1. Do the four AP1000 reactors being built in China have the same type of composite steel and concrete containment?

  2. How about building eight first of a kind reactors concurrently? Certainly that
    dramatically reduces the ability of the company to absorb unpleasant financial surprises and to a lesser extent spreads out the engineering and supervisory capacity.

    1. In the USA it would only work if all were given their COL at the same time. I was part of the Bryn, Braidwood, Marble Hill sister plant Fiasco. These were all “exact same design” same USAR and Same Technical Specifications. Sounds good on paper but when the first plant found a minor problem EVER succeeding plant (the other five as they were twin units) had to make the changes. OK for major ETS NRC mandated changes, but it was so ridiculous that even the most minor of changes need to be replicated. E.g. the first unit being built had a typical construction office trailer on the turbine deck at one end of the turbine. They need to drill a hole for piping for the turbine or generator. However the trailer was sitting right where the pipe should be. So the placed it in a position different than as required by all six drawings. As a result all five of the other units had to change their drawings and place the piping in the exact same location. Keep in mind the Turbine/Generator is BOP (balance of plant) and, theoretically not subject to NRC control/regulation. However the NRC just used the excuse “All of the USARs must be identical. End of discussion.”
      Although somewhat beneficial or cost saving, engineering costs are not dramatically reduced unless all of the sister plants also have the same Architect Engineers, Construction contractors, etc. IMHO, only floating barges or modular plants will achieve that result.

      1. Rich,

        The same old verbatim compliance regardless of cost BS, eh? I have to ask, when NRC demanded that that minor problem be fixed (at all the plants), did they do any kind of cost-benefit analysis? Do they ever do such analyses?

        I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced any other industry has to do things this way (most notably, the gas-fired plants that are nuclear’s primary competitor). Would the regulator (EPA? – state bodies?) make such demands over a minor issue at a gas plant? Or is this another example of nuclear exceptionalism. (Don’t bother to answer. I already know. It was a rhetorical question.)

  3. Modular construction must share some of the blame. Factory construction results in uniform quality. Can be great uniform quality or really poor uniform quality. Shaw’s factory in Louisiana apparently never learned to produce quality modules.

    What is the message to Small Modular Reactor designers?

    You better spend as much time designing your factory as designing your reactor. A passively safe reactor is great because safety does not depend on operator alertness.
    I bet your module construction does depend on factory worker alertness. Are you really sure each module can be tested? Really completely tested? How will the factory be managed? How will learning from failure be managed?

    SMR success will depend more on module testing design than reactivity calculations.

    1. Martin,

      What meets the definition of “quality modules”? Apparently the definition depends on the industry, and nuclear exceptionalism once again reigns. CB&I regularly made components for bridges, and other things that (unlike meltdowns) actually can kill large numbers of people in the event of component failure. And yet, when questioned about their problems with the modules, they said that “they had never seen anything remotely like it before”, in reference to the “nuclear grade” fab QA/paperwork requirements. What’s good enough for bridges apparently isn’t good enough for AP1000 modules.

      This all begs the question of why nuclear should be held to standards (of perfection) that are far different from, and beyond, the standards applied to all other heavy industries, including industries that frankly have equal or greater potential for inflicting harm (loss of life). Why is there a “nuclear grade”? Why does nuclear need a unique, and uniquely onerous fab QA program (NQA-1)? Why can’t they use standard industrial QA requirements? Especially with SMRs, which are essentially incapable of inflicting significant harm.

  4. I’ll start my commentary by pasting a comment I’ve made in several for (and which has been largely ignored). Will have to be in two parts…..

    This is a clear sign that things are not going well for large reactors in the West, and the current way of doing business in the nuclear industry.

    My view? Perhaps our only hope is small modular reactors (SMRs). That is, SMRs that are sanely regulated. Regulations, requirements and component fab QA standards that are remotely in line with the (tiny) level of hazard these reactors pose.

    SMR’s small size eliminates the need for active cooling, and thus all but eliminates the risk of meltdown, and it also results in a tiny release (compared to large reactors) even if a meltdown were to somehow occur. All of it being due to fundamental factors like size, basic shape, physics, etc.., and not reliant on having anything “work” or function.

    Giving up a huge amount of economy of scale, w/ SMRs, and not making any changes to current standards, philosophies, and general ways of doing business in this industry (i.e., standards of perfection, absolute assurance of everything, analysis paralysis, etc..), is likely to render SMRs uneconomic.

  5. continued…

    The time has come to sit NRC (and many others within the industry) down and ask them this fundamental question. Are we going to do this whole nuclear power thing or not? Refusing to make fundamental changes and continuing to do things the way we are now is tantamount to a decision to not use nuclear power in the future. Are you (NRC) actually saying that if we relaxed requirements enough to make SMRs economically competitive, the resulting risks would make them more harmful than fossil power generation? If so, make your case.

    And we should challenge that case, if they tried to make it. To me, it’s obvious that nothing could render SMRs such as NuScale more hazardous than fossil generation. You could drastically relax requirements while keeping SMR’s overall risks as low or lower than our current fleet of large reactors (let alone lower than fossil generation). Let’s see some PRA analyses!

    1. I’ve largely come to the same conclusion for the new-build end of the nuclear industry in the west. With the two main companies, Areva and Westinghouse, both in serious trouble and having thoroughly proved their inability to deliver projects on time and on budget the advantages for Rosatom & co will only grow. SMRs have now become the hail mary pass of the nuclear industry in the west, the only means to level the playing field. Even then I have my doubts about SMRs being reasonably achievable through the NRC and we may see an SMR design or two get built in Canada before the NRC re-examines things. NuScale might manage to sneak by thanks to it being otherwise familiar light water but that’s an awfully narrow window of opportunity.

    2. Jim ,
      My understanding is that the NuScale module will have a safety profile ( PSA ) 2 orders of magnitude better than the AP1000 Gen III+ , and that the AP1000 is 2 orders better than NRC requirements
      (Rod can confirm/correct me here)

      1. Diarmuid,

        That sounds about right. NuScale’s meltdown frequency is something like four orders of magnitude better than today’s reactors. And don’t forget that, due to the smaller fission product inventory and much lower release *fraction*, even if a meltdown were to occur, the release would be orders of magnitude smaller.

        So, the question I keep asking is what requirements (that significantly affect cost) can be relaxed, for NuScale, while keeping the safety level about the same as today’s operating plants. Again, we don’t need a higher level of safety. Nuclear is already the safest source.

        1. The control room staffing requirements for the NuScale design could have a significant impact on costs.

          1. The hope is that they can have one control room for multiple (e.g., 12) modules, right? Hopefully that will make the cost bearable. OTOH, needing to buy/install 12 modules before you can generate any power wasn’t the original idea…

    3. Also the industry itself talks of special and unique technology with decay heat and need for special QA. I cannot imagine the airlines referring to each plane as the next 911 instrument. Either the industry and regulators need to come to terms or nuclear’s fate may be sealed in the West.

  6. “Are you (NRC) actually saying that if we relaxed requirements enough to make SMRs economically competitive, the resulting risks would make them more harmful than fossil power generation? If so, make your case”

    Or making a plant that’s 3.5 hours away from the coast (or any plant….even right on the coast) install a hardened vent that costs 30+ MILLION……for the SOLE purpose of being able to vent hydrogen…..AFTER YOU MELT YOUR FUEL because you have:

    1. Station blackout which will last days

    2. All emergency diesels are inoperable

    3. The massive amount of FLEX equipment (diesel pumps, generators) onsite and/or at the offsite facility in Arizona (which for some reason cant be flown in like its supposed to be) can’t put water into the core or restore power before RCIC no longer has the reactor steam to pump water into the core.

