Friday, October 21, 2005

Rethinking The Nuclear Power Option

I consider myself a liberal, probably left of left, who has tried to keep an open mind over the years regarding the use of nuclear power as an alterantive power source. Actually if it wasn't for a lifelong buddy of mine who works in the industry I'd have the whole business neatly filed away in my liberal agenda under "Do Not Touch."

Recently while I was in Grants Pass visiting with him, he brought up the topic of breeder reactor technology and outlined a list of wonderful things they offer all of mankind, if only our countrymen would get over their misguided fears. We liberals, he tells me, succesfully killed our only breeder reactor program over 30 years ago during the Carter administration. This was due mainly because of the proliferation of materials they would produce that could be used to make nuclear bombs with.

Too bad I thought, for what I was hearing about the potential benefits just sounded to good to be true. So I consulted the googlegod to see what I could learn about the subject hoping I could understand the highly technical and scientific articles I would probably come across. I did come across an article that piqued my interest and seemed to dispell most if not all of Carter's concerns. The article is titled "Nuclear Waste and Breeder Reactors - Myth and Promise." by R.G. Williscroft, PhD (Robert) (his blog)

After reading this, I felt an instant urge to go outside and wake up the neighborhood announcing that the world no longer needs to continue destroying itself by creating more greenhouse gases caused by our dependence on fossil fuels. (a notion my good buddy DOESN"T believe in anway) We've had the answer under our noses all this time, we've just been dupped by our own fear and stupidity to continue exploring this alternative.

Overwhelmed, not really knowing much about blogging, I decided to see if I could use this medium to get a discussion going with others interested in our future, who also find this "too good to be true" as I did.

Below is a list of things I gleaned from the article and welcome any thoughts or comments that anyone might have that would correct my current perceptions. If you feel you can debunk the whole business, please do so as I've yet to read anything that refutes this.

1) Breeder Reactor technology promises that we can recycle our spent fuel from current warm water reactors creating more energy than they burn. (you can google the science behind this)
2) We need to kill the myth that the Plutonium-239 created in these reactors, the stuff sought out to make bombs with, CANNOT be separated from the other isotopes for use in making bombs. The primary reason from what I've read that caused these programs to be killed in the first place.
3) The other amazing and "sounds to good to be true" fact is that in this recyling process the current half life of 25,000 years for the waste we now want to stuff into Yucca mountain can be clipped down to 40 to 50 years at the end of this recycling process.
4) Hydrogen fuel can be produced with nuclear energy vs using fossil fuel energy which currently would cancel any benefits of using hydrogen for use as a fuel in trucks and automobiles.

Question: If this is all correct? Who would benefit the most from a program of disinformation to kill nuclear power use in this country? I know, conspiracy, smiracy!!!

If all these benefits of recyling nuclear waste are true, then why don't we see other countries already flaunting this technology and pulling ahead of us economically with a cheap and inexhaustible energy supply? So far I've only read of experimental projects going on in Japan and in France when it comes to breeder reactor technology. Please send me a link detailing who if anyone is doing this and I'll link them to this page...

Anyone have anyting to add to this...?


Blogger Kevin McCoy said...

I would like to make a quick comment on item 1. Someone might interpret your wording to mean that breeder reactors are perpetual motion machines. Of course, they are not. Compared to our current “thermal spectrum” reactors, however, they do offer the promise of producing perhaps fifty times as much energy from a given quantity of uranium ore. They also offer the promise of producing energy from thorium, from depleted uranium, and from spent (used) fuel from thermal spectrum reactors. As you suggest, those sources constitute a very large energy resource.

I would also like to comment on item 3, but that will have to wait.

Wednesday, 26 October, 2005  
Blogger bhaub korwin said...

thank you for the clarification, so in simple lay terms,the non-fissle material going into these reactors is transformed into a fissile form, extracted and then spent. There is an end of the line at some point..(as well as a bad writer, I'm a lazy one) On point 3 I'll bet you pop my enthusiasm, this was really what sounded too good to be true, hence, it probably isn't. However, I'm going to keep my fingers crossed til you or someone who really kwows what their talking about shoot it down.

Wednesday, 26 October, 2005  
Anonymous Morgan said...

An article in Wired magazine from Sept.'04 "Let a Thousand Reactors Bloom" makes for a good related read. It's archived at
The Chinese are much more pragmatic than we are about these matters.

