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NRC Expects Applications To Operate Reactors Beyond 60 Years

Unknown Lamer posted about 9 months ago | from the maybe-we-should-build-new-ones dept.

Government 135

mdsolar writes with news that the aging reactor fleet in the U.S. will likely see units hitting 80 or more years of use before being decommissioned. From the article: "Officials of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear power industry expect the first application to be filed with the agency in 2018 or 2019 for a license renewal to operate a power reactor or reactors beyond 60 years. At a Nuclear Energy Institute forum in Washington Tuesday, neither NRC nor industry officials named specific plants considered likely to apply, and it was not clear from their remarks if any nuclear operator has yet volunteered to be the first to apply." Also see the staff report on preparing for the first applications. The proposed operating license changes would place no limit on the number of 20 year extensions, so perhaps a few reactors will end up in operation for a full century (if there's anyone left who can remember how to operate them then).

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Slashdot Users Expect Dice to Operate Beta Forever (-1, Troll)

sexconker (1179573) | about 9 months ago | (#46361055)

Uckbay Etafay.

Re:Slashdot Users Expect Dice to Operate Beta Fore (1)

Iniamyen (2440798) | about 9 months ago | (#46362135)

That's not how pig latin works.

Re:Slashdot Users Expect Dice to Operate Beta Fore (3, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | about 9 months ago | (#46362211)

Yes it is.
The message says "Buck Feta.".

Re:Slashdot Users Expect Dice to Operate Beta Fore (5, Funny)

Iniamyen (2440798) | about 9 months ago | (#46362895)

Why would you want to reject a cheese? This makes no sense.

Re:Slashdot Users Expect Dice to Operate Beta Fore (2)

vettemph (540399) | about 9 months ago | (#46364053)

+1 would read comment again.

where are my mod points.

"the aging reactor fleet" (0, Troll)

idontgno (624372) | about 9 months ago | (#46361079)

Legendary Slashdot editing.

You don't talk about a "fleet" of reactors unless you mean a nuclear-powered Navy. And, as far as I can tell, the US Navy doesn't have to ask "Mother May I" to the NRC.

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (2)

rossdee (243626) | about 9 months ago | (#46361207)

I thought they were already decommissioning the USS Enterprise (CVN65) which was the only ship in The Fleet that had really aging reactors.
The Nimitz class had a newer design of reactor, which they only needed 2 of per ship.

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361935)

Actually, the Nimitz-class ships have also had a fuel system overhaul for the older vessels (Abraham Lincoln is currently in dock at Newport News for RCOH), and are even tentatively scheduled for decommissioning and replacement, starting in 2020.

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361209)

I believe they were using the second definition of fleet, not the first one. Many words have more than one meaning.

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (4, Informative)

Mike Kirk (58190) | about 9 months ago | (#46361231)

The company I work for is involved in the Nuclear Work Management industry: and companies owning a "fleet" of reactors is common terminology. "Legendary Slashdot commenting"? (after carefully avoiding Google :) )

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (4, Insightful)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 9 months ago | (#46361245)

> You don't talk about a "fleet" of reactors unless you mean a nuclear-powered Navy

Everyone calls it a fleet.

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-A-F/France/
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Cool-running-reactor-fleets-0801141.html
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-A-F/China--Nuclear-Power/
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-G-N/Japan/

I like that righteous indignation you used while illustrating that you know absolutely zero about the topic you are pontificating on.

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (3, Funny)

TWX (665546) | about 9 months ago | (#46361265)

Would a gaggle or reactors work better?

How about a murder of reactors?

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (1)

mrbester (200927) | about 9 months ago | (#46361797)

A meltdown of reactors.

Isn't this similar to keeping COBOL code bases going as they still work even though the really good developers are dying off? At least with a codebase when things break there isn't an international emergency...

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (1)

TWX (665546) | about 9 months ago | (#46361903)

Isn't this similar to keeping COBOL code bases going as they still work even though the really good developers are dying off? At least with a codebase when things break there isn't an international emergency...

The air traffic control system used at international airports in the United States begs to differ...

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (1)

ThePawArmy (952965) | about 9 months ago | (#46362555)

| How about a murder of reactors?

Now that would be something to crow about!

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361507)

Wrong. Power reactors owned by utilities are routinely referred to as a "Fleet".

Re:"the aging reactor fleet" (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 9 months ago | (#46361509)

AFAIK, "fleet" is the usual term for a power company's collection of power generation equipment. It's what it gets called here anyway.

Oh NRC... get your crap together (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about 9 months ago | (#46361121)

The existing nuclear plants are definitely approaching end of life. New nuclear plants and technologies are pretty damned far away. The NRC definitely needs to shut down some of the older plants. What's more, the NRC definitely needs to start approving new plants and nuclear technologies more quickly. The licensing process is amazingly expensive. We're quickly going to arrive at an energy crisis due to lack of action.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (3, Interesting)

iggymanz (596061) | about 9 months ago | (#46361169)

reactors can be refurbished (usually "head" replacement, about $120M ten years ago), steam generators and primary coolant pumps replaced, etc.

