August 27, 2012

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 119

The Carnival of Nuclear energy is up at Yes Vermont Yankee.

At Atomic Insights, Rod Adams asks why radiation health professionals are so reluctant to talk about radiation hormesis ?

William Tucker at Nuclear townhall discussed how talking about radiation hormesis makes the public think the speaker is a zonked out weirdo. Ted Rockwell responded.

Ted Rockwell, who was troubleshooter at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project and later served as Admiral Rickover’s technical director when Naval Reactors developed the first nuclear powered submarine (USS Nautilus) and the first commercial light water reactor (Shippingport) provided the first comment. In other words, he is not only deeply experienced in nuclear energy and its associated radiation, but he is also a rather mature 90 years old.

I’m really frustrated! I’ve been involved with radiation protection since I edited The Shielding Manual in 1956. And with radiation, since I wrote “Frontier Life Among the Atom Splitters” for the SatEvePost (Dec 1, 1945). Continuously since then, I’ve been told that we should never mention hormesis, never try to tell people that radiation behaves like everything else in the world: a little is beneficial, too much is harmful. Like sunshine, like exercise, like all those nasty poisons in our daily vitamins. I’ve been writing, and lecturing, and talking to the person next to me on the airplane. And I’ve never met anyone who had trouble understanding or believing that simple concept. Yet “the experts” keep proclaiming that, although we all understand and believe it ourselves (how can you deny the data?), we shouldn’t try to tell it to the public or the Congress or the media.

It’s time to knock off that destructive behavior. Its only function is to protect persons who believe their job depends on scaring people. Radiation protection is an honorable function, and done right, it can help us find ways to operate more profitably, not less. But we in the nuclear community have continually bad-mouthed ourselves and our profession. It’s time to stop it.

There is a vast body of good scientific evidence that in the dose range of interest, more radiation is beneficial. But a great deal of effort has gone into hiding that fact. The relevant policy-setting reports like NCRP-136 and -121 concede that the data demonstrate hormesis, but they recommend it would be “prudent” to assume the opposite. It’s not science, but a strange sense of prudence, that leads people to want to hide hormesis.

As James Muckerheide documented years ago, “There Has Never Been a Time That the Benefits of Low-Dose Ionizing Radiation Were Not Known.” T.D. Luckey’s canonical works on Radiation Hormesis in 1980 and 1991 documented some 3000 cases of hormesis. Sakamoto, Hattori and others have been healing people with half-body irradiation. The literature covered in the 2012 ANS President’s Special Plenary published a 200-page summary report on the subject. The most important news about the terrifying subject of nuclear radiation is that it’s good for you. When do we lift the ban on telling people that?

Idaho Samizdat - Yurman and Jennetta assess fuel choices for SMRs in terms of assess time to market and export control issues. Thorium reactors face a challenge of proving their competitive advantage in terms of total cost of doing business.

Developers of small modular reactors (SMRs) fall in two camps as far as reactor designs and fuel types are concerned. The first are developers of downsized versions of light water reactors (LWRs). The second are developing a variety of fast reactors. It is in the second area where the greatest number of challenges occur as far as fuel is concerned and also for the back end.

Developing the fuel for the LWRs will be straightforward and at least two of the vendors, B&W and Westinghouse, already have the capability to make their own. Developing fuel for the fast reactors will be more complicated including the potential for extended testing and qualification of fuel types to meet licensing requirements.

U.S. nonproliferation rules may make life difficult for SMRs that are fast reactors. Because fast reactor fuels tend to have higher levels of enrichment, from 9-19% U235, getting export licenses for them may be a bureaucratic nightmare.

It’s more likely that fast reactor vendors will license their technologies to wholly owned subsidiaries in the countries that want to buy them and fabricate the fuel there. The parent firms, and their investors, will still face delays due to export controls on the technologies, but at least they won’t be hamstrung by having to physically move fuel.

The four leading developers of LWR type SMRs in the U.S. are working with similar fuel types and will use similar management practices for the back end of the fuel cycle. The firms and the power ratings (electrical) are;

· Babcock& Wilcox: 180 MW
· Holtec: 140 MW
· NuScale: 45 MW
· Westinghouse: 225 MW

SMR Fast Reactors

Except for the Gen4Energy design, they all use spent fuel. Except for the GE PRISM design, once the fuel goes in it stays in the reactor for its complete operational life which, in some cases, can be 40-60 years. Vendors include;

· General Atomics – EM2
· GE Hitachi – PRISM
· Gen4Energy – Gen4 Module
· TerraPower – Traveling Wave Reactor

Nextbigfuture - Oil and gas capital expenditures have gone over US$1 trillion per year.

Nextbigfuture - A Guardian UK analysis of nuclear power has the usual bias. Oliver Tickell's analysis has - At a construction cost of about US$10 billion per reactor, we would need to dedicate US$110 trillion, or about two years' gross world product, while also providing for long-term liabilities to replace the new fossil fuel generation for expected energy demand growth. However, about 90% of the reactors will be built in or by China, South Korea, Russia and India. The costs will be two to four times less. In total the costs for nuclear energy to replace all additional fossil fuel for the next 35 years would be more in range of $30 trillion. The analysis is not complete because the comparison of costs needs to look at the costs for the alternatives of wind, solar and other power generation. Wind has the problem that if wind was the sole basis for new power generation it would a warming effect as well. Remember the other article we are already spending $1 trillion per year on oil and gas capex.

Nextbigfuture - Uranium from seawater technology has been improved. Although these trials proved the principle of uranium extraction from seawater, the cost was prohibitively high - perhaps around $260 per pound. This compares badly to today's most economic mines on land, which produce uranium at around $20 per pound, while resources at higher costs up to about $115 per pound have already been identified that would last more than a century. and: The ACS summarised the session saying that the new techniques might reduce the cost of uranium from seawater to around $135 per pound.

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