Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Nukes

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I listened to Fresh Air this morning instead of Rachel Maddow. Once again, fate reaches out with her lovely fingers.

One Year Later, 'Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown'

”In the days after a tsunami crippled Japan's Fukushima power plant almost one year ago, a small group of engineers, soldiers and firemen risked their own lives to prevent a complete nuclear meltdown.

Investigative reporter Dan Edge wanted to find out what it was like for the workers who were inside the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant when the crisis began. His new “Frontline” documentary chronicles what happened to those plant engineers, as well as what happened to the small corps of workers who entered the power plant in the days after the disaster.”

I haven’t had a chance to watch the documentary but I fully intend to. I have a busy day ahead of me so listen if you like, and I’m sure NPR will direct you towards the documentary if you happen to be on your day off and have the time to watch it.

But just a quick note before I go. Georgia (actually The Southern Company) has decide to build two new nuclear plants at Vogtle.

NRC approves construction of new nuclear power reactors in Georgia

”The commission voted 4-1 in favor, with NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko casting the sole vote against granting the license. Jaczko said later that he wanted binding assurances that the new reactors would be modified to meet recommendations made by the agency’s task force on the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant last year.”

If you listen to the NPR story, be sure to note the details of the spent fuel rods and keep in mind that Atlanta is right at 250km from Vogtle. Charleston, SC is 200km and Charlotte, NC is 300km from Vogtle -- downwind.

Have a nice day.

Don Brown
February 29, 2012

1 comment:

bob said...

Sorry about how long this comment is, but sometimes it just happens

Gen 1, Gen 2, some of the Gen 3 nuclear power facilities all suffered from the promise by the Atomic Energy Commission, then Energy Research Development Administration (AEC – regulation authority), and finally Department of Energy, that there would be depleted fuel assemblies reprocessing, and therefore your designs do not need to incorporate large independent depleted fuel assemblies storage facilities. Any deplete fuel assemblies not capable of being reprocessed would be stored in a special long-term storage facility managed by the fill in the name of the appropriate Department/Administration/Commission. That was the plan. Reality is something completely different.

The original intent of the onsite fuel assemblies’ storage was to temporarily hold fuel assemblies that were spent, or removed for inspection, or that were awaiting insertion. In the case of spent fuel assemblies they were to be stored only for a few months until they were “Cold” enough to transport to the fuel reprocessing facility via specially designed transport containers.

There is now no reprocessing of depleted fuel assemblies in the United States (Politically killed in 1976-1977, nuclear proliferation concerns, and NIMBY), and it is illegal to ship spent fuel assemblies outside of the United States, and there is no special long-term storage facility for spent commercial fuel assemblies (canceled 2009, bad site and NIMBY), the spent fuel assemblies started to quickly overwhelm the allocated storage available in the temporary fuel storage pools at the various reactor station.

Additional storage pool volumes were added to existing stations within the very limited space available in the containment buildings. Some nuclear power stations now store some of their spent fuel assemblies in specially designed dry caskets in above ground facilities located on the power station site, in many cases these facilities could not expand their pool storage facilities to a size that could support the number of spent fuel assemblies they had or will produce.

Many of the Gen 3 plants and to a very limited extent some of the Gen 2 plants are either going through or plan to go through an operating license extension process, which if granted will add even more spent fuel assemblies to their already limited storage facilities.

The designs of many Generation 3 containments building were expanded in size to accommodate the requirement to store more spent fuel assemblies and for longer periods. But the expanded fuel assemblies’ storage facilities thermal loads were for the most part piggybacked on to the stations primary cooling system. It is cheaper to build bigger, rather than to build two independent systems (Bean Counters).

Generation 4 designs based on 50 plus years of operation now have very large spent fuel assembly storage, and some designs are being or have been modified such that the spent fuel assembly storage has it’s own independent primary and secondary cooling systems.

I have not looked at the license for the two new reactors for Georgia, but if at the very least it does not require the station’s spent fuel assembly storage facility to be separate and independent it would be a serious miscarriage of governmental oversight especially with the knowledge we have learned from the Fukajima power station incident.