I was scheduler in nuke plant, saw all those things done

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361193)

I was scheduler in nuke plant, saw all those things done

Tell us more about your job!

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (0)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 9 months ago | (#46361429)

I'd like to know more as well! :)

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361755)

Sure, but (and I honestly can't believe I'm about to say this, in an article about nuclear power submitted by legendary troll mdsolar...) the problem is that 60 years of having the reactor vessel & primary coolant components bombarded with neutrons is a bit of an unknown quantity.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 9 months ago | (#46361951)

not unknown, atoms are displaced. Ultrasonic techniques are proven to be the way to monitor crack and void growth from not just radiation but the thermal and pressure stress. Adoption in the USA has thus far been slow but will be necessary with a fleet of 60+ year old reactors.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364543)

I'm not suggesting we don't understand the mechanism, I'm saying we don't know what happens when you run a reactor for 60 years. The Russians have come close (I believe they have some 60's era reactors that only recently shut down), but no one has run a full scale reactor at full-bore for 60 years. We suspect we understand what will happen to the metal parts, but we don't actually know. Also we're well past the design age, and probably past even the designed in safety factor. All you need is one weld that was within safety margins for a designed age of 30+20 years to fail...

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (2)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 9 months ago | (#46361979)

A few extra decades of metal fatigue, what could go wrong ???

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (0)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 9 months ago | (#46362083)

Reactors are made out of steel. Ferrous alloys and titanium alloys have a distinct limit, an amplitude below which there appears to be no number of cycles that will cause failure.

For example https://upload.wikimedia.org/w... [wikimedia.org]
Has been round for a good while.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (3, Insightful)

Derek Pomery (2028) | about 9 months ago | (#46363605)

Could be the parent was confusing embrittlement from stray neutrons with metal fatigue.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (0)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 9 months ago | (#46364901)

Possibly. Proper monitoring can keep an eye on that.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (0)

iggymanz (596061) | about 9 months ago | (#46363027)

nothing that can't be detected with very reliable means, the only issue is to make those commonplace in USA if life extensions for these plants are to be the norm

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46362471)

$120m is quite a cheap refurbishment, serious refurbishment of some types goes into a billion... like in Ontario 1.5b or NB 3.3b. obviously still worth it to extend the life of a valuable reactor.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (4, Insightful)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 9 months ago | (#46361203)

The problem is that they don't want to allow any new reactors to be built. Also if the existing reactors are shutdown they all end up out of work.
The best solution, as far as any employee of the NRC is concerned, is extend the existing reactors life.

For the record, I am pro Nuclear power.
But I am also cynical as hell.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (4, Informative)

ChefInnocent (667809) | about 9 months ago | (#46361611)

Although very limited, there are 4 new reactors being built. 2 at Vogtle, and 2 at VC Summer. It would be nice if we could move a little faster, but at least it is a start. There is also an older style one being built at Watts Bar.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 9 months ago | (#46362025)

I stand corrected.
Slashdot is my primary new source for nuclear news. I blame /.
:)

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (2)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 9 months ago | (#46362399)

It will be interesting to see if once those new reactors are completed and on-line they can compete with renewable solar and wind energy.

I'm sure the _NRC_ would love to build new reactor (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361643)

But apparently it's thought to be a better idea to destroy the entire stock of precious hydrocarbons that took Nature a hundred million years to lay down in the next century by burning them instead.

Re:I'm sure the _NRC_ would love to build new reac (1)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#46363767)

But apparently it's thought to be a better idea to destroy the entire stock of precious hydrocarbons that took Nature a hundred million years to lay down in the next century by burning them instead.

Seriously, what's the better use of those hydrocarbons? I get the feeling people are treating it like a bank. But a bank takes savings deposits and loans them to someone else. So that money never just sits around. OTOH, if you don't pull oil out of the ground and do something with it, then you're doing nothing with it. Hydrocarbons sitting in the ground aren't at all precious.

So what are we going to be doing with those hydrocarbons in the future that is so precious?

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (2)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 9 months ago | (#46361999)

If the engineers and safety ppl have top say in the matter it would likely be ok.

The problem is the money men and bean counters often end up with top
say and that doesn't end well as seen in other boondoggles.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (4, Insightful)

Void2258 (2555978) | about 9 months ago | (#46363345)

The problem is that nuclear power has accrued such a bad reputation. And this with comparatively few accidents. But 'nuclear' is such a huge bogeyman that it is virtually impossible to build any new plants now, regardless of advances in technology. No one wants to have one in their 'back yard' under any circumstances. Given the psychological climate, we are better off working to move on without nuclear energy.

The current plants will stay operational indefinitely until there is an accident or there is simply a lack of ability to operate them. No new plants will be built. There was a brief window before Fukushima when public opinion was turning around, but after that accident, no amount of propaganda or new technology will be able to overcome the deep cultural fear of nuclear accidents.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (4, Informative)

nojayuk (567177) | about 9 months ago | (#46361309)

I recall reading somewhere that the NRC has a two-year backlog in its approvals process i.e. a power generating company submitting paperwork for a Construction and Operating Licence (COL) today will get it looked at in 2016 at the earliest with a three to five year delay after that for a yes/no decision. The NRC is a US government department hence it's underfunded and woefully understaffed especially in the technical divisions as there are better career opportunities for the qualified engineers needed to go analyse the intensely technical submission documents for a new build.