Saturday, 29 October, 2005  
Blogger bhaub korwin said...

Thanks for the contribution..Morgan, thanks for the contribution. Maybe soon the U.S. will react to a superior Chinese nuclear program the way we reacted to the launch of the Russian's Sputnik.

Sunday, 30 October, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Baub,

Nice blog. Here is another tidbit for you. There is a consortium of coal companies planning to build 12, yes that's 12, enormous coal-burning electrical plants in Wyoming, then pipe the power over giant power lines into California. The reason? They see tons of money to be made, because our state is depending on renewables (wind, solar) for our future, and the harsh reality is, renewables simply haven't been able to live up to their promise. With energy sources, wishful thinking gets you precisely nowhere...hard cold math controls the situation.

So here's the question I post to my liberal anti-nuke friends: are you happy with this?

Good luck, would like to see a new post.

Tom B.

Tuesday, 01 November, 2005  
Blogger bhaub korwin said...

Tom......ouch, your making me think!!! Seems many of those who only recently have come to admit that global warming is real, believe unfortunately,its not caused by man. Those people would OK the purchase of energy produced by coal, only for the sake of getting us off our dependence on fossil fuels. Regardless, California has to feed it's giant appetite, but finding loop holes in our policy vs seeking real renewable alternatives isn't helping. I have read they're finding ways to burn coal without the polution. I'm sure if there is any truth to that, it's not cheap.

Wednesday, 02 November, 2005  
Blogger Matt Schor said...

It is nice to see some logical commentary on nuclear power. While many focus on the environmental benefits (no green house gasses, no polution, hydrogen fuels, etc.) what is often not noted is the geopolitical benefits we would reap if dependence on oil were greatly reduced. In short, wouldn't it be great if we could tell Saudi Arabia,, go drink the oil!

Saturday, 31 December, 2005  
Blogger John Wheeler said...

I've been reading your blog and enjoy it tremendously. I thought you might like to "take a listen" to my new PodCast called "This Week in Nuclear"

It is located at htt://

I'm constantly looking for user comments, voice mails, and stories for my weekly show, and you input would be greatly appreciated.


John Wheeler
This Week in Nuclear - PodCast for News, Facts and Commentary Related to the Use of Nuclear Energy to Make Our World Safer, Cleaner, and Less Dependent on Fossil Fuels.

Sunday, 15 January, 2006  
Blogger Field Agent said...


Conspiracy, schmiracy??

I became active in searching out the main antinuclear voices in 2001, when talk began about shutting down Indian Point-- near where I live. I found a few honestly concerned local folks, and a core of professional issue-pushing public relations groups which never labeled themselves as PR groups, but assumed the more important sounding guise of "Advocacy Groups".

But it was still pure PR work, with heavy use of concocted media-bait stunts, like attempts to paddle a kayak into Indian Point's intake pipes, etc. I began to see a relation between the seemingly independent anti people, when I simply googled their names (try it with "Kyle Rabin", for instance). I found that the Conspiracy Schmiracy called itself "the movement", neatly nestling itself amongst more innocuous peace, justice, & charity causes, cross-signing innumerable petitions worldwide, and maintaining up to date email lists, and news alert broadcasts previously unheard of, and impossible, before the internet. Kyle signed EVERYTHING! But his own specialty became creating credible mock issues against nuclear power production.
(He has since quit that issue, and manages a long island baykeeper office).

That was their public side, their "outreach" side.
Their financial, covert side was traceable to the West Virginia Rockefeller trust, the New York Helaine Heilbrunn Lerner trust, and its subsidiary, the GRACE foundation, of New York City. You might try linking to, to see the Riverkeeper/Robert Kennedy cash sources (Kennedy's Riverkeeper led the charge, until growing disinterested in 2003)
A main resorce was a multinational NGO, known as WISE in Amsterdam, and having 15 relay, or daughter cells worldwide, of which America's cell was called NIRS, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, running at first on vanity contributions from one wealthy trust, until its email outreach allowed it to claim a public constituency.

I estimate the informational core cadre to number no more than 100 people nationwide, maybe 500 worldwide,
with NIRS having about 6 operatives , who were sent on road trips to any community with a nuclear issue, to give cash to locals, printing services, an "issues library", access to a worldwide listserve (remember---15 relay cells),
and mostly , attention, strokes, self importance, a phone-buddies mentoring presence, and belief that it all meant something.
The constant influx of vanity cash from some old doddering idiot's trust (that had been commandeered by self-righteous radical neo-marxists)granted continuity, paying the rent, and some small salaries, to the 50 or so "road warriors" who form the basis of the most Astroturf "grassroots" movement to ever have been concocted--the scam to de-power the U.S.A., by painting nuclear power purple.

Conspiracy Scmhiracy????
I could give you 20,000-30,000 words on it.

Want to hear more?

contact me at,
give me the go-ahead,
and I will begin posting some deeper-researched stuff here.

The reason you don't hear much, is that the pro-nuclear PR keynote
has been "Stay Non-Confrontational"

Check out my posts at:

I'm the one who's a dog, Harry the dog.
As Harry, I don't have to chain up my garbage cans at night,
or wipe any eggs off my car.

Friday, 24 February, 2006  
Blogger Field Agent said...

Having entered the process control field in the 1970's, I got to watch the art & technique of running plants with liquids, heat, steam, & rotating machinery go through a revolution so profound, so total, as to nullify what had gone before in the last 2000 years. (Ancients in China & the West both had such items).
Of the 2000+ years, the years 1970 to 1995 contained more advancement than any other period, eclipsing Watt's discoveries in the 1700's, and the introduction of steam boilers which would not explode in the 1880's.

When I arrived at Con Ed, the controls on their instruments were patterned on WWII battleship controls, being powered by puffs of air in copper tubes. Control rooms were huge 50 foot by 50 foot rat's nests of tubing, mercury baths, lead counterweights, and orange-glowing 6L6 electron tubes, that truly would have made Doctor Frankenstein proud. Two main operators yelled commands & flashed lights at 6 helpers, who ran around up ladders, turning valve-wheels with 15 pound hand wrenches, much as we saw in Fritz Lang's 1931 movie "Metropolis". It was a constant disaster-waiting-to-happen. It took 15 such control rooms to run the Waterside Station at 42nd street Manhattan, which has just been torn down this year.

When I left, in 2001, an entire plant was flawlessly controlled from a single console , in an air conditioned room.
It was such a revolution, it cannot be ever understood by those who were not involved.
It was total. In 1998, Westinghouse (in Pittsburgh) was running a Saudi Desalination plant
by satellite phone, using one operator at a console in Pittsburgh, and two mechanics in Riyadh.
The future was here.

It also just so happened that
1) Russia lagged far behind, and did not participate in this.....and......
2) The American Three Mile Island plant was built just before the revolution,
so also did not participate in it.

You know what's coming next.
After the lousy controls available had caused bad events to happen at Chernobyl & Harrisburg,
almost immediately, the means to ensure it could never happen again were pouring out of
America's design industry like a torrent, one that did not matter, because the credibility damage was done.

But in truth, the revolution was a miracle, and the improvements went on anyway.
Nuclear plants ate up the changes, revamping their control & safety systems again & again in the late 1970's, the 1980's, & the 1990's, going from average reliability rates of 30% or less, to the current near 100% level now maintained by America's 103 plants who now hold up the entire nation, 20% of its power, without a single molecule of CO2,without a single grain of soot, small,silent, hidden away, not marring the landscape like windmills, or nasty coal smokers.

With reprocessing, which the current administration intends to initiate, the world supply of fuel should last for 10,000 years.

What else could humankind ask for?

It's the ultimate free lunch.

Friday, 24 February, 2006  
Blogger Field Agent said...

How big of a Conspiracy Schmiracy was(is) it?

Most people simply believed statements coming from what seemed to them to be aroused advocates, perhaps a bit more informed than themselves,and apparently very worried that huge dangers were present. What nobody realized was that the information that had passed hand to hand, mouth-to-ear, many, many times, was relevant in 1979, less so in 1989, and nonsense by 1999, and had been colored at each retelling by the passion, and the personal needs of each teller in turn.

People in general never warmed to the most extreme imagination pieces, using common sense to judge that maybe somebody, meaning well, had gotten a bit carried away.

What was galling to all, was the seeming un-killability of the same old myths. Why would they not die? Does their longevity not point out their possible reality? In most cases, that thought has some merit. In this particular case, though, the answer was different. Call it a core advocacy group. If you like spy mysteries, call it a cabal.

