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The Future of Nuclear Power in Our Energy Spectrum Digby D. Macdonald Center for Electrochemical Science and Technology Department of Materials Science.

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Presentation on theme: "The Future of Nuclear Power in Our Energy Spectrum Digby D. Macdonald Center for Electrochemical Science and Technology Department of Materials Science."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Future of Nuclear Power in Our Energy Spectrum Digby D. Macdonald Center for Electrochemical Science and Technology Department of Materials Science and Engineering Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16902

2 Outline Current electricity generation situation What is “nuclear power”. Fission versus fusion. Current status. Advantages and disadvantages. Generation IV reactors and beyond. The political issues. Decommissioning. High Level Nuclear Waste - Is waste a problem or is the “tail wagging the dog”?

3 Hubbert (also Deffeyes & Simmons) have been proved right an abundance of Oil & Energy Oilberta = Energy OVERVIEW Hubbert  Peak Oil – Hubbert predicted declining US reserves after 1975. Declining Global supply after late 2005.  Hubbert re Conventional. Hubbert Kindly supplied by Dr. A. Kaye, Altech Engineering, Inc., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

4 Curves are Totals (Discovery or Production) Note; exlcudes Bitumen-Hvy Oil Oil & Energy Oilberta = Energy OVERVIEW discoveries also form a bell curve World oil production settles down after 1983 to a straight line with consumption increasing >2% steadily every year. World crude production flat since 1988. No country, incl. Saudi Arabia, has unused production capacity Curves =Totals not incremental Kindly supplied by Dr. A. Kaye, Altech Engineering, Inc., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

5 Actuals ; Production _ Consumption an abundance of Oil & Energy OVERVIEW act-Production MISI - USA…. DOE Fact #1 - transportation=greatest use. Fact #2 - transportation growing. Fact #3 – industrial alberta => rapid consumption growth (not shown). P eak O il – Hubbert predicted declining US reserves after 1975. Declining Global supply after late 2005. Kindly supplied by Dr. A. Kaye, Altech Engineering, Inc., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

6 Supply - Demand gap Supply - Demand gap [ Campbell ] Oil & Energy Discovery - Consumption OVERVIEW the growing gap [ref. Campbell_ Zahar] found more oil than produced up to 1980 after 1980 using up reserves. Discovery { "@context": "", "@type": "ImageObject", "contentUrl": "", "name": "Supply - Demand gap Supply - Demand gap [ Campbell ] Oil & Energy Discovery - Consumption OVERVIEW the growing gap [ref.", "description": "Campbell_ Zahar] found more oil than produced up to 1980 after 1980 using up reserves. Discovery

7 Current Electricity Generation 64% of the World’s electricity production is via fossil fuels – this must change dramatically over the next century.



10 What is Nuclear Power? Conversion of mass into energy, by: Release of energy locked up in unstable, heavy atoms (Fission). Release of energy by nuclear synthesis (Fusion, emulating the stars). Huge resource – enough energy to power the world for millions of years (if we last that long!). What processes can be made to convert mass into energy? With what efficiency?

11 Periodic Table of the Elements

12 A Brief Primer on Nuclear Fission Discovery of the neutron by Chadwick (1936, UK) Fissioning of uranium by 1 n 0 by Meitner, Hahn and Strassmann in Germany in 1939. Bohr - only the rare isotope 235 U 92 (0.7% nat. abundance), and not the more plentiful isotope 238 U 92 (99.3%), underwent fission by neutron bombardment. 235 U 92 - can be fissioned by thermal (slow, walking speed) neutrons or by fast neutrons. Probability of each is measured by the fission cross section (σ) in units of Barnes (1 B =10 -24 cm 2, essentially the area of a nucleus). For 235 U 92, σ = 1000 B and 5-8 B for thermal (E ~ 40 meV) and fast (E > 10 MeV) neutrons, respectively. Possible to sustain a chain reaction in natural uranium containing only 0.7% 235 U 92, if the moderation (“slowing down” or “thermalizing” the energy) of the neutrons is very efficient (Heisenberg 1944). Good moderators are very pure graphite, heavy water (D 2 O, the best), and light water (poor compared with D 2 O). CANDU reactors uses D 2 O as the moderator - no need for enriched fuel. Light water (H 2 O) reactors - poorer moderator properties of H 2 O compared with D 2 O requires that the fuel be enriched to increase the number density of 235 U 92 “targets”. The fuel is commonly enriched to 2.5 - 3% Fast reactors, in which little moderation of the neutrons occurs, like atom bombs, require highly enriched fuel to operate (commonly > 40% 235 U 92 ) At the extreme of this spectrum, an atom bomb requires “bomb grade” fuel of > 96% 235 U 92 and a few other attributes that a reactor does not have and which result in an explosion.

13 If the neutron energy is high enough, almost any nucleus can be fissioned. Thus, in a nuclear bomb, a significant fraction of the energy comes from the fissioning of 238 U 92 tamper (shell of natural or depleted uranium around the 239 Pu 94 “pit”). Likewise, in a fast (neutron) reactor, transuranic elements, such as Am and Cm, are fissioned (“transmuted”) to produce a benign waste – hence the name ”actinide burner”. Note that each fission produces 2-3 neutrons that can then fission other “fertile” atoms, such as 235 U 92, 239 Pu 94, and 232 Th 90 to produce a chain reaction. 1, 2, 4, 8, ….2 n, where n is the number of generations. Some neutrons may be captured by non- fertile atoms (e.g., 238 U 92 to produce other elements. If the capture cross section is sufficiently high (e.g., 10 B 5 ) the elements act as “poisons” and may stop the chain reaction. Poisoning by fission products eventually limits the “burn-up” of the fuel.


15 Neutron Capture The capture cross section for fast neutrons by 238 U 92 is not zero, so that the following occur: 1 n 0 + 238 U 92 → 239 U 92 * 239 U 92 * → 239 Np 93 + e - (β particle) 239 Np 93 → 239 Pu 94 + e - (β particle) But, we also have 1 n 0 + 239 Pu 94 → 240 Pu 94 (non-fissile by thermal neutrons) 1 n 0 + 240 Pu 94 → 241 Pu 94 (spontaneously fissile) etc If the neutron economy can be arranged such that the rate of production of 239 Pu 94 exceeds the rate of consumption of 235 U 92, and since 239 Pu 94 is fissile to neutrons, the reactor produces more fuel than it consumes – thus it is a “breeder reactor”. It is estimated that about 40% of the power in a PWR at the end of a cycle is produced by fissioning plutonium.

16 Mass/Energy Duality All energy generation arises from the conversion of mass. In 1905, Albert Einstein: E = mc 2 c = 3x10 8 m/s. Therefore, 1 gram of mass ≡ 9x10 13 J. That’s a lot of energy!!! But, how much is it exactly? Noting that 1W = 1J/s, the conversion of 1g/s of mass corresponds to the generation of 9x10 13 W or 9x10 7 MW. A large nuclear power plant is 1000 MWe or 3000MWt, so that it would take 30,000 such plants to destroy 1 g/s. Or, from another perspective, a typical plant converts about 33µg/s or 1 kg/year of mass into energy. Energy generation technologies may be differentiated by their mass conversion efficiencies, as indicated next.

17 FuelEnergy ( Converted Mass (µg) % Conversion 1 bbl. oil576231.64x10 -8 1 ton coal2,297920.92x10 -8 100 ft 3 CH 4 120.482.37x10 -8 1g 235 U 92 9290.093 2D1+3T12D1+3T1 0.019428u0.38 Mass Conversion Efficiencies


