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US Approves Two New Nuclear Reactors 596

JoeRobe writes "For the first time in 30 years, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia. These are the first licenses to be issued since the Three Mile Island incident in 1979. The pair of facilities will cost $14 billion and produce 2.2 GW of power (able to power ~1 million homes). They will be Westinghouse AP1000 designs, which are the newest reactors approved by the NRC. These models passively cool their fuel rods using condensation and gravity, rather than electricity, preventing the possibility of another Fukushima Daiichi-type meltdown due to loss of power to cooling water pumps." Adds Unknown Lamer: "Expected to begin operation in 2016 or 2017, the pair of new AP1000 reactors will produce around 2GW of power for the southeast. This is the first of the new combined construction and operating licenses ever issued by the NRC; hopefully this bodes well for the many other pending applications."
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US Approves Two New Nuclear Reactors

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  • About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @02:45PM (#38985265)

    It's about time we did something to address our growing energy needs.

    Now if we can get politicians to quit treating building more oil refining capacity as a political football, we might take another meaningful step toward energy independence.

    • Don't start celebrating yet. I'm sure the greens will have something to say before it's up and running.

      • Indeed. It will be ten year of court battles over anything and everything, before they break ground.
  • Typical (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @02:45PM (#38985271)

    They'll build them in the South and then send the power up North where the states refuse to allow them.

  • Great news! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by emeyer ( 30603 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @02:47PM (#38985311) Homepage

    If we are going to adopt electric cars in a big way, we need this badly.

    Glad to hear it.


    • Actually, we do not 'NEED' new baseload to handle electric cars. Multiple studies have shown that we have plenty of power and grid for handling electric cars, ASSUMING that you charge them at nighttime. In fact, we will actually LOWER electric prices if we move quickly to electric cars/small vehicles. The reason is that base-load systems produce cheap energy compared to the NG turbines that are used for on-demand.

      However, we need replacements for the numerous coal plants that WILL shut down over the next
  • by Xanny ( 2500844 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @02:48PM (#38985323)
    We have tons of waste from the traditional uranium plants to use up, might as well start building some reactors that produce almost no leftovers.
    • I submitted plans for a flow-through microcapillary array making use of liquefied and diluted fissile fuel to Battelle Memorial Institute while working there (2004-2005). Modern day reactor pebbles are rarely used to more than a quarter of their fissile capacity--primarily because there is so little fissile material in the bulk rock that, at that point, it fails to generate enough heat to be useful. By dissolving and diluting the material the fission reactions could be metered to near atomic identity (one for one, ensuring no unused fuel on the flow out end).

      The primary design problem was operating close to absolute zero. Good luck pushing any liquid through an array of microcapillary tubes and through the fission chamber (filled with gamma radiation to creat the fission events) at that temperature.

      The primary political problem was a ban on combining breeder reactors with actual production reactors. The design for the microcapillary flow-through chamber involved the generation of the liquid fuel (breeder) to be, more or less, on the lab bench adjacent to the electricity producing reaction chamber engine. Due to problems in the past, and concern over record-keeping and stolen fissile material, the generation of the fuel material must be in a seperate facility from the reactor which is attached to the electricity producing turbines.

      All of that aside... nuclear reactors are really a method for human corpse disposal. The trees were much taller until you sinners began dropping out of that tower you were building, and those corposes have lots and lots of water in them. The Egyptians used to press the bodies into bricks--some bricks (eg. Methuseleh), would take hundreds of years to dry out and press together. Stonehenge and Woodhenge are the dregs and the froth from the tun when they began stewing the bodies together en masse. Nuclear reactors were developed in the attempt to dry and press the bodies without clogging up all of the world's real estate. A nuclear reactor is a crematorium array.

  • by wernst ( 536414 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @02:51PM (#38985409) Homepage

    ...as soon as someone forgets to pay the gravity bill, it's Fukushima all over again!

  • by Jerry ( 6400 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @02:52PM (#38985431)

    "The NRC thinks the probability of three nuclear reactors having a meltdown within 3 days is ZERO. They chose this to minimize the cost of development of the AP1000 reactor."

    That's because the NRC is a sock puppet for the Commercial Nuclear Industry.

    https://plus.google.com/107839599438746451936/posts/gEhU26JjGWV [google.com]

  • by prisoner-of-enigma ( 535770 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @02:54PM (#38985453) Homepage

    Cue the environmentalists to come running out of the woodwork, filing every lawsuit they can find, protesting the work site, and in general trying to slow down and interfere with the construction of said nuclear power plant.

    The level of public ignorance never ceases to amaze.

    • by Loss_of_Coolant ( 2445450 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:11PM (#38985773)
      Since the last reactors were built, the United States has upgraded its licensing procedure. With the Combined Operating License (COL) which just got approved, the time has passed for those who wish to object the construction/operation of the plant. A few months ago the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held an open forum to the public to review the AP1000 reactor for the site in question; that was the time to object. So it looks like Southern is a go for construction of this plant.
  • Big questions. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @02:59PM (#38985565)
    Will they be built with standards and interchangeable parts, or by the lowest bidder using totally unique designes that ensure no personal or parts can be used on both?
  • $6.36 per Watt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Qwertie ( 797303 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:01PM (#38985609) Homepage
    (14G$ / 2.2GW) doesn't sound like a good price point to me, with the price of solar being at $3/watt and falling [solarcellcentral.com] (assuming "AC Watts" have the same energy as "DC Watts"). Why so pricey?
    • Re:$6.36 per Watt (Score:4, Insightful)

      by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:23PM (#38986001)

      Because that is installed capacity (GW) and not actually energy production (GWh). So since your solar only produces power 1/2 of the day and reduces power based on latitude and season your actual costs $/GWh is much higher.

