Will New Nuclear Reactors Displace Coal?

There was a highly optimistic article at Global Asia about China installing an added 238 GW of new nuclear power by 2030. However, the author seems to finding that China has 43 nuclear reactors under construction today. China only as 13 nuclear reactors under construction today. Although 12 nuclear reactors are scheduled for approval and the start of construction by the end of 2019. China recently approved the licensing and construction start for four Hualong 1000 MWe nuclear reactors. Conventional large nuclear reactors could be increased to 100-150 GW by 2030 in China. China will need an additional 50-100 GWe from the deep pool thermal heating reactors. The first DHR-400 could be completed by 2021. This could be used to heat homes and water in northern cities. The DHR-400 could be built very quickly.
The IAEA Small Modular Reactor 2018 publication reviews all of the small nuclear reactor projects in the world. In 2018, there were more than 50 SMR designs under development for different application. Three industrial demonstration SMRs are in advanced stage of construction: in Argentina (CAREM, an integral PWR), in People’s Republic of China (HTR-PM, a high-temperature gas cooled reactor) and in the Russian Federation (KLT40s, a floating power unit). They are scheduled to start operation between 2019 and 2022. In addition, the Russian Federation have already manufactured six RITM-200 reactors (an integral PWR) with four units already installed in the Sibir and Arktika icebreakers, to be in service in 2020. China’s HTR-PM should start operation this year. The DHR-400 has planned a commercial operation in 2021. The CAREM 30 MWe reactor has a planned criticality of 2022.


Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

64 thoughts on “Will New Nuclear Reactors Displace Coal?”

  1. China is leading the way on Thorium nuclear research.
    If they can work out it’s issues, they will have safe, inexpensive energy.
    And become the biggest economy in the world.
    Not that the 13,000 employees (average pay 110,000$ a year) at the Department of Energy in the US could care…..
    So nuclear today (with high pressure water and uranium) could be seen as a stop gap measure until we can work out something that is less catastrophic if it failed.
    According to some people we only have 12 years before the end!!!

  2. That point actually raises some questions with me. Otzi might well have gone on the run into inhospitable conditions, but the mammoths, must have lived in the area or at least migrated through it when they could find food there.
    Some of the glaciers melting away in Europe and other places, show that there was vegetation and even human activity there before the area got covered in ice. And these human traces are not many millennia old.
    Remains of some Viking dwellings in Greenland have resurfaced after being buried under ice for hundreds of years. So wasn’t it at least as warm then as it is now?
    I just checked “world population figures”
    and for 1 AD it says 255 mio, 1000 AD 292 mio, 1550 Ad 500 mio.
    In those pre industrial days, people lived nearly entirely with renewable energy, so with their small numbers and their low energy consumption I can not really believe that they would have had a profound impact on the climate.

  3. When you build the first reactor I can accept that your cost calculation can be off. When it’s your 50th reactor I am thinking you are lying just to get the job. You will nickel and dime me after that and drag the work out.

  4. No, it’s a tragedy, because it was unnecessary, and it added to the trauma of the tsunami that had already wrecked the area. The subsequent shutdown of all the country’s reactors, in favour mostly of coal, meant it affected everyone outside Japan too.

  5. They don’t need to. Height has nothing to do with it. They created an artificial atmo, pumped in CO2 and proved the logarithmic relationship of CO2 to atmosphere temperature increases.

    This was first observed over 100 years ago. Get with the program.

    Oh wait! You have your bogus models to refer to! I forgot.

  6. Yes. I should be silenced.
    You and the rest of the blinkered zealots should contact the moderator.

  7. ‘.it has PROVEN TO NOT BE POSSIBLE…in the phuking lab. ‘
    They have a lab 60 miles high ? Impressive !

  8. Well, in 2016, you could track that in real time. I just tried it. No joy.
    “We are now able to map how the skin of ice is moving,” said Ted Scambos, senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, and the Colorado lead for the GoLIVE project. “From now on, we’re going to be able to track all of the different types of changes in glaciers—there’s so much science to extract from the data.”
    It’s unclear how long NASA will have to extract that data—the incoming Trump administration has hinted that it wants to dismantle all climate study by the agency, and replace it with a sole focus on exploring the solar system.’

  9. without the strong positive feedback from water vapor, the model is unable to reproduce the observed cooling

    So? That does not disprove what I said about CO2. In fact, it doesn’t even address it.

    Albedo effects from more snow and pack ice also increase CO2’s effects. Changes in vegetation are slower feedbacks, also positive.

