SONE Newsletter 278 – July 2022

Posted by Wade Allison on 11 July 2022 in Newsletters

Tagged with: ALARA, BESS, Batteries, Don Wiles, Energiewende, Germany, India, Switzerland, Taxonomy, Tom Greatrex.

Recently by the same author:


Confidence in nuclear energy: The acceptance of evidence should replace traditional caution


Wade Allison

SONE Honorary Secretary

This month

Steering public opinion

Circumstances change, sometimes very quickly, as in the past three years in world affairs. That committees are committed should not surprise anyone. They do whatever they were set up to do, but that does not include changing their terms of reference – without extended consultation – and that takes time. They certainly never disband or resign en bloc. That only happens if their support is cut off – usually a political act.

Fortunately, there are also individuals who can change their minds quickly and effectively when faced with new circumstances. Committees resist the action of such individuals, but society as a whole should be prepared to listen. Such is the struggle to replace the provision of radiation safety based on the lowest possible exposure to nuclear radiation (ALARA) by the highest with a clean record of being relatively safe (AHARS). ALARA was adopted in the fear-loaded era of the 1950s without reason.

Today there are many individuals whose voice is getting through, and the Age of Nuclear is coming!

From a comment posted on Twitter

Vote on European Taxonomy 6 July

From a World Nuclear report:

The decision on the EU taxonomy has been closely watched elsewhere as countries consider their own sustainable investment rules. In the UK, the chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, Tom Greatrex, said: ‘Nuclear’s inclusion in the EU taxonomy is a huge victory for science. The UK should now give nuclear the green label it deserves in our own taxonomy.’

News of opinion in Germany

June 24, 2022. An opinion poll carried out by the Infratest Institute for the German national TV monthly Deutschlandtrend, showed 61% are in favour of keeping nuclear power plants open beyond the shutdown planned for the end of 2022.
https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/deutschlandtrend/deutschlandtrend-3051.html

A view from Switzerland

By Mark Whitwill, from the Goesgen Nuclear Power Plant

I am active as advisor to the Goesgen nuclear power plant (KKG) (https://www.ensi.ch/en/topic/goesgen-nuclear-power-plant/) and I am also a member of the Board of Governors of the World Nuclear Fuel Market. Unlike the German Energiewende, our Swiss nuclear phase out is not so strictly defined. In specific, there is no official target for shutdown and the four remaining reactors have unlimited licences. Of course, they are all subject to in-depth safety reviews carried out on a ten year basis, but these are technical, not political, and so we have a fighting chance to get through them.

KKG started operating in 1979. That means we have successfully completed the 40-year review and are working on the next one. The KKG board has formally adopted a policy of at least 60 years operation and is actively considering life extension beyond then. Within KKG there was a Division set up (Abteilung L) specifically to investigate the feasibility of life extension beyond 60 years.

So far, so good. The problem is that KKG is a German design (Siemens) PWR, which benefitted much from being closely linked to the German reactor programme. Now those reactors are closed (or shortly will be) that technical support will no longer be there. We now need to find technical support, spare parts, replacement components, etc., etc., from elsewhere. Siemens itself has exited the nuclear field but, luckily for us, Framatome has stepped up and has already taken over as our main fuel supplier. We are also busy building alliances with other non-German Framatome (ex-Siemens) customers.

The Leibstadt nuclear power plant (KKL), which is majority-owned by Axpo, is perhaps in an even better position. It is a slightly larger (1220 MW) BWR of US design, so is not so dependent on German links. It is also 5 years younger (1984 start-up). In my opinion both KKG and KKL will make it through to 60 years of operation (to 2039 and 2043 respectively) and there is a good chance – but no guarantee – that further operation can be achieved. Looking at back end issues – another key point to consider – there is sufficient storage at the central interim store at Zwilag to go beyond 60 years without significant additional investment.

The two smaller Beznau reactors (both 365 MW) are older, starting up in 1969 and 1971 respectively. With a good wind, they should also make 60 years of operation but are likely to be the next candidates for shutdown after then.

