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3.2 Are there commercial reactor technologies (or emerging technologies which may be commercially available in the next two decades) that can be installed and connected to the NEM?
There are commercial technologies available, such as the General Electric Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor, that would be available in the next two decades. However, this is the same type of reactor as the ones at Fukushima Daiichi, and has been known to have safety flaws. (1) Then there is the Generation 3+ EPR reactor, currently being built at Olkiluoto, Finland, and at Flamanville, France. However, this might not be available within two decades. The history of its devleopment is one of delays and over-running costs.(2) Recently, cracks in its pressure vessel have caused problems, that shed doubt on its safety. (3)
There are no “emerging” technologies that are at all likely to be available within the next two decades. The Generation IV reactors include : the Gas-cooled Fast Reactor (GFR), the Leadcooled Fast Reactor (LFR), the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), the Supercritical Water-cooled Reactor (SCWR), the Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor (SFR) and the Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR). (4)
The French Radiological Protection Agency (IRSN) has carried out a review of these systems from the point of view of safety and radiation protection. On the basis of its examination, IRSN considers the SFR system to be the only one of the six to have reached a degree of maturity compatible with the construction of a Generation IV reactor prototype during the first half of the 21st century.
Even then this will depend on further studies. DECC estimate in their 2013 Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap that the first commercial Generation IV reactors should be operating by 2040. (4)
3.3. Are there commercial reactor technologies (or emerging technologies which may be commercially available in the next two decades) that can be installed and connected in an off-grid setting?
The suggested Small Modular Reactors , including the PRISM reactor have serious disadvantages, especially economiic ones . SMRs are likely to have higher costs per unit of output than conventional reactors. (5) Even if SMRs could eventually be more cost-effective than larger reactors due to mass production, this advantage would only come into play if large numbers of SMRs were ordered. But utilities are unlikely to order an SMR until they are seen to produce competitively priced electricity. This Catch-22 suggests the technology will require significant government financial help to get off the ground.
Even industry executives and regulators believe the SMR technology will have costs that are substantially higher than the failed “nuclear renaissance” technology on a per unit of output. The higher costs result from
- lost economies of scale in containment structures, dedicated systems for control,
management and emergency response, and the cost of licensing and security,
- operating costs between one-fifth and one-quarter higher, and
- decommissioning costs between two and three times as high.(6)
As to these “off-grid” technologies being available within the next two decades, I have been unable to find any credible reference that states that this is the case. I conclude that, even if design and testing of these small reactors were to be completed, it would be many decades before they would be commercially available. For reasons of regulatory processes, but more importantly, of uncertainty over economic viability, commercial availability is decades away, if ever to be achieved. (7)
3.4. What factors affect the assessment of viability for installing any facility to generate electricity in the NEM?
The major factor in assessing the viability of installing nuclear power for electricity generation in South Australia is the increasing practical and economic success of the alternative – truly modern power – renewable energy. (8) Combine that progress with the revolutionary developments in battery storage, and nuclear reactors of any size look like unnecessary and uneconomic dinosaurs in the electricity providing sector.(9)
3.7. What place is there in the generation market, if any, for electricity generated from nuclear fuels to play in the medium or long term?
Referring to my answers to previous questions, I would have to say – No place.
3.8 What issues should be considered in a comparative analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the generation of electricity from nuclear fuels as opposed to other sources? What are the most important issues?
The most important issues are health, safety and environmental protection. Nuclear power of whatever design loses out on all those counts.(10)
However, that hardly matters in a world where economics is king. Fortunately as nuclear power is widely recognised now to be getting more and more expensive, while renewable energy and energy efficient technologies are getting cheaper, it is indeed economics that provide the killer disadvantage for nuclear power (9)
3.11. How might a comparison of the emission of greenhouse gases from generating electricity in South Australia from nuclear fuels as opposed to other sources be quantified, assessed or modelled?
For one thing, Greenhouse gases are emitted at all stages of the nuclear fuel chain. (10) However, in practical terms, nuclear power as a solution to climate change, is irrelevant – action on climate change is needed now , not in 20 -30 years.(11) Furthermore, climate change itself makes nuclear power an impractical and increasingly dangerous solution. – water shortage, water over-heating, (12) sea level rise (13) Storm surges (14)
3.12 and 31.3 . What are the wastes (other than greenhouse gases) produced in generating electricity from nuclear and other fuels and technologies?
What risks for health and safety?
Nuclear reactors produce dangerously toxic radioactive isotopes, come previous unknown on the planet, – plutonium – decaying to three types of radiation – alpha, beta, and gamma, caesium 137, iodine 131 , strontium 90 (15) No other technologies produce these toxic, carcinogenic wastes.
(4) Generation IV International Forum https://www.gen-4.org/gif/jcms/c_40465/generation-iv-systems 2. IRSN 27th April 2015http://www.irsn.fr/EN/newsroom/News/Pages/20150427_Generation-IVnuclear-energy-systems-safety-potential-overview.aspx.
Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap: Future Pathways, Dec 2013 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/168043/bis-13-632-nuclearenergy-research-and-development-roadmap-future-pathway.pdf.
Nuclear Engineering International 2013 http://www.neimagazine.com/opinion/opinionwhy-theenvironmental-movement-is-important-for-nuclear-power-4559455