If you are Helaine Heilbrunn Lerner or Alice Slater, you would simply call them your paid employees.

About 50 professional antinuclear spokespersons, filled with common passion, common misinformation, existing on grants , book sales and charitable contributions,were all it took to keep copy churning out just often enough, it always seemed, to keep long-solved issues, apparently eternally unsolving themselves again and again.

The reason "just often enough" was being achieved, was that visibility equals power, as people like Robert F. Kennedy junior prove beyond a doubt.

Kennedy, adrift without a mentor after an ethics battle with original Riverkeeper Robert Boyle, was introduced to the eminence grise of the antinuke cabal, Paul Leventhal, and two careers were saved, two fading visibility profiles were mutually enhanced, by taking common antinuke cause.
Now , since 2001, Kennedy makes 40 speeches per year at $20,000 each, and just collected $900,000 for his tax free NGO at his annual Banff Canada ski bash, I make no mention of figures for his his similar annual Chelsea Pier bash, and I leave it to you to do the math.
This is entirely aside from family fortunes, or his job at Pace university. Visibilty equals cash, equals power. It's a career, plain & simple. His kids have asthma. The man has big bills to pay.

Any person in this position is going to be faced with choices. Choices to opt for a less credible, but more high-profile exaggeration of facts,...
or choices to admit perhaps someone has led you astray,... or conversely, to claim that no, you always were right, you always are right, and , on your say-so, the world is either coming to a bad end, or in thrall to conspiracies, or poisoned by mercury in the food.
Like I said, it's a career. Once in it, you live the karma, which in this case, has been a steady distortion of fact for several decades.
We forgive you, Bobby. You meant well. Thanks for the thimeserol warning.

Whatever forces are at work on the most visible, independently sufficient spokesperson, also work on the rest of the 50-100 footsoldiers out on the antinuke hustings, and all I can say to them, is nothing bad has happened now all these 35 years, and how long do we have to remain collectively owned by Saudi paymasters, forced to intervene militarily to protect a distant commodity, and led down the road to irrevocable tyrrany, just because 50 paid liars want us to avoid free, clean, native-occurring nuclear energy?

Helaine Heilbrunn Lerner has just recently changed the name of her "Helaine Heilbrunn Lerner Foundation"- to the "Tamarind Foundation", hoping to distance her family & herself from the idiocy of the luddite rearguard harrassment she's been paying her little hacks to perpetrate upon us for the last 20 years. I think she must know something.

Harry, dog on the Hudson

Friday, 24 February, 2006  
Blogger JS_VP said...

I realize that Eric McErlaine, & Bhaub Korwin imagine that they can somehow reassure liberal, or progressive people, that old propaganda on the street about nuclear power generation is a not-to-worry, and simply say: conspiracy-schmiracy, click their heels together, and go on to the hopeful, excited part of their posts. Maybe, but maybe not. It's natural to ask: "Why did I hear all that negative stuff"?

I live fairly close to a nuclear generation station, and I worried about what could happen to my family, my house, or my life, should I move there. I had no way to judge the truth or the malice, of claims I had seen in print. However, I had some research skills, and found resources to study, in order to make a decision, and act intelligently for me and mine.

I found materials in the public domain, much of it at the Nuclear Regulatory website , which I began to plow through in detail. From 1995 through 1997, when I decided to go ahead and purchase my house and move my family, I sought the truth.

I found, amazingly, that American nuclear generating stations are mandated by law, and by 24-7 monitoring, to be several orders of magnitude more benign, environmentally, than any other plant, process, factory, device, or activity. It points to a great uncertainty in the 1950's, about the acceptance of the nuclear idea itself , and so it's a huge legal over-compensation, attempting, I would guess, to make nuclear power so squeaky clean, that no objection would ever arise, and certainly, no harm. (This legislative hope has been borne out in the decades since, I might add.)

With no mandate to create acceptance for coal burning plants, legislators left those plants free to send anything at all up their stacks, provided the smoke was less than 3% opaque. The percentage of uranium, thorium, mercury, sulfur, cadmium, and other goodies always found in raw coal therefore translates into 3% of thousands of tons of radioactive junk legally spewed into the sky each day, each month, forever from the coal burners in our midst.

Strangely, the health concerns of our self-proclaimed antinuclear guardians do not include this huge radioactive crap-blast filtering down daily in the acid rain of the Northeast.

