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New Nuclear Power Plants in the next 5 years 850

Posted by samzenpus
from the mutant-powers dept.
Guinnessy writes "As oil, coal, and gas become increasingly expensive, energy utilities take another look at nuclear power. The nuclear reactor builders are jostling for business as more than 26 plants may be ordered or constructed over the next five years in Canada, China, several European Union countries, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and South Africa. Companies in the US and UK may order an additional 15 new reactors. Physics Today magazine has a global roundup of the new plants on construction, and how the builders are getting around some of the potential road blocks in their path. I'm sure many slashdot readers would be surprised to know that some new plants will be coming online so soon."
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New Nuclear Power Plants in the next 5 years

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  • Well, what's the alternative? Coal?!

    • by Harmonious Botch (921977) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @10:26PM (#14781639) Homepage Journal
      Err...if you're patient.
    • coal (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sgt_Jake (659140)
      Here's a fun fact - who knew that coal produces more nuclear waste than a nuclear power plant? By a lot. Not to mention the mecury and other heavy metals and by-products of coal. Go NUKES! And I would like to be Mr. Burns if I may... excellent...
      • More of this "coal make nuclear waste" FUD.

        Coal on average contains 3ppm (parts per million) of uranium.

        By comparision, ordinary soil contains between 1.8 and 5ppm of uranium.

        So let's all try and not smear the boards with nuclear industry marketing material shall we?
        • Last I checked, I didn't breath in ordinary soil, and I had to have the decay products of that uranium in the soil (radon and radioactive lead) pumped out of the air in my house in order not to get lung cancer.

          Not only that, but all the carbon that makes up the majority of the coal gets burnt off in the power plant, so the concentration of uranium is *much* higher in the soot.

          Let's not all try and smear the boards with the anti-nuke lobby's propaganda, shall we?
      • Nuclear can be safe (Score:5, Informative)

        by rben (542324) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:25AM (#14783813) Homepage

        It depends on the design. The classic designs that have been used in the U.S. have a serious problem. If coolent flow fails, the reactor can melt down.

        Pebble bed reactors [wikipedia.org] are designed to fail safely. If the flow of coolent stops, so does the reaction. The fuel is safely encased in tennis ball-sized graphite "pebbles" which are dropped in the top of the reactor and retrieved at the bottom. For there to be a release of the radioactive material, the pebble has to be broken open. Even if that happens, the amount that's released is very tiny.

        There is a problem with fire, since the pebbles are graphite, but fire is a lot easier to deal with than a melt-down.

        The point is that we need nuclear power in order to ween ourselves off of oil, but we also need to demand that safe reactor designs are used.

    • Re:Mr Burns Aside (Score:4, Insightful)

      by HairyCanary (688865) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @01:43AM (#14782515)
      Well, what's the alternative? Coal?!

      Hydropower, wind, solar, tidal, etc. There are lots of possibilities. I doubt there is any magic one size fits all solution, but there are plenty of existing non-nuclear technologies if we want to use them.

  • There have been a lot of projections on when we'll finally run out of petroleum, how about the various materials used to provide nuclear power? How much longer will it last?
    • by craXORjack (726120) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @11:08PM (#14781856)
      Long enough to allow us to develop fusion as an energy source. And there is so much tritium and deuterium that we will have plenty of time (millions of years) to develop fusion of ordinairy hydrogen into a feasible source of energy. Within 100 years, energy will become the cheapest of commodities and raw materials and technology will be the sought after resources. Why do you think the wealthy have been trying to convince the public that knowledge is not knowledge but intellectual 'property'? They want to establish through "stare decicis" that those who own most of everything today will continue to own most of everything when energy is limitless and raw materials are cheap.
    • by Firethorn (177587) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @11:08PM (#14781858) Homepage Journal
      It all depends on how far we're willing to go.

      Thing is, we aren't really prospecting for radioactives very hard. Oil's very profitable, so we're looking for it pretty hard.

      Like any mineral resource, to include oil and such, there's several points for when you talk about how much is available. The two factors are the cost of extracting, and the difficulty of prospecting.

      I'll use oil as an example. When you see figures for 'oil reserves' and remaining oil, it's generally the amount available at a certain price point. This is because it costs money and resources to extract. Certain fields almost spit it out, and then you have things like oil shale, where you have to really work at it. So it might cost $2 a barrel to extract from a Saudi Oil field, while it costs $60 a barrel to extract from Canada's oil shale fields. Thus, when they talk about the world's oil reserves, they generally don't include the shale fields.

      Then you have prospecting. Nobody really looks very hard when Oil's at $10 a barrel, but when it's at $60 people tend to look very hard for additional sources.

      As a third point, as the resource increases in value, technology for extracting the resource is developed. The very shale methods were developed around WWII due to the need for resources because fighting made many areas unsuitable. More recent innovations is being able to bend while drilling wells, thus being able to reach more fields economically.

      As far as uranium and plutonium goes, we've discovered enough of it that we don't have to worry about it for the short term, due to a relativly intense search after WWII.

      As price increases, more mines become economical, and prospecting increases. Uranium is relativly difficult to find compared to coal and oil.

      Per This site [americanen...ndence.com] using known sources they figure that we could last for almost a thousand years using conventional reactors. If we go to more fuel efficient reactors such as breeders, this can be extended into the tens and hundreds of thousands of years.

      It's just that you might have to accept $500/kg uranium rather than $40/kg as it was as of the survey. This would translat to a few more cents per kw/hour of electricity. Fuel for a nuclear plant is actually one of the smallest expenses. Labor is the largest. Going with breeder reactors would, of course reduce the fuel cost.

      For that matter, we're looking into reprocessing the waste from our current reactors again. The older stuff has had enough time to cool down to make this alot easier.
    • by kestasjk (933987) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @11:50PM (#14782076) Homepage
      Okay this is going to be a bit of a long post but if you're unfamiliar with breeder reactors this is worth a read:

      For use in the most common reactors you need to have a 5:95 mix of uranium-235:uranium-238 , but uranium ore is only 1% U-235, and the rest is U-238. So out of a batch of 100kg of ore you'll get ~1kg of U-235, so only ~10kg of reactor fuel.
      The rest of the uranium-238 is depleted uranium waste; it's not pleasant stuff and we've got a whole bunch of it (the US alone has hundreds of thousands of tonnes) lying around. Going at the rate we're mining uranium ore we have, apparently, around 50 years of enrichable uranium ore left.

      But uranium-238 isn't waste, at least not to a breeder reactor; when it accepts a neutron it becomes plutonium-239, which is a fissile fuel. In fact 1/3 of the power generated, even in conventional nuclear reacors, is from fission of plutonium-239 produced from uranium-238.
      Basically put lots of uranium-238 into a reactor with a radioactive fuel which gives off a load of neutrons, and you're turning nuclear 'waste' back into nuclear fuel!
      Fast breeder reactors use plutonium as the initial charge to get non-enriched uranium going (remember plutonium is produced in the reaction, so no worries about plutonium running out), and thermal breeder reactors use thorium, which is about as abundant as lead, to keep it going.

      Using breeder reactors we've got all the nuclear fuel we'll possibly need; apparently in the range of 10,000 to five billion years worth. Also because actinide waste products are reprocessed and reused the spent fuel is less harmful, either being stable, or very unstable and having a short half-life (thus decaying and becoming stable).

      This isn't science fiction either; Russia is using a breeder reactor at the moment, and India and China are planning to build their own (India is where most of the world's Thorium is so it's a natural choice for them). The reason it's not widely used is because it's slightly more expensive than using 5% uranium-235, and why use an expensive process when you can use a cheaper one.

      So basically although electricity may get slightly more expensive we'll always have it available from breeder reactors. For me the real mystery is why environmentalists aren't crazy about this, taking nuclear waste and generating energy and non-radioactive waste? Sounds like an environmentalist's dream, but I guess they just can't see past the N-word.
      • by AJWM (19027) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @01:29AM (#14782461) Homepage
        For use in the most common reactors you need to have a 5:95 mix of uranium-235:uranium-238 , but uranium ore is only 1% U-235, and the rest is U-238.

        True for plain water reactors (most common outside of Canada and a few other places). The Canadian Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) reactor uses a heavy water moderator that will let it burn unenriched uranium. The tradeoff is that the lower temperature of a CANDU means slightly less thermal efficiency, but you don't have to worry about enriching the uranium (energy intensive) in the first place. You can harvest plutonium from the "spent" fuel rods.