    Ditto. And no, it won’t increase the effects when we add additional CO2 because..ONCE AGAIN..it has PROVEN TO NOT BE POSSIBLE…in the phuking lab.

    Forget models. Models these days are de facto scientific fraud..often times spun as ‘theory’ when people call it out for what it is. What is ONLY science is proven reproducable experiments. Period.

    Take this Global Warming Fraudspeak for example:

    ‘…These results provide quantitative evidence of the reliability of water vapor feedback in current climate models, which is crucial to their use for global warming projections’

  10. Hadn’t seen that or don’t remember seeing it. Probably just don’t remember. My idea is similar. I would go with a basic cylinder shape as they did, but larger more powerful and at least 100 feet from the bottom and maybe 75 feet below the surface. Cables would tether it down like guy wires where it resists with some buoyancy but not a large amount…something like a tied down blimp. This allows a lot of movement in a disaster and low g forces to avoid damage.

    And there would be closed tube that extends to perhaps 10 feet above sea level with a door on the side for someone to enter by ship approach. And a heavy duty door between the tube and the body of the sub.

    There may or may not be an elevator to go down and up the tube. I think rungs should be fine if it is totally unmanned. If you have 3 or 4 operators then you need an elevator. At least a small freight one like a dumbwaiter.

  11. Keeping in mind that it was only public relations fallout, there’s no “either” to it.

    The worst readings after the accident, for somebody who didn’t walk into the reactor room, were maybe 10-20 μSv per hour. That’s peak readings.

    That’s in the NY-LA flight range, maybe dental X-ray range if you’d stood there for a few days. There are places people live year-round with comparable radiation levels.

    This is not to say that things didn’t get dicey inside the building. But it IS to say the evacuation was net harmful, more people got hurt evacuating than would have been hurt if they’d just stayed put.

    And that’s for an accident that’s basically worst case for any modern reactor.

  12. Otzi the Ice Man melted out of a glacier on the Italian/Austrian border in 1991, after 5300 years frozen. Mammoths from much further back are being found in Siberia. Glaciers all over the world are retreating. We’re living through a major transition, and we caused it.

  13. It only needs to be near it in any case, to cause upwelling. Once you get a current going, it’s going to suck up stuff from the bottom anyway.

    That can be enhanced by adding a chimney.

  14. I got the six times figure from a talk by Ian Scott of Moltex. I’ve looked at a few IEA figures, but being an innumerate socialist, I’m still trying to process them. Scott might have meant to compare to supercritical steam from a coal plant, which can reach ~50% thermal efficiency; the 33% you quote for the steam end of a CCGT is about standard for a pressurised water reactor.

  15. https://thsresearch.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/ef-gast-data-research-report-062717.pdf

    Note that the above isn’t restricted to the US.

    And, when you look at US data, restricting yourself to just the stations that are well sited, you get considerably less warming since ’79. (That’s as far back as this analysis goes: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/12/17/press-release-agu15-the-quality-of-temperature-station-siting-matters-for-temperature-trends/

    What seems to be going on, in addition to questionable adjustments to old data, is that the more recent adjustments have been taking the well sited stations and adjusting them to agree with the badly sited stations, rather than the other way around. MAYBE a consequence of doing the adjustments algorithmically, rather than actually examining the stations to sort them out.

  16. Like the french DCNS Flexblue concept, which really was more like a make-work program for DCNS’ submarine shipyard to keep it warm?

  17. Ice ages are caused by continental configuration. The previous ice age lasted 30 million years. We are only a couple of million years into this one. But CO2 is going to fix that.

  18. You’re ignoring the second-order effects of CO2 on water vapour, which is fairly immediate – cooler oceans give off less vapour, cooler air lets it rain out faster. This was shown after the Pinatubo eruption.
    ‘The sensitivity of Earth’s climate to an external radiative forcing depends critically on the response of water vapor. We use the global cooling and drying of the atmosphere that was observed after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo to test model predictions of the climate feedback from water vapor. Here, we first highlight the success of the model in reproducing the observed drying after the volcanic eruption. Then, by comparing model simulations with and without water vapor feedback, we demonstrate the importance of the atmospheric drying in amplifying the temperature change and show that, without the strong positive feedback from water vapor, the model is unable to reproduce the observed cooling. These results provide quantitative evidence of the reliability of water vapor feedback in current climate models, which is crucial to their use for global warming projections.’
    Albedo effects from more snow and pack ice also increase CO2’s effects. Changes in vegetation are slower feedbacks, also positive.