It is absolutely ignored.

It is orders of magnitude greater than any emission from nuclear generation plants, (tightly watched nuclear plant emissions are always far less than the naturally occurring surrounding measurements, and so, in effect, undetectable.)

What gives?

Are my "concerned" antinuclear power "protectors" protecting me, or not?

Or are they posturing, agendizing, driven by some undisclosed bias, or covert mandate? On the face of it motives are not obvious, but the fact of this blind spot, this non-concern in avowedly-concerned advocates , was telling in the extreme, and so I followed the anomaly to its source.

I found a small group of specifically nuclear-hating activists had made careers gleaning grant money from wealthy patrons, networking with groups overseas, hectoring the media and government with enough issues to attain visibility, abusing nonscience, pseudoscience, and pseudo-advocacy as a kind of cult mission, embedding themselves within the progressive movement, and as their coup-of-a-lifetime, in 2001 capturing a Kennedy as the first top-rank spokesperson ever available to their cause.

The result of their 30+ years of negative imaginings, coupled with the innate visibility of a Kennedy, has put a factoid, (could I say a mythoid?) on the street, a story concocted eagerly by various PR-savvy "helpers" of Mr. Kennedy (including his moviemaker sister), irresistable as a conversational reference, popping up in blogs, its ever-presence due only to the oversize media shadow that any Kennedy casts, but returning discussion to a point of time somewhere in 1986.

Not only is the mythoid retrograde in time, it's been piled onto by both talented and untalented campfollowers alike since 1986, and has worn most people out, to the point where the majority refuse to discuss their spun-up promptings at all, but still it remains out there, like a garish, negative Mount Rushmore of a vision.

It is, however completely false.
It is NGO press agentry, posturing for dollars, exaggeration on behalf of watchful grant administrators with a tax-free foundation mission to implement, and the falsity of it all is perennially revealed by the promise of Riverkeeper's Alex Matthiessen every year at his Chelsea Pier fundraiser, to close Indian Point within the year.

You see, its his biggest issue. Mr. Kennedy has recused himself from involvement with it, and moved on to other concerns. Matthiessen, however, has no issue pre-spun, pre-sold, pre-supersized anywhere near this issue, and so, completely impotent in the face of public apathy about the whole thing, he nevertheless extorts $1500 per plate, and $15,000 per auctioned Ipod, from his celebrity clientele by means of a once-public issue, that has now ascended to heaven in a way, ensconced in a Palm Springs-type charity ball, embalmed, coated in hyperbole, its dead corpse dragged out twice a year, to dun the wealthy.

Its a laugh.
And..... it's a crock.
But the wealthy dance to a different drum,... always have, always will.
And that's why the negative propaganda always returns.
Somebody's living depends on it.

Harry, dog on the Hudson

Saturday, 25 February, 2006  
Blogger JS_VP said...

The Hanford "B" reactor, in Washington state, is now on the national register of historic sites. It's excellent website gives visitors a peek into early efforts to harness the physics discoveries of the twentieth century, for useful purposes. The reactor, a 36 foot cylinder of graphite encased in concrete , can be visited at:

It was the first breeder.
Pipes ran through it from the front side, to the back. Slugs of uranium were pushed in from the front, and slowly pushed through & out the back, using long steel rods. Each slug spent a short time travelling through, and when it fell out the back into a pool of water, it was a different metal, much higher in energy, than when it had gone in a short while before.

Talk about magic!

Uranium, when treated this way, makes itself more energetic. It's based on high level physical knowledge, and engineering processes not invented until 1944, but it grants mankind unlimited energy supplies forever, for nothing, basically--- for the mundane act of pushing a slug through a pipe and out again.

The process of letting uranium energize itself can be done any number of times. It's very wasteful to just do it once. The same savoir faire that led to the Hanford method, if followed further, tells us that so-called spent nuclear fuel is very, very far from spent. It has vast extractable reserves, and will tend to make more reserves as time goes by, provided it is just treated with the same cleverness the Hanford scientists exhibited. Free lunch.

America, has not acted cleverly. It allowed Jimmy Carter to shut down our reprocessing, and thus it is stuck with a hot fire in its bare hands, a fire that will not go out, because it is almost crying out to us to use it again, reprocess it, extract several more rounds of free, absolutely free energy. This energy, the part that is unused, has been mischaracterized as the "bad stuff" requiring Yucca Mountain to remain isolated for 100,000,000 years. In truth, it is the usable stuff criminally thrown away by an ignorant failed president, acting in an exactly analogous fashion to a fireplace owner throwing a still-burning log into his wastepaper basket, and then complaining of smoke in the room.

