Developing World Nuclear Revolution

nuclear-powerNot being one to shy away from controversy (viz. my MMR and vaccination item, the intelligent Dawkins debate post and the recent flurry of global warming items, including one entitled Climate change debunked), I thought I’d dive headlong into the muddy ethical, economic, and engineering puddle that is nuclear power.

However, I am wearing a buoyancy aid, a nose-clip, ear-plugs, and protective goggles in the form of a peer-reviewed review from the International Journal of Global Energy Issues (2008, 30, 393-412), rather than skinny dipping.

In that paper, John Cleveland of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, points out that currently nuclear power produces around 15 percent of the electricity we use worldwide. This time last year, there were 438 nuclear power plants providing more than 370 Gigawatts with 31 new units under construction looking to add 24 GW to that total, although with a few being decommissioned in the meantime.

Cleveland explains that several countries are planning to either introduce nuclear energy or expand their nuclear generation capacity, and that most of the new plants will be of evolutionary, rather than innovative design. They will incorporate improvements over existing electricity generating nuclear plant designs achieved through small to moderate modifications, with a strong emphasis on maintaining proven design features to minimize technological risks. Cleveland suggests that in the longer term, innovative new designs will help to promote a new era of nuclear power.

He argues that the increasing demand for power both in the industrialized and developing world, together with nuclear power’s positive attributes, provide a solid rationale for expanding nuclear power sources:

  • Nuclear power’s lengthening experience and good performance. The industry now has more than 12,000 reactor years of experience, and the global average nuclear plant availability during 2006 reached 83%
  • Growing energy needs. All forecasts project increases. The strategies are country dependent, but usually involve a mix of energy sources
  • Interest in advanced applications of nuclear energy, such as seawater desalination, steam for heavy oil recovery and heat and electricity for hydrogen production
  • Environmental concerns and constraints. The Kyoto Protocol has been in force since February 2006, and for many countries (most OECD countries, Russia, the Baltic nations and some countries of the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe) emissions limits are imposed
  • Security of energy supply is a national priority in essentially every country
  • Nuclear power is economically competitive and provides stability of electricity price.

He adds that nuclear power faces significant challenges, nevertheless, including the continuing need to sustain a high level of safety assurance, implementing high-level waste disposal, and strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Success in these areas will provide a sound basis for establishing nuclear power as a sustainable energy source.

Evolutionary nuclear plants that utilise the best of current systems are already being built in several countries, and, adds Cleveland, are likely to be the primary choice for the next decade or two. Innovative, nuclear plants, are a different matter. In general they will require a new design paradigm, construction and testing of a prototype, and then a pilot plant before commercialisation, and so may not be implemented until about the second quarter of this century.

Several innovative designs are being developed for the Small- to Medium-Size Reactor (SMR) range and could find their introduction into the increasingly power hungry developing nations, as well as in some cases into industrialized countries. In developing countries, boosting self-reliance, keeping costs down, and enhancing local work force participation and participation of the domestic industry could be important factors for the governments of those nations to pursue.

4 thoughts on “Developing World Nuclear Revolution”

  1. The energy planning of developing countries is a challenge of enormous proportions to ensure the sustainability of development. Nuclear energy projects should be included as a clean development mechanism (CDM), one of the measures under Kyoto Protocol intended to encourage the transfer of technologies to developing nations that limit or avoid greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to sustainable development. The mechanism is a form of emissions trading that would allow industrialized nations to gain credits for pursuing clean energy technology.

    Nuclear for the developing countries is obvious mainly because their energy demands are constantly growing, and they face quite a tough question of environment pollution, as in case of China where they hardly ever see blue sky because of smoke from factories burning coal and black oil.

    Simeamelak Mekonnen,
    MSc Student

    Jimma University

  2. I worked on two Nuclear sites during the construction phase, as a certified QA/QC Welding Inspector Level II, with HVAC contractors. At Palo Verde, east of Phoenix, AZ. , my ductwork and hanger inspections, took me all through each of the three of five planned Units there, only three were compleated during my time there. I was offered a job, to form another QC Inspectors group for another HVAC company in Clinton, ILL. on one Unit of two. With a twenty year background in welding, and six more years as a Welding Inspector. I seen how large some of the primary cooling piping was, and these weld joints were X-ray quality welds, but still massive in size.

    I often though, how much faster smaller reactors, with less massive piping and welds, could better serve towns and cities, using the size reactors and piping systems onboard nuclear U.S. Naval ships. They could be built, tested, certified, and producing electric power, in one fourth the construction time, of that for a Regional Power Station (s), which are now being built in the U.S., or in planning now. These town sized, Power Station Sites, would require smaller work forces of each trade, could hire local workers, trained to NRC/ANSI and all applicable codes, under the direction of current Prime Contractors, i.e. Bectel, Westinghouse, Brown & Sharp, etc.
    Local Colleges, could offer required courses, for all trades to meet required standards for any local workers, plus OJT. These same local workers, could also become the Operational work force, of the new Town Power Station, and PUD. Town Power Sites, based on the Palo Verde design, one or more Scaled down Units in a semi-circle, with a Central Control Building, allowing for future expansion, or systematic shut-down and maintenance while still producing electric power, steam, and spent fuel robotic-containerization*. The same Sites, could also intergrate Trash and Garbage Reclaimation and (current designs) of Plasma Incineration, of wastes.

    Power Sites located on waterways or coastlines, could have fuel material, and spent fuel containers, delivered and removed, by Naval (LSD) Landing Ship Dock design, scaled down craft, where they could enter a Power Station by waterway locks, fuel rods would be in cooling water through out transport. And have Navy or Coast Guard escort at sea.

    *Robotic-Containerization; Would take spent fuel, mix it with a lead/concrete slurry, injected into leaded glass containers under water, heat sealed, inserted into foam lined stainless steel cyclinders and automatic seam welded and placed in water cooled shipping pallets also under water. The stern bay door of the LSD craft, its well deck being submerged would load the shipping pallets. The containerized pallets, would be off loaded at an off-shore NRC-NASA, launch platform, SS cyclinders would be loaded into a rocket final stage payload bay, drained of water lifted upright, purged with LOX or directional rocket fuel, (used after booster rocket seperation) and fitted behind an expendable unmanned navigation and guidance nose cone assembly. Directed to impact or approch at the farsides of Venus or the Sun.

    Note: Copies have been sent and posted as a copyright measure.

  3. I agree that we need to look seriously at nuclear power but there must be on-site storage of the waste. The transportation requirements for Yucca Mountain make this a virtual non-starter. The idea of trucking the waste thru downtown Los Angeles and large residential areas of Southern California to Yucca Mountain is insane.

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