    At that point….yeah, thank you NRC for the 30+ million dollar hardened vent requirement.

    How many people were directly killed by the Fukushima “disaster” again?

    1. Yeah, let’s talk about that hardened vent project… Big ugly thing mounted on the side of our plant, extremely expensive, very unlikely to actually help in a disaster situation. It’s not just that, we also now have to do monthly walk downs searching for “rogue devices” instead of just locking rooms and cabinets and have the shift supervisor keep track of keys. They regulate from a high horse and have no idea what some of these decisions mean.

    2. Hardened Vent is about the only reason BWRs with a Mark I Containment are allowed to operate.

      I participated with NEI, BWROG, and a team of industry representatives in closing out the remaining Tier 2 Fukushima recommendations with the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards in February 2016. Two of the issues, Hydrogen Control and Containment Venting are closely related. EPG/SAGs in effect, required “venting to maintain containment pressure below (Design Pressure), irrespective of release rates”. Standby Gas Treatment System can’t take that range of pressure, if such a vent were attempted – that plant would rupture a filtration / piping system outside the Secondary Containment. Mark I plants need a Hardened Vent Path – exploding Reactor Buildings at Fukushima illustrate why.
      Prior to 3/11/11 – I would have agreed that Severe Accidents were such low frequency events – that expense and modification were not justified. But 3 Severe Accidents at 1 site has convinced me otherwise.
      1) Install Hardened Vents if you need them
      2) Train your operators to vent if needed to preserve injection or the containment
      3) Learn the lessons of Fukushima

      1. Or simply……and for A LOT less $$, make your emergency diesel generators indestructible…..or AT LEAST water tight.

        If the EPIC tsunami that killed 20,000 people and devastated the whole coast doesn’t take out the diesels, Fukushima suffers zero fuel damage.

        Zero fuel damage = pointless hardened vent

        “Prior to 3/11/11 – I would have agreed that Severe Accidents were such low frequency events – that expense and modification were not justified. But 3 Severe Accidents at 1 site has convinced me otherwise”

        So Severe Accidents are no longer “low frequency”? 3 severe accidents at 1 site…..caused by a historically epic natural disaster.

        Forcefully learning the lessons of Fukushima shouldn’t cost the utility 80 million dollars. Especially when……….

        Direct death tally…

        Earthquake/tsunami = 20,000 people
        Fukushima = 0

        1. Like Appendix R and the ATWS Rule, some regulations are triggered due to what has happened vs what might happen. Low isn’t zero, sort of like dose.

          1. Rob

            Well publicized events were seized as justification for politically popular overreactions that layered more costs with few returns in performance or longevity.

            IMO a more complete discussion should have been conducted with the plant owners more forcefully seeking to resist ratcheting requirements.

  7. I’ve made my ideas concerning the main cause of nuclear’s problems clear in other posts. A few other points.

    I agree that forced design changes (e.g, the aircraft rule) needlessly increased costs, but I doubt that was the main issue for Summer. Although it definitely delayed the project, didn’t those issues have to be resolved before main construction started (i.e., first pour of nuclear concrete)? The main issue was suppliers’ inability to deliver components that complied with the (ridiculous) QA standards.

    Yes, low gas prices hurt, but if it really were true that this project was going to end up costing ~$25 billion as opposed to $11 billion (or even lower than that, in the original estimate), it’s clear that the industry has far bigger problems, and somewhat higher gas costs would do nothing to change that. Nor would any reasonable amount of policy support.

    1. Jim Hopf is correct in stating that the industry “has far bigger problems”.

      This project had everything going for it. A utility management that was very pro-nuclear power and was even considering operating an SMR at the Savanna River site. The financing was in place including production tax credits, letters of credit, good internal financial discipline and a low interest rate environment. The PSC approved NINE rate hikes for SCANA, Santee-Cooper pushed through FIVE rate hikes. Local, state and federal politicians almost universally supported the project. In fact, many STILL want to proceed. The local citizens are certainly grumbling about the rate hikes but are very pro-nuclear. Organized anti-nuclear opposition was negligible.

      1. @FermiAged

        I’ll agree that local and state politicians have almost universally supported the project, but I reserve judgement about Federal. Jaczko was a politician, even though not an elected official. Congress hasn’t helped and has added uncertainty by failing to pass a simple extension of the 2005 EPA nuclear PTC provision.

      2. I agree that they had a lot of local political support, and that *proximate* nuclear opposition was not significant. But that’s not the main way that political and legal opposition to nuclear (i.e., anti-nuclear groups and their legions of very active lawyers) has caused the industry’s problems, including events like the abandonment of the Summer project.

        As I said, the main problems for this project, and nuclear in general, are high costs brought on by absurd regulations and component fab QA requirements. That is what has led to absurd results like a $25 billion cost for 2 AP1000s, which is enough to sink nuclear no matter how much local political support it has, even with significant subsidy.

        That result (absurd requirements) was achieved through a decades-long national (vs. local) effort by anti-nuke groups.

        1. The lawyers working behind the scenes ARE the true threat along with the special interests that finance them. It wasn’t marches in the streets that enacted civil rights legislation or ended the Vietnam war. The Left uses street marches to give the impression that the objectives they achieve through behind the scenes actions are the will of the people. That’s why I think any strategy to organize “grass roots support” or “educate the public” is a fool’s errand. SONGS was alway conducting tours to local groups, sponsoring science fairs etc. but when the chips were down, the outreach efforts had no effect.

          1. Fermi,

            You’re right that lawyers play a major (perhaps THE major) role, but shows of public support may play some role. I’ve gotten the impression that judges aren’t above putting their finger to the wind. As an example, they weren’t ready to make those pivotal decisions on gay rights until they sensed that significant/majority public support was behind it. If the gays tried to file the exact same case in the ’80s, the judiciary would have ruled against them.

            That said, I agree with you that perhaps the most important thing the industry is not doing is exercising legal pressure. Then again, that costs money, and the industry seems unwilling to spend it, whereas nuclear opponents (and their lawyers) are well funded.

            Makes it all seem hopeless, and that no effort of mine will make any difference. Perhaps I should just give up and enjoy life. Or perhaps crawl inside a bottle….

  8. Keep on wondering to what extent the NRC is responsible for this tragic decision by SCE & G and Santee Cooper to give up on the VC Summer project. Large nuclear power plants don’t seem viable anymore in the U.S., due to excessively stringent rules and regulations.

    The NRC may sign its own death warrant in due time, if older nuclear plants close one by one over time and no replacements are in sight: there won’t be nuclear power plants to regulate anymore.

    1. The COL process requires an approved design and proof that the construction was built as designed. When the design could not be built as designed, the ability to make field changes was very restricted. Consequently, construction workers would be on hold until drawings and analysis were updated. It used to be that differences were resolved during the review for the operating license. The construction labor productivity rates were abysmal and did not improve whether it was WEC or SCANA managing the construction. And this was a problem idependent of whether the labor force was unionized or not.

      These were the rules from the outset and WEC, SCANA and Southern knew this.

      Yes, the NRC threw the aircraft impact rule into the mix but the fatal factors were the supply chain problems and the WEC design process. WEC was either too incompetent to know the true state of the project or was deceptive in what they revealed.