I have a friend who was a performer in the 1970's, but now has a lucrative second career selling big metal-shredding machines to scrap recovery yards around the USA. The lion's share of metals now smelted in the USA are not mined, but are recovered, separated, shredded, and re-used, over and over. Why not? It doesn't expose the earth to mining, or miners to personal danger, and it provides a monetization of the impulse to clean up old cars, refrigerators, what-have-you, just like your can & bottle deposit programs.

Tell me why this success tactic is being uniquely, selectively omitted, and discussion of it suppressed, in the case of uranium? Let me tell you. Political opponents have created a fake bottleneck. Yucca Mountain is basically not needed right now, and will not be needed for the next 20 years. Yucca mountain, where our still-burning nuclear hearthfire is supposed to be buried alive, is just a political reaction to Mr. Carter's prevention of uranium recycling..... totally political, totally pandering, idiotic in the extreme, AND... I might add, ethically, environmentally reprehensible in the first degree. But, it made Carter look good to 1970's greenists, who have destroyed our future and our present, on a misguided notion from a time now passed.

Carter will never admit he was wrong. He enjoys the cult adulation. Damn him for it. Let him rot in Yucca Mountain's deepest hell for it. For Yucca Mountain is Jimmy Carter's Hell. It would never be needed, if the same cleverness used at Hanford, was followed to its natural conclusion, undiverted by specious semireligious obstruction. Carter's claim that reprocessing would lead to proliferation in 1977 is now proved wrong by the presence of proliferation in 2006, with or without Carter's ruling, and an America pilloried on his shortsighted negative posturing.

It didn't work, Jim!

With reprocessing reducing nuclear materials to much, much smaller amounts over time, extracting energy at each stage, Carter's mistake will be exposed as the faltering non-solution that it was , and a new millennium, unimaginable from his 1979 malaise, will emerge on its own, because Carter's rule only binds us, and not the host of new players edging into the game month by month. The others will follow their own most clever paths, I guarantee it, and so , let us not doom our children to live in the new third world of 2050, the United State of America, povertized by its own openness, a fatal openness that allowed a depressed,untalented man without vision to become president.

Others as yet ignorant of the engineering process need only link to the url I've given you above, to begin to figure it all out. But we have institutionalized Carterian scruples, and so have malaised ourselves straight into Carter's Yucca dilemma, and our children into Carter's Yucca hell.


Saturday, 25 February, 2006  
Blogger JS_VP said...

Some reading assignments:

Harry, the Riverdog

Monday, 27 February, 2006  
Blogger bhaub korwin said...

By Patrick Moore

In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That's the conviction that inspired Greenpeace's first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen...

To view the entire article, go to

Sunday, 23 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thorium as a basic energy resource and the liquid-fluoride reactor may be an even better option than any fast-spectrum breeder.

Tuesday, 25 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father and I were discussing "Peak Oil" and he suggested nuclear reactors, specifically breeder reactors were the solution. I have only done a little bit of research on them but they sound promising. This is the first negative article I found (reprinted below) that provides an opposing point of view:

Scrap plans for fast breeder reactor
By Arjun Makhijani*
This op-ed appeared in The Hindu on 25 April 2001

The Indian nuclear power establishment seems to have a love affair with the uneconomic, polluting, obsolete, dangerous, and costly parts of nuclear technology. First, it was boiling water reactors (BWRs) at Tarapur, which emit far more routine radioactivity than pressurised water reactors (PWRs). India also went in for CANDU reactors, which emit far more radioactive hydrogen (tritium) in the form of water vapour than BWRs or PWRs. The human body cannot distinguish between radioactive and ordinary water. As a result, tritiated water can cross the placenta and affect foetuses. It can also affect sperm. As a result, it can cause miscarriages and birth defects. When India decided to buy PWRs, it settled on the obsolete Russian design, the VVER-1000, which is not up to international safety standards, according to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. This design will no longer be built even in Russia. And now, the worst decision of all, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) wants to build a large, 500 MW-electrical, sodium-cooled Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam.
This general design of sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor was at the heart of the propaganda in the West during the 1950s that nuclear power would provide a ``magical energy source'' and end the world's energy troubles. Like so many other nuclear promises, it hasn't quite turned out that way. Let us examine the record.

