Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wind Ambitions “Chipped Away” and the EPA’s Unexpected Take on Nuclear Energy

There’s no particular reason for us to rag on wind energy, our gusty cousin, but in case you thought throwing up a few windmills was easy:

Birds, sharks and unexploded bombs from World War II are being blamed for holding up offshore wind farms, raising doubts about the costs of the technology.

and:

The U.K. market is crucial to the industry because it’s the biggest source of new projects and accounts for more than half the global installed capacity. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has set incentives for offshore wind through 2019, hoping to stimulate clean-energy jobs.

Those ambitions are being chipped away as developers better understand the costs of the projects. Utilities have canceled as much as 5,760 megawatts of planned capacity since Nov. 26, when RWE AG dropped its 1,200 megawatt Atlantic Array.

And:

EON, a German utility, along with Dong Energy A/S and Masdar Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co. yesterday abandoned plans to expand the 630-megawatt London Array by as much as 240 megawatts. EON said it couldn’t guarantee progress even if it met requirements for a three-year study of impact on red-throated divers, a fish-eating bird that can swim more than a minute under water.

Every energy source, particularly in early days, deals with woes, pitfalls and unintended consequences – heck, that’s true of most human endeavor. Worth a read.

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From the Environmental Protection Agency, which is considering revising a 1977 rule that “limits radiation releases and doses to the public from normal operation of nuclear power plants and other uranium fuel cycle facilities":

Growing concern about greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels has led to renewed interest in nuclear power. Nuclear energy emits very low levels of greenhouse gases, and unlike solar and wind power, provides a proven source of electricity capable of supplying a base-load that is not subject to varying weather conditions. The nuclear industry anticipates a demand for construction of several new nuclear power plants in the next 10 years. Increased demand would likely result in the construction and start-up of any additional facilities to support the fuel cycle for LWRs. Other parts of the fuel cycle are experiencing growth as well. For example, new uranium enrichment facilities are coming on line, such as the facility in Eunice, New Mexico by Louisiana Enrichment Services (Urenco USA). The facility was licensed by the NRC in 2006, began operations in 2010, and is an indication of the industry's improved outlook. The licensing and operation of spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities are not expected in the near future.

So now we know. Could have knocked me over with a fuel rod.

6 comments:

Engineer-Poet said...

Just think where we could have been if our now-secretary-of-state hadn't killed a certain R&D budget 20 years ago this year.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and how other countries have passed us since then. Just look at all the hugely successful fast reactor projects elsewhere in the world: Superphenix, Monju ... The list goes on and on.

Engineer-Poet said...

"Just look at all the hugely successful fast reactor projects elsewhere in the world: Superphenix..."

Used oxide fuel, and was subject to terrorist attacks which were tolerated and almost encouraged by the government.

"Monju ..."

Shut down by Japanese paranoia about all things nuclear (see the multi-year post-Tohoku shutdown of ALL Japanese plants).  The sodium leak never endangered the public and was fixed quickly, but a hostile news leak led to public outcry.  Japanese hysteria causes more public harm than anything nuclear has since VJ Day.

"The list goes on and on. "

Yes, it does.  In the list of fast reactors, EBR-II ran from 1963 until shut down by Congressional fiat in 1994, Russia's BN-600 (Beloyarsk 3) has been running for 34 years, and two BN-800 units are going to start this year in China and Russia.

Meanwhile, GE can't get permission to build an S-PRISM in the USA.  Tell me, why are we letting China and Russia take over the technology we invented?

jimwg said...

Good head's up article! DO rag on wind! That's taxpayers blood gone with the wind generating squat! I do get tired about hearing about energy "mix" -- since when do wind and coal and solar people always include nuclear in their view of a "mix"? I say to heck with "mix"! Try to go nuke all the way if you're serious about CO2 and pollution and bad land use. France shows the way is possible! Since when did the nuke aircraft carriers need a "mix" to run their floating cities well?

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Anonymous said...

"The sodium leak never endangered the public and was fixed quickly, but a hostile news leak led to public outcry."

If you call a video of tons of sodium coolant pouring from the primary system and burning on the floor, yes, it was hostile. in a sense.

"GE can't get permission to build an S-PRISM in the USA"

Link to where GE has requested permission to build PRISM in the US? I'm aware of no such application to NRC.

Engineer-Poet said...

"If you call a video of tons of sodium coolant pouring from the primary system and burning on the floor, yes, it was hostile. in a sense."

It wasn't from the primary coolant.  It was from a defective thermocouple well in the secondary coolant loop.

What did that video show?  Some men in bunny suits and air packs, investigating some stuff in the air that left powder on the floor.  There was no reactor problem, no radiological hazard, and no injuries.  Why would it lead to resignations, let alone suicides?  Hysteria.  Pure, blind, unreasoning fear of essentially nothing.

"Link to where GE has requested permission to build PRISM in the US?"

GE isn't wasting its money.  The NRC has made it known that they are not considering anything but light-water reactors at present.  Plus, the billion-dollar cost of training the NRC staff (applicant pays!) to write the regulations, and the ten-year schedule, make it prohibitive.