        The rest of the uranium-238 is depleted uranium waste; it's not pleasant stuff

        It's not that bad -- sure it's toxic like any heavy metal but it's only mildly radioactive. The stuff is used as counterweights for control surfaces of large aircraft (lead is used on small aircraft). It's also used in armor-piercing ammunition, where it is nasty, because the impact tends to break the bullet into small pieces which burn easily and leaves uranium oxide all over the place.

        But yes, using various breeder reactor cycles the energy supply is pretty unlimited. The biggest argument against same hasn't been so much the waste issue, but the nuclear proliferation issue. Given the state of the world, I'm not sure that that's really a valid argument anymore. (Sure, it's a concern, but that genie is already out of the bottle -- and sending tons of money to unstable regimes because of their hydrocarbon reserves isn't helping either.)
    • There have been a lot of projections on when we'll finally run out of petroleum, how about the various materials used to provide nuclear power? How much longer will it last?

      The world supply of recoverable uranium is enough to last for around a thousand years, and that's with the current crop of horribly inefficient fission plants we're running now. If we reprocess the fuel using breeder reactors, multiply that by about a hundred-- and the waste storage problem is essentially eliminated as an added bonus.

  • by RedHatLinux (453603) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @10:31PM (#14781660) Homepage
    hydrocarbon fuels are getting too expensive, even for them. Additionally, why would a country filled with Uranium, dependent on oil exports, use oil for power production? They wouldn't, because it's dumb.

    Yeah, they probably want nukes too, but given we contained Mao and Stalin, who had a lot more of them and hated us as much for our "bourgeois capitalism", as the Iranians do for being the "Great Satan", it's not a big deal.

  • ...down the line, hydrogen is the way to go -- maybe fuel cells. There's just so much energy available in what is the most available substance in the universe that the better we get at working with it the better off we are.

    Ideally, I'd like to see home or neighborhood sized power generation. This would DRASTICALLY reduce the total amount needed due to loss in transmission lines. I read somewhere that this nears 50% of what's generated.

    Since the "waste" of a fuel cell running on hydrogen is heat and water
    • ...down the line, hydrogen is the way to go -- maybe fuel cells.

      Hydrogen is not a source of energy; it is way of storing energy or moving it around. (We don't have any hydrogen, except what we have made. To get more, you need to make more, which takes at least as much energy as you get from burning it.)

      In addition to a lot of oil and gas, Alberta has a lot of clean coal.

      I don't see the problem with putting nuclear waste in deep mine shafts in precambrian rock and then topping the shafts off with a

    • Dude - where does the energy come from? Hydrogen isn't an energy source. It has to be produced somehow (from the water...) requiring more energy than you can liberate. You still then need power plants powered by something - gas? wind? What?
    • There isn't any energy whatsoever in hydrogen per se, unless you're talking about a fusion process. The hydrogen around here is all locked up in water etc, so you can store energy in with it by separating the hydrogen out, but the enrgy you store still has to come from somewhere. The point of nuclear is that it doesn't suffer the obvious limitations of sources like wind and solar. If we move to a hydrogen economy, much of the hydrogen will be produced using nuclear power, at least until we get fusion workin
    • Yes, but where would you get the "most abundant substance in the universe" considering that most of the terrestreal sources of it are either fossil fuels or water?

      You might as well try burning smog. :P
    • Hydrogen fuel cells won't get us unhooked from oil. Among the various easy ways to acquire hydrogen is from petroleum. Why do you think Bush is so gung-ho for it?
    • ...down the line, hydrogen is the way to go -- maybe fuel cells. There's just so much energy available in what is the most available substance in the universe that the better we get at working with it the better off we are.