      1. FermiAged, You are correct. WEC sold (at a fixed price) a design to the clients as being nearly complete with only “minor tweaks” to be ironed out in “Design Finalization.” With the exception of the NSSS, most of the BOP was at best a guess based on a scaled up AP600. Then came the infamous “China Synergy Effort” where the final China design would be used as the U.S. design, theoretically the China plants would be built to the US NRC requirements. Sadly, “no plan survives contact with the enemy” and WEC and Shaw/CBI, didn’t have any contingency plans. This coupled with the cumbersome design change process meant that the project was over budget before the fist concrete was poured. Add the complexities of “modularizing” such a massive project, the failure comes as no surprise.

    2. This sounds like a “victim” mentality response- Blaming everything on excessive regulation rather than taking responsibility and doing the right things in the right way. The industry is unfortunately reliving the lessons of mid to late 20th century history.

  9. You’re so right – they should have asked for help sooner. Our whole industry is used to doing knee-jerk reactions and over-the-top solutions to Any and Every issue posed by a regulator. Perhaps it is just a question, and not even a problem. We still fix it. Times ten to the eighth. We are doing this to ourselves, and I see it continuing at my own plant.

    How can we break this cycle Rod? How can we shed light to our owner/operators? How can we communicate to the public that THIS is the reason nuclear is expensive?

  10. Certainly the aircraft impact rule didn’t help. And I have personally witnessed a few incidents where the NRC issued conflicting directives (though on non-construction matters).

    The sobering fact is that SCANA’s internal review of Westinghouse’s schedule and cost estimates indicated that the first unit would not enter service until 2023 not 2020 as they were claiming. Westinghouse took a $1 billion dollar payment from SCANA for a fixed-price contract and then declared bankruptcy. SCANA recently ordered a computer system that never worked right. We could never get a straight, definitive answer from WEC on when we could expect a fix. Fortunately, I don’t believe we made more than the initial payment. I personally pointed out problems with another product WEC provided. I was basically told I was full of crap until I provided hand calculations to some of their technical staff from a different department.

    I was amazed at the way WEC addressed questions with a project that they bet their future on.

    The working level people at WEC were sincere, hard workers. As you went up the management chain, the corporate BS increased exponentially. You can even look at the reviews on glassdoor.com and see that the employees themselves regarded management was a big problem at WEC. I feel sorry for the employee when WEC is sold to some “private equity firm” that will milk the employees and their customers for all they can.

    1. Fermi,

      You remind me of another question that was on my mind. Is Westinghouse’s CEO still employed, or was he fired? You know, after his company single handedly killed off the nuclear power option in the US (perhaps I exaggerate).

      Is it me, or is the nuclear industry extremely forgiving of failure? Based on what I read in the newspapers, other companies and industries are nowhere near as forgiving. But in our industry, massive cost over-runs not only seem to be expected, but they are accepted. Nobody is held accountable.

      On a side note, I can’t get past how a company was allowed to offer a “fixed price contract”, when they had nowhere near the financial strength to absorb a significant cost overrun, w/o going bankrupt. Who accepted that “deal”?? Again, a reason why SMRs may be the only way forward.

      1. @JamesEHopf

        Danny Roderick is no longer CEO. The last I heard he was still formally employed, but that may be due to the contracts normally signed with senior executives.

  11. How have honesty, ego and greed acted as additional factors in the tragic failure of this project?

    1. Did you mean dishonesty? Can you name individuals or groups who may be guilty of the transgressions you list? The engineers I know who have been working on this project certainly don’t merit those pejoratives. All they wanted was to do their jobs and earn an honest day’s pay. Now they will not be able to do that.

      1. No I will not. SCANA conducted a thorough review of WEC’s cost and schedule estimates and is best positioned to judge whether incompetence or other factors can explain the debacle.

        To my knowledge, WEC has not disputed SCANA’s review.

        People make errors. When they fail to admit an error then it becomes a mistake. WEC management was never forthright with its customers.

        1. I was questioning poster Stan Focht’s query about (dis?)honesty, ego, and greed being factors in how this played out. As an outside observer, I only know what know from personal experience, which is those working on this project in the trenches of engineering did so with their usual unquestionable professionalism and honesty. As to errors/mistakes at the upper level management of WEC and SCANA, I cannot say anything for lack of direct knowledge. I see no point in picking over the bones with 20/20 hindsight. The question I have now is, can this effort be salvaged by another owner willing to take the risk? I’m guessing not, unless something drastic happens, perhaps at the federal level.

    2. I’ll give an example. After the bankruptcy filing, one of the selling points made to prospective buyers of WEC was how much money WEC would make by providing engineering services to the project. I would think such services would be provided at cost or perhaps a minimum profit in order to make future AP1000 projects viable or at the very least out of some sense of integrity.

    3. Would that it were so easy. And to pile pain upon tragedy, we learned that the Chinese started up a reactor ( constructed in five years ) on the very day of this announcement.

      How is it that so many individuals and entities can do all the right things in the right manner and arrive at such a tragic endpoint? And yes, there is value in picking over the bones as was mentioned. Surely there must be lessons to be learned from this experience. This tragedy was not a serendipitous occurance of bad luck. Will there any measure of accountability ?

  12. Westinghouse is very good at reactor core design, systems design, thermal-hydraulics, instrumentation, etc. Why the company leadership thought they were qualified to lead $10 billion construction projects is beyond me.

    Plant construction needs to be led by someone who knows how to get *that* job done (Bechtel, maybe comes to mind). Westinghouse should have been a subcontractor supplying the NSSS, just like Siemens or GE or Alstom supplies the turbine generators. Oddly, the industry learned this lesson back in the 1960s but somehow forgot in the ensuing years.

    1. Would that be the same Bechtel that ripped the american taxpayers, and our service men and women, off in Iraq? Yeah, thats whats needed, put a known thieving corporate monster on the job. By golly, they’ll watch your dollars and cents!

        1. Both entities burned us in Iraq. Worse, burnt our military personnel, sent there under false pretenses. A simple internet search reveals what Halliburton and Bechtel did. The corruption, malfeasance, theft, and war profiteering has gone unpunished. If you haven’t read it already, read Naomi Klein’s “”Bagdad, Year Zero”. Should be required reading for anyone still ignorant enough to think that the war in Iraq had anything to do with terrorism or WMDs.

  13. W. sigh. Bunch of overpaid and even more arrogant “WE ARE … PEEN STATE”‘rs. They should gut that place and sell it for scrap

  14. One of the delays that is never mentioned in these articles is the failure, in China, of the first coolant pump and the resultant investigation and redesign of the pump. That delayed construction approximately a year because the size envelope might have changed because of the redesign.

      1. Rod, unless I have overlooked it, the AP1000 reactor coolant pump discussion has focused on operating conditions. I have not seen any discussion of RCP challenges presented by shutdown modes. From my experience at Shippingport, the RCPs must be well cared for when shutdown to prevent damage to the thrust runner. The main preventive actions we took were: establish a nitrogen purge, and measure and trend the break-away and running torque. Verify nitrogen purge each shift.

        These pumps like to run; they did not care too much for shutdown conditions. They were a treat to remove and reinstall at Shippingport. Perish the thought of doing this at an AP1000

        If not well cared for during outages, the thrust runner would exhibit pitting as if it had encountered a shotgun blast. I was directly involved in removing and shipping more than 1 RCPs for refurbishment at WPAD in Cheswick, PA. When opened, the cast impellers looked pretty ugly to the untrained eye, but passed all inspections at WPAD with minor repair.

        It’s been a long time. These comments taken from my recollections and journal entries

        Other points of interest:
        1. The RCPs have no to aid in achieving coast down necessary for the LWBR fuel. Rather a flywheel generator was fitted to each RCP bus.
        2. There were two versions of the RCPs- Core I manufactured by Allice Chalmers and the somewhat larger Core II pumps used for later seed-blanket PWR and LWBR operations.

