Well, this is a good question. Simple models are only possible when there are very limited higher-order effects. Look at climate models, we have vast amounts of data, but the system being modelled contains complex non-linear dynamics. You can make general predictions about the global behavior of such a system, which might be useful in some sorts of social engineering, but you probably can't get a very good handle on the details. This means it may well be impossible to say what sorts of inputs to the system will cause it to move in various directions. That would obviate the possibility of 'engineering' such a system, except perhaps in some very crude ways, which are probably already well within the capabilities of modern politicians.
Gosh, who's feeding you the nuclear propaganda? This is ridiculous, if you want to remain an ignoramus then be my guest. If not then go do some study on the subject and learn that maybe some of the assumptions you're operating on are simply not true or have some exaggeration in them. Nuclear power isn't the worst option, by far, but it isn't the ONLY option by far either. Anyone who believes it is simply isn't in command of all the facts. Your choice, learn or not.
I just disposed of some 90's era monitors that were still working fine. I have a scanner from the 1990s, and a printer from 2003. My keyboard is from 1985. I have some very old mice, a floppy drive that has migrated from homebuild to homebuild for a VERY long time, etc. A lot of stuff doesn't last more than 3-4 years, but your better quality stuff does.
Oh, its possible to use salt water in a properly designed system, but it does have disadvantages as you say. I think the technical feasibility of these reactors is fairly well proven, but its debatable that they are better than ones built on land.
Exactly how dirty and expensive is it? The French have been doing it for how long now?
Actually the French have found reprocessing uneconomical, there are serious issues with contamination from their reprocessing facilities, and they are likely to be shut down in favor of disposal.
From the 2008 IPFM report:
Economic Costs of Reprocessing in France. In 2000, an official report commissioned by the
French Prime Minister concluded that the choice of reprocessing instead of direct disposal of
spent nuclear fuel for the entire French nuclear program would result in an increase in average
generation cost of about 5.5 percent or $0.5 billion per installed GWe over a 40-year reactor life
or an 85 percent increase of the total spent fuel and waste management (‘back-end’) costs.
Current projected costs by the industry and the Ministry of Industry show that, in addition to a
number of other favorable assumptions, the investment and operating costs of a future
reprocessing plant would need to be half the costs for the current La Hague facilities in order for
reprocessing to cost no more than direct disposal.
Since 1995, EDF has assigned in its accounts a zero value to its stocks of separated plutonium, as
well as to its stocks of reprocessed uranium. With the liberalization of the electricity sector, the
economic burden of reprocessing is increasingly weighing on the French utility EDF. Cost issues
constitute the main stumbling block for a new long-term agreement with AREVA following the
reprocessing / MOX fabrication contract that ended in 2007.
That's why their waste containment facility FOR THEIR WHOLE COUNTRY is a small room with a vaulted floor.
"We find that, with past and current operating practices, there is no clear advantage for the
reprocessing option either in terms of waste volumes or repository area. Depending upon
assumptions, the underground volume required for spent MOX fuel and vitrified waste can be
smaller or larger than that for direct disposal of spent LWR fuel."
As for "competing with solar and wind".
You're right, they're not going to be competitive.
You know why?
BECAUSE THERE'S NO COMPETITION!
Again, you CANNOT (and I will repeat for emphasis) CANNOT use solar OR wind power as your baseline power source. They aren't dependable sources. Anyone telling you they are is selling natural gas or some sort of petroleum product.
Yes, this is commonly accepted FUD, but is actually utter rubbish. The Federal Government study of this issue indicates that up to 80% of baseload power can come from renewables without any issue. The entire East Coast of the US could be run off a modest number of offshore wind farms properly placed with almost no point when generation would fall below 50% of nameplate capacity. The economics are quite good and even without counting externalities of other power sources would be competitive.
Nuclear IS a dependable, steady source that infrastructure engineers can PLAN for.
And the only reason nuclear has any sort of price comparison to solar or wind to begin with is the fact that, under the guidance of enviro-nuts, they've basically tarriffed the entire process, from proposition through decomission into the stratosphere. Require the kinds of multi-billion dollar investments (see bribes) for wind or solar plants that are now required for nuclear and watch the price of those options skyrocket too.
Again your information is completely off. Nuclear power has had considerable subsidies and breaks over its life. If you are suggesting that making it cost-competitive with wind (and probably SPV within the next 5 years) we need to toss out the regulations which are barely adequate to prevent disasters then I and virtually the whole public say "no thanks". Wind is safe, economical, and practical. This has been proven. SPV is safe, complementary to wind, and with modest continued investment is rapidly becoming economically viable as baseload power. In 5 years the idea of building a nuclear power plant will seem idiotic.
Reprocessing and breeding are dirty and VERY VERY EXPENSIVE technologies. They will never compete with mining natural uranium out of the ground until most of that uranium is gone, at which point only if we have a LOT of reactors will it even then be worth it. Sadly by that point we will have HAD to get rid of most of the waste we could reprocess since it will simply be insane to keep that much of it around on the off chance we decide to do it. What this means is that ironically it will never be cost-effective to reprocess fuel at any time, now or in the future. The only way would be a massive up front expenditure of money and the result would only be nuclear power that is 2x more expensive than it already is, not much of a bargain.
Thorium may well work, but the problem is we're a good long ways from building the type of reactor that we can put it in and burn all the fuel down (just using it in existing LWRs doesn't provide much benefit). Even with massive funding these reactors won't really come on line for 30 years, maybe more like 40 realistically. That puts them out to 2048-2058 time frame. Even LWRs like AP1000 won't be online for 10 years. Its not even clear they will be competitive with SOLAR by then, and they lose to wind NOW.