As for existing plants reaching end-of-life, that's debatable. Usually by the thirty-year mark a plant's non-core units are in train to be replaced, things like steam generators, main pumps etc. Almost all of the current US reactors have upgraded to digital control systems if they were originally built with anaogue controls back in the 1970s. The key irreplaceable parts of a reactor are the reactor vessel and its containment and since they were originally overspecified and overbuilt to an almost ludicrous degree and they have no moving parts in themselves they usually pass inspection with flying colours. It tends to be external factors that will downcheck a reactor -- safety systems, steam generators etc.

If the NRC was to shut down older plants simply because they are old their capacity will be replaced with gas and coal, not nuclear because they're a lot less effort in terms of paperwork and currently they're about as cheap to run assuming no-one cares about the pollution they spew into the atmosphere 24/7.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364533)

they were originally overspecified and overbuilt to an almost ludicrous degree

*looks at Fukushima Dai-chi hell hole*

You are full of shit!

Posting as Anon because calling people out on their bullshit when it is nuclear power related on /. just kills your karma.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361333)

The NRC definitely needs to shut down some of the older plants.

Why? Just like your teeth - they go away if you ignore them. Don't shut them down and they will go away. In a pretty nasty, dirty, way - but go away they will. Whether they are a design that can experience classic meltdown or a newer design that just spews radioactive waste - they will indeed shut themselves down after awhile...

And replace them with what? Coal burning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361383)

If those plants are shut down, what replaces their generating capacity?

Fossil fuel-fired generators, that's what.

One wonders what your position is on AGW.

Re:Oh NRC... get your crap together (2)

budgenator (254554) | about 9 months ago | (#46364283)

Westinghouse's AP1000 [wikipedia.org] has some new technologies and 4 of them are being built in the US. I'd like to see more work on modular reactors like NuSale's [nuscalepower.com] concept and thorium reactors.

Training is allowed (2)

jandrese (485) | about 9 months ago | (#46361127)

The proposed operating license changes would place no limit on the number of 20 year extensions, so perhaps a few reactors will end up in operation for a full century (if there's anyone left who can remember how to operate them then).

You are allowed to train people how to operate machines even when the machine is old. I'm pretty sure people will still understand buttons and knobs even in a future where everything else is touchscreens and direct neural interfaces or whatever.

Re:Training is allowed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361159)

The joke's that without building new reactors we'll lose enough nuclear engineering knowledge that there will be no one left to do the training 20 years from now.

Re:Training is allowed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361801)

the joke's stupid then.

Re:Training is allowed (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#46361225)

You know, my experience with older technology is you can often teach someone the high-level stuff, but when you get into the really low-level stuff there's invariably a zillion little things which come down to lore and things you've seen before and just know about them but which aren't written down.

I have yet to see any sufficiently old system which is fully documented, actually matches what the documentation says, and doesn't have a bunch of little 'quirks' which prevent the new guy from ever truly understanding it beyond the basics.

Not knowing that you need to jiggle the control rod 3 times and do a quarter turn to the left to operate it is likely the kind of thing which is going to end badly.

Which is precisely why I've known mainframe programmers who retired, started collecting their pension, and then started getting 5x their salary in consulting fees to keep it running for their previous employer. Because, try as they might, you just can't find someone who really grasps the entire system.

I can't tell you how many times in my professional career the answer to "why does this work like this?" has been followed up with "now that's a funny story" followed by a description of some bit of arcane knowledge which nobody else truly understands except the guy telling the story.

Re:Training is allowed (2)

OzPeter (195038) | about 9 months ago | (#46361435)

Which is precisely why I've known mainframe programmers who retired, started collecting their pension, and then started getting 5x their salary in consulting fees to keep it running for their previous employer. Because, try as they might, you just can't find someone who really grasps the entire system.

Totally unrelated anecdote, but sort of related to your mainframe programmers. I did an HMI change over job a few years ago where the system had been designed and built by one guy and was full of all sorts of non-standard ideas and gotcha's (my fav was the onscreen button that wrote straight to the PLCs I/O). He had this idea that he was going to retire and then come back and support the system on contract rates. But apparently he pissed off so many people that when he retired they were glad to see him go, regardless of the state of the HMI.

Re:Training is allowed (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#46361517)

He had this idea that he was going to retire and then come back and support the system on contract rates. But apparently he pissed off so many people that when he retired they were glad to see him go, regardless of the state of the HMI.

LOL ... if you plan for it, it doesn't work. But I've seen systems which have been added onto for 40+ years, which are business critical, and which exactly one person fully understands. And there's the very real possibility that if he dropped dead they'd be dead in the water at the first problem.

I'm certainly not saying it happens in all cases, but I've seen enough cases of it that I do worry.

I've seen several projects to replace aging software which was built in-house fail because at the end of the day the system is so tightly integrated and poorly understood that it's impossible to replace it without spending vast sums of money and disrupting almost every aspect of the business -- because everything else came later and tied into it.

Not long ago I had my car in to the dealer ... and the girl at the service desk was telling me the ancient software running on a mainframe and with an IBM terminal emulator had been ancient software running on a mainframe and using actual IBM terminals when she entered the industry 15 years ago.

Sometimes, old stuff is both impossible to replace, and impossible to fully understand. And I bet if I knew actual stats on just how much software which is as old as I am is still in production use, that I would be both startled and un-surprised.

Re:Training is allowed (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 9 months ago | (#46362127)

The funny thing is it is just data, and a copy could be exported, setup in a parallel system
to just act as a backup for awhile, confirm it is keeping parity, then do a cutover during a long
holiday and do testing.

If it has issues return to the old system til the issues are worked out.

Its amazing how fear drives some places to hold onto legacy ancient gear.

In 2007 Dell was running on a Tandem mainframe supported by COMPAQ/HP.

And that is totally hilarious with it being Dell.

Re:Training is allowed (4, Informative)

BUL2294 (1081735) | about 9 months ago | (#46361493)

Except that nuclear reactors are, by regulation, among the most-documented entities on earth. From functionality to maintenance logs to upgrades, nuclear plants & their owners are extreme documenters--to decrease liability and meet government regulation. You don't hear stories of nuclear reactors in places like the US, Canada, UK, Western Europe, etc., with "documentation problems" or knowledge transfer continuity. (Pay people to stay to do an easy job & they will...) Sure, a part schematic may be on paper as opposed to stored electronically, but they'll have multiple copies onsite, a few copies at the power utility offsite, and at the NRC or other national nuclear regulatory agency--and everyone who should know where those copies are, do know... And that documentation would be designed so that anyone with the requisite engineering knowledge & skills should be able to read it...

Nuclear plants are not run like IT shops--and thank God for that...

Re:Training is allowed (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#46361547)

Nuclear plants are not run like IT shops--and thank God for that...

I sincerely hope so, I really do.

But my general lack of faith in humans still gives me pause for concern.

Re:Training is allowed (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 9 months ago | (#46362089)

Windows and SCADA (shudder)

Re:Training is allowed (1)

SGDarkKnight (253157) | about 9 months ago | (#46361651)

You've never worked inside a 40 year old nuclear plant before, have you?

Re:Training is allowed (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 9 months ago | (#46363249)

Documentation is one thing, having people around who really understand the design principals and most critically what to do in the event of an accident is quite another. The problems they had at Fukushima were made worse by the fact that the people on the ground didn't understand what was happening. Monitoring systems failed and they didn't appreciate the potentials risks and didn't do the necessary checks that might have prevented meltdown.

Nuclear plants are complex. Mistakes have very serious consequences. Documentation alone is insufficient, you need extensive training programs and high wages to retain the skills you invest in, and at the moment that isn't happening.

Vermont Yankee plumbing unknown (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 9 months ago | (#46364803)

Actually, accurate documents seem to be rare. It was very hard to find out if Vermont Yankee had pipes running under it. Entergy told the State no until they started to leak. And, the military nuclear culture seems to be turning to falsified documents such as test cheating so the future work force for nuclear power is becoming more corrupt. Probably those documents will become completely useless in another generation.

Re:Training is allowed (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 9 months ago | (#46361735)

You know, my experience with older technology is you can often teach someone the high-level stuff, but when you get into the really low-level stuff there's invariably a zillion little things which come down to lore and things you've seen before and just know about them but which aren't written down.

A few days ago some posted a picture of my submarine shortly after launch to our re-union group's Facebook page. As a joke, I said everyone should post their age on that date. After I was challenged to be first (two days shy of two weeks after my second birthday for the record), a bunch of other guys chimed in... most of us were somewhere about that age as well. Even though the boat was over twenty years old by the time we all got there, we had no problems operating her and neither did the guys who took her to PSNS to be decommissioned and scrapped ten years later. In fact, all over the world, equipment decades old is working just fine. Your experience appears to be with older computers and programs. Programs aren't physical hardware, and apples and oranges doesn't even begin to convey the scope of the difference.
 

Not knowing that you need to jiggle the control rod 3 times and do a quarter turn to the left to operate it is likely the kind of thing which is going to end badly.

The world of physical hardware doesn't work that way. Doubly so for a nuclear reactor - if it doesn't work to spec, you fix it so that it does work to spec. You replace the control rod control switch, or adjust the shims on the drive, or whatever.
 

I can't tell you how many times in my professional career the answer to "why does this work like this?" has been followed up with "now that's a funny story" followed by a description of some bit of arcane knowledge which nobody else truly understands except the guy telling the story.

That's why the apocryphal line "If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization" was written.

Re:Training is allowed (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 9 months ago | (#46361803)

A few days ago some posted a picture of my submarine shortly after launch to our re-union group's Facebook page. As a joke, I said everyone should post their age on that date.

Hmm, I had just turned six when the boat I served on was launched.

Re:Training is allowed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361775)

Those people obtained the knowledge somehow. It is possible to obtain the knowledge again. The 5*salary number is representative of simply buying that knowledge rather than obtaining it.

Re:Training is allowed (2)

sjames (1099) | about 9 months ago | (#46363317)

And that's why instead of just handing the new recruit a pile of manuals and saying good luck, they have a system of seniority in place. As long as you keep hiring new guys to work alongside the old guys, that lore gets passed on.

Unfortunately, it looks a little better on the quarterly report if you skip the new hires and kick the can down the road. Right up until the road ends in a cliff.

Re:Training is allowed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364557)

Interesting story . . .

Not knowing that you need to jiggle the control rod 3 times

WE ARE ALL FUCKED!

Horrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361147)

Extending the lifespan of a reactor beyond its designed lifetime is one thing, but allowing reactors to operate that are fundamentally obsolete and unsafe is quite another.

The real issue here is that these reactors should be replaced, but the process of approving new reactors is such a quagmire of red tape that it is no longer economically feasible to do so. Unfortunately this is actually in the best financial interests of the power companies. About 5 or 6 years ago, I spoke with a guy who worked for my local power conglomerate...he said that the nuclear reactor they operate (a dinosaur) is bar none the *cheapest* form of electricity they generate...wholesale was something around $0.007 (yes, 7/10 of a cent) per kwh. You can't beat that price with *anything*. If you got rid of that reactor (cheap power) and replaced it with a new one (very expensive power) they'd take a beating, and might have to raise their prices. But that would make renewables cheaper relatively speaking, which they don't like, because they are largely decentralized and would take the power company out of the equation.

Too cheap to meter! (1)

glrotate (300695) | about 9 months ago | (#46362015)

LOL!

Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 9 months ago | (#46361173)

It is really sad how the US cannot come with a good strong Nuclear Energy Policy and rules and regulations.

Being that voters on both sides a full of complete ignorance that they just make it worse.

The Democrats who support environmentalists (Scientists) and "environmentalists" (Tree Huggers) often get them confused and will be happy to believe that nuclear energy is like a controlled atomic bomb, thus must be decommissioned at all cost.

The Republicans who are in bed with the Oil industry will sometimes tolerate nuclear energy, however do not have the guts to push for it as it will step on the Oil Industry.

So what happens, we get regulations that are overly strict in the wrong areas and have gaping problems in the other.

Is nuclear energy a Clean Safe and Too cheap to meter? No, not by a long shot. However we have a trade off of saving CO2 output (our current big problem) with Storing and keeping safe hazardous waste for a thousands of years (a future problem, which could get better over time). There are a lot of safety protocols in place and newer designs get safer, I doubt we will see a nuclear explosion, however accidents could create nuclear radiation leaked which are toxic, that said coal spews out a lot of toxic stuff already. These safety protocols comes at a cost, so yes you will still need to meter to pay for the upkeep and running. However it is a source of energy that can be produces without killing the budget.

Nuclear along with Wind, Solar, Hydropower should all be added to the American clean energy strategies.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 9 months ago | (#46361387)

Nuclear beats hydrocarbons by a mile, and I'm not sad that Japan is restarting their reactors [dailymail.co.uk] and the US is supporting plans for the first new nuclear power plant in over 30 years [reuters.com] , all in just the last few days. I don't feel like I have any of the irrational bias against nuclear you are talking about.

At the same time, I wonder if nuclear is enough cheaper than solar and wind to bother with? It is really hard to accurately value a huge investment that expected to last 80 years. What technological advances and political changes might happen in that time? 80 years ago it was 1934.

Large-scale thermal plants can store energy to moderate the supply, and we would need a more integrated national grid give more flexibility. But it seems doable. I'll grant there would still be some cost premium, so it won't happen if left to the market alone, but then again markets don't care about global warming or the problems of long-term waste storage (even if that's really just a political problem). I really like the fact that wind and solar can simply be torn down and hauled away, or upgraded as need be.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (1)

nojayuk (567177) | about 9 months ago | (#46361857)

The two Vogtle reactors in Georgia started construction last year as did two new AP1000s Sumner plants in South Carolina, a total of four new starts. The news about the loan guarantees is just that, the loans themselves to pay for construction of the AP1000s had already been agreed. It was expected the guarantees would be issued.

As for long-term investments the US threw an immense amount of taxpayers money into something called the Interstate starting about 80 years ago. How did that work out for you?

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46362063)

Nuclear power costs MORE than solar ALREADY.
It is simply stupid we are building a new plant that is basically the same old technology down south where it is sunny; at a higher cost than a solar plant. At the end of the near decade long construction process it'll most likely cost more than expected. Operating expenses are higher as well; the comparison with solar is just for construction. Long term it will cost even more due to operating, regulation, and fuel costs! The fuel cost will go up as well during it's operation time; since it is old tech it still runs on the same old fuel the USA imports because we've used it all already when we started out as the richest nation; to be fair, I must say that the USA put a lot of that fuel into bombs and we could be smart and start using all that fuel we've stockpiled... Nobody counts the costs when we source fuel from old bombs; that is another subsidized cost nobody counts. As far as tech advances, not much has been done to the old plants other than to rubber stamp them for longer than their designed lifespan and put in newer monitor/sensor gear. It is true many things are replaced, far more than people might think and they are better at detecting things (which mostly means they push the use up to the limit of failure while before they were more cautious and wasteful) but that is still a costly situation. slowly rebuilding a plant over 80 years while it is still running is not so cheap (now if you could kill graft maybe a rebuild from scratch would be cheaper...)

