Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Let's Go Nuclear

Let the howling begin. For the first time in 34 years, an American company has filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the construction of a new nuclear power plant.

The proposal submitted Tuesday is to build two new reactors with a total capacity of 2,700 megawatts at the South Texas Project site in Matagorda County, where two nuclear units have already operated for 25 years. The size of the reactors is unprecedented -- the biggest American plants generally produce about 1,200 MW.

"This is a historical event," said Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, long the Senate's strongest supporter of nuclear. "Consumers around the world are benefiting from clean nuclear power. Finally our nation is on the verge of taking greater advantage of this technology. I hope it is the first of many."

The statement has its irony. Nuclear technology, of course, was invented in this country. In the 1980s we gave it up for fear of accidents, which caused endless regulatory delays. One common argument among nuclear opponents was that nuclear energy was only an illegitimate offspring of nuclear bomb technology cooked up by scientists who felt guilty about building the atomic bomb. Over the last two decades, Japan (along with France) has become the world's technological leader. Toshiba, which enhanced its nuclear technology by buying Westinghouse, will build NRG's new reactors. The vessel heads will be manufactured by Japan Steel Works, the only forge in the world now capable of casting these huge structures. America is playing catch-up on our own technology.

I'm looking forward to all the same loud mouths who whine about global warming protest against our cleanest and greenest energy source.

It should be interesting. I've long said that I'll start taking global warming seriously when environmentalists start taking it seriously.


Satanic Mechanic said...

I think it is great that we are returning to nuclear power. I am sad that we have lost our manufacturing ability to make large pressure vessels. I remember in the 90's we sold our largest lathe, which was used to make the 15" guns for Battleships in WWII, to China.

Roberto de Sonora said...

I need to point out that Nuclear power was not killed by fears of environmental damage alone. I rate that effect as 3rd. or 4th.

1st. was influence by Big Oil that to this day has funded anti Nuke activity indirectly through Tax exempt Foundations. Big Oil killed Ethanol 90 years ago by first paying for Prohibition with a multi million dollar gift to the Womans Christian Temperance movement. Today, Anti Ethanol screeds are coming out of foundations like Heritage, Reason, CEI, all who get their money from Oil or Oil service companies.

Their favorite trick is killing Ethanol by going after Corn Ethanol as the yield is only about 30% to 70% more energy than is put in, while ignoring crops that use no fertilizer and use waste water to make 8 times more ethanol per acre than corn and clean up the rivers as a freebie and require not one acre of prime cropland. It's all in "Alcohol can be a gas" by David Blume. http://ush2.com/

Any informed individual knows no one moves the main stream media to howl like a mighty Wurlitzer like the Oil and Banking sectors of this Country.

The 2nd. stake through the heart of U.S. commercial Nuclear power was the industry itself. They were not subject to market forces in enough ways to get serious about making a buck.

I had worked with people who worked in the Nuclear plant construction industry in the 70s and the stories I heard will make your head spin.

Laborers throwing wire and rebar scrap down pipe chases followed by a bucket or two of concrete. The problems were not discovered for weeks or months, requiring that work completed had to be demolished and redone.

3rd. The industry is not serious about building a modular plant that would use a single license type and make use of HTGR reactors or the CANDU reactors that require no heavy industry like the huge reactors of the 70s that were scaled up military reactors and were not the best thing from the standpoint of having a product that could be dropped into many areas to replace existing plants now powered by coal or gas.

The HTGR reactor pioneered by the US and West Germany and now being pursued by South Africa and China are looking to fill a niche in the 100 to 300 MW range.

The CANDU reactor needs no enrichment process for its fuel and can be built without any large machining or casting processes necessary. They make reactors on time and on budget. 600 to 1000 MW

Their last reactors built for China were started and finished in 3 yrs. I am certain if we asked politely, the Canadians would let us build CANDU reactors here, for a price.