This isn’t going to work I’m afraid

The boss of Urenco, the enriched uranium supplier that has been put up for sale with a price tag of £9bn, has made the case for mini-nuclear power plants to solve the energy problems of industry and developing countries.

Helmut Engelbrecht said there was a growing case for “small-scale, modular” plants – the type being developed by B&W mPower and America’s NuScale Power – to plug demand for energy without the costs of conventional nuclear.

“The challenge for the industry is to come up with something simple and reliable that can beat wind power on cost – a plug in and play unit,” he said.

Not because I doubt the technology at all. But because there are simplky too many people who will shout “Nuclear!” and that will be the end of it.

The idiots have poisoned the well and I just don’t think that any new variation of fusion nuclear will be politically successful. Sad, but that’s indeed my view.

18 thoughts on “This isn’t going to work I’m afraid”

  1. So Much for Subtlety

    The other problem is that the only people in the world who need large amounts of new power are in the Third World. And people who are incapable of being trusted to, say, run an airline are hardly the right people to trust with nuclear fission.

    Dumping your toxic waste into the Pacific may work for most industries but I do not recommend it for nuclear waste. Not even when the Japanese do it.

  2. Perhaps not in the first world; but there are plenty of develping countries who would embrace small-scale fission plants if they can be made affordable.

  3. So Much for Subtlety

    Andrew M – “Perhaps not in the first world; but there are plenty of develping countries who would embrace small-scale fission plants if they can be made affordable.”

    As we have seen in Iran.

  4. The other problem is that the only people in the world who need large amounts of new power are in the Third World.

    Ahh, Britain and Germany, those notorious third world nations. Both of whom do need large replacement amounts of power (and some new).

    But, apart from the nimbyism, the main problem with fission is the long-term high-grade waste disposal issue. Which is both a technical and an nimbyism problem (as seen in the UK Cumbria proposal.)

  5. So Much for Subtlety

    Surreptitious Evil – “Ahh, Britain and Germany, those notorious third world nations. Both of whom do need large replacement amounts of power (and some new).”

    I see you have to fly through Heathrow too. Replacement power. Not much new. Which means that both Britain and Germany have invested massively in the infrastructure for coal and gas. The railroads are there. The ship terminals are there. The know-how and expertise is there. Britain has junked a lot of that to change to gas, but a shift to a much larger nuclear sector would involve massive changes from what is taught at university to the survival of some railway lines.

    “But, apart from the nimbyism, the main problem with fission is the long-term high-grade waste disposal issue. Which is both a technical and an nimbyism problem (as seen in the UK Cumbria proposal.)”

    It is not much of a technical problem – and if that new nuclear was something like a molten fluoride salt reactor, most of the nastiest waste would be burnt up. Even if we didn’t want to do that, there are any number of plausible technical solutions to the waste.

    But it is a nimby problem. Which is yet another reason why Britain and Germany would probably lean to coal and gas. The locals would hardly even notice a new coal fired thermal plant on an old brown field site. They would very much notice a nuclear power plant.

  6. I always though large run manufacture of something like the PWR2 power plant would be not a bad solution to nuclear power. A single, standard design that is transportable would be much easier to both run (training etc), and decommission I would have thought.

    You are of course right that it simply won’t be allowed to be even considered.

  7. Depends how far the eco-fascists get down their de-industrialisation road. When the general public are reduced to electricity on alternate Thursdays when there’s an r in the month, the idea of a little nuclear reactor down the road providing a steady hum of lovely ‘leccy may be somewhat more palatable.

  8. If people start putting these in their basements, how many will overheat every year, with nasty results? IIRC all the bad things that have happened to big nukes have been variations on “we couldn’t get enough coolant through it”.

    Think I ought to go home and check I turned the gas off…

  9. If you are small enough (and are sufficiently competently designed), natural convection works effectively in the absence of generated power. That just leaves a coolant leak. Relatively simple measures can then force a scram if the coolant levels drop sufficiently low and these low-output reactors* do not have the volumes of fissile and radioactive waste products to give the high residual heat that characterises much bigger reactors.

    Actually, this also applies to much larger, i.e. nuclear submarine reactor cores.

  10. Relatively simple measures to avoid problems with basement fitted plants would be the utility controlled power meters – smart meters – likely to be mandatory over the next few years. These could monitor coolant levels, leaks, etc. as well as power utilization.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Sensible policies for a happier Britain.

  11. The development of transporable nuclear generators will be lead by China, where they don’t need to worry about environmental campaigners ( and anyway, any wise environmentalist there would be all for it). Then they will be acquired by western utilities, government agencies, and academic institutions that already have nuclear “license”. By that point it will be pretty clear whether or not they are safe.

  12. Bloke in Costa Rica

    There are quite a few designs for Inherently Safe Reactors that essentially can’t melt down even in the event of something really serious going wrong. As for proliferation: reactors must be designed with weapons applications in mind right from the get-go. The micro-nukes (which aren’t all that micro-, with typically a 100MW design capacity) simply don’t work that way.

    Sooner or later people are going to have to be confronted with the choice: do you want the lights to stay on or do you want green frippery? There isn’t a middle path.

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