      Since you say fuel cells I can only assume you don't mean fusion. You must be really confused because hydrogen for fuel cells is an energy transport medium, not a source; there isn't an abundant supply of elemental hydrogen (H_2) on Earth (or are you talking about harvesting from gas gia
    • I think you will need nuclear plants to generate the power needed to crack the water to get to the hydrogen.
    • Hydrogen is simply a means of storing energy...There is very little H2 occuuring naturally on our planet, so it must be produced (most likely by the electrolysis of water), which will need a lot of energy..(I believe there is quite a bit of energy loss in the process)...
      The energy to produce H2 could come from wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, hydro, or nuclear, but the source will have to be scalable, which currently leaves nuclear..
      The amount of waste per watt from a nuclear plant is incredibally small, c
  • by keraneuology (760918) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @10:32PM (#14781663) Journal
    I am perfectly comfortable with nuclear power. Give me decent lease payments and I'll let you build a reactor in my back yard. (I want free electric in addition to the lease payments.)
    • Deal! Well, as long as you aren't going to be running an aluminum smelting plant or such. ;)

      Heck, I'd also try to work there. Nuclear plants are great job oppertunities for local communities.
  • Pebble Bed (Score:5, Informative)

    by putko (753330) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @10:33PM (#14781673) Homepage Journal
    This doens't have to end badly for the planet.

    Pebble Bed reactors are the future: they are supposed to be safe, cheap and modular. They'll be mass-produced, and allow cities or factories to power themselves.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor [wikipedia.org]
  • by mrpeebles (853978) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @10:37PM (#14781691)
    Nuclear waste is scary, but it is very possible that the CO2 released by burning oil is more dangerous. Global warming is at a minimum decently probable, and at the very least our CO2 production is significantly affecting our atmosphere in ways that will take a long time to understand. The only difference is that unlike the atmosphere, which is inconceivably large and complex, we can wrap our heads around the idea of nuclear waste, so it seems scarier. Chernobyl is much more dramatic than melting Antarctic icecaps, but he latter is probably more serious.
    • Nuclear waste is scary, but it is very possible that the CO2 released by burning oil is more dangerous.

      It's not just the CO2 from fossil fuels which is dangerous -- coal (the primary source of electrical power) contains a significant quantity of radioactive isotopes [ornl.gov]. The burning of coal is actually responsible for more radioactive waste than nuclear power, and the radioactive waste from coal goes straight into the atmosphere.
      • the radioactive waste from coal goes straight into the atmosphere.

        Where it is effectively diluted throughout the entire airspace, and that most likely means it presents less of a risk of radiation poisoning than the concentrated stores of spent nuclear fuel that are associated with traditional nuclear power plants.

        There's plenty of other nasty things in coal smoke, like carcinogens, which I would imagine present a much more real danger than trace amounts of radioactive material.
    • Not so scary.

      Is there any reason why nuclear waste cannot be recycled?

      Just encase it in leaded glass, and insert that into a subduction zone, where it will safely be heating the planet's magma along with lots of naturally occurring radioactive material. In a few hundred thousand years it will reappear, diffused to the weaker levels that we see in volcanic lava, or as part of a plate edge upwelling from the planetary interior.

      In any event, it will be well away from contact with the biosphere for a length of
  • by arthurh3535 (447288) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @10:39PM (#14781707)
    I'm really sick and tired of breathing heavy inversion air every winter, hydro-chloric acid in our acid rain. With those and the coal plant shut down, maybe my chronic breathing problems would lessen. It sure would make it easier to breath when I exercise too!

    Nah, people will just blame that I'm fat on being lazy, it's not like there could be other contributing factors.
  • Nuclear power = genocide of all life forms a kilometer under Nevada's mountains.

    First they came for the anaerobic bacteria, and I said nothing because I was not an anaerobic bacteria . . .

    --Ryv
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Before we build one more plant, we need to do what other countries who use a lot of nuclear power - design every plant the same so the entire nuclear work force can easily move between plants and to new plants. The current American way - redesign the plant every single time - it not smart or efficient. Didn't we learn this during the colonial times with making muskettes? Hello?

    That being said, we need a lot of nuclear power. We have the technology to control it, we have the smart people to maintain it.
    • No, the real answer is to make sure that a simple case of shoddy workmanship won't bring down the reactor. And to build the reactors such that they can withstand 10 times what the worst conditions on record is. Remember, the nuclear plant in California has been through several earthquakes without problems. You waste a lot of power transmitting it from place to place.

