

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Peter Langsays:

TeeKay,

I hear you. I understand what you are advocating. Several regular BNC contributors have made similar arguments, many times. You are seeing it from the political point of view and of trying to convert the public. We could call it the evolutionary approach to convert the public perception. This is what we’ve been trying to do for 40+ years, and continually failing.

Another approach is the revolutionary approach. That is the approach I am advocating. I believe, if we want clean electricity fast, we need to unwind as fast as possible all the regulations and beliefs that are causing nuclear to be much more costly than it should be. We won’t do this with the evolutionary approach.

The evolutionary approach is to leave most of the cost imposts in place, hide the real problem by covering it over by raising the cost of electricity through a carbon price, and hope we can slowly bring in clean electricity.

The revolutionary approach recognises that in the end the decision will depend on the cost. “It is the economics stupid!” If I am correct that we need a revolutionary approach, we need to bring the cost of nuclear down to compete with coal. We need to remove the cost imposts. We need low cost nuclear. We do not need nuclear to be 10 to 100 times safer than coal, if by maintaining this requirement it means we must stick with coal because coal is cheaper.

So to pursue this, I am following the approach so often used by the Greens to highlight a problem, stretch the envelope, and thereby expand knowledge which then leads to some gains, but not the full amount advocated.

Given the above, if it would be cheaper for Australia to implement Gen II than Gen III, all factors considered, then I am advocating that Gen II should be an option on the table. Gen II greatly exceeds our safety requirements (for industries generally), is the right size for the Australian electricity grid, is well proven, there is a large knowledge base, and has been implemented in many nations with small economies like Australia. Gen II should be given serious consideration to get us started fast.

If we allow, and encourage consideration of Gen II as an option, it puts more competitive pressure on Gen III to find a way to reduce their costs and to provide Australia an option that fits our needs rather than just offering us a “take it or leave it” option.

“It is the economics stupid”. If we don’t get nuclear at a cost competitive with coal, we are going to stick with coal, CCS, natural gas, renewables and ‘anything but nuclear’.

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Lawrencesays:

TeeKay,
Perhaps it won’t matter by the time everyone decides to do anything, but right now, as I understand it, CANDUs are the only proven design that does not need the large pressure vessel that all other proven designs do require, and which right now can only be made by Japan Steel Works, so there is even now, with few new reactors being built, a long time in the queue (many years) before you can get a pressure vessel for your Gen III plant.
Someone correct me if I’m wrong.
Also, CANDUs can run on unenriched uranium.
They’re cheap and you can get them from several suppliers (I’d recommend Canada).
They have as good a record as any kind of reactor. You could start building them right now.

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For the record the Enhanced CANDU 6 (EC6) is a Generation III reactor.

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Peter Langsays:

DV82XL,

Isn’t the enhanced CANDU 6 a highly expensive concotion that hasn’t been built anywhere yet?

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Peter Lang, on 27 April 2010 at 10.20 Said:

DV82XL,

Isn’t the enhanced CANDU 6 a highly expensive concotion that hasn’t been built anywhere yet?

No, that’s the ACR 1000, the EC6 has been built and run very successfully, the last two in China were EC6s.

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Peter Langsays:

DV*2XL,

Woops! Thank you for that correection.

Just remind me please, the costs per kW you provided a while ago for CANDU, were they for the CANDU 6 or for the Enhanced CANDU 6?

Would any new CANDU’s to be contracted from now on be the Enhanced CANDU 6?

What were the NPP’s that were proposed for Alberta for in situ oil extraction from the tar sands?

Is it a stretch to call the Enhanced CANDU 6 a Gen III? Is it widely accepted in the industry that the EC6 is Gen III?

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Peter Lang

– The numbers I was working with were based on the Enhanced CANDU 6

– The current new builds on the books are for EC6’s

– I am not sure they got that far in planning in the Tar Sands project, but I believe the figures they were batting around were for the CANDU 9

-By the current standard industry definition, a generation III reactor is a development of any of the generation II nuclear reactor designs incorporating evolutionary improvements which have been developed during the lifetime of the generation II type progenitors. The Enhanced CANDU 6 is an evolutionary step up from the standard CANDU 6, so I would say it meets all the requirements for Gen III design.

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TeeKaysays:

Peter Lang,

I hear what you are saying, and agree with most of the points you make. Particularly about the importance of lowering costs so nuclear can compete fairly with big coal/oil/gas.

I believe DV82XL’s comment is of some relevance to this,

“The Enhanced CANDU 6 is an evolutionary step up from the standard CANDU 6, so I would say it meets all the requirements for Gen III design”

Does this not suggest that this particular Gen III design has both the evolutionary design features – improving safety and public perception of nuclear power – and can also be built at a reasonable cost?

I agree that over-regulation should not be allowed to continue to impede lower cost nuclear facilities, but can Gen III passive safety features make it both “safe enough” while avoiding a blow-out in price? I think cost and public concern are of equal consideration in this.

As for consideration of Gen II as an option to put more competitive pressure on Gen III to reduce their costs, aren’t fossil fuels doing this already?

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Peter Langsays:

TeeKay,

Yes, to all your points. I concede on all of them.

Thank you DV82XL for clearing up my confusion on the EC6 – i.e., it is recognised as a Gen III.

I’ll continue advocating for low cost nuclear.

I’ll continue arguing that we need to focus our efforts in determining what needs to be done to allow nuclear to be competitive with coal in Australia. I’d like to focus on finding and removing the imposts that increase the cost of nuclear, rather than focus our efforts on raising the cost of electricity (and by so doing, burrying the problem of the cost imposts on nuclear).

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I wouldn’t give up on it completely. The most commonly built reactor in the world right now, the Chinese CPR-1000, is considered a Gen II+ (based on pre-EPR French designs).

CPR-1000
China Guangdong Nuclear Power’s (CGNPC’s) indigenous focus has been on the French-derived three-loop units such as at Lingao, without major modification, now called CPR-1000, or ‘improved Chinese PWR’, and designated Generation II+, with digital instrumentation and control, and 60-year design life. It has 157 fuel assemblies. However, Areva retains intellectual property rights for this, which constrains overseas sales since the Chinese would need agreement from Areva on a case by case basis, and this would be unlikely in competition with the Atmea 1 design. The CPR-1000 is being widely and quickly deployed for domestic use under CGNPC leadership. Standard construction time is 52 weeks and the unit cost is under CNY 10,000 (US\$ 1500) per kilowatt. In June 2009, the first Chinese-made reactor pressure vessel for a 1000 MWe reactor was delivered for Ling Ao Phase II, from Dongfang (Guangzhou) Heavy Machinery Co.

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Peter Langsays:

I’ve just done quick calculation (using figures off the top of my head) to see what cost we could envisage for nuclear in Australia. Here goes (in 2010 A\$):

1. New black coal, super critical, air cooled
\$2,291 /kW (Capital cost)
\$53 /MWh (electricity cost)

2. Nuclear (ACIL Tasman, AEMO projections)
\$5,207 (Capital cost)
\$101 (electricity cost)

3. APR-1400 contracted cost for UAE
\$4,100 /kW (Capital cost)
\$79.53 /MWh (electricity cost)

4. CPR-1000, China
\$1,650 /kW (Capital cost)
\$32.00 /MWh (electricity cost)

5. Enhanced CANDU 6
\$2,200 /kW (Capital cost)
\$42.67 /MWh (electricity cost)

4a. APR-1400 contracted cost for UAE
\$2,419.00 /kW (Capital cost)
\$46.92 /MWh (electricity cost)

The last option is for the APR-1400 after removing 15% for First of a Kind (FOAK) costs, and 26% for investor risk premium.

The last three options indicate an electricity cost for nuclear that is less than for new coal. We can argue all day about the assumptions. This quick and dirty calculation suggests it is not impracticable to implement nuclear in Australia at less than the cost of coal.

We need to focus our efforts on how we could remove the investor’s risk premium and also carry the FOAK costs.

I believe it is perfectly justifiable for the community to carry the FAOK costs for several reasons:

1. We caused them by continually postponing the implementation of nuclear over the past 35 years.
2. We are demanding that nuclear must be some 10 to 100 times safer than coal
3. we want the benefit of clean electricity
4. we have continually subsidised renewables for the same reason
5. we threaten to change our mind about what we want and we would try to renege on the deals made (as we did with the Sydney city tunnel)

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Hi all,

Just to inform you of the counter-activism going on.

Just as “Countdown to zero” is coming out later this year on how close we came to pushing the button, this documentary is coming out soon seems to be all about how impossible it is to store long-lived nuclear waste responsibly.

Check out the podcast…

“But in Finland, construction of a similar site is underway. In this segment, Ira talks with Michael Madsen, director of the film “Into Eternity.” His film looks at ‘Onkalo,’ a Finnish nuclear waste repository now under development, and the attempts to design methods to warn future generations away from the site. Since no person involved with the Onkalo site today will be alive when it is completed, what’s the best way to warn future civilizations that the buried remains of our nuclear era must never, ever be unearthed?”

http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201004234

The preview is here.

http://intoeternitythemovie.com/

However, being into progress and a bit of sci-fi as I am, and having read some of the singularity projections for the future, I kind of agree with DV8 when he compared future generations sneering at our primitive technologies today and having as little concern for our waste as modern armies might be worried about a Roman legion.

Who knows if we’ll need nuclear power in 500 years, when today’s waste will hopefully mainly be burnt up? Who knows what particle smashing, radioactive waste destroying fun they might be having in 100 years time, let alone 500? I guess this movie must be assuming that we’ll nuke ourselves back to the stone age to pose the questions it does.

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DV82XLsays:

eclipsenow – I’m glad you too can see that this, ‘Après moi, le déluge’ type of thinking is a bit arrogant at best. It takes, (in my opinion) a rather infated ego to think that you are a member of the most advanced civilization that Man can achieve, and that the only way forward is down.

But again, this belief that spent fuel and other nuclear waste will be a hazard for the time-frames that are being stated here, simply does not reflect the physics of radioactive decay. Thus this sort of hand-wringing over communicating danger over millennium can only be seen as the result of obstreperous ignorance, or a calculated effort to exaggerate the dangers of this material to some current political ends.

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Stanford University has an interesting podcast I’ll be listening to today on “Nuclear power without nuclear proliferation”. I think it’s an interview with the experts who wrote these PDF’s.

http://cisac.stanford.edu/events/nuclear_power_without_nuclear_proliferation/

To subscribe to their podcast, go into iTunes store and in the search bar type “Stanford + International Security” and you should find the audio version ready to subscribe to for free. Very interesting talks, with this one dated 16/1/08 and more recent talks on nuclear power, climate issues, energy from a security perspective, and other issues of international conflict, tension, and accord.

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TeeKaysays:

Peter Lang,

Looks like your pushing for lower cost electricity production is more practical than ever now. The Rudd government’s just pushed back any talk of carbon pricing until 2013. While I know you are against a carbon price, while others disagree (I’m undecided), it means that what you have been strongly advocating over the past few months seems the only way forward at the moment.

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TeeKaysays:

eclipsenow,

Thank you for the link to that podcast. I also like your admission to being into a bit of a sci-fi, in a “futurist” sense. I think the makers of that movie are right into a bit fantasy, in a “fantasy story” sense.

Ah, I really love it…

“We can’t ever safely dispose of nuclear waste!”

“Don’t worry, we can get rid of it in IFRs.”

“No.”

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Peter Langsays:

TeeKay,

The government has made the right decision to drop the CPRS (or ‘postpone’ it as the spin goes), both politically, technically and economically.