  19. Don’t spend all your money on winter woollens.
    ‘In the new study, published in Nature, researchers have worked out a formula for what triggers an ice age to start. The timing is based on two principal factors, they say: the amount of the sun’s energy the northern hemisphere receives during summer and the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    Running simulations with an Earth System model, the researchers find that if atmospheric CO2 were still at pre-industrial levels, our current warm “interglacial” period would tip over into a new ice age in around 50,000 years’ time.
    But CO2 emissions from human activity in the past, and those expected in the future, mean the next ice is likely to be delayed to 100,000 years’ time, the researchers say.’ https://www.carbonbrief.org/human-emissions-will-delay-next-ice-age-by-50000-years-study-says

  20. Kudankulam actually had a lot of opposition – some of it organised by the local Catholic Church. They were showing Greenpeace-style horror films around the area. Foreign NGO s were also putting in funds.

  21. My main point concerning carbon sinks is that when the temperatures go down they release less than they do now. This happens every time the glaciation period returns. Like clockwork.
    You are entitled to your opinions, but not facts.
    The fact that the world is still warming is encouraging in the face of our inevitable freeze. CO2 is following these climate trends, not driving them. Perhaps anthropogenic carbon will keep the temperatures a bit warmer in a glacial period, but I believe society will collapse before that happens, and most people are not prepared to survive in that climate.
    The distribution of heat was constricted by the formation of the Ithsmus of Panama, which cut the Atlantic off from the Pacific. Our variable sun has taken care of the rest. CO2 is not the driver here.
    To declare the debate over and that one side is in possession of the truth is theological supremecy. Anyone disagreeing is a heretic.
    People who posture to make these moral declarations are prosthelytizing. The powerful people who encourage this do it for political gain, and are evil manipulators, who wish to stifle debate and shun disbelievers from the body politic.

  22. Maybe you would get a lot of upwelling if your hot water was blasted directly into the seabed. Perhaps just have a long flexible tube that flops all over within 500 yards. It would just randomly blast into the silt and sand within that area.

    But then your reactor does not have to be against the bottom anyway…just near it.

  23. There are some cost issues with it on the bottom especially if that bottom is say 500 feet or more. You need good/thick materials. Shape becomes important as some shapes crush easier than others with can interfere with our mostly rectilinear world of manufacturing…increasing costs.
    You would need another sub to do any servicing, crew rotation, or restocking if you do have operators onboard.
    And there are additional safety/environmental issues: If there is a leak of some kind your time to repair it before you are dead, is very limited. You might not be totally insulating yourself from seismic disturbances on the bottom. If on the other hand you are not touching the bottom an earthquake is mostly trivial. The only real risks are dropping to the bottom if the tide really goes out (before a truly massive tsunami…like from a meteorite impact), and underwater avalanche (which should not affect the sub if you chose your location well).
    I am not saying “on the bottom” would necessarily be unsafe. If all your faults are strike-slip faults and no subduction you could probably set up a sliding system that will allow movement in the X-Y plane. Then you should only have to contend with a little Z-dimension stuff with some fairly trivial shock absorbers of some kind. Of course, all that costs money.

    I am not convinced you’d get a lot of useful upwelling. However, it might attract organisms to the bottom like the assemblages around geothermal vents.

  24. The world’s academies of science don’t agree with you.

    If you double CO2, the temperature will rise, but if you double it again, it does not increase the same amount as before. For each increase, the increase has significantly less effect, until you reach the point that it takes a monumental increase to show a minuscule effect.

    It is proven scientific fact, repeatedly shown by experimentation in the lab..unlike the Global Warming ‘models.

    As NBF user jimmww further points out:

    Absolutely right, and Arrhenius recognized that. 50% of its GHG effect is in the first 20 ppm and it declines exponentially after that. We are in the fifth half-life of that decline, so the next doubling – should we be so fortunate – will incease CO2’s GHG effect by about 1.4%, an effect likely lost in the other 8 major influences on climate.

    Yet the global warming fraud suckers claim it isn’t true simply because their news sources have never told them of this nor have they bothered to look up the science. TomPerkins (or whatever account he is using these days) is one of them.

  25. Steam turbines used by CCGTs do *not* cost 6x as much for a nuclear power plant as a CCGT’s steam ones. I’m not sure where you got that idea. They’re about the same.

    A 1200 MWe CCGT running at 60% thermal efficiency of which 40% is gas turbine running at 40% efficiency (2/3 of total) and 20% steam turbine running at 33% efficiency of the 60% of heat energy left over (1/3 of total) and costs around $1 per watt. A simple gas turbine full installation is about $0.60 per watt.