You can sell yourself as reasonable to the ignorant by taking a middle of the road position but it won't work on people who know better.

I'd rather put billions into modern technology. upgrade the powergrid which is simply pathetic, so we can put in next gen tech for power storage etc.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46362877)

Japan is restarting because they have *no choice*. That is, if going bankrupt is not a choice. To put it in perspective, the entire cost of Fukushima-"what tsunamis"-fuckup is about the same as 2-3 years of additional fossil fuel imports. Even worse, fossil fuel imports are literally burning Japan's foreign reserves, while Fukushima is all in local currency.

Nuclear power gives you local power with local currency with local risks. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are just a bunch of global problems. CO2 emitted today will screw up all of our kids for generations to come. You can't "move away" from its pollution or effects.

At the same time, I wonder if nuclear is enough cheaper than solar and wind to bother with? It is really hard to accurately value a huge investment that expected to last 80 years.

And you've hit the nail on the head. Strategically important resources, like energy security, should not be left purely to next-quarter-profit MBA types. It is extremely unknown what the cost of fossil fuels or their pollution will be in the future. Even 10-20 years is suspect. So of course no one plans ahead 120 years - the expected life expectancy of currently being built reactors.

Just now, natural gas plants are running on kerosene because of gas price spikes.

Stability is what nuclear plants give you. Even more so than hydroelectric that can be affected by AGW.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 9 months ago | (#46363353)

There is a very real danger that come the mid 2020s people building new nuclear plants will be looking pretty silly in the face of what Germany will have done. Maybe they won't, but it's a definite risk for investors.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364389)

There is a very real danger that come the mid 2020s people building new nuclear plants will be looking pretty silly in the face of what Germany will have done. Maybe they won't, but it's a definite risk for investors.

Builders of new nuclear plants will look silly in the future because Germany shut down their own nuclear plants and started buying nuclear-generated electricity from France in order to seem ironically self-righteous?

I guess it's true: Americans just don't understand European humor.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364759)

Excellent point and great job avoiding being modded to down to hell. . .

Real suave . . . kind of like a hooker asking her pimp for a raise right AFTER sucking his dick. Well done . . . well done . . .

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361817)

Storing and keeping safe hazardous waste for a thousands of years

It's a solved problem. Re-process. It's only Americans who talk about "the storage problem" because you've never re-processed, so you don't even realise it's a viable option. All because of Jimmy bloody Carter.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 9 months ago | (#46361867)

believe that nuclear energy is like a controlled atomic bomb

I once saw someone argue that a reactor has far more uranium in it than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, thus if something went wrong it would be far worse.

I wanted to explain to him just how fucking stupid that was, but I just didn't have that kind of time. I instead told him to research the difference between "critical mass" and "supercritical mass".

And, you're right. This was your average liberal-leaning guy that is all about science unless you're talking about nuclear science. Then it's all horrific world-ending hysteria.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46362823)

Well, technically they do have more, by tonnage of uranium. But it's mostly (97%) isotope U-238, not the fissionable U-235.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 9 months ago | (#46362149)

"The Republicans who are in bed with the Oil industry "
ARRRRGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!
Oil does not compete with Nuclear, solar, or wind! It is less than 3% of the electrical power in the US!
Natural gas yes, coal yes. Oil no! It drives me crazy every time I see people post about how we need to cut your importation of oil by building Solar, Wind, or Nuclear plants. We need to cut your consumption of coal by building Nuclear, Solar, and Wind!
Fear of the Middle East seems to be the favorite tool of those that want manipulate people. It does not matter if it is the left or the right.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 9 months ago | (#46363293)

Actually oil is interested in keeping cheap, clean energy down. They see the Tesla Model S and shit bricks. An all electric car that critics are saying is the best vehicle on the market. Any new electrical capacity is bad from their point of view, especially if it isn't coal or gas.

Re:Nuclear energy neglected by ignorance. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 9 months ago | (#46364495)

Great post, except that you need to add geo-thermal in there. And Solar is being done wrong at this time.

yikes almighty (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361227)

what's this all about? http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/special-report-bret-baier/2014/02/27/all-star-panel-debate-over-designer-babies-heats ..reads like mindless spiritless selective breeding with a tryst

Bathtub Curve (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361283)

Nuclear reactors follow a "bathtub curve" - with higher incident rates just after they're built and when they're quite old. Hopefully the NRC is strongly enforcing strict maintenance requirements. I'm all for nukes, but for intelligent application of them: running them till they bust doesn't seem like the best approach.

More info on bathtub curves & nuclear reactors: http://db.world-nuclear.org/reference/nucleartide.html

Run to failure (4, Insightful)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 9 months ago | (#46361305)

Looks like they want the closing of a nuclear power plant to happen on the Fukushima model. Run them till they are overwhelmed by circumstance.

