Skip to main content

Out of Zion; Into Small Reactors

zionNuclear Energy Insider has an interesting article up on the decommissioning of Illinois’ Zion facility outside Chicago. There are some details that suggest how this kind of work might be done relatively quickly:
The Zion decommissioning project will take considerably less time than originally planned because the cleanup will bypass one of the most laborious and time-consuming steps of taking down a nuclear plant. According to the New York Times, the project will bypass separating radioactive materials --  which must go to a licensed dump -- from nonradioactive materials, which can be deposited onto ordinary industrial landfills.
The NYT report says that the new strategy eliminates separating the two. Instead, anything that could include radioactive contamination will be treated as radioactive waste.
The article describes it as a 10-year project, which I assume includes moves like this one. There are 12 other shuttered plants in the United States that have not yet set decommissioning dates. It sounds like Zion may provide a model for developing ideas on how to decommission a facility more quickly and at less expense. The whole article is worth a read.
---
Although comparing small reactors to iPads is a little silly, Margaret Ryan tries it out for a couple of paragraphs, then drops it in favor of a pretty good summary of the state of play for the, hmmm, tiny titans?
The Department of Energy has two cost-sharing programs, one that helps developed technology get licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and one to help newer technologies prove their concepts by building prototypes at DOE's Savannah River site. DOE just announced three partnerships for the latter program, with Hyperion Power Generation, Holtec International's SMR subsidiary, and NuScale Power.
The interesting thing about those prototypes is that they can be built without NRC licensing as demonstration projects. Small reactors, by the way, are those that produce 300 or fewer megawatts capacity.
Why have them?
Lyons said SMRs, generally under 300 MW, are the right size to replace coal plants being shut because of age and inability to meet modern pollution standards. However, under the Environmental Protection Agency's deadlines, most of those plants will be shut by 2017, and the SMRs that DOE will assist won't be ready to deploy before the early 2020s.
These timelines may or may not line up, but it isn’t only the older or dirtier coal plants these, um, mighty mites (?) can replace. Or the only niche for them.
TVA is already looking to move into the SMR niche. The company has an agreement with Generation mPower - a joint venture of Babcock & Wilcox and Bechtel. Together they plan to install up to six of GmP's 125- to 180-MW modules at TVA's Clinch River site, said TVA Vice President of Nuclear Generation Jack Bailey at an NRC conference March 14.
Maybe the best way to see the potential here is to say that they have a good many plausible potential uses, as TVA shows – the marketplace for them just isn’t developed yet, though there seems a decided hunger for them in a number of potential areas. It’s way too early to even class them as niche items.
This NEI page offers that they would be good fits to provide “free electricity in remote locations where there is little to no access to the main power grid or … process heat to industrial applications.” The page has lots more good information on these, uh, diminutive dervishes? All right, maybe the iPad idea isn’t so bad.
The Zion facility.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.


Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …