Monday, 7 March 2016

Nuclear: last century's failed technology

Letter submitted to The Times:
Matt Ridley is right  to argue French-State power generator Électricité de France (EDF) can’t afford to build the Hinkley Point C European Pressurised Reactor (EPR); that Britain ( or indeed France, as the resignation on 7 March of EDF chief finance officer,Thomas Piquemal  testifies) can’t afford to pay for it; and that  there are better options elsewhere ("Let’s kill off this nuclear white elephant, 7 March

But I think he is misguided in arguing the answer to our future electricity service requirements is either the other Giga-Watt (GW) giant reactors  being puished by Japanese reactor vendors Toshiba-Westinghouse and Hitachi ( have we not learned from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in Japan  five years ago this week?) or the untried prototype technology, the so-called Small Modular Reactor (SMR), of which there are currently around 50 different designs globally, some of which were  showcased at the UK SMR  Summit last October*
At the summit, Westinghouse’s roving global chief, Jeff Benjamin, vice president for new plants and major projects unveiled his company’s plans to offer the UK government a partnership in the deployment of small modular reactor (SMR) technology, “a move that would advance the UK from being a buyer to a global provider of the latest nuclear energy technology, According to a Westinghouse statement. The proposal is intended to complement the current Phase 2 SMR study that the UK government has recently commenced. 
Indeed, Westinghouse has recently signed a deal to work with the UK’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield.
But Matt Ridley is misguided to believe  - as are the SMR cheer-leaders -  that in the long-run the answer is that "smaller [nuclear] is more beautiful."
SMRs produce radioactive waste, just as the GW-sized plants do, for which there is no current technical or political solution for long term management. Moreover, even assuming planning permission  could be secured for  dozens of new nuclear plants on greenfield site, which I very much doubt, this proliferation of sites  would massively increase a nuclear security problem which we are already  failing to resolve with current reactor fleet
*SMR Design Concept Families

Water-cooled SMRs

•CAREM-25(Argentina) ACP100(China) Flexblue(France) AHWR300(India) IRIS(International) DMS(Japan) IMR(Japan) SMART(S Korea) KLT-40S(Russia) VBER-300(Russia) ABV-6M(Russia ) RITM-200(Russia) VVER300(Russia) VK-300(Russia) UNITHERM(Russia) RUTA-70(Russia) mPower(US) NuScale(US) Westinghouse SMR(US) SMR-160(US) Elena(Russia) SHELF(Russia)


High Temperature Gas-cooled SMRs

•HTR-PM(China) GTHTR300(Japan) GT-MHR(Russia) MHR-T(Russia) MHR-100(Russia) PBMR-400(SA) HTMR-100(SA) EM2(US) SC-HTGR(US) Xe-100(US) U-Battery (UK)


Liquid-metal cooled Fast SMRs

•CEFR(China) PFBR-500(India) 4S(Japan) SVBR-100(Russia) BREST-300(Russia) PRISM(US) Gen4 Module(US) Astrid (France)


Molten-salt cooled SMRs

•Terrestrial En (Canada) Seaborg Tech (Den) Fuji (Japan) LFTR (China) Moltex (UK) EVOL (EU) Flibe Energy (US) WAMSR Transatom (US)


Source: Presentation by Professor Tony Roulstone, University of Cambridge



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