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US to build six nuclear power plants in India (www.aljazeera.com)
272 points by sandwall 10 days ago | hide | past | web | 214 comments | favorite





India has an intricate history with nuclear technology. Both the Soviet Union and the US courted India in the 1950s, but in the end it was Canada who donated a design for the first Indian reactor that came online in the 1960s. The US assisted with building another. Indian testing of nuclear weapons in the 1970s drew a sharp rebuke from several countries and the US and Canada withdrew their assistance. This also resulted in the creation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an export control regime to prevent nuclear proliferation. Cut off from exporters of nuclear technology, they slowly continued with domestic designs and new research. But their tremendous size and influence made them an attractive partner in geopolitical power plays.

In 1988 the Soviet Union and India announced they would build two new reactors, and the US fiercely protested at the time. The Soviet Union fell apart, and the Russians didn't resume the project for another 10 years, but construction eventually began in 2002. In 2006 the US and India reached an agreement to cooperate and the US lobbied for an exemption for India from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which was granted. It quickly became obvious that everyone wanted a slice of the Indian nuclear energy market.

Disregarding climate change for a moment, it's clear that the energy demand in India is increasing, and despite a rapid rise in the deployment of renewables, utility-scale generation is still 75% coal. This contributes greatly to pollution. Local coal lower quality than elsewhere, requiring more per unit of power. Nuclear will be an important complement to renewables as the energy mix slowly migrates off of coal. Unlike the US, which is awash in cheap natural gas that's readily stored and piped where needed, helping to even out the mismatch between solar generation and demand, India has very little natural gas, so it can't afford to pursue a strategy that deemphasizes nuclear energy.


Missing from that history was India developing nuclear weapons in the late 90s - I imagine that changed the politics immensely.

Today they are an even more important and influential geopolitical ally, and the pollution argument you raise is as important as you say, but the concerns about a power supplying them with nuclear weapons ala the alleged Israel/US history is no longer a part of it (I assume).

...then again, I could be completely wrong in any of this. Comments welcome.


India started developing nuclear weapons in the 1950s and first tested a nuclear bomb in 1974.

One concern is nuclear material being diverted from their civilian programs to weapons programs. As a major suppler of uranium, this has been an issue in Australia for the last decade. India wants Australian uranium, but they aren't a party to the non-proliferation treaty. It seems that the $ won out though, as Australia is now shipping uranium to India.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-19/australia-quietly-mak...


it's worth understanding why India doesn't sign the non-proliferation treaty.

The treaty essentially states that only 5 countries (US, UK, France, China, Russia) can have nuclear weapons. India says this is discriminatory: either all countries denuclearize or other countries can develop nuclear weapons.

afaik india has a good record of preserving its nuclear secrets, and not doing "proliferation" to other countries.


Plus, India has a no first use policy. So it's not like India will threaten other countries with nuclear consequences in case of war like situations. This makes India's approach to nuclear weapons safer, IMO.

Of course, such policies can be changed whenever India would want to.


It is also worth noting that there's a big difference in enrichment plants for power plants vs enrichment plants for weapons grade material (this was a big part of the Iran deal). That being said, it isn't like you can't make a weapon out from the power grade enrichment plants, but it is substantially harder. It is even harder if you're being watched (by say... the US or Russia).

> The treaty essentially states that only 5 countries (US, UK, France, China, Russia) can have nuclear weapons. India says this is discriminatory: either all countries denuclearize or other countries can develop nuclear weapons.

Part of the treaty is that those 5 are supposed to (gradually) denuclearise, and also to assist with civilian power efforts.


> Part of the treaty is that those 5 are supposed to (gradually) denuclearise

and how is that going for the big players since the treaty was singed ?


Like other comments have noted, it's almost taken for granted that 5 countries can dictate who does and doesn't get access to uranium. It's fine that they collude, but legitimizing their collusion as logical or moral isn't really convincing. Discrimination isn't logical, especially when the club includes Russia and China - countries famous for being overtly belligerent, with a horrible human rights track record

In what way is China overtly belligerent compared to, say, the US?

What was the last territory that the US annexed? What territory has it formally annexed as the dominant superpower for the last 70 years? Hawaii is about it, with the US controlling Hawaii since the 19th century.

China just recently used its military to annex territory the size of India. The largest territory grab since Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were piling up conquests. That's after annexing Tibet (larger than Colombia) immediately after WW2. Next they plan to annex the world's 21st largest economy and one of the largest economies in Asia in Taiwan. Most of China's neighbors are openly terrified of it, including South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Meanwhile the US has maintained stable, massive borders with Canada and Mexico for a very long time, despite being comically more powerful in every regard. The US isn't attempting to annex the Gulf of Mexico away from Mexico & Co., even though it trivially could and nobody could stop it. Neither Canada nor Mexico are actually afraid of the US.

Canada's border with the US has been the largest, longest non-militarized border in world history. India, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam (arguably Russia as well) are in perpetual military stand-off mode on their territory and borders with China.

Dozens of countries allow the US to station its superpower military inside their borders, with zero fear of being annexed or invaded for conquest. Japan, Germany, Poland, South Korea, the Baltics, et al. are not afraid the US is suddenly going to decide to try to annex them or their territory.


Let's not overlook the recent skirmish with adjacent nuclear power, Pakistan.

Maybe citations would help, but language like "Canada donated a design" simply makes no sense geopolitically. No country "donates" nuclear tech

[1] Canada blamed for India's 'peaceful' bomb [Radio broadcast]. (1974, May 20). In As It Happens. Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved March 14, 2019, from https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/1974-canada-blamed-for-ind...

[2] Perkovich, G. (2001). India's nuclear bomb: The impact on global proliferation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. <https://books.google.com/books?id=UDA9dUryS8EC>

[3] Ramana, M V (2012). The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India. Penguin Books Limited. <https://books.google.com/books?id=5m8Atq0ncrwC>


Quoting your CBC citation:

"The nuclear device was built using plutonium obtained from the 40-megawatt Cirus research reactor, a gift from Canada"

Plutonium, the raw material (also) used for making bombs, was "donated". And apparently a working "research" reactor. A bomb design was certainly not donated, nor is it evident that Canada intended to transfer nuclear tech intellectual property, all the article claims was Canada's intent to sell working reactors and fuel, not designs, to India. FYI - Canada wouldn't have wanted India to have nuclear IP, for fear of cannibalising it's nuclear revenue stream of fuel and reactors to India!!

Just the be clear, 31 countries have working nuclear power reactors, while only 7 have bombs. Unless you intend to undermine India's indigenous nuclear capabilities, all this hand waving about Canada "donating" designs doesn't hold up. After all, we're talking about the most lethal of weapons here, not candies that are casually "donated". Western intelligence agencies have a storied history of preventing nuclearization. India got nuclear despite the West, not because of


I think OP is suggesting that Canada donated the reactor design, not a blueprint for a nuclear bomb.

Yep. Hell, as far as I know, we've never even designed a nuclear bomb, and the only nukes on Canadian soil were American built and controlled, and gone as soon as they were no longer needed up here.

But the suggestion is inaccurate, based on the OP's own citation. Reactor design IP is a closely guarded secret, heavily regulated and controlled to prevent nuclearization of other countries.

India used the low enriched Uranium fuel reactor donated by Canada to breed plutonium and make nuclear bombs in 70's. Before that nobody thought it were possible to make nuclear weapons with low enriched uranium reactor to breed plutonium. Nonetheless India is a mature nuclear power, the world should really be worried about is pakistan as a nuclear state.

Every single time I remember that Pakistan is a nuclear power, I am a bit worried.

It's certainly in a top 5 position of countries I'd rather not have access to nuclear weapons.


Well, in the recent skirmishes it seems that Pakistan was actually the more level headed of the two. India has been agitating about Kashmir due to local elections coming up, and BJP wants to gather the 'tough on Pakistan/national security' votes.

Well, that's after you conveniently take away the fact that Pakistan essentially started the latest skirmish. You really can't blame India for responding to the murder of their people on their soil, can you?

The difference is (a) government control over the army and (b) the role of paramilitaries... It just means that pakistan has more vectors for escalation. Populist flag thumping is a vestor in both countries.

> India plans to triple its nuclear capacity by 2024 to wean Asia's third-largest economy off polluting fossil fuels.

One has to admire the no-nonsense problem solving happening here.


India plans to triple its nuclear capacity by 2024 to wean Asia's third-largest economy off polluting fossil fuels.

That's a really short timeline. India's newest reactor Kudankulam 2 took 14 years from construction start to first criticality:

https://pris.iaea.org/PRIS/CountryStatistics/ReactorDetails....

The only American reactors currently under construction, Vogtle 3 and 4, were originally supposed to be built in less than 5 years but are now projected to take 8 years.

But maybe the American reactors aren't intended to be part of the generation added by 2024. India does have 7 reactors currently under construction.


2024 is an eyewatering timeframe, but the actual construction might not be the hardest part. The Chinese have figured out how to do prefabbed skyscrapers in 19 days [0] and the prefabbing is probably highly parallel. If a nuclear plant is 100 times harder than a skyscraper to build that is still only about 5 years as a lower bound.

If they've already done the scoping, fundraising, location picking and had a construction firm who optimised for speed & quality but not cost then I can see ~5 years as achievable, although they probably won't manage it. This is one of nuclear many advantages over more usual nonrenewable, things can happen orders of magnitude more quickly because the physical footprint is so small.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/30/chinese-constr...


AFAIK one limitation is forging of the large pressure vessels, mainly the reactor itself and the steam generators. Those take a long time. Of course you can do multiple ones in parallel, but then the limit is that there's about 25 heavy forge presses on the planet, of which only a subset are doing nuclear work. So in total the capacity at the moment is maybe 50 large pressure vessels per year worldwide. If one plant requires one reactor and 4 steam generators that would then be 10 plants per year.

Of course it's possible to increase the worldwide heavy forging capacity, but again, something that takes time.

Then there are many reactor designs that don't use water as a coolant or moderator; those are obviously not restricted by heavy forge capacity. But those reactors are mostly on the drawing board and not available off the shelf.


Why would forging be a requirement? Hasn't material science reached a point where we can built alloys that can be just cast into the right shape? Can't the problem of them being slightly weaker be solved by just making them thicker (not a problem for nuclear I'd guess bc you don't build that many pieces and you don't need to move them much), or by just having stuff like turbines replaced more often?

I know that mixing "nuclear" + "cheaper manufacturing" sounds scary, but maybe it's a better idea... why would you need "best of the best" materials for pieces that (1) stay in one place (they're not airplanes!) and (2) can be replaced/serviced/inspected on fixed schedules following fixed procedures on fixed budgets etc.

Modern forges were perfected by the germans in the war because they wanted to build airplane parts (!!) and they wanter to build them fast... I'd imagine nuclear power technology has none of this requirements and can be re-designed to work with commodity low-quality parts and have the movable pieces easily replace-able...

(I'd imagine that if people would get over the "uuh, nuclear, scarry, scarry" mindset nuclear technology could become a dirt cheap commodity and be build with a mixture of ceramics + cheap alloys just fine...)


That's a pretty good question, so I looked things up a little. Casting, especially on pieces this big, is difficult. It has problems with chemical segregation due to temperature gradients in the material, as well as porosity from the differential shrinkage due to the same temperature gradients [1,2]. From [2] "Consolidation of porosity formed in the ingot during solidification and homogenization is the major aim of the initial stage of forging. After that, the material is forged to form the shape of the desired products." The porosity and chemical segregation if I remember correctly, is very bad in nuclear applications, where bubbling and embrittlement would only be accelerated in non-homogenous materials. They are usually 1 piece to minimize welds, and this is just a feeling, but I think replacing the pressure vessel is pretty much currently the same as buying a new reactor [4]. These are very radioactive 1000 ton pieces of solid metal that you need to move and dispose of. Interesting question though, and I'd want to look into it more later.

[1] https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/... (pdf, p. 11)

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B978184569... (can send a pdf if interested)

[3] https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/3mzltj/a_nuclear_reac...