Steel and concrete lasts a long time, news at 11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361321)

mdsolar nuclear FUD

Hey, mdsolar, the ecotards don't like [motherjones.com] your solar systems either.

time space circumstance in holding pattern (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361335)

once the shooting & bleeding stops we can move on, butt we'll be at least 600 years cleaning up the poisoned planet/population mess left as our heritage & legacy for our kids? http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=nuke%20waste%20cleanup&sm=3

Slashdot only allows....... what the traffic & advertisers will bear & it's not you

So predictable. (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | about 9 months ago | (#46361401)

This is happen when you go 40 years with no core research in an anti nuclear environment.

unemployed operators (2)

Anna Merikin (529843) | about 9 months ago | (#46361467)

if there's anyone left who can remember how to operate them then.

Seven years ago I met a former chief operator for Connecticut Yankee nuclear plant no.2; he had just been let go from the governing body at Stanford responsible for setting curriculum for nuclear plant operators, due to cutbacks in (federal) funding.

We speculated then that the U.S. would someday see the need for building new or updating existing nuclear power plants. So, what was obvious to us then, seems to be the future.

And, yes, finding qualified engineers to run the plants will be very, very difficult.

Re:unemployed operators (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 9 months ago | (#46361973)

And, yes, finding qualified engineers to run the plants will be very, very difficult.

And just like airlines like ex-miltary pilots, I'm sure the nuke industry would like ex-military nuke plant workers

Re:unemployed operators (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 9 months ago | (#46362173)

They love them. Join the navy and get into the nuclear power program leave and make 6 figures.

Seismic risk doubled (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 9 months ago | (#46361553)

The risk of an overwhelming seismic event striking a power plant is proportional to the length of time it is exposed to the risk. This policy doubles the risk. There should be upgrades in survivability requirements to manage this and keep risk constant. Events with recurrence intervals four times longer than the present design basis should become the new design basis to account for the already suffered exposure.

Idiots in power (2)

EvolutionInAction (2623513) | about 9 months ago | (#46361575)

I used to really love nuclear power. I believed that a safe plant was simply a matter of good design and good regulatory structure.

Then came the safety shutdown of the medical isotope reactor at Chalk River. "Good!" I thought. "The system works just like it should." The pressure started mounting because of the shortage. The safety commissioner refused to reopen the plant, and the pressure got worse. Then the government fired her and ordered the plant open again.

Nuclear plants are great, until the time comes when closing them is just too expensive. Then the government changes from engineering them to be safe to legislating them to be safe. Because nature is bound to follow legislation /s

Re:Idiots in power (3, Interesting)

inhuman_4 (1294516) | about 9 months ago | (#46361811)

The Chalk River medical isotope issue was different though.

Everyone agrees that the regulator did its job by shutting down the plant for not meeting the once in a million years safety ratio that is the standard. However the plant was not a power plant, it was a research plant producing medical isotopes. So issue wasn't whether the ractor met the standards, it didn't. The issue was the probability of people getting injured or dying from a plant malfunction was significantly less than the probability of people dying from not getting those medical isotopes.

When presented with instructions to provide a temporary exception to the rule until other sources of the isotope could be brought online, the regulator said no. So things escalated until someone (parliament) had the authority to over rule the regulator.

She was fired for not granting the exception, even though she knew what the balance of probabilities were. Basically she was power tripping.

Re:Idiots in power (1)

EvolutionInAction (2623513) | about 9 months ago | (#46362875)

But that's the point. It's the regulator's job to enforce the standards. The government cannot say "well, we're going to make an exception here. And here. Oh, and over there too." I realize the dilemma as far as probable harm to humans goes, but there's a huge risk in the downward slide of standards. This plant can't go offline because we'd have an isotope shortage, these ones cannot go offline because there'd be a power shortage. So exception after exception is made until you end up with a reactor that is blatantly unsafe.

Re:Idiots in power (1)

inhuman_4 (1294516) | about 9 months ago | (#46363023)

Exception, after exception isn't being made. It made headlines for weeks. Then it had to go all the way to parliament to get an exception made. And even then is was only for a short term exemption until a proper solution to the shortage could be found.

The NRC's job is safety (5, Informative)

TroyHaskin (1575715) | about 9 months ago | (#46361597)

The NRC's job is safety. That's it. They have people stationed at power plants, and their only job is to ask questions and enforce policies such that the plant operates safely. With that beaten home, let's get to some specifics.

The biggest concern for the current fleet of U.S. reactors (mostly all Generation II designs) in terms of long operation is embrittlement of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) due to radiation damage (mostly neutronic). Embrittlement of the RPV comes into play when severe accident responses (for either Design Basis Accidents (DBAs) or Beyond Design Basis Accidents (BDBAs)) dictate fast, extreme cooling of the RPV that can lead to pressurized thermal shock (PTS) events. The biggest hurdle toward getting approval is proving which-and-every way to a high confidence level that a PTS breach of the RPV will not occur from this embrittlement. If plants cannot do this, the NRC will not issue a license extension because the plant cannot prove its safety. If you care to read more on it, consult 10 CFR 50.61 [nrc.gov] for details (or the whole thing at the10 CFR 50 Part Index [nrc.gov] .

