APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

AP reports on standardized plants

This article comes to us today from the Associated Press. In it, author Ray Henry appears to try to get us to think that standardized plant designs are a somewhat new thing.

What's really happening with this and other similar articles is that authors and reporters are re-educating themselves in atomic energy, and catching up on many years worth of having ignored or belittled news and developments from both pro-nuclear people and the industry itself (meaning both vendors and utilities.) Henry even admits that the idea for standardized plants isn't new and says that it dates back to the 80's.

Actually, it dates to the 50's with both common standard training reactors built all over the US and in fact the world by a number of vendors, and standard military plant designs developed and built primarily for the Navy, but also in a small number for the Army.

The training reactors had to be safe and reliable, and of course the military reactors had to be those things plus a large number of other things, and so standardized design cut risk, design time, and some development cost even though in the case of military plants the cost in dollars per MW output was incredibly high compared with any other range. In fact, for many years, all of our submarines of all types being built (585 class, 594 class, 637 class attack submarines as well as all classes of ballistic missile submarines) were powered by essentially the same power plant (Westinghouse S5W) with modifications and improvements over the years.

Again, some mention is made (and - what a surprise - within the first thirteen lines of text) of the TMI-2 accident in 1979. Mr. Henry; of COURSE the industry learned from this accident. Let's not be ridiculous now. And, Mr. Henry, you describe the TMI-2 accident as a "disaster." How many people were killed? How many animals, how much livestock? How many acres of crops were contaminated and unfarmed thereafter? How much of the ecosystem was impacted by release of radioactivity into non-plant areas?

Answers: None; none; none; none.

That's not a disaster. Major nuclear plant accident? Yes. One that was contained adequately by the designed containment structure and primary plant.

But, enough bashing Mr. Henry; he's obviously been colored by a few decades of complete misinformation.

What is of interest to me is that today's nuclear renaissance is featuring essentially conventional PWR and BWR plants; there was a time after TMI-2 that various sources were indicating that only 'inherently safe,' radical new designs could possibly be acceptable to restart our nuclear industry (see "The Second Nuclear Era," a fabulous book long out of print and hard to find but in the APRA collection and well read.) Now it's all too clear that conventional plant designs, with safety updates above and beyond those in place in 1979 are very adequate and in fact are the basis for this renaissance. This knowledge, and the wind of public opinion, mean that the time is right not to take advantage of standardized design but to realize that standardized design in nuclear plants has been employed and working fine for 50 years. It's time to get moving, as I keep saying -- and it seems that every day we are, a little more.. at least as fast as bureaucracy allows.

No comments:

Post a Comment