[4] https://www.neimagazine.com/opinion/opinionreplace-the-rpv/


The quality of the steel is the hard part of this. It is incredibly important to not have any defects in the pressure systems & turbine of a nuclear plant for obvious reasons.

If Nuclear was committed to, would the number of these heavy forge presses likely go up, and costs come down?

I have no idea, but it does seem that if there are bottlenecks in the process, demand for nuclear could bring costs come down dramatically. Am I missing something here?


Those heavy presses themselves seem to be nation-state level engineering projects, so it's unlikely that anyone would build more of them than they absolutely need.

https://youtu.be/hpgK51w6uhk


Oh, absolutely!

Or well, maybe costs wouldn't come down that much, since AFAIK press forging is a pretty mature technology.

I'm just saying a heavy press forge is a major infrastructure project on its own, and it won't just happen by snapping our fingers. It will take time.

Then there's the question of whether it makes sense to embark on a major buildout of current style large light water reactors? If the market shifts towards smaller modular reactors (SMR's), then for light water SMR's smaller forges would likely do. Or further in the future non-water low pressure designs.

My opinion is that given the urgency of addressing climate change, coal pollution etc., yes we should embark on a major buildout of currently available reactor types, while also massively increasing advanced reactor R&D&commercialization funding.


Vogtle is even worse than that... Ground works started in 2009/2010 -- Best case scenario right now is first power by 2022/2023 and if they stay on budget from here, cost will be 100% more than first estimated. So much good money being thrown after bad.

https://www.ajc.com/business/southern-says-vogtle-costs-exce...


I’ll admire it when the fuel is loaded and the generators spin up. Until then, it’s PR, not energy policy.

Aspiration alone is no different than failure.


> I’ll admire it when the fuel is loaded and the generators spin up

Meanwhile, the United States continues to shut down Nuclear Reactors and prevent modern constructions out of irrational fearmongering.

At least India recognizes the benefits of Nuclear Power...


It's a trope that Nuclear is failing because of fearmongering. Nuclear is uneconomical, especially with renewable energy dropping in cost consistently. Is France, the long time operator of one of the largest fleets, afraid of nuclear - I think it is very experienced at managing nuclear, both old gen and the very newest gen reactors. And yet this article:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-10/french-po...

France will save 39 billion euros ($44.5 billion) if it refrains from building 15 new nuclear plants by 2060, and bets instead on renewable energy sources to replace its all its aging atomic facilities, a government agency said.

France should spend 1.28 trillion euros over the next four decades, mostly on clean power production and storage capacities, networks, and imports, according to a report from the country’s environment ministry. If it does this, France would progressively shut down its 58 atomic plants and renewable energy would comprise 95 percent of its electricity output by 2060, up from 17 percent last year


"It's a trope that Nuclear is failing because of fearmongering."

I think it's a large scale astroturfing effort by the nuclear industry (which is huge, with a very small number of players) and the useful rubes who play along.

Nuclear may be a necessary part of the grid mix, but the panacea presented has never remotely been close to reality -- every build takes much longer than promised, and always, with 100% certainty, costs billions more than planned. Every build has maintenance that costs multiples of the claims, operation that is far more expensive, and with waste products that there is still no viable solution for, with an eternity of costs dragging them down. And nuclear only exists because the public subsidizes it by eschewing the need for real insurance (which would be prohibitively expensive otherwise).

In every economic sense nuclear has been an enormous boondoggle, and they stopped making them because every energy provider got wise. This has nothing to do with fearmongering or some sort of ignorant public -- quite the contrary, the overwhelming public sentiment had no problem with nuclear -- though that claim frequently appears. It's bizarre.


To postulate a detachment of the economics of nuclear from public perception very hard to justify in my opinion.

Certainly nuclear has been expensive to build and operate, and the industry is by no means innocent in this. On the other hand, it's extremely regulated, and the bureaucracy built up makes it very expensive, for example, to make a routine change during construction from the blueprints. No other industry is as regulated as nuclear.

During operation it's the same way. You can spend many person-months dealing with corrective action procedures that are mandated, etc. Many of these are considered by the industry to not actually affect safety. For instance the NRC finds like 22,000 "green" findings and a few hundred "white" ones per year. The white ones have low safety significance. Yet, the paperwork and follow-up is nearly crippling.

That's good right? Because nuclear is dangerous? Wrong. Commercial nuclear over its 60 years of commercial operation has killed as many people as coal (operating as designed) kills every single day. Every time a nuclear plant shuts down, more people die because of increased air pollution.

It's not rational. It's regulated so much because people are afraid of it. It's expensive entirely because of fearmongering.


Nuclear waste only gets talked about because it is visible.

Waste that goes into the air? Waste from mines in third world countries? Out of sight out of mind.

Nuclear waste is easily containable, and the country that generates the power has to pay for it. Not only that, but newer reactor designs can take existing nuclear waste in, outputting energy and a smaller pile of waste.


> every build takes much longer than promised, and always, with 100% certainty, costs billions more than planned.

That's true of pretty much every large infrastructure project in the US (and probably outside the US, but I'm less familiar with that side of things). Nuclear reactors are hardly unique in that regard.


>I think it's a large scale astroturfing effort by the nuclear industry

Just to be clear, you think that the nuclear industry is paying people to go on line and say positive things about nuclear power? Can I get some kind of source for this claim?


>I think it's a large scale astroturfing effort by the nuclear industry

Either you don’t know what astroturfing means or you believe in a conspiracy there is no evidence of (nuclear companies faking HN commenter support for nuclear). Either way, this adds nothing to a conversation because it gives reasons for people on any side of the argument to just ignore any material facts or logic.

Rather than assuming that everyone who supports nuclear is a fake account or a shill, perhaps you should try to address arguments directly?

>This has nothing to do with fearmongering or some sort of ignorant public

That’s incorrect. Yucca Mountain is an example. The reactions to Fukushima on the news were another. The Diablo plant that was closed early has been consistently plagued by protests based on irrational fears.

You seem to think that a majority of people supporting nuclear is relevant. It’s not considering the tiny percentage of people required to throw up NIMBY roadblocks at all levels of government.

Example: Despite their tiny population, anti vaxxers are a major problem.