Politically speaking, nuclear looked like a lost cause immediately after Fukushima, although it is important to note that, despite numerous initiatives from the Greens calling for early shutdown, all calls for early closure were rejected by substantial majorities in national referenda. The Swiss voter seems to have an aversion (sensibly in my view) to shutting down a perfectly safe operational facility before its life is finished. Slowly the political field is beginning to improve: as you may have seen, first the SVP (Swiss Peoples Party) and now the FDP (Liberals), which are both members of the four party government, are coming to the conclusion that nuclear energy should not be rejected out of hand. Most recently the decision not to include nuclear in the latest ETH study was justified partly on the basis that new nuclear plant cannot be built to time and budget and is not economical. All we need to do is to prove them wrong…..

Looking towards exports

Press comment from US that includes some praise for the UK. It is a reminder that UK should be looking to world markets, not just gazing at our own navel as encouraged by our own press.

https://www.indonewyork.com/business/the-disruption-of-pocket-nuclear-reactors-is-already-on-h37808.html

The disruption of ‘pocket’ nuclear reactors is already on the horizon. Innovation reaches the nuclear field with the aim of achieving economical, versatile and easy-to-manage solutions compared to the mammoth power plants that currently operate.

Another excerpt:

On the other hand, the so-called advanced ones are based on more innovative technologies with less tested refrigerants, such as liquid metals and molten salts, which still require research and, therefore, are projected on a longer time horizon, he says. An exception to this last group are the high-temperature gas-cooled modular reactors, one of whose designs has two units already in operation in China.

A train in motion that our country has let pass. Industry experts tell this newspaper that despite the fact that Spain participates in various research projects, if there is no certain stability that guarantees investors, it will be difficult to attract capital for the development of projects here. They praise the formula adopted by the United Kingdom, whereby if a company invests a certain amount of money in an SMR project, the State undertakes to invest an aliquot part.

Renewables and faith in batteries

From Energy-Storage.news. https://www.energy-storage.news/

India’s first large-scale standalone energy storage tenders will not only add 1GW/4GWh of new systems to the grid, they could also herald the beginning of a ‘revolution’ in the country’s market, a new report says.

Energy Superhub Oxford, a project with a lithium-ion-vanadium hybrid battery energy storage system (BESS) totalling 55MW, has officially launched. The opening of its EV charging park today (July 5) marks the final step in delivering the project, which was covered in-depth in Vol.30 of PV Tech Power, Solar Media’s quarterly technical journal focused on the downstream solar industry.

The core component of the project is a combined BESS made up of a 50 MW/50MWh Lithium-ion system, supplied by Wärtsilä, and a 2MW/5MWh vanadium flow battery from Invinity Energy Systems. Optimiser Habitat Energy is taking the assets into market with its AI-enabled trading platform.

Comment: Batteries are useful and important. But these numbers should be seen in perspective. UK electricity demand is about 35 GW. So, the Indian battery would be exhausted in about 5 minutes in the UK and the Oxford one in seconds – useful in maintaining short term stability, but not as part of a primary source.

The life of Don Wiles

Anyone concerned about the dangers of nuclear radiation, and equally those who are not, should take the time to read the story of Don Wiles, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Carleton University in Ottawa. Now at 97 he is reported to be frail, but in 2014 (and again in 2017) when his health was still good his account – his radiation biography – was published by the Canadian Nuclear Society.

He wrote of how in the 1940s he regularly ingested large quantities of radium in his work such that at 88, though still healthy, he exhaled Radon with a concentration 25 times the regulatory limit. His longevity is not just remarkable but a reminder that the human race has utterly misunderstood the consequences of exposure to radiation. There is no shortage of data – we have been studying the question successfully for 120 years. We just need to accept what it tells us and then have the confidence to reassure the public at large – while building the cost-effective nuclear power stations we need.

[Hopefully the following two links work for those online]

https://www.dropbox.com/s/7gmlvud70b1rm3k/Wiles-2014Apr_CNS%20Bulletin-radium%281%29.pdf?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/8st7482wpvgfm1l/Wiles-2017_Breathing%20Radon_CNS%20Bulletin%2038%282%29%281%29%281%29.pdf?dl=0

Wade Allison, Hon Sec
Oxford, July 2022