Let’s kick off the year with news that has a, shall we say, rather odd tinge to it:
Chinese scientists have mastered the technology for reprocessing nuclear fuel, potentially yielding additional power sources to keep the country's economy booming, state television has reported.
The breakthrough will extend by many times the amount of power that can be generated from China's nuclear plants by allowing the recovery of fissile and fertile materials to provide new fuel, CCTV said.
Well – that’s good news, I guess, though it sounds like fast reactor technology to me.
It gets a little stranger:
Chinese scientists have been working on the technology for more than 20 years, but the details of the process they developed are being kept secret, CCTV said.
Hmmm. This story goes a little further:
China is not the first country to discover this technique. However, China’s discovery of the process is likely to have a far bigger environmental impact than in the other cases.
And a little further into why China is interested in extending the life of its uranium supply (and why it will have an environmental impact):
China is also interested in decreasing its dependence on foreign coal to run its power plants. While its power plants currently consume 47 per cent of coal produced in the world, only 14 per cent of global coal resources are held in China. This means that China must import huge quantities of a substance vital to its economy.
But it has plenty of uranium, which its “new” technique will extend well beyond the 70 years estimated to 3000 years.
It all sounds fantastical, but assuming it’s true, ramping down its coal plants for nuclear is only good for China. I couldn’t find a story that really made much sense of what’s going on here – it’s wise to add a layer or two of verifiability to a controlled society like China before giving its claims any weight – but it certainly bears watching.
Politico weighs in on the tea party-associated new members of Congress and their views on nuclear energy, but unfortunately, the article is a veritable mess of misinformation and incoherence. The latter comes into play because there is no unified position among new members. Each new Congress person has or hasn’t thought about nuclear energy (or energy issues in general) and may or may not have an opinion about it.
But the article is worse than that, attempting to provide a view not actually supported by facts:
But those loan guarantees are now drawing heavy fire from conservatives looking for places to cut federal spending obligations. Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Taxpayers Union have urged Congress to drop additional loan-guarantee funds.
“We have to question those who consider themselves fiscal conservatives [while] supporting nuclear power, which is, essentially, the most heavily subsidized form of power in a heavily subsidized industry,” Ryan Alexander, president of TCS, said in an interview.
First, nuclear energy is far from the “most heavily subsidized form of power.” That would be coal and its fossil fuel relatives.
A recent study analyzed all federal energy expenditures from 1959 to 2006 and found that of the $725 billion that was distributed, 73 percent went to oil, natural gas and coal; 18 percent to hydro and renewable; and nine percent to nuclear.
Secondly, loan guarantees do not represent an outlay by the government:
A loan guarantee provides government backing for a loan that allows companies to access capital at lower interest rates. This reduces the overall project cost, which means lower electricity prices for consumers. All guaranteed loans must be paid back in full, and project sponsors must pay a fee to the government to participate in the loan guarantee program. There is no cost to taxpayers unless there is a default, which is unlikely because of the stringent financial requirements of the nuclear loan guarantee program.
One of the less useful stories I’ve seen lately. Even China’s miracle recycling regime makes more sense.
The Beijing-Tianjen nuclear plant.