I have issues using French costings because I can't read the primary sources, and there are a lot of stupid environmentalists out there who misrepresent the costs. I'm going to commit the same sin and point out that people are willing to claim 'renewables in Germany are pulling down wholesale prices!' and ignore the fact that their retail prices are amongst the highest in Europe because they are charging a massive renewable-support tariff.

The experience in Australia is nobody has considered nuclear because one political party (labour) has historically had a policy of banning the technology. The economics of the costs have never been tested because of the hysterical response to radiation risk. I suspect if it was regulated to the same safety standards as solar it would be very cost-competitive indeed.


That's a ridiculous analysis of anti-nuclear sentiment in Australia. Australia is a democracy and many minor political parties have responded to genuine community concerns that developed since the cold war around non-proliferation, disarmament, testing, nuclear waste management, aboriginal land rights, mining degradation.

The current focus of energy policy is on reducing GHG emissions, reliability and affordability of supply. The installed cost of nuclear power does not make it an attractive option compared to fast installation of solar and wind generation.


39 billion of 1.28 trillion is 3%. Does that mean they only save 3% when betting on falling prices for renewables? For four decades? Doesn't sound much like a financial advantage compared to the (presumably) more predictable and stable prices for nuclear

The only thing predictable about nuclear construction prices and schedules is that they tend to go over by 2x-4x or higher (but they tend to get canceled at that point).

The 3% difference is a reasonable criticism, meaning that they're basically at parity cost wise in this comparison. But then you really have to add the 1000+ year waste storage costs - which even if not ignored, are ridiculous to estimate costs for.


Doesn't sound much like a financial advantage compared to the (presumably) more predictable and stable prices for nuclear.

Reactors that are already built and in good operating order provide very predictable electricity at low-moderate costs.

Building new reactors is much less predictable. France's latest reactor design, the EPR, is many years behind schedule and many billions over budget at both French and Finnish projects to build the new reactor. It was even years late when built in China, where presumably no lawsuits/activists/excessive safety regulations were ever allowed to get in the way.


Does that account for the space available in India? How much land would it take to provide power for 1.3 billion people?

I think the idea that renewables will be feasible in a country India's size with India's population, while preserving much if any natural space seems, at best, optimistic.

By all means Australia - the 6th largest country by area in the world with a population of 25ish million has the space. But India? Sure it is the 7th largest country by area, but it is less than half Australia's size, with 50-70 times the population (India's population estimates are tricky).

The scariest part of these debates is that the solution is likely energy dependence, as in countries with space - and day more sunshine - sell electricity to those without it. I don't think ANYONE likes that idea, but I can't see any way that it is feasible worldwide while maintaining each country's energy independence.


People say this, but they never explain where the power will come from when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. I hear people throw out "batteries" as if that word is some sort of solution.

You build these[1]. When the sun shines and the wind blows excess power reverses the turbines, when there is demand on the grid water flows and turbines spin back to generate power.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinorwig_Power_Station


There are several islands already running on solar, wind, and batteries alone.

If every six months the rate at which a million EVs are sold, how much battery storage is that over the next decade? My math says tens of GWs.


Nuclear proponents bring this up, but it's not an argument that saves nuclear. Nuclear is quite horrible at providing backup power, since it has large fixed costs.

In a cost optimized no-CO2 system, you'll see renewables providing immediate power, short term storage (batteries, pumped hydro) carrying over shorter outages, and some sort of peaking capacity for longer lulls in sun/wind. Overcapacity of the renewables + longer distance transmission will help, as will end-user storage of heat/cold. The peaking capacity will be used only a small fraction of the time, and will be powered by hydrogen (either from electrolysis from excess renewable output, or from NG steadily reformed to H2 and the H2 stored for use during the peaks, and the CO2 from the reformers sequestered). Simple cycle plants are ~40% efficient and cost < $400/kW.


Nuclear can be cheap. We have decided to make it expensive.

We throw away 95% of the fuel. This is because Carter gave an order to not reprocess old fuel rods. Well, we would throw away 95%, but actually we just keep it sitting around for political reasons. Most of our fissionable material is sitting in containment ponds.

The NRC refuses to give guidance. They will only approve a reactor or disapprove it, given a finalized design. You have to do all the design work up front, completely in the dark, and then you get a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.

Every stupid insignificant part involves absurd paperwork, right down to changing the lightbulbs.


Nuclear fuel is very cheap per kWh generated. It's so cheap that people don't bother with breeder reactors, because the potential savings in fuel costs are trivial.

It's not why nuclear is expensive. It's the construction costs.


> It's a trope that Nuclear is failing because of fearmongering. Nuclear is uneconomical, especially with renewable energy dropping in cost consistently.

You are ignoring that the fearmongering has over a long time influenced laws and regulation to make it uneconomical. To pretend there is no correlation is simply disingenuous.

It was a hope of many senators that wanted to get the 'green' vote to systematically defund and over-regulate nuclear. Nuclear innovation was significantly hindered by political interest on ever level, federal to local and I can go into lots of examples.

It is actually well known and confirmed that anti-nuclear organization such as green peace had a deliberate political strategy to focus on one thing only, more regulation for nuclear TO make it more expensive. The 'nuclear is unsafe' hammer has turned out to be very effective because most people and even most politicians don't know the facts. The coal and oil interest of course have a nice alliance with the greenpeace types and together nuclear was systematically hindered.

Just look at the current regulatory agency and the almost complete standstill in improvements since they took over.

If you look the production of nuclear reactors in the US you will see that they were on pace to replace coal power when building them was not much more expensive then a coal plant. Since then we had almost zero innovation and cost have exploded.

If you just look at the resources required for nuclear, there is no reason it should be so expensive. The problem is that we are using 60 year old designs because innovation has been made totally impossible thanks to the regulatory framework.


What damage does it actually make to the environment when creating solar panels? I mean, what materials are gathered, distributed and collected from where? What is the break even point just on cost, not even counting environmental impact.

All this renewable stuff and the saving are total theory. There is no industrial country that is even close to being fully renewable. France would do much better to replace their nuclear reactors with more modern once over a long time.

These reactors work for almost 100 years while you have to replace solar panels and wind multiple times.

