A letter to our Grand Children - Nuclear Power
In the late 1970s your grandfathers were dedicated to the success of designing, obtaining regulatory approval, and constructing the first large breeder reactor in this country, the Clinch River Breeder Reactor. The design was approached with the discipline utilized effectively by Admiral Rickover in the Naval Reactors program. The design was not only disciplined, documented and controlled (change control and design reviews for releases, Ref. 1.), but incorporated testing prior to plant component construction for any new and critical components. Even with this dedication we were within 10% of the original cost estimates after 6 years of work, while the industry in general, working on conventional nuclear power plants, was running 300-400 to 500% over their cost estimates. Our dedication was to insure that we evolved an outstanding design that was safe and operable in the utility environment. We were dedicated to the immediate job, and didn’t have time for understanding what the politicians and special interests were doing in Washington D.C., we had our job and families to attend to. However we did not have complete blinders on. When solar, wind and geothermal technologies came on the scene the work force on Clinch River were turned loose to evaluate these new-comers. Result – with secretaries and engineers participating in the group studies – was an overwhelming support for our work on the breeder. Our efforts, did not reach far off Washington, D.C., but set us on a course to have our work force= speak to all communities of 100 or more population within 100 miles of the site. We explained what we were doing at Clinch River and answered any questions that the local community had in mind. Yes, we were dedicated to attacking all aspects of our work in designing, obtaining regulatory approval and constructing the first large breeder reactor in the US. France already had an operating breeder reactor and Russia, Germany and Japan were in various stages of breeder reactor development. In the late 1970s, primarily as a result of our outstanding work on the Heterogeneous Core (Ref. 2), the head of the French nuclear program at the time declared, “The Clinch River Breeder Reactor is France’s second Waterloo.” This statement was made when we were only ¾ of the way through design and regulatory approval and had about 60% of all components under construction or completed. Let’s step back and see what was going through our minds at that time. Following is a reproduction of hand-written notes (Ref. 3) made by the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Assistant Manager for Engineering during the late 1970s (recently confirmed): Mining – Number of Acres of land disturbed per year for a 1000 MWe power plan
Transportation Required to Supply a 1000 MWe Power Plant Coal – one train per day Nuclear – one train per year Atmospheric Pollution from a 1000 MWe Power Plant Coal – 352,000 tons per year Nuclear – 0 Quantity of Waste per Year for a 1000 MWe Power Plant Coal – (No number was in the notes – probably ~ 1 train per day) Nuclear – Three - four drawer file cabinets per year US Energy Resources (1977 Electrical Consumption 22.6Q or about 30% of total energy consumption) Coal – 21,400 Q Light Water Reactor – 1570 Q Breeder Reactor – 160,000 Q Oil Estimated – World 8-12,000 Q, US 600-1170 Q Breeder Reactor – Only method of generating electricity that is projected to provide power at a reasonable cost in the future. In the 1970’s UF6 tailings from the Gaseous Diffusion Process, already mined and milled, if used in the Breeder could supply 700 years of US electric power needs at 1975 usage rates. With such a clear advantage over any other electrical supply source on the horizon, looking at these notes 20 years later raised the question: What happened during those 20 years that turned the public against nuclear power and allowed our politicians and government to completely ignore the potential of nuclear power and the breeder reactor? We can only speculate at what transpired during that 20 year interval: Three Mile Island (TMI) Accident – Contrary to media and NRC fanned ‘potential explosion’, such a potential did not exist. However the media’s messages were so strong that people 80 miles east of TMI called to ask if they should evacuate with their families. As the noted nuclear physicist Dr. Edward Teller indicated, “I’m the only person hurt in the TMI accident, I had a heart attack.’ There were no significant health or environmental effects whatsoever, resulting from the TMI accident, even to plant workers. Ref. 4. Chernobyl Accident – Chernobyl, without normal U.S. design considerations including containment and without evacuation, the UN scientific report (UNSCEAR 2000) reports no deaths other than the 30 plant workers and firemen in the plant. The reported thyroid cancers were 97% curable and probably resulted from intensive screening, since they do not correlate with radiation dose. Ref. 5 Regulating Harmless Low-Level Radiation – Does low-dose radiation present a health hazard against which we must mount a multi-million dollar defense? Policy and regulatory practice are firmly based on an unsubstantiated premise. The “massive body of evidence has never been seriously challenged in any specific detail. Those of us who believe in the future of nuclear technology … must insist that this evidence be properly examined and evaluated, and then applied to revising our regulations and guidelines accordingly … then those dealing with nuclear technologies must open their minds, roll up their sleeves, and, on an entirely new basis, create nuclear facilities worthy of the new millennium.” Ref. 6 Breeder Reactor Fuel Supplies – In the late 1970s the depleted UF6, already mined and milled, stored in cylinders in Oak Ridge (K-25), was estimated to be sufficient to supply electrical power for the U.S. if used in breeder reactors (US proven technology) for approximately 700 years. Where do we stand in that 700 year energy supply already mined and milled and stored as depleted Uranium-hexafloride (DUF6) form at Oak Ridge? DOE is in the process of disposing of what DUF6 is left, without mention of a potential long term energy supply or any comment that the material would be retrievable in a form to use as breeder reactor fuel (See US DOE report ORNL-6968 and its appendix report, DUF6 MATERIALS USE ROADMAP, also the chart is taken from the 1995 report DOE/EIA-048(95) - References 7 and 8). As a final note, after sending an e-mail to several retired nuclear engineers, a response was that the U.S. did not have the manufacturing capacity to build a new nuclear plant. This was told to a retired CEO of a large French firm, who responded, “How could the U.S. allow this to happen?” We tried our best to bring you, our grandchildren, almost unlimited electrical power supply. Our dedication to technical accomplishment left open one area that created a failure, allowing the unknowledgeable public officials and the media to influence the public negatively on nuclear power. Maybe this expose will enable you to be successful in your adventures in this new millennium to regain for the U.S. an advantageous electrical power supply position.
Nuclear Power Compared to Coal Power - by Andy Kienlen, Age 11
Nuclear power is generated from mined uranium. It works like this: first nuclear fission makes heat, it heats the water to make steam, the steam turns the turbines, the turbines turn the generator, and electrical power is sent all across the country. Enrico, Rutherford, and Neil Bohr invented nuclear power. The first large scale nuclear power plant was opened at Calden Hall in Cumbria, England, in nineteen fifty‑six. The United States of America uses twenty percent nuclear power, Sweden uses forty‑seven percent, Belgium uses sixty‑five percent, and France uses seventy‑four percent nuclear power. No accidents have occurred in any of these countries that utilize nuclear power. Nuclear power produces less waste than coal power, produces more energy, has a safer working environment, and a better living environment than coal power. Nuclear power does not pollute as much as coal power, therefore, helping to prevent the greenhouse effect, and acid rain. Nuclear power is a better source of energy than coal power. Nuclear power has a safer working environment. One reason is the safety precautions taken to protect the people and the nuclear core. The United States safety precautions for nuclear power plants include five barriers, four safety levels, and manual override switches. The four safety levels are prevention, core protection, containment, and emergency preparedness. They also have emergency crews on stand by if an accident happens. Workers at a nuclear power plant are not exposed to any more radiation than the environment. Workers in coalmines can get killed or injured in a mine collapse, or from dangerous gasses. Thus nuclear power is safer for the people who work there. The opinions of people on nuclear power were set by Chernobyl. Chernobyl was a Russian nuclear power plant in the nineteen‑eighties. There was an accident at the Chernobyl power plant, and it blew up. After the accident a United States committee said that nuclear power in America is the best. The Chernobyl reactor containment prevented a large amount of radioactivity from getting released, however "The United States was making even safer designs"(Dean 60). The Russians made Chernobyl dangerous because they handled it wrong. Dr. Kouts says "the world should make nuclear power safer and that it's an excellent resource". He says, "that the N reactor is safe" (7). Chernobyl was a water reactor but the reactor could burn. United States water reactors can't burn. The United States reactors have a more in depth containment. The United States reactors have five barriers, and four safety functions. The functions are prevention, core protection, containment, and emergency preparedness. United States barriers can withstand more. The Chernobyl barriers could not withstand as much. Chernobyl control rods could only be run on electricity. United States control rods can be manually controlled. Scientists who studied it think the power went out and they could not cool down the reactor at Chernobyl. The United States has more than one system to stop a meltdown. The Russian power plant Chernobyl did not. The United States test their systems more than they did at Chernobyl. The United States has a lot of units on stand by in case there is an accident. The accident at Chernobyl teaches us that nuclear power is safe, however if power plants are not properly constructed the effects can be disastrous. Nuclear fuel is available and profitable, can be recycled, and is available in large quantities around the world. "Coal power requires one hundred trainloads of coal to work. "There have been reported transportation deaths". "Never had an accident with transportation of nuclear fuel"(Robinson 8). Nuclear power uses less uranium and plutonium than coal power uses coal. "Coal power if it runs all of the United States would take 2.12 billion tons of coal". "Nuclear power would take three thousand tons of uranium" (Robinson 3). Nuclear power has over seven hundred years worth of nuclear fuel. This fuel is located in Oakridge, Tennessee, and is worth over seventy trillion dollars. This fuel is Uranium Hexafloride (DUF6) and is stored by the Department of Energy (DOE). This fuel is a by‑product of the K‑25 project. DOE stands for the department of energy. However, the DOE is planning to dispose of the fuel. Nuclear power protects the environment better than coal power does. "Coal power burns over ten thousand pounds of coal per day". "Coal power produces one thousand pounds of waste per minute". "Ash, and sludge disposal requires one hundred and eighty acres to a depth of one hundred feet for a coal power plant" (Robinson 10). "Coal power pollution causes nine thousand two hundred ninety‑two deaths per year, and 22.2 million respiratory cases" (Robinson 19). Nuclear power does not cause that many deaths, nor as many respiratory cases per year. Coal power pollution also causes global warming, droughts, and dust bowls. Nuclear power does not make that much waste per minute, nor does it make that much pollution. Coal power requires large amounts of strip mining. "Coal power usually requires one thousand six hundred acres of strip mining". "if all of the United States was run on coal power it would take up 1.3 million acres per year' (Robinson 10). "Coal mining results in acid mine damage". "The government expects repairs for the coal mines to cost 6.6 billion dollars". "The process to get coal takes longer because they have to crush the coal, and wash the coal". "The washing takes a lot of water to be done" (Robinson 7). Therefore that nuclear power is better for the environment than coal power is. Nuclear power is a better source of energy than coal power. It is safer, available, and environmentally friendly. Nuclear power is not dead it is just sleeping. Even the environmentalists are starting to give it another look. Nuclear power will help us get to the future, and the United States has the resources to do it.