Nuscale hopes to change the conversation on nuclear power local save electricity pictures


>of having the factory where these modular units are built No more than any industrial process. No radioactive material of any kind is used during the construction or shipping. Fuel is only loaded after the modules are installed in the plant.

>and nuclear fuel loaded into them apparently stockpiled Stockpiled is the wrong word. Fuel is manufactured and delivered shortly before it is to be used, and it doesn’t sit around in storage for an extended period of time. Because the modules are (significantly) smaller than existing reactors, the amount of fuel required to be kept on hand is less than that required for current reactors.

>or the decomissioning plant where old modules are disassmbled and the waste products stockpiled? Again, stockpiled is the wrong word. Spent fuel storage is a problem that has been solved (scientifically at least; politically is another matter). Transport and storage of radioactive waste is done routinely and safely. Most current reactors and former reactor sites store spent fuel on site, in extremely robust storage containers that protect the public. Trojan Park on the Columbia River is one such site; you’d never know there was radioactive waste there if I didn’t tell you. You could walk up to one of the containers and give it a hug and you’d be quite safe from radiation. You would face a pretty significant risk by trespassing with armed security on duty, but you’d be quite safe from radiation.

>Who wants these facilities in their community or their state? I do. A nuclear plant provides electricity that is SAFE and CLEAN, in large amounts, and constantly. It does not turn off when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing. In addition, a nuclear power plant provides many permanent jobs that pay well. Plants and the utilities that operate them are good neighbors that are involved in their communities and

Fuel reprocessing is a promising technology that can significantly reduce the amount of waste that needs to go into storage. Modern light water reactors can even be configured to run on reprocessed fuel; France has done this successfully for many years. Molten salt reactors have their own hurdles (a few scientific, but most regulatory; that’s a story for another day) that will prevent one from being constructed in the US in the next 50 years, but it is an exciting technology that is extremely safe, and, as you mention, can burn spent fuel currently stored as high-level waste. The big obstacle to reprocessing though is the national energy policy, which was adopted under Carter in the 70s and states quite simply that we will not reprocess spent fuel because that requires separating fissile materials like uranium and plutonium from the highly radioactive fission products and therefore becomes a weapons proliferation issue. That is not a good argument in my opinion, but the policy was made as a knee-jerk reaction to atomic testing by India and Pakistan.

Genuinely appreciate you taking the time to answer so thoughtfully and don’t intend to argue. Also agree the term ‘stockpile’ can be misleading. Here’s the rub and perhaps a better way to interpret the term for this manufacturing model. If we assume in the JIT model the probability of an accident on any day during manufacturing is "delta", the chance of no accident on that day is "(1-delta)". The probability of no accident over "n" days in a manufacturing facility is "p = (1-delta)^n", which unfortunately approaches 0 as n increases.

As far as decommissioning, the story doesn’t mention that the plan for these modular reactors is on-site storage of spent fuel. Indeed, it appears that could amount to at least less practical on-site storage of spent modules since the modules are shipped pre-assembled from a factory. That in turn at least raises the question whether the their could be a plan is to ship ship spent modules back to some kind of re-cycling "factory" in some scenarios. There the risk computation for the probability of days without an accident at that location once again would apply.

In sum, while it may be possible to reduce the probability of a single accident by manufacturing in a central facility through improved practices and technologies, it’s the risk of a single accident over the lifetime of that central facility that press accounts haven’t addressed that would be of concern.

I understand your concerns about the cumulative accident risk, but what you’re missing is that it’s purely industrial. There’s nothing nuclear about it until the reactor is installed in the plant and fuel is loaded. Industrial accidents happen every day and you don’t hear much about them because they don’t have that scary word "nuclear" attached to them. I’m not saying that industrial accidents are not a risk, but millions of Americans work in industrial facilities every day, and do so quite safely thanks to organizations like OSHA.

I agree that the article doesn’t talk about decommissioning of the reactors, but the U.S. government is required by law to handle nuclear waste generate by power reactors, and the utilities pay a fee for that to happen. What should be inferred when reading about new reactor designs is that the nuclear waste and spent fuel would be handled in the same way it is currently, which, though not ideal, is satisfactory. Spent fuel is also not the massive problem it is often portrayed to be: all of the spent nuclear fuel generated by 60 years of power reactors could be stacked 24 feet high on one football field. And that’s without reprocessing the nuclear fuel (which still has a lot of energy generation potential in it), which would reduce the amount of waste, and we don’t do it this country thanks to a policy adopted under Carter in 1977.

The nuclear industry is but upon old mechanistic thinking and tenacious investment and indenture of both government and industry. The narrow old thought pattern focuses on CO2 emission, isolating it as an environmental threat — while forever toxic nuclear waste is ignored or grossly underplayed. There wouldn’t be any nuclear pro – con discussion without those invested in and indentured to the nuclear industry. All the intricate and costly technical new workarounds still don’t get it: "Clean" or "green" inuclear energy is a faulty premise — because of the toxic waste footprint silently passed on, forever in human terms. The Pacific Ocean is dying because of Fukishima, but the government/industry partnership don’t don’t tell you that. Do we even want a bunch of small regional or localized nuclear plants across the land in the first place? Household and neighborhood solar/electromagnetic panels and hubs are most efficient and cost effective in general, to decentralize-democratize energy for users and infrastructure for developers/suppliers/service. More vertical and wider-deeper power grids of tech, manufacturing and metropolitan regions do need larger, more centralized and vertical power supply — but again, nuclear has inevitable liabilities which outweigh other options.