Are there other requirements? Yes (see the 10 CFR 50 index above). However, this is the one aspect I wanted to expound upon since turbomachinery has been replaced/upgrade, fuel is refreshed every 18 months or so, and piping is constantly checked. But I wanted to stress the safety issue. The NRC has 100% no qualms about telling a plant "no" if that plant cannot prove it is safe to operate.

Re:The NRC's job is safety (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 9 months ago | (#46363549)

The ongoing studies being done by the DOE are showing that embrittlement should not be a hurdle. The problem is that behavior curves had not been developed for 80 years of aging for the materials of concern. Ongoing experience plus R&D allows for extending those curves through proven methods. Still more work to do. Of course, if needed, simple annealing can take care of embrittlement. (simple in concept, quite a bit more challenging & costly to implement in the plant.). Cracking in welds can be easily seen via existing examination techniques, and repair methods already exist and have been used.

Concrete is a bigger challenge. More work needs to be done on irradiated concrete aging. That work is in progress. By the time the first plants hit 60 years, that data will be solid and reliable for understanding longer term behavior. That work is important.

Those are generic aging issues. Each individual plant could have specific issues of its own, like aged cabling, so the process of renewal must be thorough. Fortunately for the industry, great margins were designed into the plants to begin with, and many of the critical components can be replaced in part or in whole.

What will likely play out is the some plants will retire at the end of their extended service period, just like any asset. Some of those might shut down a bit early if they have equipment problems that are too costly to repair for ongoing safe operation. Those that have the best performance will be likely candidates for another license renewal, which is typically 20 years. The utility industry is wary of becoming too dependent on gas. Extension of safe operating life of nuclear plants and/or new nuclear are the only viable options assuming coal is dying, or unless storage for wind power can be made economical.

Reactor Simulator 2014 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46361609)

Is obviously the solution to the problem of having nobody that knows how to run them, I mean, look at how many surgeons we have now.

Please allowing the building of replacement plants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46362503)

I feel that the correct strategy at this point is to allow the building of plants to replace aging Nuclear plants on a case by case bases. First the suitability of the plant location should be reevaluated, if it is still a good location the new plant should be built next door to the existing plant. This will lower security costs, and NIMBY related costs. If it is not a suitable location a new location should be found but of course you'll run into a huge NIMBY coalition.

Your opinion is worthless. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46362947)

Not even going to bother reading the comments. It's a given. They will be full of comments from people who speak as if they have any knowledge about the matter at hand. As if Slashdot magically has a user base consisted of primarily Linux geeks with a background in Nuclear Physics.

Insurance Companies begin EXCLUDING all Coverage f (1)

OrtCloud (1684696) | about 9 months ago | (#46363291)

"Insurance Companies in the United States have begun notifying customers they will no longer have ANY coverage whatsoever for anything relating to nuclear energy claims. Fallout, radiation sickness, property damage from radiation - all EXCLUDED" http://www.turnerradionetwork.... [turnerradionetwork.com] http://www.dailypaul.com/31155... [dailypaul.com]

R. I. P. nukes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46363853)

My friendly neighborhood nuke plant, Vermont Yankee, is shutting down just a couple of years after renewing its license. I have heard of another plant in upstate NY closing as well. The problem is the glut of shale gas has made these older plants uneconomical to operate. At least, that's what Entergy tells the press.

I guess market forces can work even when the nuclear power industry is relieved of any requirement to insure themselves fully. Just imagine how unaffordable nuclear electricity would be if operators had to pay market rates for insurance. The Price-Anderson Act seems to be the elephant in the room for those rabidly pro-nuke. Personally, I deplore the concept of socializing the risks while privatizing the profits. Will the nuclear power industry ever be able to cover its costs without suckling on the government teat?

NRC BS (1)

daedlanth (1658569) | about 9 months ago | (#46363951)

NRC, I live 40 miles away from a pile of unsecured spent uranium sitting next to Lake Michigan. I and my neighbors are not happy that your agency is allowing this spent fuel to sit there until 2080 next to the Point Beach nuclear reactor. How many accidents is it going to take for us to wake up? Your policies & lack of proper oversight at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New Jersey & the Indian Point plant in New York are deplorable. This nation cannot afford any more nuclear pollution. There is no reason to put our USN personel at risk either. I trust that the USN can do good maintenance but even that causes problems. Someone I know really well was responsible for pulling a reactor head & the technicians made a mistake by not fully draining the CORE WATER. It ended up flooding the damned lot and destroyed crane mats, rig tires, equipment tires, and many tons of aggregate right next to the lake. Not cool & he got a good dose of radiation too. STOP this!

Nice, but.... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 9 months ago | (#46364789)

What is really needed is to replace these first and second gen reactors with smaller ones that can burn up their old fuel. Ideally, the thorium reactors would make good sense.
In addition, we need to replace the coal plants with say 2 small nuke reactors (B&W's mPower would be a good one, perhaps combined with a thorium ), combined with energy storage. One good energy storage would be EOS Energy.

Regardless, the reason why America, in fact the west, is in trouble with our electricity is that we have far too much from single sources. Far better to have a diversified energy matrix. And this idea that it should be all wind and solar has to be the WORST idea going.
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