The bigger problem is that ALL REACTORS ARE RUN BY HUMANS and the track record for their response to major disasters is not great. Sometimes people do the right thing, in fact most of the time, but many opportunities exist for disaster, and a statistically significant amount of the time responses fail. Furthermore there will always be greedy and unmotivated operators cutting costs like TEPCO. I have no reason to believe that Entergy for instance (a major US operator of nuclear power plants) is any better than TEPCO, or regulated any better either. Is it thus not just a matter of time before we have Fukushima in the US? Probably. Its not clear that building a whole bunch of AP1000's or MSRs or whatever will materially improve that situation. It will just create greater complacency resulting in even worse preparedness. Its inherent in the system.
Objects floating in the ocean are EXPOSED, they are easily damaged by weather, can be attacked easily, are hard to secure, and VERY expensive to operate.
On top of all this the article is silly. Nobody at MIT has 'designed' a reactor, they just made a proposal that is barely more than just saying "build it on an oil rig!" with a few pictures. They talk about reactors anywhere from 50MW up to 1000MW which means basically "Gosh, you could float almost any nuclear reactor!". However it is not AT ALL clear that a 1,000 MW reactor would be made safe by passive seawater cooling in the event of say the whole thing sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Consider the effects of Fukushima COMBINED with the McCondo well blow-out... Its not a pretty picture to imagine a meltdown in 100 meters of water not too far offshore. Yes, the ocean would probably make this less totally disasterous than on land, but it might also be IMPOSSIBLE to quell or clean up. Statements on the lines of "it must be safe in the ocean" are exactly what goeth before a fall in engineering.
Anyway, it will seriously have to be studied, though I suspect others have done so already. As they said, the Russians have been working on this concept for years. That's one of the interesting things about it though, working on it for years, but where's the beef? Its probably not quite so easy as it sounds.
LOL, last week it was vinegar, now its caffeine, will it be a good cuban cigar next week?
I really can't recall. This was back when the original StarCraft first came out. This was in the day where my internet was ISDN or maybe asymmetric 512k cable-modem down and 56k modem up. It was a small size map that had land all around the edges, but the whole center was water, mostly filled with an island that had one fairly short bridge to the outside land at one corner. The island had some crystals, and the outside ring had some at the 2 corners, with the forth corner opposite the bridge being a start point. There might have been a few crystals in other spots, I don't recall exactly.
The trick was that the guy on the outside could do a 'slow rush' if it was done exactly right he could hit the island and win, if the island guy did ANYTHING except build basic units. This was mostly because it was easy to localize your opponents base/hive. Likewise you could work out that the island player could win if the outer player didn't create a way to cut off one of the two routes around the outside at exactly the right time. I don't recall the details perfectly, but I could probably still play it. Once you know the layout of the map its not too hard for a good player to see how to play it and then it comes out a draw most of the time. The really good players could beat you once they figured it out. I think maybe 2 or so players ever beat me cold on it, they must have been truly the very best of the best on Battle.net.
What makes things impossible to inspect is profit motive, nothing more.
Obviously, this is pretty much tautological. Enough money will solve ANY problem. The truth is no plant is 100% inspected. You can think otherwise and you are wrong. Look at VT Yankee's Tritium Leak problem. They weren't not doing an inspection procedure. The inspections they were doing were NOT FINDING A PROBLEM, and that means that (unbeknownst to the operator) some things aren't being properly inspected. Its not usually a deliberate thing, its simply that you WILL fail to find problems. It happens all the time. As plants age its more and more likely that these hidden problems exist in more and more critical components.
Sorry, I've worked around industrial facilities, including nuclear power plants. Hell, I've stood on top of the core of a research reactor and watched the Cerenkov glow, installed instruments at VY Yankee, etc. Lets just take VY as a good example. They COULD NOT, and DID NOT inspect plumbing underneath the plant (in fact they denied said plumbing even existed). The result was a tritium leak. There are simply pieces of these plants that can't be inspected. Trust me, I know all about ultrasound, x-rays, conductivity, etc etc etc. You can't be sure without putting eyeballs on it. Time and time again that has been proven, and some things we know we can't really inspect.
You can say that if you want, that doesn't make it true. There's clearly stuff inside these plants that nobody can look at and things that are so expensive to replace that building a new plant is cheaper. That's all that's required. You can't replace the pressure vessel on a PWR, not possible.
There are ALWAYS fundamental parts of the structure and inaccessible elements (pipes routing through masses of concrete or running under foundations for instance which are simply impractical to ever replace. In the case of nuclear power plants these things include highly critical parts like steel pressure vessels (which are degraded by neutron capture reactions amongst other things). You may be able to INSPECT these things, but once you deem that they've worn out its just game over, you decommission.
Another aspect of this problem is that it isn't simple to inspect things either. In many cases it can simply be impossible and the things that are hardest to inspect are also likely to be the things that can't be replaced. What ends up happening is that someone makes a model and says "this aught to last 20 years" and 19 years later another guy gets paid by the owner to make a new model that says "this aught to last 40 years". Now, the new model should be realistic, but it may be far less conservative and as we know models aren't perfect.
For this reason the really prudent thing to do is stick with the initial estimates, they're probably the most conservative, and decommission when the design lifetime is reached. Its LIKELY to be a bit conservative but as one poster stated above its all about risk vs reward. Nothing is totally safe or sure, but the longer you run an old nuclear reactor the more likely it is that components will be weakened and compromised. You just never know what sort of unforeseen event is going to then put stress on things. A pipe that was 200% stronger than necessary when it was made and is still 140% stronger than necessary is still now too weak to withstand 180% of its original maximum load. That might be "Never supposed to happen" but a 36 meter tsunami wasn't either. Shit happens.