19 TABLE 5: Nuclear power plants in commercial operation Reactor type Main countries Num ber GWeFuelCoolant Modera tor Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) US, France, Japan, Russia, China, Korea, UK, South Africa 252235 Slightly enriched UO 2 water Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) US, Japan, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan 9383 Slightly enriched UO 2 water Gas-cooled Reactor (Magnox & AGR) UK3413 natural U (metal), enriched UO 2 CO 2 graphite Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor "CANDU" (PHWR) Canada, Romania, Korea, India 3318natural UO 2 heavy water Light Water Cooled Graphite Reactor (RBMK) Russia14 Slightly enriched UO 2 watergraphite Fast Neutron Breeder Reactor (FNBR) Japan, France, Russia 41.3 Highly enriched PuO 2 and UO 2 liquid sodium none otherRussia, Japan50.2 TOTAL435364 Source: Nuclear Engineering International handbook 2000.

20 Some energy-related accidents since 1977 Placeyearnumber killedcomments Machhu II, India19792500hydro-electric dam failure Hirakud, India19801000hydro-electric dam failure Ortuella, Spain198070gas explosion Donbass, Ukraine198068coal mine methane explosion Israel198289gas explosion Guavio, Colombia1983160hydro-electric dam failure Nile R, Egypt1983317LPG explosion Cubatao, Brazil1984508oil fire Mexico City1984498LPG explosion Tbilisi, Russia1984100gas explosion northern Taiwan19843143 coal mine accidents Chernobyl, Ukraine198631+nuclear reactor accident Piper Alpha, North Sea1988167explosion of offshore oil platform Asha-ufa, Siberia1989600LPG pipeline leak and fire Dobrnja, Yugoslavia1990178coal mine Hongton, Shanxi, China1991147coal mine Belci, Romania1991116hydro-electric dam failure Kozlu, Turkey1992272coal mine methane explosion Cuenca, Equador1993200coal mine Durunkha, Egypt1994580fuel depot hit by lightning Some fatalities in energy related activities

21 Taegu, S.Korea1995100oil & gas explosion Spitsbergen, Russia1996141coal mine Henan, China199684coal mine methane explosion Datong, China1996114coal mine methane explosion Henan, China199789coal mine methane explosion Fushun, China199768coal mine methane explosion Kuzbass, Siberia199767coal mine methane explosion Huainan, China199789coal mine methane explosion Huainan, China199745coal mine methane explosion Guizhou, China199743coal mine methane explosion Donbass, Ukraine199863coal mine methane explosion Liaoning, China199871coal mine methane explosion Warri, Nigeria1998500+oil pipeline leak and fire Donbass, Ukraine199950+coal mine methane explosion Donbass, Ukraine200080coal mine methane explosion Shanxi, China200040coal mine methane explosion Guizhou, China2000150coal mine methane explosion Shanxi, China200138coal mine methane explosion LPG and oil accidents with less than 300 fatalities, and coal mine accidents with less than 100 fatalities are generally not shown unless recent. Deaths per million tons of coal mined range from 0.1 per year in Australia and USA to 119 in Turkey to even more in other countries. China's total death toll from coal mining averages well over 1000 per year (reportedly 5300 in 2000); Ukraine's is over two hundred per year (eg. 1999: 274, 1998: 360, 1995: 339, 1992: 459).

22 Serious Reactor Accidents Serious accidents in military, research and commercial reactors. All except Browns Ferry and Vandellos involved damage to or malfunction of the reactor core. At Browns Ferry a fire damaged control cables and resulted in an 18-month shutdown for repairs, at Vandellos a turbine fire made the 17 year old plant uneconomic to repair. Reactor DateImmediate DeathsEnvironmental effectFollow-up action NRX, Canada (experimental, 40 MWt) 1952Nil Repaired (new core) closed 1992 Windscale-1, UK (military plutonium- producing pile) 1957Nil Widespread contamination. Farms affected (c 1.5 x 10 15 Bq released) Entombed (filled with concrete) Being demolished. SL-1, USA (experimental, military, 3 MWt) 1961Three operators Very minor radioactive release Decommissioned Fermi-1 USA (experimental breeder, 66 MWe) 1966Nil Repaired, restarted 1972

23 Lucens, Switzerland (experimental, 7.5 MWe) 1969Nil Very minor radioactive release Decommissioned Browns Ferry, USA (commercial, 2 x 1080 MWe) 1975Nil Repaired Three-Mile Island-2, USA (commercial, 880 MWe) 1979Nil Minor short-term radiation dose (within ICRP limits) to public, delayed release of 2 x 10 14 Bq of Kr-85 Clean-up program complete, in monitored storage stage of decommissioning Saint Laurent-A2, France (commercial, 450 MWe) 1980Nil Minor radiation release (8 x 10 10 Bq) Repaired, (Decomm. 1992) Chernobyl-4, Ukraine (commercial, 950 MWe) 1986 31 staff and firefighters Major radiation release across E.Europe and Scandinavia (11 x 10 18 Bq) Entombed Vandellos-1, Spain (commercial, 480 MWe) 1989Nil Decommissioned

24 In essence, the Little Boy design consisted of a gun that fired one mass of uranium 235 at another mass of uranium 235, thus creating a supercritical mass. A crucial requirement was that the pieces be brought together in a time shorter than the time between spontaneous fissions. Once the two pieces of uranium are brought together, the initiator introduces a burst of neutrons and the chain reaction begins, continuing until the energy released becomes so great that the bomb simply blows itself apart. But can we afford this? Proliferation!

25 On July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 AM, a light "brighter than a thousand suns, " filled the valley. As the now familiar mushroom cloud rose in to the sky, Oppenheimer quoted from Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-gita, "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." The world had entered the nuclear age. The "Gadget" had a yield equivalent to 19 kilotons of TNT. "Fat Man", the bomb dropped on Nagasaki was identical in design to the "Gadget." Resulting in this

26 In 1951, a test at Eniwetok Atoll in the South Pacific, demonstrated the release of energy from nuclear fusion. Weighing 65 tons, the apparatus was an experimental device, not a weapon, that had been constructed on the basis of the principles developed by Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam. On November 1, 1952, a 10.4 megaton thermonuclear explosion code-named MIKE, ushered in the thermonuclear age. The island of Elugelab in the Eniwetok Atoll, was completely vaporized. Or this!

27 Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR)

28 Boiling Water Reactor (BWR)








36 Boiling Water Reactor

37 Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR)


39 Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor – CANadian Dueterium moderated natural Uranium (CANDU)

40 Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (AGR)

41 RBKM Reactor (Chernobyl reactor)

42 US Nuclear Industry Is Achieving Record Levels of Performance (1980-1999)


44 Advanced Reactor Designs -standardised designs with passive safety systems GE-Hitachi-Toshiba ABWR1300 MWe BWRJapan & USA ABB-CE System 80+1300 MWe PWRUSA Westinghouse AP 500600 MWe BWRUSA AECL CANDU-992 -1300 MWe HWRCanada OKBM V-407 (VVER)640 MWe PWRRussia OKBM V-392 (VVER)1000 MWe PWRRussia Siemens et al EPR1525-1800 MWe PWRFrance & Germany GA-Minatom GTMHRmodules of 250 MWe HTGRUS-Russia-Fr-Jp Generation III Advanced Reactors

45 EVOLUTIONARY: Four advanced boiling-water reactors, such as this one at the Lungmen Power Station, Taiwan, are under construction in Japan and Taiwan. TAIWAN POWER COMPANY PHOTO

46 ConceptModeratorCoolantOperating Temperature Capabilities/Fe atures Gas Cooled Fast Reactor None (fast neutron spectrum) Helium850 o C Actinide burner Pu breeding Ceramic fuel Lead Cooled Fast Reactor None (fast neutron spectrum) Liquid lead550 – 800 o CActinide burner Pu breeding U/Pu metallic fuel SS cladding Sodium Cooled fast Reactor None (fast neutron spectrum) Liquid sodium550 – 800 o C Actinide burner Pu breeding U/Pu metallic fuel SS cladding Generation IV Fast Neutron Reactors

47 ConceptModeratorCoolantOperating Temperature Capabilities Molten Salt Reactor Graphite (thermal neutron spectrum) Helium850 o CActinide burner Pu breeding Homogeneous fuel Supercritical Water Reactor Light water (thermal neutron spectrum) Water500 -600 o CActinide burner Pu breeding Very high thermal efficiency Very High Temperature Reactor Graphite (thermal neutron spectrum) Helium1000 o CActinide burner Pu breeding Hydrogen production Generation IV Thermal Neutron Reactors


49 TEST RIG This model of a power conversion system for the pebble bed modular reactor was designed and built by the Faculty of Engineering, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa. PBMR (PTY) LTD. PHOTO

50 IMPACT RESISTANT The pebble bed modular reactor building is designed to withstand significant external forces such as aircraft impacts, explosions, or tornadoes. The reactor pressure vessel (left) and power conversion unit (right) are housed in a reinforced concrete structure. IMAGE COURTESY OF PBMR (PTY) LTD.

51 FUSION Thermo-nuclear synthesis of higher elements from the light elements (e.g., helium from the isotopes of hydrogen). Process occurs in the stars, including our sun. Relies on bringing together nuclei that are subjected to Columbic repulsion. Requires very high temperatures and hence kinetic energies to overcome the repulsion. Promises virtually unlimited energy supply. Feasibility technically proven – thermonuclear weapons, JET, ITER. Isotopes of hydrogen; 2 D 1 (deuterium), 3 T 1 (tritium). Minimal inter- nuclear repulsion. Results in much greater conversion of mass into energy than does fission. Minimal waste (some neutron activation of structural materials). Two basic strategies: Plasma inertial confinement (emulates the stars) and laser implosion (emulates thermonuclear weapons). Both have enjoyed some success, but practical devises are still many decades away.

52 Definitions: 1 u = 1.660538782x10 -27 kg = 931.494028 MeV/c 2 Masses of Nucleons and Light Atom Nuclei SpeciesMass (MeV) Mass (u)Mass (kg)Name e-e- 0.511005.485870x10 -4 9.1095x10 -31 Electron p+p+ 0.511005.485870x10 -4 9.1095x10 -31 Positron 1p11p1 9381.0072764701.672621643x10 -27 Proton 1n11n1 9401.0086649041.674927191x10 -27 Neutron 3 He 2 2809.3859883.0165.008184967x10 -27 Helium-3 2H1(2D1)2H1(2D1) 1875.6127922.013553212703.343583198x10 -27 Deuteron 3H13H1 2809.7631693.01604925.008266665x10 -27 Triton 4 He 2 3727.3826684.001516.644058466x10 -27 Helium 4

53 Thermonuclear Reactions ReactionReaction EquationInitial Mass (u)Mass Change (u)% Mass Change D-D 2 D 1 + 2 D 1 → 3 He 2 + 1 n 0 4.027106424-2.44152x10 -3 0.06062 D-D 2 D 1 + 2 D 1 → 3 H 1 + 1 p 1 4.027106424-3.780754x10 -3 0.09388 D-T 2 D 1 + 3 T 1 → 4 He 2 + 1 n 0 5.029602412-0.0194275080.3863 e - -p + e - + p + → 2hν1.8219x10 -31 -1.8219x10 -31 100 Must overcome Coulombic repulsion of nuclei in the plasma

54 Preferred Reaction The easiest reaction to achieve is: 2 D 1 + 3 T 1  4 He 2 + 1 n 0 Deuterium occurs naturally while tritium does not Tritium must be “bred”: 6 Li 3 + 1 n 0  3 T 1 + 4 He 2 Process can be run from just two elements: lithium and deuterium Lowest “ignition” temperature. PRINCETON PLASMA PHYSICS LABORATORY..

55 Lawson Energy Balance Yields the conditions necessary for the generation of power from a confined plasma. nT > 10 21 keV.m -3.s n = plasma density (m -3 ). T = plasma temperature (keV) confinement time (s) Low density, long confinement time – Tokamak High density, short confinement time – Laser fusion Q = nT /Input power > 10 for practical reactor (ITER).

56 Containment Methods Fusion must be controlled to be useful Three major containment categories: –Gravitational –Sun & stars –Magnetic -- Tokamaks –Inertial -- Laser

57 Tokamak Uses poloidal and toroidal magnets to control the shape and density of the plasma

58 Heating Methods Ohmic – initial heating Neutral beam injection Radio waves Magnetic compression

59 Experimental Reactors Joint European Torus (JET) Can use Deuterium and Tritium Has produced 16.1 MW of power Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) D-shaped containment Superconducting electromagnets

60 ITER Being funded by the international community Full scale device –Produce 500MW of power –500 second length Goal is to prove that fusion power is attainable Published with permission of ITER.

61 Inertial Confinement Uses lasers to heat and compress fuel pellets of deuterium and tritium Energy levels become so high they can overcome natural repelling forces and collide These collisions create energy and causes the ignition of the rest of the fuel.

62 Inertial Confinement Fusion (cont.) Controversial because it is the same technique used in Hydrogen Bombs – radiation compression National Ignition Facility being built for research in ICF at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Uses 192 laser beams designed to deliver 1.8 million joules of ultraviolet laser energy and 500 terawatts of power to millimeter-sized targets.

63 Nuclear vs. Other forms of Energy If an average size, 1000 MWe reactor is run at 90 % capacity for one year, 7.9 billion KWh are produced. This is enough to supply electricity to about 740,000 houses. To equal this with other forms of energy, you would need the following amounts of material. Table from ref. [6]

64 Coal versus Fusion

65 Decommissioning Plants are licensed for 40 years, but may ask for license extension (60 years or even 80 years). All plants will eventually be decommissioned (dismantled), which may take up to 60 years and cost more than $300 million. NRC requires that the utilities put aside sufficient funds in a trust account to cover decommissioning. Nuclear power plants can be decommissioned using three methods: 1. Dismantling -- Parts of the reactor are removed or decontaminated soon after the plant closes and the land can be used. 2. Safe Storage -- The nuclear plant is monitored and radiation is allowed to decay; afterward, it is taken down. 3. Entombment -- Radioactive components are sealed off with concrete and steel, allowing radiation to “decay” until the land can be used for other purposes.


67 Spent Fuel-High Level Nuclear Waste Often identified by the press as being an unsolved problem – not true! Valuable resource in its own right - ~2 % of “unburned” 235 U 92, 239 Pu 94, 240 Pu 94, 241 Pu 94, etc,, platinum group metals, and other products. Reprocessing under strict controls makes good economic and national security sense. Already practiced by France, UK, Japan, Belgium, Russia. Most viable proposals are geological storage – Yucca Mountain is one of the more advanced such facilities, but others are planned or are being built in Canada, Sweden, France, Belgium, Germany, Japan, and a few other countries. Proposals have been made to transform the waste by proton (accelerator) or neutron (Reactor, e.g., CANDU) bombardment. The latter is also achieved in the fast neutron, “actinide burner” reactors of Generation IV to produce additional power. The resulting waste is essentially small in volume and is benign. Little incentive to bury the waste at the current time, because studies have shown that a better option is to store the waste above ground for at least 50 – 100 years to allow the most active isotopes to decay and hence to reduce the heat output of the spent fuel.




71 Yucca Mountain, Nevada

72 Yucca Mountain



75 SUMMARY The advantages of nuclear power far outweigh the disadvantages. Nuclear power is not well understood by the general public. An irrational fear has built up over the years, most likely due to military applications and waste. Subjected to shrill propaganda from anti-nuclear groups, who have been unable to defeat the technology on technical grounds, but who have enjoyed modest success in making the cost close to being prohibitive. Generation IV fission reactors and fusion reactors will essentially remove remaining objections (waste, core meltdowns, proliferation, etc). In the end, we may have no choice, because the current alternative (burning fossil fuels) may be ecologically unacceptable.

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