Not to mention intermittency is not even close to being solved.

Every actual attempted of using renewable has skyrocketed costs however much people want to ignore that.


Nothing ever happens for the first time, right?

I’ll bet you lunch the US replaces every GW of nuclear generation with solar, wind, and utility scale energy storage in 10 years (sooner than any nuclear generator would come online).

Disclaimer: I am an armchair energy policy enthusiast, and aggregate generator permitting, construction, turn up, operation, and decommissioning data for visualization and production siting.

Edit: Lunch bet email in my profile.


Sure, maybe that happens. Only an irrational culture would squander an obviously great energy source.

But you cannot dispute the massive resources, and square footage it requires to accomplish that future of massive wind farms, every building with solar panels installed, and huge battery warehouses littered throughout the nation... especially when compared to a handful of modern Nuclear Reactor Plants.

More people die installing Solar Roof Panels than from all the Nuclear energy production combined [1][2][3]

[1] https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2008/03/deaths-per-twh-for-all... [2] https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/publications/magazi... [3] https://asiancorrespondent.com/2011/05/green-deaths-the-forg...


I don’t dispute the land constraints, it’s the economics you can’t argue with. Solar and wind at utility scale are below 2 cents/kWh and falling. Nuclear cannot compete with that in any configuration.

You can make roof installs safer (process, hardware), utility installs on the ground are already safe. No one has any place to store nuclear waste, no one will insure it, and no one wants to tie capital up for decades in nuclear generators.

Nuclear, like coal, is a wonderful fuel if you can foist all of the externalities on someone else.


But it's not squandered, just the opposite. Using nuclear (or any other fossil fuel) when you can use a renewable source seems to me like eating the emergency rations on a regular weekend dinner. It only sounds sensible if one doesn't expect us to be around much longer.

This is definitely not my area of expertise, but I found John Platt's work on modeling the marginal cost of energy a pretty compelling counter-argument https://ai.google/research/pubs/pub46289

The gist is that after ~30-40% penetration, the cost of renewables, even with storage, is no longer cheaper than natural gas.

And while storage bends the curve, getting from 80% renewables to 100% without something dispatchable is very expensive.

I don't think this is necessarily important for nuclear, since we could have Gas+CCS, but I have lower hopes for pure renewables+storage.


It's conceivable that renewables + fossil w. CCS will be the cheaper solution, at least until the fossil fuels run out. One could, for example, reform NG to hydrogen and CO2, then sequester the CO2 and store the H2 for use in peaking turbines. This would fit nicely with renewables. It would leave little room for nuclear.

We can hope. It would be better if we kept the nuclear online and used those GWs to replace coal plants instead, though.

Agree.

I will take that bet.

I'd take that bet too

There is plenty of fearmongering, but the thing preventing new nuclear construction is more economics than anything else.

Nuclear didn't just become expensive. The fearmongering made it expensive.

I think it's more that nuclear plants are exceptionally large and complex and that makes it difficult to access economies of scale, and each new safety measure introduced after an accident involves additional complexity layered on top, which worsens the problem. There are so many countries with so many different cultures of regulation which have had difficulties with nuclear recently, in particular with the latest generation designs.

I think you could make the situation better by having a dramatic programme to scale up nuclear, because then you can get economies of scale. That worked quite well for the French, but it means a large upfront investment, essentially paying for 50 years of energy in advance, with significant risk of cost over-runs.

That requirement for front-loaded investment means the cost depends very strongly on the interest rate of money borrowed, and a low interest rate on a large, complex project requires government backing. So the fundamental reason is that governments do not have the appetite for that sort of intervention or that level of risk, like they did during the 60's-70's.


Sadly 3MI and Chernobyl turned environmentalists against it. In fairness, one can’t blame them, but as a technology matured and is better understood and built, they should actively support something they previously were against arguably for valid safety concerns.

I wonder how the economcics between nuclear, natural gas, and coal would pan out if the negative externalities (including both emmisions during consumption of the fuel and those created during mining/capturing of the fuel) were accounted for into the cost of the produced electricity.

The president of Exelon has said new nuclear in the US would require a CO2 tax of $300-400/tonne in order to compete with natural gas. At that tax rate, it would be cheaper to completely sequester the CO2 from a NG plant.

So, no, the externalities cannot save nuclear in the US.


>Aspiration alone is no different than failure.

By that measure solar and wind are catastrophic failures given that they still depend on non-existent storage technologies to hit any kind of baseload replacement goals.


Aspiration is also the first step to success.

Also pretty much anything is better than coal and fossil fuels. I can't hear the phrase 'clean coal' bandied about without wanting to bang my head against the nearest wall.

Russian-built reactors are already generating electricity.

Anyone who, at the same time, claims that "we're all gonna die" if something is not done in the next decade, and doesn't want to consider nuclear is a hypocrite, and not a very bright person. If you believe in the first premise (for the record, I do not, although I do believe in man-made climate change), then you have to concede that nuclear is the only way out that's anywhere near viable without pretending that we can spend tens of trillions of dollars on infrastructure that needs to be replaced every 20 years.

I count 45 planned reactors and 12 reactors currently under construction in China at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_reactors#China

Somehow the two under construction in the US (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogtle_Electric_Generating_Pla...) are estimated to cost $25B and are complicated by Westinghouse having declared bankruptcy. Others (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgil_C._Summer_Nuclear_Gener...) have been cancelled.

The same AP1000 reactor model was installed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanmen_Nuclear_Power_Station at a cost of just $6b, although they were also 4 years late in becoming operational. But it does seem like other countries are capable of getting these large projects done while they whither and drag out in the US.


Inability to buid high-speed rail in US corroborates with this conclusion. It is not economically ineffective,it is US infrastructure projects huge inefficiency (sadly). If we check other industries, I think we would able to find more failed big projects.

Big mistake. The US nuclear industry is a wreck because of the lack of standardization and economies of scale, unlike, say, France.

India should also be investing in thorium reactors given its indigenous reserves and the inherent safety advantages.

Another issue is cooling: water supplies in Andhra Pradesh are highly erratic, and this will only get worse with global warming.