I see this change of direction by the Australian Government as an opportunity. I think the Australian population is starting to engage in the debate on nuclear, and I think people are listening. There are frequent discussion on TV and in the media. The amount of discussion is growing exponentially. I contrast this with the situation on the early 1990’s when Bob Hawke’s “Ecologically Sustainable Development” was the main game. At that time, the word ‘nuclear’ was not to be uttered by Australian Government public servants, and consultants who mentioned it would be cut off.

I expect we will see increasing debate, and more rational debate, about our options for clean energy and energy security. It may not be mentioned much in this year’s election campaign – neither side is prepared to open the discussion – but I expect it is likely to be considered seriously by Treasury and other government departments during the next term of government.

In my opinion we should focus our efforts on what we need to do to allow nuclear to be introduced at a cost competitive with coal. It can be done. It is just a matter, in my opinion, of letting the media and the public know about all the imposts on nuclear and how much they are raising the cost of this option.

By the way, I saw in today’s paper that the already approved electricity price rises for NSW would be less than approved; e.g. only 20% instead of 46% for one utility and 36% instead of 60% for another. That is a major saving. If we could remove the Renewable Energy Targets, the feed in tariffs, direct grants and other subsidies for renewable energy and the uncertainty causing us to invest in gas generators, the price rises could get back to being less than inflation, as they should be.

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I finally caught DV8’s first post…

It takes 9 kWh/kg U to get 1 kilogram of Uranium. At 45 Gigawatt days per ton of Uranium the amount of power from one kilogram of uranium is 360,000 kWh. This is with the current generations of reactor.

Where do you get the 9 kWh /Kg U, and what concentration of ore is that? Wow! ERoEI studies have often been quite depressing for various renewables… especially my earlier readings of biomass. The more I read about ERoEI’s of traditional renewables the more depressed I got. Wind seemed to have a good ERoEI but this goes down a bit once accounting for various storage mechanisms. (But I wasn’t as aware of the Better Place V2G scheme coming online soon.)

Dv8 or anyone, any ideas on the kWh needed to extract uranium from seawater, or the less dense reserves? Or maybe I shouldn’t bother asking… as we’ve got 500 years of ‘waste’ to turn into fuel before we have to worry about opening any new mines in the normal conventional uranium ore grades, so maybe I’m asking a bit prematurely. ;-)

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OK thanks Barry… on my reading list.

I finally listened to the Ariel Levite Standford University podcast.

The Ariel Levite podcast is available here. He mentioned reprocessing, but did not seem to be as overwhelmingly convincing on the economics of nuclear power and waffled a bit about the lengthy legal processes of applying for permits in the USA, legal battles driving up costs a few billion at times (or even leading to abandonment) and then of course custom building each individual plant.

http://cisac.stanford.edu/people/ariellevite/

Standardisation and smaller plants were mentioned, but he sounded quite horrified by the idea of Hyperion reactors, and wondered whether they would have guards?

He also did not sound convinced there were real answers for waste. It might be worth pulling a few strings in your network to have someone address this same crowd, as it went out over the iTunes Stanford University podcast. I hope to give another short review of another Stanford iTunes uni podcast soon… got some driving errands to run tomorrow.

PS: I listened to this while cleaning out junk in the shed. I really hate the way rat pooh builds up in layers of impenetrable muck that when you try and scrape it, can flick back in your face!

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[…] consider Australia’s current electricity demand. As noted here, this is 250,000 GWh per year. Of this, 78% comes from black/brown coal, 15% from gas, and 7% from […]

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John Morgansays:

There are many factors to be considered, including fitting 1000MW Gen III power plants into the Australian grid (Gen II’s are smaller and ideally sized for the Australian grid as it is now).

You’ve mentioned this a couple of times. I don’t understand what the considerations are regarding the sizing of a power plant for our grid. Perhaps its to do with the ability of the grid to manage outages of this size.

Could you elaborate on the considerations involved? What do you think is a ‘right sized’ power plant?

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Peter Langsays:

John,

I don’t know a lot about this and am just repeating what I hear from others who do know what they are talking about.

The NSW black coal units are mostly 500 and 660MW. Queensland units are mostly 280 to 450MW. Victoria’s units range up to 500MW.

Transmissions systems are sized to handle these size plants. If we had a 1000MW or larger plant it would have a greater effect on the whole system when it goes down. The AP1000 and other light water reactors have to be shut down for a few weeks for refueling every couple of years, and unscheduled outages also occur from time to time. I understand there would be considerable extra cost throughout much of the transmission and control system if we wanted to add 100MW plants instead of smaller plants. The Advanced CANDU 6 looks like a good fit to me.

One other thing that is biasing my discussions here, is I think the bureaucratic nightmare of dealing with a regulatory regime would be less with Canada than with USA.

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Peter Langsays:

That sentence was supposed to read:

I understand there would be considerable extra cost throughout much of the transmission and control system if we wanted to add 1000MW plants instead of smaller plants. The Advanced CANDU 6, at 650MW, looks like a good fit to me.

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Hey, Finrod, I just quoted your piece on Slashdot. They had a thing about off-shore wind turbines and, as usual, there was a pro-nuke commenter that I decided to back up. Your blogpost about having 200 million years of uranium & thorium in the earth’s crust really got me thinking…

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Hey, Finrod, I just quoted your piece on Slashdot.

Cool. That’s the first time to my knowledge I’ve been quoted on slashdot.

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Ardysays:

Basic questions for you.

Barry Brooks mentioned that between 100-150 reactors would be needed to supply the total electricity requirements of Australia.

Would it be possible to scale these reactors down so that a council could run one for the local area. I am thinking of the reductions in electricity losses via the grid and taking the large electricity suppliers out of the picture.

My ideal solution would be to purchase a reactor that could be built with a house and replaced or removed every 80 years ? Not in my lifetime unfortunately.

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John Morgan:

In order to separate elements by electrolysis, you need them to have different reduction potentials – the voltage at which they change from salt to metal. The reduction potentials for some actinides are roughly:
U -0.1 V, Np -0.3V, Am -0.9V, Cm -1.2V, Pu -1.2V.
So the uranium is easily separated from the plutonium, but the plutonium is not easily separated from the americium, and can’t be separated from the curium.

Thank you John. Is there always enough curium present to make the plutonium unsuitable for bombs?

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John Morgansays:

Kaj, I don’t know enough about either the spent fuel composition or the requirements for bomb making to be able to say definitively.

GRL Cowan gave some data on spent fuel composition here, but I don’t know if the conditions are representative of high burnup in an IFR, and his reference is now 404’d.

Also, don’t take my list of elements as being all those present in the spent fuel. They’re just some actinides whose redox potentials I could quickly find.

The point I’d like to make is that pyroprocessing is a poor separation process, which is its virtue here. You can separate the fuel into broad fractions – all the elements present with redox potentials above or below a certain value. If you were to work through GRLC’s list, you would find a number of those elements would have a redox potential close to plutonium. The plutonium fraction coming out of the IFR will have these materials. I assume the chemical and isotopic composition makes this plutonium too dirty and too hot for bomb making without further refinement.

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Peter Langsays:

Ardy,

The number of reactors we would need depends on the size of them (as you understand).

We’d need about 30 medium sized reactors (1000MW) to provide the average power demand in 2007; say 60 by 2050; these figures include the reserve capacity needed. (These could be located in as few as two to four power stations in each mainland state). The difference between average and peak power could be provided by pumped-hydro energy storage. That combination would provide Australia with near zero emissions electricity (emissions about 2% of what they are now).

