As said earlier, the typical worst-case scenario was the notion that decay heat could have built up enough to boil off all the water, dry out the fuel bundles and burst them into flame. To begin, we have real-world, Fukushima-specific evidence to show that the pools would not get hot enough to boil. The power to all SFP cooling systems was lost on 3/11/11. Recovering power to any SFP cooling system at the station was not possible until the temporary power cable from the 1km-distant transmission system was spliced together and energized on 3/17/11. Several days of inefficient water drops from helicopters provided some help with units 1, 3 and 4 SFPs… very little help. For all intents and purposes, SFP cooling was lost for six days! The level of heat generation in all the pools was at their peak. But, none of the pools boiled. The waters in the unit #3 and 4 pools were heated to about 90 OC and evaporated rapidly enough to produce the “white smoke” reported world-wide, but there was no boiling. AREVA and MIT pointed out that it would have taken at least ten days before the tops of the fuel bundles in any of the pools would have become uncovered. It would have taken 5-7 more days for any of the pools to have evaporated to dryness. But by the time of the SFP power loss in 2013, decay heat had dropped constantly for two years. The rate of heat-up was but a small fraction of the original case. It would have taken three or more weeks – not 10 days – to uncover the tops of stored fuel bundles, if-and-only-if no-one did anything to mitigate the problem.
It is highly unlikely, but not impossible that dried out fuel bundles could get hot enough to cause a massive release of radioactivity. Possible does not mean inevitable. Possible means conceivable or hypothetical, but not inescapable. Regardless, dried out fuel bundles would have to heat up beyond 900 oC for sufficient deterioration of the outer Zirconium tubes in the bundles to allow a radiological release. Conceivable? Yes. Probable? No! As the two-year-reduced heat production warmed up the dried bundles, the heat would be naturally lost to the surrounding air. As the bundle temperatures rise, the rate of heat loss necessarily increases with it. At what point would the bundle temperatures have peaked? That’s a matter of assumption, but it would certainly have been considerably less than 900oC. Since 900oC was nigh-impossible, reaching a “meltdown” temperature of 2500oC was out of the question.
Jim Hopf argues there is awildly skewed regulatory and policy playing field working against nuclear energy – and it is the result of deep prejudices. Like all prejudices, these views are mostly not supported by facts, but they persist regardless of what scientific data says. It is difficult, if not impossible, for an energy source to survive in the marketplace if substantial negative public prejudice exists. Hopf asks…what can be done about this?
The general problem nuclear faces is that it is essentially required to be non-polluting energy source, where even a small chance of pollution must be avoided almost regardless of cost. But then, policy (in most countries) treats it as though it were a dirty source. Unlike other clean sources (e.g., renewables) it is required to compete directly with dirty sources that are allowed to pollute the environment, cause global warming, and inflict enormous public health impacts, for free. No credit at all, financial or otherwise, is given for nuclear’s non-polluting, non-CO2 emitting nature. With the exception of a handful of new plants (in the United States), nuclear receives none of the large subsidies or (more importantly) outright mandates that renewables receive.
Nextbigfuture – Uranium production in Kazakhstan amounted to 22,500 tons in 2013, which corresponds to the planned targets.
Kazakhstan has maintained leadership in the global uranium mining industry, providing more than 38 percent of global uranium production, which, according to preliminary data, totaled 58,800 tons of uranium.
Nextbigfuture – US Watts Bar unit 2 reactor should be completely constructed in 2015 and generating power in 2016.
The TVA’s (Tennessee Valley Authority) newest nuclear power plant should be generating electricity within the next two years. With 3,300 employees and contractors working around the clock at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, TVA is confident the second reactor at the Spring City, Tenn., plant should be licensed by the end of 2015.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.