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  1. “I can’t shake the belief that there will be no “new nuclear” in the U.S. for a very long time unless we take action now to slow the demise of old nuclear.” That has also been my concern from the time that the Zion plants shut down in 1998. This concern is heightened by the fact that the NRC will not allow a plant that has canceled their license to restart regardless of the fact that it was placed in a standby mode to assure future operationality even if the plant undergoes a second restart verification program. Absurd. I am very familiar with the restarting of a two unit Coal fired power plant that was built for the WWII effort and then not needed after the war was over. The “operating” utility put it in a cold shut down maintenance condition which required only a few operators and kept in a state that it could be restarted if needed. Twenty years later they restarted one of the units and later the other, performing the typical startup testing on each. They spent less than half of what a new plant would have cost to get both back on line. Having been a Startup Test engineer on two plants and then a SU Supervisor/Manager for two, I just can not fathom why a nuclear power plant could not do the same.

  2. From the Washington Examiner article:

    McKinzie added that given the high cost of building new nuclear plants, the U.S. should aim to invest long term in “reliable, clean-energy solutions like solar, wind and efficiency measures to step in and take its place.”

    Hmm. I don’t think the word “reliable” means what McKinsey seems to think it means.

  3. “All competitive suppliers, including those who market coal, gas, wind, hydro, solar, geothermal, and even distillate fuel oil have the potential to increase sales, revenues and profits if they can force nuclear plants to exit the market.”

    I used to think that the progress of man marches on as an unstoppable juggernaut of human progress making things better for the vast mass of people. Unfortunately, the more I read, I see history teaches us otherwise. Tobacco companies and smoking comes to mind. Knowledge of the ill effects of smoking was suppressed. Today’s situation is that it is being increasingly being found that oil companies have known about their effect on global warming for years and have buried the information away. Automobile companies had the streetcar tracks ripped up in Los Angeles and other cities. It’s well known that Koch brothers organizations spend more than the entire Republican party to obtain their agendas. A popular movie from a few years back told of the Tucker car introduced in 1948 that had innovations years ahead of its time. The medical industry in the US is known to not operate at optimal efficiency for the consumers and the profit motive is the known reason that this industry will fight tooth and nail to keep it this way.

    You dig a very little in this area and you run into silly conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, I think an argument can be made that the scruples of big business are not always in the public good. A broad smile will be issued by businessmen when the rules are changed in their favor.

    Do any of your readers ever pose the argument that nuclear plant staffs are not bloated by the imposition of unnecessary rules with very little credible justification? If a particular situation has been adequately dealt with by the staff at a nuke plant, is it necessary to review the situation in perpetuity? Is it indeed possible that the opponents of nuclear power use means that can be considered beyond the pale to achieve their objectives?

  4. I read an article recently that made a good point. Worrying about why we aren’t building much new Nuclear power generation should be secondary to keeping the fleet we do have from shutting down.

    I think the article was trigger by the announcement of 3 Mile Islands closure.

    Job one should be to keep CO2 free power generation running. I don’t know how you can be an “environmentalists” and support replacing working CO2 free power generation, which I would call “green”, with Gas burning power plants and coal plants burning more coal. Because that is what’s happening.

  5. Today I read that Palo Verde will shut down all units if the AZ Renewable Energy Mandate is passed. Requires 50% renewable energy, not 50% CO2 energy. If anyone believes this is about CO2 they are mistaken. Should be obvious to the most casual observer.

    1. As I read it, the state legislature will arrange a trivial fine for those not complying with this so-called mandate, if it passes.

      So the politics continues…

    2. It would be a big mistake to shut down the Pal Verde reactors. in the past there has been a problem with one of the three reactors but this has been resolved. These are big reactors which provide steady base power. They are located about 50 miles east of Phoenix which at times has large dust storms that degrade the air quality. so it is especially important to maintain this source power. Solar power can help some but Ph.oenix has very hot nights in the spring, fall and summer and air conditioning is a necessity during these seasons and dark nights.

    3. Where did you read about shutting down the Palo Verde reactors. Some sources are more reliable than others.

      1. Search for “Palo Verde Nuclear Shutdown” and “Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona”
        The Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona measure would amend the state constitution to require utilities to get half their electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2030. That mandatory requirement means that Nuclear Power becomes non profitable as a Base Load plant. The reason is that If a NPP is the backup source for wind/solar then the power ends up costing twice as much BECAUSE they are operating full time and only selling half of the power they could generate.

      2. I went here


        and couldn’t believe how people can actually say “just shut it down”. I explained how RE needs a buildup to the inverse of its capacity factor plus storage, plus the extra energy needed to build that (and scolded him for wanting to shut it down).
        If it ever comes to allowing the people to vote for or against nuclear, seems we’re doomed!

  6. That same “famous cartoonist” has another book about persuasion that the nuclear industry should read, re-read, and go learn hypnosis (as the “famous cartoonist” is a trained hypnotist) to help change the public’s mind. Our focus on “technical” reasons why nuclear is better is never going to work (and it has not worked yet). We need to break down the issue into things that the public can understand, and I am not talking about showing someone the fuel pellet vs rail-car-full-of-coal slide.

    In a probably over simplified way, I see that problems to confront are:
    1) Over-regulation. (Question: Can we push the current regulations into a professional society realm, say the ANS, so that it can be revised more frequently and updated for the times? Can we systematically reduce current regulation to find ways to lower our costs while still reasonably protecting the public? Can we clarify existing regulation to do that same thing? Should we just blow up the existing regulations and start over?)
    2) Anti-nuclear activisms that has persuaded people that nuclear is bad.
    3) Massive “moneyed interest” that have been working against the industry in a variety of ways (e.g., pushing for more regulation, aiding the “antis”, etc.) over a long period of time.
    4) Incentives for renewable energy plus the way that power is priced.

    I believe that if we can focus on the cost problems (esp. the cost increases due to over-regulation and the way that power is priced) such that we can bring the costs down to be competitive, then we have a fighting chance. If we cannot do that, then there is no point.

    Thoughts? Am I totally off base?

  7. The Department of Energy received a 16 per cent increase in its budget according to C and E news. Energy secretary Perry supports “all of the above” for developing energy supplies. What more can one ask for.

  8. Supporters of energy resources will want all of the money for their favorite energy source. Oil wants all of it for oil, nuclear wnts allof it for nuclear reactors. hydro electric wants more dams, solar wants more solar. i could go on and on.Proponents of single sources subscribe to a survival of the fittest philosophy. I would suggest consideration of a competing philosophy put forth by Kropotkin who espoused cooperation rather than competition. His example was that rabbits who huddle together in a snowstorm are more likely to survive than lone rabbits. If supporters of the different sources of energy would cooperate rather than trying to shoot down other sources we would have more energy.

    1. “We would have more energy.”

      Seems like we don’t have enough uses for our already installed capacity since the USA has effectively de-industrialized.

      One problem surely is weak demand; there aren’t a lot of aluminum smelters (for example).

      I question your understanding of certain economic concepts when you suggest that competing sources of generation should huddle together like bunnies.

      1. Oil prices are going up just in time for summer vacations. Arizona may be experiencing less demand. Housing prices in Tucson are still depressed.

      2. More energy is better than less. Prices come down too 🙂
        I’d say “go full on nuclear, electric cars, desalination and re-industrialize” because that’s the ONLY way to save the biosphere from excess CO2. We need more energy to fix whatever environmental problems and we need proper laws to facilitate more non fossil (and reliable) energy. Not laws that would cause limitation.
        We’ve already passed a “do nothing” tipping point. Use less energy and the biosphere will just heat up, anyways.

    2. “If supporters of the different sources of energy would cooperate rather than trying to shoot down other sources we would have more energy.”

      In a way natural gas works with solar and wind since it makes up for when they are unavailable.

      Too bad there isn’t a specially licensed remotely controlled peaker nuke that could be sold as complimentary emissions free energy. Man if the burden of all those superfluous regulations could be lifted this thing would eat the competition for lunch.

      1. “Too bad there isn’t a specially licensed remotely controlled peaker nuke…”

        I don’t see why it should/would/could be “remotely controlled”, but that is besides the point… LWR don’t make for good load following for a lot of foggy nuclear reasons, to which the retort is: “well the Frogs do it.” The Frogs do indeed, but it is a PITA and not done by “remote control”.

        Other non-LWR reactors MIGHT load follow better, but we don’t have them; actually nobody really does (onesie-twosie). Plus, the non-LWR reactors have their own PITA characteristics, which is the reason they haven’t been adopted.

        Some regulations are indeed “superfluous”, but the rest keep us safe. Think of the NRC like the FDA. Do you like the FDA keeping Chinese poison food out of the market? I remember that Chinese adulterated cat food killed quite a few pets (kidney failure) a decade ago. The free market has no scruples.
        WRT the NRC… these power stations come with a huge civic responsibility and they are manned by blue collar dudes that are managed by white collar dudes. Blue collar dudes, like all people can make mistakes, but theirs can snowball into severe consequences at a nuclear unit. White collar dudes have been known to cut some corners to make a buck. They are, after all, the ones that sent all of our jobs to China. They can’t be trusted to have the public health as their #1 priority, because it isn’t.