The water lost to cooling ends up as steam and then precipitation. So it doesn't exactly delete water, it just disperses it. Some of it will fall straight back into the same river systems. A lot of it would probably be absorbed into the local water table—which is valuable if the table is already being tapped.

Does anyone know if there's any modelling to show how widely such activity disperses water? How much of the water is expected to land somewhere functionally useless (e.g. into oceans)?

Or, if they built a desalination plant next to each nuclear plant, would they be able to compensate for the water loss efficiently?


The trouble with nuclear in regions where water can be scarce is that you can't cool your plant sufficiently and have to turn it off. You can take only a small fraction of a river's flow for cooling without kill all fish in the river. If the river is low on water, your plant can't be cooled.

This is great new not just from environment perspective. This is a move that significantly reduces dirty politicians influence in India.

Guess who is awarded most of new Power Generation plants in India since private sector started building power plants? It almost entirely politicians and their family members.

Example (Owned by Member of Parliament Galla Jayadev's Family) : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amara_Raja_Group


Meanwhile in the US SCE&G abandoned their two under construction AP1000s after Westinghouse went bankrupt and the remaining two that Southern is building at Vogtle are on life support. The only AP1000s actually operating are in China.

Finally something that helps us avoid the beginning climate catastrophe. Nuclear power is of the very few effective means of working towards that goal.

> The two countries have been discussing the supply of US nuclear reactors to India, the world's third-biggest buyer of oil, for more than a decade.

I doubt that any nuclear capacity will significantly affect India's oil consumption. Nuclear typically displaces coal or gas.


India has one nuclear reactor's worth of diesel power plants (about 1000 MW). And 90 times more (90 GW worth) of all kinds of smaller diesel generators used as backups during power outages.

If the new nuclear electricity decreases the outages in the grid, I am sure it will almost 1:1 turn to savings in burned diesel.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_and_gas_industry_in_India#...


It could replace it faster and cheaper by financing distributed solar or wind and batteries.


Sun and wind must be coupled with nat-gas, or at least that's how it works in the US. Either that or prepare for brown/blackouts.

LCOE estimates for at least the short duration gaps has solar+ batteries beating nat-gas peakers. This is pretty recent, in actual construction bids for IIRC < 4hr capability. Expect more encroachment onto basically mature nat-gas tech space as batteries and solar continue to get cheaper.

What about solar pv module and battery module waste?

What about the environmental impact of mining and extracting the rare and not so rare elements that go into making solar pv modules and battery modules?

What about the water use in the production of these modules?

What about the greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial scale processes involved in producing these modules?

What about the impact on wildlife and the environment through land clearance, habitat destruction, species dislocation, threats to bird species, …

---

From the way people go on about solar pv and battery tech you'd swear they had zero externalities.

> It could replace it faster and cheaper by financing distributed solar or wind and batteries.

Faster, probably. Cheaper, probably. But at what cost to animal and human lives, and at what cost to the environment? Coal plants can be built fast and cheap too. That's why we've so many of them.


Here is an article about how Russia dealt with India's civil nuclear liability law. Perhaps, something similar was agreed for American reactors.

https://www.powermag.com/indias-nuclear-liability-law-breakt...


In the meantime Solar Power is one of the fastest growing industries in India. Government is targeting 100GW by 2022:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_India

India's history with nuclear power plants hasn't exactly been great. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant faced tons of protests:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudankulam_Nuclear_Power_Pla...


Nuclear power gets a bad rap. Instead of abandoning the technology we should be focusing on how to safely contain a meltdown. I mean if we use boron control rods to absorb the neutrons, then why not encase the whole thing in a boron tomb that vacuum seals when radiation is detected?

modern reactors have core catching devices that are supposed to catch a meltdown and prevent it from going into the ground https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Core_catcher

of course these have never been tried in an accident because both Chernobyl and Fukushima are very old reactors. On the other hand before Fukushima I used to see people say that the problem with Chernobyl is there was no containment vessel as there is in western reactors, then in Fukushima the containment vessel did melt through. So who knows how well the core catcher would work in practice.


The cores at Fukushima didn't "go into the ground" either. That doesn't prevent water in the core carrying radioactive material all over the place, once things are compromised.

True, but radioactive water is much easier to deal with than radioactive air because the hydrogen will capture the neutrons converting to Deuterium which is relatively safe and isotopes of oxygen are relatively shortlived. So as long as you can filter the heavy metals, it's in theory, less of a mess.

I'm starting to get the feeling that all terrestrial energy generation should ultimately come from sunlight, and our nuclear reactors should be out in space, and on other celestial bodies, especially those further away from the sun.

But in order to do that, we need to further develop nuclear reactor technology by building utility-scale nuclear energy plants here on Earth--not because we need our energy to be nuclear, but because we need our nuclear energy to be reliable and efficient.

The cynical part of me is thinking that the US can apparently build nuclear plants anywhere on Earth except in the US.


Why? There is literally no reason to have nuclear reactors in space.

Building a modern reactor that is not based on 60 year old technology would make more sense, but regulation have made that impossible and the government itself has 0 interest in doing so.


Radiothermal generators already power satellites and space probes.

Nuclear fuel has the highest energy density of any fuel currently available to us.

Wind and water power is unavailable when there is no atmosphere or weather cycle. Solar power requires more surface area as you get further from the sun. Solar panels and storage batteries have mass, too.

Combustion fuels have mass, and the rocket equation hates superfluous mass in objects launched to orbit.

A good engine for low-gravity propulsion would be a nuclear reactor that heats propellant to a very high temperature and then releases it at high velocity. That's not the sort of engine that could get you to orbit, but it does provide a lot of delta-V once you are up there. Propellant can be found outside of gravity wells, and a refuel mission carrying nuclear fuel is cheap to launch on a dollar per joule basis.

Nuclear waste does not endanger the environment if there is no environment to endanger. No one is likely to stumble across it accidentally. Criticality accidents would only kill the crew, if there even is a crew.

Habitats that are buried deeply to protect against radiation and to contain a bio-friendly environment may not be able to rely on solar alone. They would likely need a large mass of batteries to make it through storms and nights, and an RTG or a full-blown reactor might provide more reliable power for less mass.