    So you have a 800 MWe gas turbine at a cost of $480 million and the rest of the $520 million is for the 400 MWe steam turbine island at something less than $1.30 per watt (since the CCGT has to pay for “everything else” with part of that $520 million just like it did with part of the $480 million for the gas turbine) but in that ballpark.

    In a $14B two-pack AP1000 (so 2400 MWe) nuclear build here it is 15% of the cost for the conventional island.


    $2.1 billion for 2400 MWe. Same price.

  26. Yeah, the funny thing is, the warming trend mostly consists of the past getting colder, not so much the present getting warmer. They had to revise all the temperature records from the 1930’s to hide that it was hotter back then.

  27. There’s actually a lot to be said for submarine nuclear plants, especially if you could site them on the sea bottom, where the water is colder.

    Artificial upwellings would greatly enhance fish production.

  28. My point was about the “only for money” thing. They own a continent and have the materials on hand; money is paper, especially in socialist or former communist now socialist fascist states (as opposed to democratic fascist states like You Esse).

  29. Yes, I’m talking about the steam secondary circuit, not the gas turbine primary. You could maybe get to 1600C with a nuke, but you’d have to blow the byproducts out into the biosphere – same as the jets do.

  30. The economy of a nuclear power contract is much more than sale of the plant. Fuel making is a vast industry in itself, and Russia is by far the largest player on the planet, with by far the best enrichment tech. Fuel reprocessing is a high-tech industry, and generally reprocessing is done by the same country. As Russia builds a close-cycle system for itself, with fast reactors burning off the actinides from the slow reactors, they are leading in the reprocessing and fast reactor tech. So when a country buys a NPP, it is a hundred-year contract: 5 years construction, 60+20 operation, 15 decomissioning and site restoration. Such a contract will last far beyond the last puff of natural gas is burnt in a power station.

  31. I think 3 reasons: money , greens and geopolitics.

    1. Because Russia’s nuclear industry is called RosAtom – a state company that is the beacon of efficiency and success in Russia. They do not work for hopes and promises, only for money; no money, no nuclear power. And lots of places on the map these days want nuclear power, but have no money. Numerous examples of that in Europe; on the other side of the map, China has the money, and their 5th and 6th VVER latest model reactors are under construction now at Tianwan NPP; four are operational. Along those lines, Chinese are getting help from RosAtom with fast reactors, including small ones for floating NPPs.
    2. Russia does not have a solution for fanatical green opposition to nuclear power. So if a client has that problem and cannot solve it, so be it – no nuclear power for them. If a client can solve it (India with their Kudankulam NPP), it is a go for the project. If a client does not have the problem (like China), the NPPs are massively built (Tianwan NPP, 6 VVER reactors for now).
    3. Some countries, like Australia (also has a green problem in a very bad way), that could buy themselves a wholesale nuclear industry from Russia (large NPPs for grid, small NPPs for isolated locations and mining sites), cannot do that due to incompatibility with their geopolitical state of affairs. If Australia somehow decided to buy anything nuclear from Russia, 15 minutes later there would be a call from USA with a not-so-diplomatic order to stop that.
  32. UAE built themselves a rather large NPP (Barakah NPP with 4 Korean reactors), which shows how the general population issues can be resolved. Just build it, making sure the quality and reliability are good, and don’t waste time arguing with housewives and lawyers about the intricacies of engineering and economics of a 100-year long project, or nuclear physics for that matter. When India had that problem with local fishermen in 2012, they just built the Kudankulam NPP, and fishermen went back to fishing. There is no other way to get it done, as demonstrated by Australia: general population outright hates “nuclear”, and so the country burns coal for power, with any attempt of the government to discuss that matter instantly drowned in mindless green hysteria, despite nuclear being the only viable massive green power source. So places like UAE, eventually Singapore, certainly China and others in Asia who have the will, are going to get that clean power with 60+20 years of stable generation. The lunatics will be looking for their solar panels in the general vicinity of their original location, candles in hand, after the annual typhoon or a few ‘rearrange’ the carefully laid-out solar farms and their 30-year long business plans, as recently happened in Puerto Rico (nice pics of the aftermath are available online).

  33. I think cable anchored nuclear submarines make more sense. Not the usual nuclear sub. It would not be particularly streamlined, and it would have a far larger reactor. It would also be made for a max of say 500 feet but in practice would be maybe 50-100 feet down. And it should be unmanned.
    The point in these specifications is that it can withstand any kind of rogue wave, tsunami, storm surge, and it is hard to hit by accident or intention. It is just not very easy to mess with. It also is not an eyesore…which tends to be a concern with the multimillionaires living on the beach.