        1. I can only say that every point you raise is either not applicable to AP1000 or has been tested and addressed in design.

          The RCPs also haven’t really had any impact on US construction. In China, they certainly caused some rearranged schedules, which I’m sure caused some ultimate delays.

      2. Rod, unless I have overlooked it, the AP1000 reactor coolant pump discussion has focused on operating conditions. I have not seen any discussion of RCP challenges presented by shutdown modes. From my experience at Shippingport, the RCPs must be well cared for when shutdown to prevent damage to the thrust runner. The main preventive actions we took were: establish a nitrogen purge, and measure and trend the break-away and running torque. Verify nitrogen purge each shift.

        These pumps like to run; they did not care too much for shutdown conditions. They were a treat to remove and reinstall at Shippingport. Perish the thought of doing this at an AP1000

        If not well cared for during outages, the thrust runner would exhibit pitting as if it had encountered a shotgun blast. I was directly involved in removing and shipping more than 1 RCPs for refurbishment at WPAD in Cheswick, PA. When opened, the cast impellers looked pretty ugly to the untrained eye, but passed all inspections at WPAD with minor repair.

        It’s been a long time. These comments taken from my recollections and journal entries

        Other points of interest:
        1. The RCPs have no to aid in achieving coast down necessary for the LWBR fuel. Rather a flywheel generator was fitted to each RCP bus.
        2. There were two versions of the RCPs- Core I manufactured by Allis Chalmers and the somewhat larger Core II pumps used for later seed-blanket PWR and LWBR operations.

  15. Will this project be left in a condition where it can be “picked up” in the future? A lot of infrastructure has been performed on this project. Can it be salvaged for future power generation? Is it worth it? I guess Zimmer was retrofitted into a coal plant and Midland was retrofitted to become a gas plant. Could an AP1000 be resurrected someday as one of the newer types of reactors?

    Natural gas will not stay cheap forever. Then nuke plants will have better economies. However, I have a hunch that the fracking technology at pretty great depths in the Earth’s crust will enable the newer types of geothermal plants which may also be more inexpensive than nuclear.

    1. There is a remote possibility that the project could get resurrected once we learn how to actually build an AP1000. The components could be sold to jumpstart an overseas project. If Southern proceeds with it’s AP1000, some of the components could be used as spare parts, particularly the RCPs, Steam Generators and squib valves. These will be important if a 60 year lifetime is desired since the domestic supply chain for the AP1000 will probably whither away.

      SCANA lost a lot of goodwill with the PSC and the state politicians (why aren’t they up in arms about publically-owned Santee Cooper pulling out?) when the project got cancelled. The PSC may challenge SCANA’s recovery of expenses giving SCANA to quickly dispose of the components.

  16. Never going to be a great environment for building terrestrial nuclear power plants in the US until the Federal government– mandates– that a significant and growing percentage of electricity generated by US utilities has to be carbon neutral.

    It should be Federally mandated that at least 50% of a utility’s electricity production has to be carbon neutral by the year 2025, and 90% by the year 2035.

    A 100% sin tax should be placed on all electricity produced by a utility– that isn’t carbon neutral– if they fail to reach the Federal standards, the penalty continuing until a utility finally reaches the Federal standards.


  17. Sad tale for the Summer workers, but then most in the nuclear community not in denial saw the train headlights long ago in this feverishly “green” conscious Congress and a population educated and entertained to believe the worst of any thing nuclear because everyone knows atomic energy is a child born from war, right Will the # of Congresspeople for nuclear plants please raise your hands. How many for for “safe clean” GREEN energy (excluding nukes of course). Taking lessons from Gov Cuomo I see… I dare say SMRs will fair any better than the big units because their owners still fail to learn the lesson that you might be able to make them but you’ll no place to put them if a uneducated nuclear fearing citizenry doesn’t want one just over the horizon. It says it all when most the public feel more relaxed with the health consequences of fossil fuel energy then sleeping with the lurking terror of a Doomsday meltdown. It was never a technical challenge making this nation a nuclear-powered country. At it’s core it always was a people trust challenge.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    1. We have people in this country refusing to vaccinate their DOG now because it might induce autism!! I have no confidence in our public.

      I listen to my CEO sprout off about our wind turbines having an “adjusted availability” of 99% last fiscal year. So, during an all hands meeting, I couldn’t help myself and during the questions portion of the meeting I asked “I hear wind did well last fiscal year with an adjustable availability over 99%. I understand exactly what that means, but could you please tell me what the capacity factor was?” His reply….”just under 30%”

      Wonderful. Let’s rely (like we are right now with 100+ degree days with little air movement for over 10 days straight) on an energy source that is unavailable 70% of the time. Sure our turbines are READY 99% of the time…..doesn’t mean jack without the wind to move the eyesores. We were producing ZERO megawatts from wind today on a day where our reactor was producing 1150 megawatts net….and our power was so important BPA issued a “no touch” policy….meaning please DO NOT do anything (surveillances, etc) that would jeopardize a reactor SCRAM.

      1. The last sentence is most interesting. Can you state more regarding the reliance BPA places upon the Columbia Generating Station?

        1. What else is there to say? BPA has asked us to please refrain from doing anything that could even remotely have the potential to SCRAM the reactor. BPA actually understands the importance of Columbia. Something the west side of the state cannot.

      2. @Bonds25

        This graph helps provide some backup for your comment, but it also indicates that the win has come and gone several times during the heat wave. It will be worthwhile to revisit this in a few more days.

        BPA is lucky that only 30% or so of the residences in the Seattle area have air conditioners installed.

        Grid operators are probably hoping that there is not a huge shipment of cheap window A/C units heading to the Home Depots and Lowes in the area. Those might alleviate some suffering, but they could also lead to rolling blackouts.

        1. I see an opening for a maker of a split-unit ice-storage A/C with a battery-backed indoor fan-coil.  Something that doesn’t use juice during the peak-price hours and runs through rolling blackouts is going to be popular where that happens.

        2. Wow, impressive to see how hard they’re ramping up/down the hydro to match load there, which sorta gets to what I’d like to see our grid move towards where hydro is available. Nuclear as baseload with hydro following the load curves.

        3. They’re also lucky to have the Columbia right next to the wind farms, large-scale hydro being the only practical way (so far) to provide large scale back up for intermittent renewables (other than firing up polluting gas turbines, that is). Due to the abundance of hydro, the Pacific Northwest is the one place where wind may be able to achieve significant penetration.

        4. The heat advisory really didn’t start until Monday July 31st and the highs are not predicted to be below 100 degrees until Aug 13th. By “our” I meant the wind turbines my company owns…..not the whole Northwest, but as you see from that graph, wind sure isn’t helping out with this heat advisory much. Can you imagine people relying on their AC running with wonderful, renewable wind power? Imagine the deaths that would cause?

  18. Here’s one more thought about how to respond to this fiasco. Maybe, just maybe, it will be a sufficient wake up call to generate political support for the needed changes (which I have discussed in other posts). As Rahm Emanuel said, one mustn’t let a crises go to waste (they are an opportunity). Another way of looking at it being how a drunk (or drug addict) needs to “hit bottom” before recognizing that they have a problem and starting on the road to recovery (the nuclear industry being the drunk). Will the industry finally recognize that they have to change their ways? NRC perhaps?? Perhaps this will be the event that makes us give up on large reactors and pursue SMRs instead, which may be the better path.

