Friday, December 21, 2007

Energy Bill: Comments

In reaction to this post on the energy bill, astute reader markymark says:

One the issues that struck me with Duke Energy (and the US) is this: every single reactor was custom built.

In France there are two basic designs. Thats it. As an engineer I can walk into any French facility and understand the safety system layout within 10 mins. In the US: 2-3 weeks. In some cases 2 months.

Their entire nuclear energy system is close to a perfect model. Even their use of breeder reactors to process spent fuel rods is 10+ yrs ahead of anything used in the US.
This buttresses my point that we've been incredibly lax in developing upgraded nuclear systems and pursuing ways to produce energy on our own. No new plants in 30 years, with the last license granted in 1995 (see graph).

France is way ahead of us as they derive over 75% of their electricity from nuclear energy, while we come in at around 20%. This is one time where I think we should use France as a model.

The federal government, in addressing a national problem, should at the least be encouraging uprates of existing plants - a much more cost-effective and immediate boost to energy production, according to the Energy Information Administration.

This article talks about these issues and sees a possible resurgence of nuclear power on the horizon.

1 comment:

markymark said...

The advantages of a standard reactor design is twofold:
1) Simplified training.
2) Once the design is certified by the NRC, it can withstand litigation filed by opponents of nuclear energy.

Even with all the varied designs in the US, the safety systems are extraordinarily redundant.
For every safety component there is a duplicate component. Each of the components is monitor by safety code written by two different programmers using different programming packages. All of this reports to two separate master systems. If any of the monitoring systems fall out of step by 1 millisecond it initiates an alarm sequence.
3 Mile Island was a tragic event, but with current systems, that event would be impossible today.
Reactors are so safe, that I wouldn't object to having one in my backyard (thats a bit of a stretch.) and I am an environmentalist.