    I visualize it with a long neck that you can approach from sea without diving (like a shaft extending above sea level about 6-8 feet with a fairly basic door but goes down 75 feet to the body). At the bottom of course you would have a very sturdy hatch…and there would be a variety of safety measures. A ship could run into the top but it would not really damage operations (it would brek away by design and you just reattach it). Cables would anchor it so it does not drift, but it should still be somewhat buoyant…enough so that no likely wave could slam it against the seabed.

    But if we have molten salt reactors we don’t really have to go to these lengths…as they do not have the same vulnerabilities. The only good reason would be so you can keep naughty hands off the radioactive stuff and so you can repossess or lease the reactors. That is great for the more shaky states in the world.

  34. ..also Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland and Ontario – half their power, built in twenty years.

  35. Going from 320C steam, like PWRs, to 550C, from generation IV reactors, lets you use off-the-shelf CCGT turbines instead of much bigger, custom made nuclear ones, at about one sixth of the price.
    Natural gas prices outside the US are much higher. They’ll go up there too if a robust LNG export develops – at the moment they’re selling into a glut.

  36. OK, wild guess time here:
    Maybe Russia is making so much money and geopolitical power out of being the Gas supplier to both developed ends of Eurasia that they don’t really want to start disrupt the current energy supply?

    New tech is a tricky thing. Once Russia is supplying a floating power reactor to a dozen third world cities, then China and Korea jump into the business, and now there is just a contest out of who can mass produce things cheaper.
    Does Russia want to get into a mass production contest with China, Korea, Japan (and Canada and the USA, but they are not the favourites by any means).

    No, leave things as they are and now Russia is in a natural resources contest with the other energy suppliers. That’s a position that Russia knows it has, not just a head start but a massive lead from the combination of resources and position.

  37. What problem?
    Heat absorption of CO2 is logarithmic. At this point the atmosphere is already saturated. The real problem is that when the climate cools, and the snow falls, all of that CO2 will be absorbed back into the Earth and oceans to levels where plants will begin to die. The portion of humanity left alive will find Earth to be very inhospitable. Most people will already have died of war and starvation after the crops fail, and farmland becomes scarce.
    Don’t ask me to do your homework- I will not waste my time trying to turn a zealot.

  38. Nuclear power plants don’t come easy. Not even in China. They are not going to solve the global energy and green house gases problems tomorrow…

  39. A lot of SMR designs are hoping for a learning curve effect (aka Wright scaling).

    The issue is you need to build at least one item every 2 weeks (so 25 a year with 2 weeks downtime) and have at least two production lines (so 50 a year) to get robust long term learning curve effects. This is based on extensive World War II production data.

    It’ll be difficult to ramp up to that for any individual SMR design. A 60 MWe design would need to make 3GWe a year.

    The other thing that needs to be considered is the learning curve won’t really take effect on the parts of the thing you’re building that are very old news – you only get your 22% drop in cost when you double the cumulative amount ever made. So for things like steam turbines and heat exchangers, you’re not going to see a drop for building 50 of them.

    Say half of what goes into a nuclear power plant already goes into coal plants, so you’re at most shaving maybe 90% of 50% (45%) off of your original capital cost for a new SMR.

    And then consider strict regulatory requirements screw with any learning curve effects. Instead of benefiting immediately, you only benefit in a step-wise fashion every say 5-10 years or so. It’s basically no longer a curve but a stair.

    Then there is fuel costs which can run double in an SMR (up to 20% enrichment vs 3% but not in say NuScale) so up to 1.4 cents per kWh vs around 0.7 now. 1.4 cents is what natural gas fuel prices are at for a new combined cycle gas plant. I’m not optimistic.

  40. According to Alvin Weinburg, a small PWR would recieve sufficient passive cooling in a sunken submarine to deal with decay heat. I suppose the same would hold for these.

  41. I tend to agree. It does simplify many issues. Except the PR issues, which are nuclear’s one great problem.

  42. Just my $0.02, floating nuclear reactors always made the most sense to me (regardless of other design considerations). Worst case scenario, sink the sucker and let Mother Nature do the rest. I forget the exact statistic but something like 50% of the world’s population lives within 50 miles of a coastline. You could build the reactors in shipyards and them ship them wherever they are needed which should greatly reduce the cost of most designs.

    The obvious problem with floating reactors is that it would be very difficult to sell the general population on the design.

  43. Russian floating nuclear station is no longer under construction. Both its reactors were started in November 2018. A new design based on RITM-200 reactor is in development, and such units will be made available for export.

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