    Speaking of using this crisis as an opportunity, I have two ideas for NRC petitions. One would be to require NRC to consider the big picture when making decisions that will likely result in less nuclear and more fossil fuel being used (i.e., will overall risks/impacts actually go down?). The other would be to demand that NRC justify all strict regulations and QA requirements for SMRs, given their inability to cause significant harm, and lack of reliance on “things working” to prevent meltdowns. Do I need to get going on this now (to take advantage of the “crisis”) or can it wait a year or two? Would any of you support me?

    1. You are not the only one to have such thoughts, and I’d be happy to collaborate.  If I can find the images I’m looking for I’m going to try a meme for the nastiness of coal and natural gas vs. nuclear.

    2. @ James Hopf

      “Perhaps this will be the event that makes us give up on large reactors and pursue SMRs instead, which may be the better path.”

      Ed Leaver posted a link the other day on Atomic Insights, about the NS Savannah (1st I’ve learned of it), the US 1st nuclear merchant ship. Built in ~1959 by Babcock and Wilcox, the 74 MW civilian reactor had price of $28.3 Million per Wiki ($233.4 Million in 2016 dollars). This comes roughly to $3,200 per KW using 1950s construction methods for a FOAK unit. NuScale estimates its nth unit will be $5,100 per KW.

      Just an arm chair observation, but the B&W Savannah reactor could have be bundled together and massed produced 55+ years ago, riding the post war industrial coat tails. I assume the reactor could have placed in some form of subterranean bunker and used gravity feed cooling water for passive safety in an emergency. Not sure why B&W didn’t do it then or couldn’t get it done in their reboot, considering they had NS Savannah?

  19. SCE&G wanted to go ahead with this project, but couldn’t find a partner. Why not have Rick Perry order TVA to take up Santee Cooper’s spot? Is Senator Alexander on this?

    This debacle should make all American’s ashamed of themselves, allowing the greatest democracy on the planet, deteriorate to a corruption riddled, nation of halfwits, that can’t even pour concrete. The Chinese were able to finish their two FOAK AP-1000 plants yet despite their example, America is unable to compete even at 4 times the cost.

    The shame!!!

    Hopefully at least the shame and disgust, American citizens should feel, will prompt those halfwits in Congress, elected by even stupider voters, to try to redeem themselves and American pride by at least:

    1) Commanding TVA to take Santee Cooper’s place
    2) Reinstating the lost tax credits
    3) Building a national nuke contractor, selected from America’s best, that knows how to at least how to pour concrete – no Big Oil investment allowed.
    4) Begin a forensic audit, following the money, to determine if Big Oil was able to buy into Westinghouse/Toshiba/Shaw/CB&I and other nuclear industries, in this wildly successful effort at destroying American nuclear.

    Unfortunately American know how these days is more about knowing how to lie,cheat and steal, than knowing how to build.

  20. OK, I can’t resist telling an instructive story.

    Back in the ’90s I worked for dry fuel storage cask vendor that was run by someone who had left the US’s first dry cask company. He thought he could make the casks (and inner canisters) cheaper. While people in the first company were going down the road of more and more rigorous analysis and QA, etc.., he felt that much of that was more than necessary. He was a bit more of a cowboy.

    He went with some relatively low-QA shops to build his components. Local firms whose experience was primarily with non-nuclear industries. Dry casks and canisters are pretty simple, after all. Consider the inner canister, a cylindrical steel shell with a thin bottom plate and a thick top plate (for shielding), with a simple steel rack inside to hold the assemblies. Also, ports, etc.., for draining, vacuum drying and filling with helium.

    The inner steel canisters cost ~$45,000 (in the late ’90s). The concrete storage casks, just a bit more.

    (Sorry, story requires more than one post)

    1. (2nd piece, as a reply to the 1st):


      Unsurprisingly, one day the shit hit the fan. The NRC showed up at our door with an unannounced inspection/audit and a Demand for Information. Seems those shops (as well as our company) were not doing things up to NRC standards. I don’t recall if there were any actual, minor flaws in the product. It was mainly not having the paperwork in order (i.e., all the rigorous inspections, analyses, documentation, etc..). Hey, don’t blame me, I was a nuclear analyst.

      Took us a long time and an enormous amount of effort and money to get out of NRC/QA jail. Long before that recovery, the old President left the company he founded (it was sold to other entities). He said that he “didn’t like the direction the industry was heading” and wanted no part of it.

      He was right about where it was going. Now inner canisters cost well over 10 (perhaps 20) times the $45,000 his canisters cost. Similar escalation for the casks.

  21. final piece…

    Did his $45,000 canisters (and concrete casks) do the job adequately? Well, there was never any significant release of radioactivity, and no person was harmed, or received any significant dose, over ~20 years of service for 58 cask systems.

    The inner canisters are also holding up well. We recently did thorough inspections, in support of a 40-year license extension. Examined all the exterior metal surfaces of the inner canister, as well as the interior metal (duct) surfaces of the concrete storage casks. No signs of any significant corrosion. All of the coatings, let alone the metal underneath them, were in pristine condition.

    So I ask, what is the benefit of all those extra analysis and paperwork requirements, that are responsible for a factor of 10-20 increase in cost? My guess is that this story is representative of the reasons why nuclear costs have gone up so much.

    1. The 2nd piece didn’t post. If it doesn’t appear by tomorrow, I’ll try to post it again.

      1. @JamesEHopf

        Your second piece contained a word that triggers automatic moderation. I was away from my computer all day yesterday due to participation in the extended celebration of a granddaughter’s 4th birthday.

        1. Thanks Rod, for sorting through all this (eliminating duplicate posts, etc..). I think I know which word it was. 🙂

  22. Re: “This debacle should make all American’s ashamed of themselves,”

    No, ironically most Americans feel quite relieved nuclear is being phased out. You don’t hear many whimpers in Vermont and Illinois and New York about losing our nuclear capacity. The cocky nuclear industry (“our power source SO obviously so superior we don’t need PR!!”) is right now royally paying the piper for the TOTAL of lack public nuclear education from the get-go in the 1950s and a no-brainer to catch up with with TMI. You’d thought correcting the media fear frenzy with Fukushima would’ve johnny-come-lately wisened up the nuclear industry to do so (especially after seeing how skillfully the gas industry handled Deepwater Horizon with almost zero public negatives today), but noooo,,, The sheer unreal chronic incompetence of the nuclear community to sell itself to the public is a wonder to behold. Had pro-nuke Walt Disney still been alive he would’ve seen to nip nuclear fear in the bud, a shame….. next

    1. You can’t blame the American public for feeling the atomic fear and distrust that they’ve been fed by media, popular culture, schools, movies and films and even “certified educational science” programming (Bill Nye, Osato, etc) for well neigh over 50 years that nuclear is inherently rabidly dangerous and barely controllable, anti-nature, anti-green, anti-safe future generations, the whole nine demon-maker yards. I can’t blame the wolf if it snaps off the head of the foolish bunny sticking it out the its hole, just as I can’t blame the fossils for getting over the zit actions nuclear had in promoting itself. It’s not the fossils responsible for nuclear’s hopeless plight.

      James Greenidge

      1. I am sure it is not a secret, however, Public Utilities in most states are not allowed to advertise. The ads you see on TV are carefully crafted to meet the guidelines of the state PUC which allow PSA and other “helpful” hints etc. Like lights on Christmas trees and energy saving hints. There is no “Nuclear Industry” those making NPPs are the same ones making CCTGs, Coal plants, Windmills, etc. Thus they have no profit in appeasing the consumer. So, the only entity left is the federal government, and the government effort to encourage the use of nuclear power ended with the breakup of the AEC into the DOE and NRC, wonder why that happened? Even the NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute tried in the 70’s but many PUCs disallowed contributions to that effort squashing that try.

        1. Rich, I’ve heard this claim several places before. Are you positive PUCs are not allowing advertising (as in actually forbidding it? which seems strange). Or is it a case of the cost of ads can’t be put in the rate base as a cost to be recovered? There is a big difference. If Utilities have chosen not to advertise because it costs non-recoverable profits I don’t feel sorry for them. I don’t really understand how a PUC could limit discretionary spending of what are essentially Utility profits to the shareholders.

          1. You are correct, it just can not be charged to the rate payer. However that includes all “overhead” associated with the ad champaign. That would have to be captured with a specific account or charge number. They could take the money from the “profits” or shareholders. But I do not think that would be a legitimate expense for state/federal taxes. Considering that most utilities are limited to about 5% Net profit (at least were when I was working for a stockholder owned, Public Utility Commission utility) there is no incentive to reduce that dividend. Might also probably require Stock Holder approval. I have made more than 5% on my IRA over the years and I am no stock wizard, so why invest in a utility when that money can make more elsewhere? Only bought Utility stocks I worked for when they matched the purchase.

      2. Its comical seeing an argument I have waged here for a coupla years now being bandied forth by a community that has largely insulted me for making the argument. I’ve been called a troll, a socialist, anti-NE, libtard…blahblablah…for making the EXACT same argumebt that Greenidge makes, above, about public opinion, what drives it, and the dismal effort NE advocates have made to counter it. Basically, for about three years, I’ve watcjed a bunch of sniveling about what a poor sad victim NE is, and how everyone that isn’t singing your song is the enemy. So…uh…how’s that working out for you guys? Ready to wise up and do something about it, instead of whining and insulting? Public opinion ain’t gonna change on its own.

        1. @Jon Hall

          FWIW I have always read your comments with an open mind. I have occasionally objected to the somewhat brusque manner in which you present them, which tends to obscure the valid points you make.

          Those of us who have fought for acceptance of nuclear in the public arena are relatively few in number and have limited resources. Before you jump on me for sniveling, I’m just recognizing the reality of the situation we face. Is there anyone out there who can be the pro-nuclear equivalent of Bill Nye or Michio Kaku? When I have tried it in public venues my success has been somewhat limited for being aesthetically challenged, and in any case have relatively few years left on this Earth within which to make a difference, but I guess all we can do it keep trying.

          1. “Is there anyone out there who can be the pro-nuclear equivalent of Bill Nye or Michio Kaku?”

            Thats the problem, Wayne. You guys choose the wrong role models, whose tactics you think you need to emulate . In the last week I have looked at a number of commercial sites, promoting their products. Super capacitors, electric passenger aircraft (had no idea they were already flying, and about to be put into service, wow), electric vehicles, storage batteries, electric bicycles, and electric automobiles. Virtually all these up coming industries hawk a message of progress, and hawk their wares by touting the benefits of their product, rather than by running down competing technologies or industries. The electric bike industry is growing leaps and bounds. Is it your contention they have more resources for PR than the nuclear energy industry does? Instead of looking to people like Nye or Kaku to see what messages you have to challenge, perhaps you should concentrate on what messages you can come up with that remove you from their theatre, and allow you to conduct your PR without the static that just creates a negative back and forth. Thats a battle you can’t win, because the public sees those guys as wearing the white hats. And the minute you oppose them publically, you’re wearing the black hats. Create your own message, separate of theirs, with positives, not negatives.

            1. @Jon Hall

              I still think you are confused about Atomic Insights and its contributors. We are not salesmen touting a commercial product. We are not professional nuclear industry promoters. We do not sing from a particular sheet of music or speak from talking points. We are unlikely to develop any kind of common strategy.

              Though not universally true, I think most people who read and contribute here are genuinely interested in learning as much as possible about nuclear energy, its history, its politics and its prospects. They seem to appreciate the information I provide and they add great value by sharing their own thoughts and experiences.

              No one should have any misconception about the site purpose here. It is not to convince or to sell; it is to inform and share. We don’t really care too much about hurting the feelings of those who disagree with us, especially if they are not fair or honest.

              We are not adverse to going negative on “white hats” if we believe those hats should be grey or even streaked with black. Some carefully created images need to be challenged.

      3. I was asking that who could we get to wear the white hats and deliver a positive message? Would the public accept a pro-nuclear white hat? We have a boatload of technically competent people who when placed in the public arena have a tendency to look at their feet. I’m not saying it has to be all show, but some show with a technically sound and understandable, upbeat message.

        As far as running down the other guys, I don’t think it is unfair to point out the weaknesses and downsides as long as we can offer a positive offset to that. Got emission issues? Well, here’s a way around that on the electricity generation side, which allows this other product to be used in a more efficient way, like the transport sector. Got intermittency issues? OK, here is a energy source that can keep a constant supply while these other things can be added in when available and demanded. I’ve played this tune any number of times and when the part comes about nuclear stepping to do its part, the tomatoes start to fly. And it isn’t because I’m talking to the wrong audience. Its the right audience, but the street seems to be one-way.

      4. Technicians and Engineers royally missing the point. Nuclear and radiation is largely an insidious mystery to most a public feed by movie myths and sheer lack of education for decades. Doesn’t help when Japan and S. Korea and others are backing out of nukes in the newspapers. Most all the public rather put up with the $$ pollution they know than the “mysterious” dangerous-by-reputation forces they don’t know.It’s really as simple as that in public nuclear acceptance but the nuclear community simply never got it. It’s far too late for nuclear white hats to go evangelizing nuclear energy. That ripe time was decades ago and the best time to nip FUD in the bud would’ve been on the heels of TMI and Fukushima. Didn’t happen. Still isn’t. Again. there was ZERO public or private ads supporting Indian Point here. ZERO. And the media hold parties and dance on Shoreham’s grave. I can’t blame the fossils for that. Like the LIRR passenger scolded the Energy engineer, “You got what you deserved (shutting Indian Point) because you all didn’t FIGHT!” Something I think they rue not doing enough in Vermont and Illinois.

        James Greenidge
        Queens NY

    2. I am at home. I do not work in the nuclear industry. Like most people I am selfish. I want low to priced electricity. I certainly want my lights on, my refrigerator to run and my furnace to operate in the Winter. I think most people are like me. They don’t spend time cogitating on where the power comes from. They want the power on and they want it affordable. Natural gas plants are inexpensive to build, operate, site and burn quite cleanly. Nuclear plants are expensive to build, operate, site and operate very cleanly. Gas has 3 out of 4 in its favor. Advertising cannot change the truth.

      1. Operate cleanly compared to what? Gas plants emit about half of the CO2-equivalent emissions from a coal-fired plant, on a per kwhr basis. Half of a humongous number still yields a huge number. Do you think there will be long-term costs for that in terms of a degraded environment, impact on public health, and a less secure energy infrastructure as a result of less diversified fuel types? What will be the ultimate costs of this country trashing nuclear energy and going all-in on natural gas? Will those costs, over the long term, exceed those of the initial construction of a nuclear plant? Who is going to pay for those costs?

        1. “Do you think there will be long-term costs for that in terms of a degraded environment, impact on public health, and a less secure energy infrastructure as a result of less diversified fuel types?”

          Yes – I think there may be consequences due to Carbon Dioxide, . However, the emissions are a lot cleaner than coal. It’s a step in the right direction. I look out the backdoor window and I see green grass, flowers and big leaves on the trees. I believe those multitudes of scientists that tell us about global warming are right, but I have yet to see direct consequences. I share this with many.

          I do not like putting all of our energy eggs into one basket. I think we should be working on those new reactor types I’ve been reading about on Atomic Insights. I also took a short geothermal energy course recently. I think that energy source may have more promise in the future than is commonly stated.

          As for the ultimate costs,……….when will they occur? Does the Earth have more power to “heal” itself than believed? When I was a kid, they said Lake Erie would take 100 years to heal itself. It’s done pretty well in a much shorter time.

          1. If your point is that there are uncertainties in the analyses, I agree. The question then is, what do we do, if anything, given that those uncertainties exist. Do we take a chance on there being mitigating factors that will work in our favor over the long term, or do we take a proactive approach and do things now that are beneficial in themselves, whether or not those uncertainties result in deleterious effects later if disregarded now. There are any number of reasons to avoid unnecessary dumping of CO2 into the biosphere, arguments for or against ACC aside. If we believe de-carbonization as a general policy has merit, looking at all viable technologies is probably a good idea.

        2. Minimal sulfur and CO and low NOx with zero fly ash is a huge improvement over coal.  You can make a really good case against gas because of toxic emissions in production and transit, though.  8 dead in the San Bruno pipeline explosion is 8 more than all the radiation fatalities from all the commercial nuclear powerplants in the USA, ever.

          1. The methane emissions from the Aliso Canyon gas leak pretty much wiped out the gains made in CA through the use of windmills. Fugitive emissions resulting from fracked wells are also a major contributor to methane-induced atmospheric degradation. I’m not sure how to balance them, but those downsides go a ways towards negating gains from lack of SOx and particulates.

            The tragedy of San Bruno is far eclipsed by the holocaust caused by the San Juanico LNG terminal explosions, which literally burned the town of San Juan Ixhuatepec off the face of the Earth. Mention that today and all you get are blank looks.

          2. The methane emissions from the Aliso Canyon gas leak pretty much wiped out the gains made in CA through the use of windmills… those downsides go a ways towards negating gains from lack of SOx and particulates.

            They’re not in the backyards of most of the utility customers, though, so they’re unlikely to vote based on it.

            San Juanico LNG terminal explosions

            I’d never heard of it either, but one quick look told me why:  it was an LPG tank farm, not LNG.  You’re not going to be able to use it as an argument against NG pipelines or NG in general.

          3. LPG or LNG or just plain NG, the San Juanico disaster is still a valid datapoint for discussing the risks of expanded use of flammable gas-based technologies. Lets take a page from the Jon Hall/POA playbook and step up to the plate and take the fight to our opponents. Anti-nukes use every possible incident, no matter how innocuous, to smear nuclear technology with a broad brush, never mind if it’s BWRs, PWRs, LMRs, RBMKs, research reactors, prototypes, radioisotopes, anything and everything. Systems that use flammable gas sometimes explode and burn, occasionally with massive destruction and tremendous casualties. Putting too fine a point on it, splitting hairs as to fuel types, chemical form, whatever, is probably too far down in the weeds for someone in the general public. We can counter some of the more-gas-at-the-expense-of-nuclear arguments by pointing that out.

          4. LPG or LNG or just plain NG, the San Juanico disaster is still a valid datapoint for discussing the risks of expanded use of flammable gas-based technologies.

            People use natural gas, propane and gasoline all the time.  Serious accidents are very rare, and the public knows this.  Creating fear of every-day things is not just difficult, it’s probably impossible.

            It’s much easier to stop liquid pipelines.  After some well-publicized leaks and spills, I’ve seen pushes to shut down several operating pipelines as well as the effort to block the new one in the Dakotas.

            Anti-nukes use every possible incident, no matter how innocuous, to smear nuclear technology with a broad brush

            That doesn’t mean you can use the same tactics on the familiar as they do on the exotic.  It just won’t work.

            I have some pretty good imagery from the San Bruno and Aliso Canyon incidents.  If you want to help, find me something on the Lac Megantic oil-train inferno, one or another of the recent oil-pipeline spills, and stuff on coal like acid mine drainage and coal-ash dump spills and send it to me (e-mail address at The Ergosphere).  I’ve got a meme to create.

            1. @EP

              Though MAJOR accidents with common fuels may be rare, users of those fuels know they are somewhat dangerous and must be used with a few common sense safety rules.

              Even careful people have likely been burned or at least startled by a gas flare-up at least a few times.

              My advice would be to remind people that we have learned how to take simple steps to allow us to use fuels safely, but not perfectly with 100% absolute safety.

              Nuclear professionals have done the same with radioactive fuels.

          5. I’m not about creating fear of anything, just trying to find a way for a reasonable “average” person to make a valid comparison. If we accept morbidity as an indicator of risk (which I think we should) there are clearly technologies, everyday or not, exotic or not, that come out ahead by that measure. I see nothing wrong with making valid comparisons in a straightforward, easy to understand way. If fear is involved, it is inherent in the phenomena, not something created by me.

            Perhaps one thing we should try to change is the “exotic” perception. I know many in the public think this way, and have on many occasions told me such. Nuclear energy itself is nothing terribly exotic, and finding ways to counter that perception probably has merit.

            You probably have this one on coal plant sludge pond collapse:


        3. Comment stuck in moderation.  I wonder what word it was this time?  No, I did not say the fit hit the shan.

  23. SMRs suffer from the same ludicrous economics put forth by those who blithely assert that an impossible number of wind turbines must be built for indefensible reasons. Will tens of thousands of SMRs be built? There are only two justifiable uses on Earth at the moment: to power McMurdo in Antarctica and the survival enclaves of billionaires, who presume the world will ‘end’ or be at war. Not much of a market. Elsewhere no single entity should go in for less than 1GWe+/ or is unable to justify a fossil fuel supply line.

    Starts with a bang, ends with a [SMR] whimper?

    Wind and solar advocates have an aversion to discuss natural gas backup, and many folk in nuclear shy away from LFTR and its ~300 year waste profile as a gigawatt-scalable solution… save in the distant way they refer to fusion containment. This has got to change.

    A ‘passively-safe’ SMR would look great in the Sharper Image Catalog. Unless everyone in Rickoverville gets behind a technology both safe AND scalable, a waste of potential and a sad end to a dynasty of technology that deserved to evolve.

    As a nuclear layman, LFTR and 1GWe+/unit advocate and gadfly as always, thanks Rod for your hospitality and applied effort to promote nuclear to young and old.

    1. I realize it will vary from region to region and even from plant to plant, but I have a question that I am sure many readers know the answer. They will know at least for their region. How much does it cost to generate a kwhr (MWhr) with a nuclear plant? How much does it cost to generate a KWhr (MWhr) with a natural gas plant? I believe this marginal difference is what is presently working against nuclear generation more than publicity. It is my belief that guys who run big businesses only care about one thing the M word. I think with an acceptable level of regulation newer type nuke plants could still be competitive. However, the regulation must be at a lower level than the current situation.

      1. You are correct in that the cost of engineering systems to a high degree of regulatory requirement tends to balloon the cost. The “nuclear renaissance” in the US has failed for a number of reasons, this being one. O&M costs for nuclear are higher than gas for similar reasons. The adoption of the COL process was a step in the right direction, but clearly it alone was not enough by itself to revive the business. If Vogtle goes under, it will be the final nail in the coffin. Nobody will build a nuclear plant in this country for the next 100 years, and that includes SMRs, thorium, LMRs, HTGRs, you name it.

        1. @WayneSW

          I respectfully disagree with your prognosis. Though a decision to halt Vogtle would probably halt large plant development for a few years, there are numerous differences between AP1000 FOAK projects and other nuclear projects. It isn’t a monolithic technology.