More than $20 billion (all costs in constant 2000 year dollars or rupees) have been spent worldwide on building 11 plants bigger than 100 megawatts-thermal. One of these, the Kalkar reactor in Germany, completed in 1991, was never opened, because of concerns regarding accidental explosions. (Unlike water moderated reactors, sodium-cooled fast breeders can explode due to an accidental nuclear criticality.) Six of the other 10 are shut, including the latest one to come on line, the Japanese Monju reactor. It went critical in 1994. It was shut down in December 1995, when it had a secondary loop sodium fire. It remains shut. Two of the remaining four, Phenix in France, and BN-350 in Kazakhstan are due to be shut in the next few years. Of the other two, the Joyo reactor in Japan is more of a pilot plant, being only about 100 megawatts-thermal.

Only Russia has a large breeder reactor that it plans to operate into the next decade. But it uses medium-enriched uranium fuel and has used plutonium fuel only on an experimental basis.

Fuelling a fast breeder reactor with plutonium would require routine operation of a reprocessing plant that could handle large amounts of spent fuel with high plutonium concentrations. The operation of reprocessing plants is a costly and dirty business, even when they have less than one per cent plutonium, as is typical of spent fuel from current commercial reactors. The only two large-scale commercial reprocessing plants now routinely operating are in Britain and France. Both are uneconomical. The plants are so polluting that several western European Union countries have called for their closure.

Finally, the question of cost of electricity. Overall, the operating record of these reactors is indifferent. A few have operated reliably. Most have operated at medium to low capacity factors. This means that even if the construction cost would be as low as the DAE's estimate of Rs. 3,000 crores, the risk of electricity costs being in the Rs. 5 to 10 per kilowatt hour range is high. This is comparable to what Maharashtra pays Enron from Phase I of that project.

The real costs could easily be higher, since the DAE's cost estimate is too low. The cheapest plant that has come on line since 1980 is the Russian BN-600, which is about one-third more costly per megawatt than the DAE's estimate for Kalpakkam. If the latest U.S. reactor, which went on line in 1980, is used as the benchmark, Kalpakkam would cost Rs. 22,000 crores. If the Japanese reactor Monju (1994) is used as the benchmark, the capital cost would shoot up to Rs. 46,000 crores. This enormous variation in capital cost is one sure sign of an immature, and hence an economically very risky technology. At the higher end of these costs, the wholesale electricity price could range from Rs. 9 to over Rs. 50 per unit, depending on whether plant performance was sound or poor.

India needs reliable electricity at reasonable cost. India has the technical capability to be at the leading edge of technology, which is in areas like distributed grids (which mix centralised and small scale plants in the same grid) and fuel cells. Even offshore wind power plants are now far cheaper than breeder reactors. When India has decided to innovate boldly, it has succeeded, as in the information technology sector. But in power, it continues to look to obsolete, costly, polluting, and/or dangerous technologies. The proposed Kalpakkam breeder reactor project should be scrapped without further ado.

*The writer is president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma Park, Maryland, U.S.

Thursday, 18 May, 2006  
Blogger JS_VP said...

Yes, yes, India has disagreements over which foreign design to buy, disagreements settled by the most aggressive non-Indian sales campaign to force some flawed machinery down the subcontinent's throat for its rupees. I do not fault the writer for complaining about this "politics over science" conundrum.


Make no mistake, the power remaining in what is currently misnomered as "spent nuclear fuel" is a commodity which WILL be extracted, within this decade or the next.

The author's complaints about typical Indian vs. non-Indian supplier battles has no affect on, or relation to the fact of breeder reactor's being essential to humanity's survival past the year 2100.

Tuesday, 12 September, 2006  
Anonymous Levitra said...


Sunday, 15 July, 2007  
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Saturday, 03 October, 2009  
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There are many plants that can be grown in these wetlands like: red maple, silver maple, carpinus carolianiana, quercus phellos etc. No matter which plant you grow, they will definitely serve the purpose of enriching the natural environment and maintaining the ecological balance. The only thing to be kept in mind is that, you must take the proper guidance and also see with what is your aim of doing the plantation. native plants tree nursery

Friday, 30 October, 2009  

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