        Your idea to deregulate the nukes so that they become profitable again isn’t valid; it is an oversimplification of a complex issue.

      2. I don’t see why it should/would/could be “remotely controlled”

        Because nuclear should be just another plant to the ISO, that’s why.  Other plants can be controlled remotely for e.g. frequency control, nuclear should be the same.

        There’s no real reason we can’t do this even with LWRs.  I believe it was Cal Abel who came up with the idea of the LMFBR with the solar-salt intermediate heat loop and heat battery, but it would work on LWRs if somewhat less well.  Solar salt has a freezing point of 238 C, whereas the cold-leg temperature of the AP1000 is 279 C (535°F) and the hot leg 321 C (610°F).  The heat capacity is between 1.5 and 1.6 J/(g-K) and the density is approximately 1.9 in the region of interest, so the useful heat capacity is somewhere between 2.8 and 3.1 MJ/(m³-K); for a ΔT of 42 K between hot and cold, this would come to about 125 MJ/m³ of useful heat storage.  At a thermal efficiency of 33% that comes to 41.2 MJ or 11.5 kWh/m³

        The AP1000 has a thermal output of about 3400 MW, so storing 4 hours of thermal output to meet peaking requirements plus 1 hour reserve heat capacity to prevent reactor shutdowns in case of temporary loss of load would require about 490,000 m³ of molten salt.  A right circular cylinder tank with height equal to 1.5 times the radius would have inside dimensions of 94 m diameter by 70.5 m high.  This is a lot, but we’ve certainly built bigger tanks.

        Once you’ve done this, the reactor operators control the reactor which extracts cold salt from the bottom of the tank and puts hot salt in at the top.  The ISO controls the steam generators and turbine which extract hot salt from the top of the tank and put cold salt in at the bottom.  The two become essentially independent, so the ISO’s changes to output no longer affect the reactor and can be removed from NRC oversight.  Also, the reactor no longer needs to SCRAM in case of loss of grid as it has 1 hour of heat sink in reserve.

      3. Some regulations are indeed “superfluous”, but the rest keep us safe.

        How do regulations requiring something to be fully approved before construction is allowed keep us safe, when the very time and cost required for approval keeps far more dangerous energy sources in operation?

        Think of the NRC like the FDA.

        Unlike commercial nuclear power which has never killed a civilian in the USA, the FDA approved Vioxx and rubber-stamped the fraudulent “non-addictive” claims for OxyContin.  The latter alone has radically increased the rate of opiate-OD deaths in the US.  We would benefit hugely by reversing the burden-of-proof standards for the NRC and FDA.

        Your idea to deregulate the nukes so that they become profitable again isn’t valid

        Your idea that regulation inherently creates safety is a gross oversimplification.

      4. Engineer-Poet — Yes, that seems entirely sensible. However, it doesn’t appear to obtain any interest on the part of utilities or regulators, not to mention legislators.

      5. All [at least the three units I worked at and the several I provided consulting engineering service for] B&W NSSS Reactors were designed to be controlled by the Dispatcher, the same dispatcher that controls the coal powered plants. These plants had a ramp up/down rate of around 10% per minute. Guaranteed by B&W, Which I personally verified on the Startup Power Escalation Testing program on two of these plants to assure that the plant met design standards for the NRC, and verified by the NRC for Licensing requirements. On a Loss of Load, the B&W plant would run back to 20 -25% and maintain that power on steam relief valves with out a trip. Which I also verified on two units. So I have no questions whatsoever that B&W plants can follow most transients that man or nature can throw at the typical electrical grid.
        Then, TMI Lessons Learned Corrective Actions REQUIRED the plants to trip/scram on loss of load or turbine trip and several other not properly thought through actions making the original design of the B&W plants and every other NPP in the USA and most foreign countries that follow US NRC regulations prone to more trips. And also making the public less safe, when considering total lives lost for normally occurring events.

      6. it doesn’t appear to obtain any interest on the part of utilities or regulators, not to mention legislators.

        It might be of interest to nuclear plant designers looking to minimize the fraction of a plant subject to NRC oversight.  I suspect this would radically reduce regulatory risks and overheads.  Had San Onofre not had to go to the NRC to approve anything related to its defective steam generators, it would still be running today.

      7. Natural gas also produces carbon dioxide although less than coal. Nuclear power does not produce carbon dioxide.

      8. ScarryJello
        Have you thought about what is required to match nuclear’s potential? Not even fossil fuels can (based on physics). Why would one want to crush that?