          1. It isn’t monolithic, but from a financial viewpoint high-profile failure of one project has a tendency to bleed over into others, at least as it is perceived in the public mind. Already our opponents are using the V. C. Summer debacle to beat us over the head (“See, we told you so. You really want to go this way now?”). It’s going to make just that much harder of a sell to potential customers. I understand the risks of doing a FOAK project, but between the AP1000 and EPR efforts, it seems like one stumbling block after another. Owners are already stretched to the limits so too many stumbles may sink the whole thing.

            So all eyes will be on Vogtle now. But I did read a few semi-upbeat articles about that today. Hopefully, they’ll pull through.

  24. The business model for the nuclear industry where the customer takes all the financial risk for a prototype is a killer. It is analogous to Delta Airlines paying Boeing the entire development costs of a Dreamliner for the acquistion of two aircraft. Making other sources of electricity more expensive is not the answer.

    The other problem is that innovation in the nuclear industry is made so difficult that it is nearly impossible to go from idea to prototype unlike the software, consumer product, automobile and even the commercial aircraft industry. Much of what the DOE provided to NuScale is going to cover the government review cost. The “new space” industries also see a share of its ideas die in the crib but even they can point to some successes such as Spacex and Orbital. Note that man-rated/ national security payload rockets also have stringent QA/reliability requirements. There are genuine private insurers that will also insure their payloads. The aerospace industry drew upon the nuclear power/naval nuclear industry expertise following the Columbia accident, perhaps we should draw upon them.

      1. Considering that the exclusion zones around nuclear plants are typically wildlife refuges, this seems like a really bad idea.

        Designing shield buildings such that they can be heaped with dirt seems like a better idea.  Flight 93 more or less disappeared into the ground; a nuclear plant protected in this way would not be a difficult target, it would be an impossible one.

        And we should require the same of chemical plants and all facilities storing significant amounts of explosives or flammables.  Fair’s fair.

        1. @EP

          You’re probably right. (I was being a little flippant.)

          As a resident of the Blue Ridge foothills, I often think about the benefits of building nuclear facilities near my home. Not only would that help improve the economy and the environment, but it would also take advantage of the natural protection of the terrrain.

      2. Fair’s fair indeed. I have often noted on other blogs that if natural gas-fired plants were required to meet the emission levels of nuclear plants, the economics would change dramatically.

        Was it Edward Teller who had the idea of burying (i.e., constructing underground) nuclear plants? You’d still need a containment, but the cost of a shield building would be dropped from the cost. All the BOP stuff could still be on the surface, with the NSSS systems underground.

        1. @WayneSW

          Edward Teller was no friend of effectively using nuclear energy or making it affordable and acceptable to people.

          He was the original chairman of the ACRS and imposed the notion that the public should be afraid of nuclear to the point where all facilities should be either in remote areas or surrounded by a thick, robust containment. Not too much later, he convinced people to that reactors should be both located in low population areas AND be surrounded by a thick containment.

          It was later that he proposed the even more expensive path of putting reactors deep underground. (His proposals were based on depth on the order of 50-300 feet below the surface.)

          This was the guy who pushed for the development and testing of “The Super”, otherwise known as the H-bomb. Isn’t it ironic to have a guy willing to create and spread large quantities of radioisotopes without any attempt at containment so concerned about radiation releases from nuclear power plants?

          BTW, Teller was a recipient of several Rockefeller Foundation grants and served as a paid advisor to the Rockefeller family, especially to Nelson, the most politically active of the five brothers who inherited their oil-derived wealth from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

      3. Well, that’s strange because when my town held a national meeting for a professional society back in 1992 we had Teller as a featured speaker. As one of the organizers I was invited to dinner with him and, while being somewhat in awe when in his presence, got to press him on some of the nuclear energy issues of the time. This was when IFR was looking pretty good and he was all for that. Same on LWR technology in general. He still liked the shallow underground concept. IIRC his favorite was the partial excavation with a somewhat thick basemat, steel containment and a slightly elevated concrete “cap” with perhaps an additional layer of overfill, taken from the “spoil” of the initial excavation. Another was basically the idea of lying a BWR on its side (must admit I don’t get this one). He was still angry about the media coverage of “releases” from the TMI event. He basically called Cronkite a liar and snake oil peddler. I recall thinking, yep, that’s the Edward we know, subtle like a sledgehammer.

        1. @WayneSW

          1992 was almost 40 years later than the period in which Teller did his major damage to nuclear energy development. It’s quite possible that he thought he was being conservatively positive. Intent doesn’t matter much to me, consequences do.

      4. It was much later and perhaps he had an intellectual conversion along the way. I know in the 70s the Lovins disciples and others hated him because his solution to the “energy crises” was to produce more energy. They said it was “too simplistic”. Well, sometimes simple ideas are best.

        On the other issues (underground reactors, IFR development, etc.), maybe he was trying to regain the yardage lost earlier. Teller was the most brilliant man I have ever met personally. His mind was able to embrace a sweeping array of concepts in both an intuitive and analytical manner, but in some ways it made him hard to figure out.

      5. His mind was able to embrace a sweeping array of concepts in both an intuitive and analytical manner, but in some ways it made him hard to figure out.

        “Talent hits targets others can’t hit.  Genius hits targets others can’t see.

      6. One of the safety failures for a wind turbine is overspeed failure (breaks fail during a storm). This can rip apart the turbine blades and fly high velocity (sonic!) debris all over the place. The blades weigh many tonnes, so this is a serious projectile/missile issue. Even though NPPs are typically designed to resist such missiles you’d have to question the act of actively adding to the probability of missile attack this way.

  25. “And we should require the same of chemical plants and all facilities storing significant amounts of explosives or flammables. Fair’s fair”

    What about dirt shield buildings for skyscrapers? Its been a while, but if I remember correctly, wasn’t it the skyscrapers the terrorist took down that killed 2,600 people?

    After seeing the destruction, overall terror and outcome of 9-11, I am 100% convinced that given the very slight chance terrorists are successful in hijacking another plane they WILL NOT waste the opportunity and target a Nuclear Power Plant. They are way too smart to make such a mistake.

    1. That would probably be for the best.  The shield building of a NPP is a very small target, one they’d be likely to miss.  If they did manage to hit it, the likelihood of breaching the containment is small; the fuselage of an airliner is fragile and just crumples against reinforced concrete.  Last, even if they caused a meltdown the number of fatalities would be zero or close to it.  It would be a total anticlimax compared to 9/11.

      Terrorists know this, so are unlikely to make the attempt.  A packed sports stadium has the potential for 5-figure fatality counts, maybe 6; much more attractive as a sequel to the WTC.

      1. Even if both shield building and containment are breached by some missile, that does not mean there is a large release of radiation. For that, the blast/debris would have to also breach the primary loop, which is thick and strong and itself surrounded by quite thick and strong biological shielding. Standard aircraft debris that somehow pierced shield building and containment would not have enough residual kinetic energy to breach all that. Even if that is all breached, all the emergency cooling systems, firewater supply etc. all have to fail as well; if they operate there would be little or no core damage, so just some clean steam and minor activation products would get out.

    2. @Bonds25

      I agree, but oil financed terrorists can accomplish a great deal for their backers by merely saying that they are thinking about attacking a nuclear plant.

      Remember the frackle associated with a map and a couple of drawings found on an Al Queda owned laptop.

    3. If memory serves me correctly TMI II got NRC requirements imposed on the plant well after most concrete work was finished. Seems someone realized an Air Force Base was just a few miles up river and that a plane might hit the plant. Very expensive analysis determined that the plant could withstand either a fully loaded C-5 or the current fighter jets. Only needed to add some blast shields around doors opening into the turbine building from the control room, sort of like the L shaped privacy walls at the entrance to restrooms at parks.

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