Monday, June 21, 2010

Nuclear Power is Safe, and Is Getting Safer

Charles Barton writes about nuclear safety, making some good points.
The challenges confronting nuclear power are:
* assured nuclear safety
* An assured nuclear fuel supply throuh the efficient use of nuclear fuel
* the recycling of fission products into industrial use
* making energy produced through nuclear power available at a low cost
* developing the technology that will makes meeting the first four goals possible
* Achieving the first five goals rapidly, and deploying the technology world wide as quickly as possible
* Severing potential links between massive use of civilian power reactors and the spread of nuclear weapons.

...Despite powerful evidence of the safety of the previous generation of nuclear technology. reactor manufactures have continued to develop even safer reactor designs. The probability of a casualty producing nuclear accident occurring with Generation III+ reactors approaches once during the life of the universe. To expect greater safety, is to take an excursion into the realm of the absurd. The high levels of nuclear safety achieved by current reactor designs, comes at a high cost. Extremely safe Light Water Reactors are expensive to build. The challenge for future nuclear safety developments is to continue providing the current high level of nuclear safety, while dramatically lowering nuclear construction costs.

...Mass produced, factory manufactured features can in most cases be low priced. Thus from the Gat and Dodds perspective LFTRs can be more safe at trivial costs than LWRs can be with the massive expenditure of money on safety features. This leads us to consider drastic, cost lowering changes in the way reactors are built.

Even the worst sort of reactor disaster, say an aircraft attack on a reactor, would not cause a massive release of radioisotopes, because the nuclear fuel would be continuously cleaned of radioisotopes. Since an attack on a reactor no longer poses great danger for a civilian population, the reactor holds little value as a target for terrorist. Furthermore, Moir and Teller suggest the underground siting of Molten Salt Reactors. This underground reactor could not be damaged by aircraft attacks or even massive truck bombs.

It would appear then if Molten Salt Reactors could be brought to market, there would appear to be little doubt about its safety. The Molten Salt Reactor is capable of producing power at a safety level that will satisfy any rational person. _NuclearGreen
Charles concludes that molten salt reactors -- including liquid fluoride thorium reactors -- would be the safest possible nuclear reactors, particularly if factory-built to incorporate the optimal safety features in the least expensive manner.

Modern nuclear reactors are safe, but they rely upon considerable manpower to maintain overall plant safety. In an age of ever-reduced manpower in western nations, we can no longer rely upon a steady supply of well trained, intelligent, and resourceful techs and engineers.

We must design our infrastructure of the future around the reality of a steady decrease in skilled manpower. That is why Charles' suggestions are so important. And it is why we need to convert to factory built, next-gen reactors -- beginning now.

There is no more time for NRC foot-dragging or Obama Pelosi designed energy starvation and power company bankrupting. Massive hardship waits around the corner unless the leadership of today shifts gears -- and begins to behave as leaders should.



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