    3. Forget it, Susanne. The commenters here are too absorbed in partisan politics and adversarial discourse to consider any constructive policy and advocation efforts. Pizzagate and eugenics are aired here without opposition, so how can we expect common sense efforts to join rather than divide? These guys will continue to step on their own ____s until they finally dismember themselves.

      1. “I don’t see why it should/would/could be “remotely controlled”

        Hydroelectric facilities and gas turbines may be remotely controlled. Some of the facilities are not staffed. I am envisioning an industrial facility that may be unmanned. I realize when you have a thousand people at a nuclear site, it may seem ridiculous to you to have an unmanned site, but couldn’t the startup process be largely unmanned having human beings step in when something goes wrong. This would apply to future facilities.

        “Some regulations are indeed “superfluous”, but the rest keep us safe. Think of the NRC like the FDA. Do you like the FDA keeping Chinese poison food out of the market?” I submit. The NRC should be more like other regulatory agencies and allow pragmatic rules. Like the rest of the industry, their rules are a response to outside pressure.

        “The commenters here are too absorbed in partisan politics,……”

        Not any more, the more I learn the more I see the pox should be on both their houses.

      2. Since the DOE got a rise this is agood time to design new reactors. Recently I read Alvin M. Weinberg’s book The First Nuclear Era (1997) In it he discusses many nuclear reactors – both ones that worked and ones that did not. He the former director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It is important to know what worked as well as what did not work. History ignored is History repeated.
        Some reactors are old and shutting them down should be considered, Fighting anti=nuclear activists just publicizes their cause.

      3. It always goes against my grain to suggest that something be scrapped simply because it is “old” (a relative term to say the least). Many useful parts of the worldwide industrial infrastructure might be considered “old” but are still amazingly useful. The original lock gates for the Panama Canal date back to the early part of the 20th century. Hoover Dam was commissioned in the 1930s. Grand Coulee Dam in the 1940s. The Robert Moses power station at Niagara Falls came online in the 1950s. Based on studies of PV material strength (ductile-brittle transition temperature, upper-shelf energy, etc.) there is no reason to suspect that pressure vessel lifetime is challenged at this point, at least not to the degree where catastrophic failure would occur. So the engineer in me wants to assert that taking functional plants out of service is not a good policy.

        That said, the non-engineer in me recognizes that making arcane technical arguments isn’t going to win the PR battle. The eyes of the average person on the street will glaze over if thrown a bunch of insider technical jargon. Although it galls me to admit it, emotional arguments will likely win the war, not technical truth.

  9. I’ll start anew:

    As Engineer-Poet wrote above, Cal Abel and a student suggest imposing a thermal store between the heat source, a nuclear reactor, and the heat sink, a steam turbine powered electricity generator. Unfortunately, nobody appears to have followed up on this suggestion, although there appear to be many advantages. Engineer-Poet suggested some in posts above.

    There may be others: the thermal store could readily be equipped with an electric resistance heater. When the price of grid power is low, possibly negative due to solar or wind power, the thermal store operator buys so that the electric resistance heater energizes the thermal store.

    So why are such not being seriously considered? Have we forgotten some important aspect which renders such a scheme uneconomical?

    1. I would point you at Moltex Energy reactor design. Although yes this is an advanced reactor design (probably still be online before a number of other more “conventional” LWR such as Hinckley point C) it uses solar salt as an energy storage mechanism (and also as a heat sink for normal shutdown of the plant) to enable the reactor to run constantly at rated power but the turbine plant load follow. Their design decouples the peak demand power rating from the reactor power rating allowing the power plant nameplate capacity to be customisable for a customers need but still use the same reactor. this approach is enabled due to the higher operating temperatures of the reactor coolant (600 deg C) which marries well with the hot tank storage temp of the solar salt (550 deg C) and also conventional superheated steam turbines (steam conditions 500-550 deg C).

      From a money making stand point I have had it stated from Ian Scott the CTO of Moltex Energy that it makes the power plant an almost obscene money making machine due to being able to sell electricity at far higher prices than would be normal for a 24/7 base load plant. their “standard” approach will be to have sufficient salt store so that a 1GW electric reactor operating at rated power 24/7 can provide 2GW of grid power during peak operation (say 8hours of a day) and then operate at considerably less than 1 GW during remainder of the time while the salt store is recharged. Apparently for the UK market the ideal for a purely profit making approach was to have a 1GW plant using sufficient salt store so that the power plant could deliver 8GW of peak power due to the way the market has been warped with intermittent generators and liberalisation of the energy market

      LWR as suggested above are poor choices for this approach due to the hot leg of the reactor being not much hotter than a cool store of a standard solar salt thermal store. This drastically pushes up the amount of solar salt needed and reduces even more the already poor thermodynamic efficiency of the wet steam turbine on a nuclear plant. This makes the economic feasibility a non starter even if the engineering practicalities could be overcome.