      The answer is not necessarily to have a single standardized reactor design. For one, we don't know which of the potential interesting desig
  • by dl107227 (632747) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @10:42PM (#14781729)
    It's about time. I agree that nuclear waste is currently a very real problem. However, I believe in the ingenuity of people and am confident that in the next 100 years we will have solced the nuclear waste issue. Just look how far we have come in technologically in the past 100 years. People think that this is a strange sentiment coming from me because I am an environmental scientist and am as liberal as they come. We need to reduce our CO2 output and wean ourselves off of petroleum and nuclear energy is currently our best bet. Hydrological power is clean but is an environmental disaster. Wind power shows some promise but is associated with bird and bat kills and can never scale up to meet our energy consumption. Solar is great for small energy requirements but scaling up requires hectares of land and is currently inneficient. Nuclear is the way to go for the time being. Temporarilly store the waste for a couple of hundred years until our technology develops to deal with it.
  • Besides being fabulously expensive, don't these things have something like a 10 year ramp-up?

    I'm down with the pebble bed designs and all that, but last I checked nuclear reactors take a decade to plan and build, and ... we don't have a decade.

    • I'm down with the pebble bed designs and all that, but last I checked nuclear reactors take a decade to plan and build, and ... we don't have a decade.

      We don't?
  • by johndeerejedi (317878) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @10:47PM (#14781757)
    The article was very disappointing because I didn't see any mention of the pyrometalurgical reprocessing and fast reactor design that would allow much more efficient use of the nuclear fuel. Current reactor designs and pebble bed only use about 3-5% of the Uranium (the U235 in the enriched Uranium), whereas the reprocessing method I mentioned above uses nearly all the heavy metals (actinydes) from Americium to Plutonium, including the Uranium 235 and U238.

    There's a really good article (only a preview available) at Scientific American [sciam.com] which explains the pyrometalurgical process and the fast reactors that allow this.

    On the other hand, the reactors mentioned in the article won't hurt anything if the reactors I'm talking about get built later. They can supposedly burn up the nuclear waste from existing reactors.
  • Nuclear power plants are a reasonable option, if we can do two things:

    a) Depoliticize the running of them - the first thing that suffers when politics overtakes reality is safety, as NASA is a perfect illustration of. Having a good, long-term safety policy built into an organization isn't something that can be done overnight, and building an agency to replace the DOE is impossible in the current polarized political environment.

    b) Figure out how to prevent proliferation of high-grade fissionable materals; t
  • FTFA:
    US Congress 2005 energy bill, tax credits worth $3.1 billion, along with liability protection and compensation for legislative delay

    In other words, without subsidies and special protections (the likes of which I wish I had) nuclear power is not economically feasible.

    I find it disgusting as well that one of the reasons nuclear has to be subsidized is due to huge subsidies to oil and coal industries.

    Basically it just a way for special interests to stuff their snouts deeper into the public trough. And th
  • The Shearon Harris plant has been selected by Progress Energy for their proposed new reactor -- a Westinghouse AP-1000.

    Morningstar news report [morningstar.com]

    This will be the second reactor on this site. The existing one was the last commercial nuclear reactor certified for operation in the US after the 3 Mile Island accident.

    Because the new rector is more powerful than the one built in the 1980's, they may have to increase the depth of Harris Lake to provide additional cooling water capacity. Which would suck, as
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @11:56PM (#14782101) Journal
    According to this page [isu.edu], by Prof. Bernard Cohen, burning coal (the primary source of electrical power) is responsible for around 10,000 deaths per year. You would need to have an average of 25 meltdowns a year for nuclear power to kill as many people.

  • by K8Fan (37875) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @12:42AM (#14782319) Journal

    When I was working in 3D animation, one of my clients was Commonwealth Edison, the Chicago electric company. ComEd's plants were mostly nukes. I loved working for them, because most of the work I did was to explain concepts. Anyway...

    They have a project called "Northwind". It consists of two 5 story tall buildings in downtown Chicago (eventually four) that, during the summer months, make ice all night long. During the day, the ice melts and the 33 degree water travels through pipes to subscribers to air-condition buildings. This allows client buildings to avoid wasting floors on their own chillers and avoid using electricity during the day for air-conditioning. ComEd can even out the demand for power and avoid building additional plants for a while.

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