Ah. Sure for propulsion I love nuclear reactor and NTR. But not to get it back to earth. haha.

Less restrictive regulations; NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) policies :)

India undoubtedly become power hungry, when I was visiting couple of years back power cut has become a norm which i don't remember when I grew up. There are so many wind mill installation around my hometown but at the same time there is so much opposition for nuclear power. https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/0f/a1/06/fa/...

While Afganistan is called the graveyard of empires, India is where emperors face their first miserable defeat.

There is a book titled "Confessions of an economic Hitman". The book is written by an ex-CIA agent to was an economist and would write a lot of fake reports claiming developing nations can grow much faster only if they invest heavily in infrastructure. Then US would generously offer loans in return of assurance that the contracts will be awarded only to American companies. Fe decades down the line those countries would be left holding the can and debt. This model failed miserably for USA in India because India' growth story after 1990s turned out of be true, India's hunger for infra actually grew. Enron who had a weird misadventure in India eventually had to file for bankruptcy.

While I am happy that India is tripling the nuclear energy capability I am unhappy that American companies are involved. It might end up badly for Indian but more than likely to Americans.


Your premise here seems to be "countries paying back their loans is bad for the companies that built the infrastructure", and I think I'm really going to need some more explanation for that one.

"When some of those countries were unable to service their debt we often said, "Ok, you may not pay now, but your country will vote to support the US at the next vote in the UN. Or you will allow the US to build a military base on your territory." Or something else of the kind."

https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201711161059158765-economic...


That seems like it would be bad for the US not bad for the companies in question, who got paid either way.

The gist I got from the article is that those companies would also get benefits, like cheaper access to resources or monopolies in their areas of operation.

I wish more people understood that this is how international debts are ACTUALLY paid.

Companies are paid anyway: if the country cannot make payments, it will have to agree to an IMF loan that is used to pay the American companies first, and then left holding the debt along with draconian austerity measures. So for these companies the more outlandish the promises, the better! The payment is "guaranteed" by the IMF deals. During a period from the 60s on this has been the biggest cash cow for American companies operating on developing countries.

Right, but that seems to suggest that it's getting countries to agree to take huge loans that's good for the companies, which is kind of independent of their eventual ability to pay the loans back. GGP was saying that countries paying back the loans was bad for the companies in question, when their relationship will have been over for years at that point.

Yes, in a normal world it is not bad for these companies if the country can pay their loans back. However, if you follow the logic, if a country is paying back the loans on time it just means that the first loan was not big enough! The advantage for a company to sell more than the buyer can pay is that for the foreseeable future (a decade more or less) it will make A LOT of money. This is all that CEOs really want. And under the logic of IMF, these loans will be paid in one way or another, so the company will not suffer any problem by selling more than the country really can pay.

I am going to recommend this book -- Confessions of an Economic Hitman (John Perkins). I think there might be a new version since the time that I read.

I don't understand your point, how did America lose when India grew quickly after investing in infrastructure with the help of American capital? Furthermore, I'm unaware of any real adversarial relationship between the US/India. Is it portrayed in India as being so?

American politicians made a bet on India actually failing to grow. They thought that once the country is deeper debt they can bully India around for support in UN, military bases and so on. American government most certainly lost that bet.

Do not mistake government with people. American citizens are not same as government nor American government solely works in American citizen's interest. This is a powerplay in corridors you don't even know to exist. Let me give you an real world example.

Indian government might be oppressive and incompetent at governance but they are supremely good at understanding other governments. A certain Indian company wanted to import a highly sophisticated technology from European country. The laws prevented the export without the European nation approving the sale. The technology itself was very benign. It was not defense tech or anything dangerous. But those restrictions on sale were put in place at the request of American government officials few years ago.

How did the Indian company managed to get it eventually ? Indian government through a secret untraceable channel donated $5M to a charity run by the wife of an ex-American official. That official then made phone call directly to the head of European state who signed the papers in 24 hours and the sale went through. Also all this probably perfectly legal and happens all the time. I recommend you read "Clinton Cash" to know more about one such family.


India is already firmly in the Western sphere of influence, and I still don't see how America "lost" any bet. A strong India is absolutely in our favor given it's a democracy with fundamental rights and rule of law.

The example you cite is not surprising to me in the least. It's realpolitik, and every regional power does this and always has. That book was self important wish-fulfillment on the part of the author, IMHO.


I wish the US would build six new (clean, safe) nuclear plants in the US.

There's two under construction now in Georgia and one came online in late 2016 in Tennessee. But these are all additions to existing facilities.

The cost of new nuclear power is far beyond most traditional and even renewable power generation, so we're not likely to see many more any time soon.


Let's hope they got their waste management figured out

https://publicintegrity.org/national-security/indias-nuclear...


Could we get 6 new reactors in the US?

I'm actually serious... I don't get why we still have coal power plants at all. I know there are various risks involved, and disposal is another, but a lot of lessons have been learned and there's a lot of room here for this. It's just incredible that a couple of movies could set back nuclear power in the US for as many decades as has happened.


Can somebody explain to me what happens with all the nuclear waste? How is nuclear power anything else but an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen? We pile the waste on and on, how do we deal with that?

When we burn fossil fuels a huge volume of hazardous waste just goes into the environment, and we know what it does then. With nuclear there is also a huge volume of hazardous waste, but at least it remains spatially consolidated and in our control. The consensus best solution is deep burial. Sure we might run out of space and create nuclear "landmines" over the very long term, but it's a preferable tradeoff to the much more imminent threats of the global warming.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste#High-level_w...


How would you describe:

>and we know what it does then.

What is it that it does then?


Greenhouse effect, ozone depletion, poisoning the hydrosphere and biosphere, etc; not going to dignify the question with further details.

I don't understand why one wouldn't believe in the environmental dangers of conventional energy sources but be hyper concerned about the "environmental catastrophe waiting to happen" from nuclear energy sources.


France burns its waste in nuclear plants. The US created a geologically stable dump that was shut down for political reasons. The EPA had certified it as safe for 10,000 years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_Mountain_nuclear_waste_r...