    • by HBI ( 604924 )

      Well, your $3/watt and falling solar is useful on average 12 hours a day. Also, in the latitudes that North America is in, the actual power delivered is going to be considerably less than 1 watt for each theoretical max output watt. Seems to me that if you want to use solar to replace these nuclear plants, you'll have to double the size of the solar install to 4.4GW.

      Then, you'll have to find a way to store half of the daily output of the install. I would think that 2.2GW * 12h worth of batteries would pr

    • Re:$6.36 per Watt (Score:5, Informative)

      by khallow ( 566160 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:41PM (#38986327)
      You have to keep in mind that solar covers peaking load not base load. To get base load with solar, you need to back it up with storage. There are other significant factors that diminish solar's advantage.

      At best (clear days all the time and solar panels that move to point at the Sun), you can get 50% of the power rating averaged over the day. For fixed direction installations, that drops to a third. So 100 watts of maneuverable solar panel corresponds to 50 watts of average power for perfect weather conditions and 100 watts of fixed direction solar panel under the same conditions corresponds to about 33 waters of average power over the day.

      The remaining big negative factor for solar is land use. It requires a lot of land to set up an installation of 2.2 GW average power. For maneuverable panels, you'd need almost 9 square kilometers of light gathering area (at 500 W per square meter). For fixed panels, that's 13 square kilometers of light gathering area. There's a modest hidden inefficiency here since solar panels intercept some light for panels behind them when the Sun is near the horizon.

      On the nuclear reactor side, the problem is the big liabilities. The reactor design mitigates some of those liabilities, but not by any means all of them. You still need to figure out what to do with the fuel rods, for example. And until the US figures something out, those rods will be stored on site.

      A remaining potential advantage for this particular reactor design is that if they can build a number of these, then they can enjoy economies of scale in construction, regulatory and safety issues, and other matters in which more working reactors can generate experience to make that activity less costly. It appears that there are six such reactors under construction, two in the US and four in China (with another eight reactors planned in China according to Wikipedia).

      Reading through the Wikipedia article (and links), it appears that the four Chinese reactors under construction are going to generate 4.4 GW of power and cost $8 billion dollars to build. That (if true) changes the economics decisively in favor of nuclear power (though perhaps at substantially higher risk of safety and other liability issues).
  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:03PM (#38985631) Homepage

    That amount of power is sufficient for approximately 1.81 time-travelling DeLoreans.

  • Not a big deal. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:25PM (#38986027) Journal
    I am far more interested in seeing GE Prism and the micro thorium reactors be approved.

    Now, we need NRC to push approval for the micro reactors. We have a large number of coal plants that are going to be shut down over the next 10 years. The choice is what to replace them with. Ideally, small thorium reactors are the ideal choice (though I also like the idea of adding thermal storage combined with a small natural gas boiler).

    The other issue that we have, is that many of the nuke plants are old like Japan's. These plants are going to be closed down over the next 20-30 years. Right now, they are LOADED with large quantities of 'waste' fuel. That 'waste' will need to go to WIPP to be buried for 20K years or more. HOWEVER, if we get the GE PRISM reactor going, then we can drop these into place at each of these sites, and fuel them with the 'waste' fuel. The much smaller amount of output from it would then last only 200 years, of which the worst part is over in something like 50 years.

    Seriously, all of the waste fuel that exists in America combined with thorium (which we have plenty of), combined with AE and Natural gas could fuel America for the next couple of centuries.
  • by rbanzai ( 596355 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:43PM (#38986385)

    Now the legions of contractors and subcontractors will sweep in on a tidal wave of self-service and mediocrity to see who can offer the lowest price for their labor and the best kickbacks to the politicians and NRC people in charge of protecting us.

    It doesn't matter how good your design is or how strict your regulations are when the people that build, own, maintain and oversee nuclear power plants prize money over all other things, including the safety of the population. This is why we continue to have huge industrial disasters. Not because nuclear power is unsafe, or drilling for oil in the gulf is unsafe. It's because the people in positions of responsibility are weak, selfish idiots.

  • by Vegan Cyclist ( 1650427 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @04:15PM (#38986989) Homepage
    Kind of depressing that none of the postings modded up at this moment reflect an anti-nuclear position. There's something a bit off about that. Here's how i see it on Slashdot with the topic of nuclear energy:

    How to be modded up: create a duality of only nuclear and coal options for energy production; belittle the dangers and significance of nuclear disaster; insist that there isn't any issue with waste from nuclear plants and that we will 'use it all up'.

    How to be modded down: mention that uranium is a finite source and that we WILL eventually deal with a depletion in the same way we're facing oil; inject that the costs of insuring nuclear plants are outrageous and that no private firms will (leaving it to governments [ie: citizens] to cover in the event of an emergency); highlight that it takes DECADES to get a plant to operating status (how is that going to help now, next year, or in the next 10 years?) Fact is: nuclear is *expensive*. Finally, a sure-fired way to be modded down is to insist that we have technology accessible to us NOW that can reduce emissions and is not nearly as expensive (environmentally or economically) as nuclear will be.

    FYI, on my own habits - i rarely mod down a post, unless it's blatantly ignorant of any factual matter, and even then it's rare. As suggested, i try to use my mod points to mod up, not down. Would love to see a bit more of that here for a more balanced display of discussion on this subject...

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun