Tuesday, September 11, 2007

MIT's Nuclear Prof. Andrew Kadak hits pages of the Economist on Pebble Bed...

MIT's own Prof. Andrew Kadak made the pages of the Economist magazine this week with a definitive quote on the safety of pebble bed reactors. An excerpt from the article "Nuclear Dawn" below....

"A demonstration plant of a completely different type, a “pebble bed” reactor, is scheduled to be built in South Africa starting in 2009. Based on technology that originated in Germany, its design is unique in several ways. For one thing, its small size (165 megawatts) should make it comparatively fast and cheap to build; depending on power needs, several units sharing a single control room could be constructed on one site. And the uranium fuel is encapsulated in rugged “pebbles”, the size of tennis balls, which are designed to withstand a loss of coolant without disintegrating, making the reactor extremely safe. Andrew Kadak, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who has been developing a smaller, alternative pebble-bed design with his students, is convinced that “these reactors cannot melt down.”"

You've got to love it in a world so awash in wishy-washiness and double-speak. :) Check out the article if you can. Very interesting on the resurgence of nuclear power, esp in Europe and U.S. I found it very interesting how France now makes 78% of its electric power from nuclear and that this is a direct consequence of a strong movement in France internally to move toward energy independence after the first oil shock in the early 1970's. What would it take to get the U.S. similarly motivated??

The article also reminded me about how people say that a big limiter to building new reactors in the U.S. is that the supply chain has died away as the U.S. stopped building reactors after 3 Mile Island. However, with 31 new reactors under construcation currently (the current global number is 439, approx 100 in U.S. - 15% of global electricity vs 20% of U.S. electricity), it would seem to me that that supply chain must already be back in place.

Possible heady times ahead for nuclear with China and India with big plans and the U.S. standing at the fence....

5 comments:

Ironhorse said...

The Pebble Bed Reactor is safe enough to power the third world and produce clean water for burgeoning populations everywhere. Texas A&M and Tsunghua University may make it happen. See www.sneadresearch.com for details.

NK said...

Just venting a faint idea here where it may find resonance. The world has problems with nuclear waste. What I don't get: it would be so easy to dig some caves, let's say somewhere deep in northern Canada, deposit all superfluous nuclear waste there
and then ignite a little machine over it, 3 - 5 kilotons. This would not only practically annihilate the physical matter but also burn radioactivity out of it. One could make a real industry out of burning everyone's nuclear crap, instead that every single state has its
enormous problems with stocking waste for thousands of years. This method would also be of use in getting done with chemical waste. Besides, this would of course be a political question what with all dumbnesses and critical sensibilities.
As I said: just venting. Anyone listening??

Tech Guy Stevie 789 said...

Just in case...

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is circulating an Appeal to the Next US President, calling for US leadership for a nuclear weapons-free world.

You can read it and sign online at www.wagingpeace.org/appeal

Brianfit said...

But is the French nuclear success story such a success, when the nuclear programme did not reduce France's oil dependence?

Nuclear power contributes only about 14 percent to France's final energy consumption (your 78% figure is only electricity), while France consumes more oil per capita than the European average.

Controlling energy demand and sourcing renewable energy are better ways to achieving energy security and greenhouse gas emission reductions than nuclear energy.

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