We could move to smaller nuclear power plants. But they are more expensive, and the grid would be much more expensive, not less expensive. Here is some information on small reactors http://www.eoearth.org/article/Small_nuclear_power_reactors#Liquid_Metal_cooled_Fast_Reactors

Electricity losses around 10% in the Australian grid – say 3% in transmission and 7% in distribution (local). So, having nuclear power plants in towns would not save on the 7% lost in distribution.

Importantly, though, the transmission grid would be many time more expensive. If you have a local system, it has to be sized to meet the peak demand at every location. The transmission system allows the peak demand to be averaged. You can see the most extreme example by the transmissions system that would be needed to link all the wind farms all over the country so that anyone can supply all power when that is the only one that is generating power. That is extreme, but you can follow through the logic to see why the cost of transmissions for central generation is cheaper than for distributed generation.

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So assuming 30 reactors * \$4 billion each = \$120 billion, which is only about 3 or 4 years without state governments. According to Dr Mark Drummond’s Phd, Australia could save \$50 billion a year if we dumped the State Parliaments and had a unified National and Local 2 tiered government system.

http://www.beyondfederation.org.au/

And just a few weeks ago both Bob Hawke and John Howard both agreed that Australia should abolish the States and run a National / Local government system.

Once we’d funded the total elimination of all coal from our energy budget, what’s next? Fast rail between all capital cities to prepare for peak oil and the airline crisis? Fixing the Murray Darling? Fixing our education system? Showing the world how to get off oil in a hurry?

\$50 billion here, \$50 billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. Californian’s have 36 million and only one State… do Australians really need 14 times the government?

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Peter Langsays:

eclipsenow,

You are not following again, or you have forgotten what’s been covered in the previous discussions.

Instead of continually throwing darts, why don’t you suggest a cheaper alternative for getting to low emissions?

You don’t seem to understand that if the investment climate is set properly, investors will pay for what we want. In this case, it is not funded out of tax revenue. What is needed is to remove all the regulatory distortion that society has unwittingly imposed, and that prevents us having cheap, clean, safe electricity.

You also need to recognise that we are spending about \$2 billion per year in routine replacements.

Have a go, eclipse now. Suggest a cheaper way to provide near emissions free electricity. I challenge you. Chart 12 here https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/09/emission-cuts-realities/ shows that even on the high cost assumptions for nuclear power used in this analysis, the nuclear option is by far the least cost way to reduce emissions from electricity.

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Peter Langsays:

Eclipsenow,

I think I misunderstood the point you are making. Perhaps you are saying that if we reduce the duplication of federal and state responsibilities, the saving would amount to large amounts of dollars which could then be put to better uses. If that is your argument, then I strongly agree.

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Hi Peter,
absolutely! We pay apparently something like \$30 billion for the duplication in paper-work at the State government level parliaments, and adjusting to all the various kinds of legislation across this nation it costs businesses another \$20 billion in training, lost manhours adjusting to the whims of the various arbitrary state boundaries.

We are a nation of only 21 million, and at the ratio of States and Territories we have that works out about 14 times more government than Californian’s have with their 36 million people in one State.

For those arguing that at least we get more representation, I’d ask if we really get 14 times more representation and ‘bang for our tax buck’?

I’d rather Australia have ONE Parliament for all.

This is my favourite Alternative Constitution (for now):-

http://www.anicholas.id.au/Citizensconstitution/Summary.html

The Draft Specifications for a Citizens Constitution presented here are intended to provide a basis for the reform of our dysfunctional federal system of government. The aim is effective and efficient governance, and increased opportunity for local and regional communities to participate in their own government. In addition, adoption of these proposals would obviate some of the disabilities of our political system, such as the disruptive electoral cycle, simplistic policy auctions, counter-productive adversarial politics and extravagant election campaigns that offer openings for corruption.

The most obvious element is the reduction of the number of levels of elected government from three to two. Power would be divided between a reformed national parliament, attending to issues of national significance, and enhanced local governments, acting collaboratively to attend to all others. Decision-making and implementation would be shifted to the lowest operational level that is feasible by introducing the principle of subsidiarity, which would allow opportunities for increased efficiency and responsiveness.

With considerable advantage but no significant disruption, the regionalized functions of the states and territories would become the responsibility of boards of management nominated by the local governments in the regions appropriate for each function. Local government would, of course, be immeasurably enhanced by the wealth of talent released by the abolition of state parliaments.

The national parliament would consist of 400 members, elected for single terms of five years from 40 electorates. Elections, in which each voter may select one man and one women, would be held successively by a postal ballot, one electorate at a time, every six or seven weeks. The electoral cycle would become an historical item.

An executive council of ten would be elected from the national parliament to run the country, together with four executive committees with specific duties. One committee would appoint and manage the staff of all government services, another would set and enforce standards of financial management for governments, a third would investigate and disclose improprieties in government and its agencies, while a fourth would provide an interface with local government. Elections to these five bodies would be by a proportional method and members would hold office for not more than eight years after election.

The 1901 Constitution is an agreement between the politicians of the former colonies to allocate certain functions of government to the Commonwealth. The civic rights and responsibilities of citizens (who are referred to as subjects), being derived from the long and valuable tradition inherited by the colonies from the United Kingdom, are not spelled out, as they are in the constitutions of many other countries. The trend to increasing secrecy in government, both state and federal, and the development of a secret police force, represent a regressive trend, which significantly reduces the status of our democracy. Therefore, these specifications include citizens’ rights and free access to public information, as well as the separation of church from state.

In brief, if a system of government based on these specifications were to be developed, then:

. Our country would have one parliament instead of nine,

. Local government would have an expanded role in delivering government services,

. Responsibilities would be allocated to the most appropriate level of government,

. The national parliament would consist of two hundred men and two hundred women representing forty electorates,

. Elections for parliament would be held progressively instead of periodically, avoiding the disruptive and extravagant contests of political bravado that we have now,

. The national parliament would elect an executive government that would be representative of the whole parliament, instead of the dominant factions of the majority party,

. The parliament would elect four executive committees to undertake specific long-term functions that are better kept separate from executive government.

. The Governor-general, six state Governors and two Administrators would be replaced with a part-time head-of-state.

While the proposals above may appear radical, some could be realized under the 1901 constitution, for instance, the conduct of elections and the selection of a representative executive government. Moreover, these two reforms could be seen as a prerequisite to the restructure of federal-state government relations, because without a proper balance in the national government, people would be unlikely to accept a reduction in the powers of the states.

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Ardysays:

Peter Lang thank you very much. Not that interested in emissions reductions but cleanliness is close to godliness. They sound far more sensible and efficient than burning coal.

As we spent 200 billion on the GFC how much better would it have been to spent half of it on these reactors? Not as much money quickly into the system but the end result would have been many times better.

Eclipsenow-I agree that the state govt’s need to be demolished. Another fact for you in the ‘what the hell are we doing’ area. We have the largest single education administration dept. in the world in NSW, try to understand what savings there are in there, not quite a reactor but could be useful?

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[…] dirt. Over an individuals entire lifetime the amount of extracted nuclear fuel involved would be no bigger than a golf ball. Indeed, we’ve already mined enough uranium to power the whole world using next-generation […]

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[…] Perhaps the key factor in thorium’s favour is that it is cheap. It is said that a ball-bearing sized amount of thorium could deliver all the power the average person would require in a lifetime. […]

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[…] Perhaps the key factor in thorium’s favour is that it is cheap. It is said that a ball-bearing sized amount of thorium could deliver all the power the average person would require in a lifetime. […]

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[…] Misschien is de belangrijkste factor in het voordeel van thorium dat het goedkoop is. Er wordt gezegd dat een hoeveelheid thorium op kogellagerformaat al het vermogen kan voorzien dat de gemiddelde persoon in een mensenleven nodig zou hebben. […]

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