      I think this idea is far from dead and expect to see it operating somewhere in the world (probably either Canada or China) on a nuclear plant within 10years.

    2. @Dave Benson

      “the thermal store could readily be equipped with an electric resistance heater. When the price of grid power is low,”

      It would be better to put the excess generation into electrolysis than to put it into a thermal reservoir. It would be better to put excess generation into gravitational potential energy (i.e. pumped storage). It would be better to put excess generation into batteries, a train on an incline, spring energy, rotational energy, anything except HEAT.

      Dumping high quality power, EMF, into resistance heaters, only to back-extract it with less than 50% thermal to mechanical efficiency would be a sin. Please, don’t suggest it again.

      1. Electric resistance heaters are inexpensive and reliable without operator attention. The methods you suggest are otherwise. For small, occasional, supplies of low or negative cost power the idea is worth considering. It beats a serious suggestion from a Bonneville Power Administration engineer to install electric resistance heaters to dump the power into the air during times of overgeneration.

      2. BPA has issues with nitrogen saturation in spillway water if it doesn’t dump power through its turbines.  Dumping power via resistance heat (into air, water, whatever) is definitely worth looking at.

      3. Nonsense. I lose interest when people start suggesting dumping electricity into heat. My time is better spent elsewhere in other discussions. I can’t quite find the words for my distain, and I’ll just let it go.

        1. @scaryjello

          Spoken like a classically educated engineer who cannot abide by wasteful practices.

          Unfortunately, our currently structured markets can produce periods during which electricity is less than worthless – the grid operators actually charge suppliers for the privilege of using the grid as a sink to absorb excess generation.

          That’s not the only time one might consider dumping electricity into a heater bank. I received my initial practical training on operating reactors at a plant where the load on the propulsion turbine was created by an electrical generator whose output was routed to a set of heaters immersed in a tank of cooling water.

          That arrangement made sense since the reactor was operated for materials testing and operator training, meaning that its output varied without any relationship to electrical power demand. It also made sense politically since the nuclear plant was owned by the government and the local electricity supplier lobbied its congressional representative to make sure that it did not have to face competition from the government for market share.

      4. It’s quite common for engine dynamometers to use a DC generator dumping to a water-cooled resistor bank.  It avoids the need to slave the output to anything in particular.  Yes, I realize that it’s a complete waste, but the cost of tying into another system can make it the best option.

        If the idea of dumping electric power to heat offends people, why not offer this power up at some minimal cost, or even for free?  Let people try to make productive use of it.  It might not be feasible to operate a business only during the spring melt, but then again someone might come up with something.

  10. First Energy ahs sent the NRC their notice that they nare shutting down their plants. The Environmenmtalsts have WON. Live in Ohio, Pensylvania, eastern [portion of the PJM Grid? Strongly suggest you get a decent Emergency generator.

    1. Still wonder why companies can’t or won’t mothball them. Is there just too much money out there in the funds they have accumulated to shut them down somehow?

      1. They can’t, and it comes down to money.  IIUC, if the plant maintains its operating license, it has to have the full staff of inspectors and maintenance people and all the paperwork done even if all the fuel is in the SFP and it isn’t scheduled to produce a single watt.  The only way to get rid of those huge fixed expenses is to surrender the operating license, and the NRC has no procedure for restoring one; it can only issue a new one, which requires upgrading the entire plant to the current standards.

        IOW it’s technically not difficult but government policy prohibits it.

      2. Former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Magwood said “You cannot lowball nuclear power. He did not explain this. i wonder if this is due to the buildup of a fission product with high capture cross section. I know of two reactors that shut themselves down automatically and started up automatically.. One was at Hanford and the other was the Oklo reactor in Africa. The former was attributed to buildup and decay of a xenon isotope. The Oklo one shut down by itself and started up again by itself on a million year time scale. The explanation for this is more complicated. It was exp0lained by George Cowan of the Los Alamos Laboratory.

      3. E-P, it also allows the company to start tapping (for approved expenses) the decommissioning fund. The combination of avoided expenses (firing most of the operating staff) and generating a “revenue” stream from the decommissioning fund may be too much of a temptation. I have always thought that the Law of Unintended Consequences (perhaps unintended, perhaps not) was very well illustrated by companies “mining” the decommissioning fund.

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