France does not burn its waste in nuclear plants. Use of MOX fuel in thermal reactors doesn't count, as it only uses a fraction of the produced transuranics, and cannot then be recycled into more MOX fuel. And of course it doesn't do a damned thing to fission products.

You hear all the time about how there's thousands of tons of high level radioactive waste and that sounds scary and huge but really when you're talking about the scale of an entire country that's absolutely peanuts. I do think the way we handle nuclear waste in America needs to be overhauled but even just deep burial in long term casks would be sufficient. The only chance of someone accidentally digging one up is contingent on such a massive loss of knowledge and continuity of society that it would have to be an apocalyptic event.

But if you're interested in other approaches that could be taken nuclear waste is primarily U-238 and Plutonium. Rather than bury it all the waste can be reprocessed to extract usable fuel and depleted Uranium from the waste which reduces the amount of waste to deal with by about 90%. Another thing commonly repeated is that nuclear waste has a half life of tens of thousands of years. This is wrong, isotopes have half lives, nuclear waste does not. Nuclear waste is a toxic soup of different isotopes, some short lived, others long lived. As the isotopes spontaneously fission the concentrations in the waste change. 10kg of nuclear waste on day 1 is immensely more radioactive than 10kg of nuclear waste on day 1,000,000. Fresh nuclear waste has substantially higher amounts of short lived isotopes which is why when spent fuel is removed from a reactor it has to be stored in a cooling pond for a long time before it can be stored in a cask. Radioactivity has an inverse relationship with the half live, short lived isotopes are extremely radioactive and extremely long lived isotopes are barely radioactive.

If you wanted to go further than just reducing the amount of waste you can actually burn up waste so to speak. If you bombard it with tons of neutrons (like from a fusion reactor hopefully in the long term) you either split the fissile isotopes or breed them into a different isotope.

Just by processing our waste we could split the waste into stuff that has a short half life that you would just let decay naturally, stuff that has a long half life that can be buried without any real concerns about someone building a dirty bomb with it, and stuff in between that could potentially be burned up in a reactor or just buried in more secure facilities like what Yucca mountain was supposed to provide.


Several options.

- Bury it underground in geological repositories. These have been extensively studied and are, to the best of our knowledge, more than safe enough.

- We can reprocess it and burn it in breeder reactors. The remaining waste will decay to background levels in about 300 years. Oh, and we can shutdown the uranium mining industry for, oh, the next 1000 years while we burn up the uranium we have already dug up.

Also keep in mind that while the waste is dangerous, it's absolutely minuscule in volume. All worldwide spent (civilian) nuclear fuel could fit on a football field, stacked a few meters high.


Nuclear waste in reality is a tiny problem. The amount of waste is insignificantly small. Its not even waste as its valuable material for the future and should be considered as such.

The amount of fear spread about nuclear waste is so far out of proportion with the reality of the situation that its hard to even explain how crazy many of the believes about nuclear waste are.

Compared to all other forms of energy, including solar and wind, nuclear produces by far the least amount of waste to the envoirment. In fact, nothing escapes into the environment, everything is captured and can be handled appropriately.


> Compared to all other forms of energy, including solar and wind, nuclear produces by far the least amount of waste to the envoirment. In fact, nothing escapes into the environment, everything is captured and can be handled appropriately.

Sorry if I'm missing something, but which waste escapes to the environment for solar or wind during operation? I can only think of reflected light and heat for solar, and turbulence for wind.

Unless you're thinking also of the waste produced during bulding and dismantling, but then you'd have to compare with bulding and dismantling the whole nuclear plant, not just its fuel.


Solar panels are not systematically recycled. Solar panel production produces quite a bit of waste and much of it is not handle appropriately in factories in China.

For wind its less so, you just have gigantic towers everywhere that will eventually be ruins. And also you have to build a lot of gigantic wind turbines to match the output of a single nuclear planet.

I am comparing end to end. A nuclear plant is one big building in one place and most of that is just common building materials, minimal amount of mining for the uranium. And if we eventually actually build new modern nuclear plants it would reduce the size of the plant by quite a bit as well. Nuclear has more upside in terms of efficiency (currently only 2% efficient) and minimizing resource usage.

Pretty much every end to end analysis agrees that nuclear has the least amount of resource and land usage, and it has the least amount of uncontrolled waste.


nuclear is much cleaner then anything else... the waste is only less radioactive then the fuel. What is your better alternative that doesn't create any waste?

The waste is many orders of magnitude more radioactive than the fuel. The fuel itself is fissile, meaning it can split when hit with a neutron. Radioactivity is a measure of how often an isotope will spontaneously split on its own. The fresh fuel gives off very little radiation and it can be handled with nothing more than a pair of latex gloves, and the gloves are only necessary to keep the handler's greasy grubby mitts off of the expensive and highly clean and pure fuel bundle. The spent fuel is so radioactive that it has to be stored underwater for at least 3 years and commonly up to 10 because the radiation is enough to heat up the fuel to unsafe temperatures before that time.

Nuclear is much cleaner than fossil fuels though, you're right about that, natural gas has some radon mixed in that just gets vented to the atmosphere and coal ash that makes it past whatever filtering system the power plant uses releases far more radiation than nuclear plants could during normal operation.


What happens to the liability act?

I wish all civilian nuclear power plants operate under UN https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Build%E2%80%93operate%E2%80%...

I guess that would be the peak of globalization, when you wean off energy control from individual countries.

I wonder what types of reactors they'll be building. I've recently heard of Thorium reactors (and I don't understand enough about them) but I'd love to see them start spinning up around the world to see if they actually are as good as they seem.

Hope they don't built it in Tamil Nadu. We already have two.

This is exciting I wonder if Westinghouse will ever use some of the technology that Transatomic developed.

Hopefully nuclear power can help India grow more greenly and catch up economically with China.

India is the key ally to all developed countries in the western world, be it the Rafael Deal for fighter aircrafts to other countries like Israel agreeing to setup defence manufacturing in India all are keen to be engaged with India. US especially after Trump became president has been very much Pro India as opposed to Obama who was definitely anti-india and Pro Pakistan, If the US has to tame china it needs India , these geo political equations I believe favours India and that is why you see all these things happening now



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