Measures of Waste Magnitudes

The inventories of wastes have been described earlier in terms of mass. However, several different sorts of measure can be used to describe the amount of nuclear wastes Mass. The most common mass measure for nuclear waste is the mass of the uranium in the initial fuel, more broadly designated as metric tonnes of initial heavy metal (MTIHM or just MTHM) (see Section 9.3.1). The fuel is held in cylindrical fuel rods, usually made of zircaloy, which are grouped in assemblies. The total mass of an...

Inventories of US Nuclear Wastes

Inventories of U.S. commercial and military wastes are summarized in Table 10.1. They include the wastes that are planned for the Yucca Mountain repository as well as further amounts expected to be produced. The commercial wastes constitute 90 of the total slated for Yucca Mountain, measured in terms of the mass of the initial uranium used to generate the wastes (in MTHM). In general, they are the hottest wastes, so they contain more than 90 of the total activity 3, p. A-9 . When the...

High and Low Level Wastes

Nuclear wastes are sometimes divided into high-level and low-level waste, along with a separate category of transuranic waste High-level waste (HLW) is the highly radioactive fission and neutron-capture product of the nuclear fuel cycle. It may be in the form of either spent fuel or liquid and solid products from the reprocessing of spent fuel.1 (In some alternative definitions, spent fuel is in a category by itself. Many DOE tabulations reserve the term HLW for reprocessed wastes alone, and...

Military and Civilian Wastes

As discussed in Chapter 2, the first nuclear reactors were those built during World War II to produce plutonium for weapons. In order to extract the plutonium, it is necessary to reprocess the spent fuel, first converting it to liquid form. The residue remaining after the plutonium and uranium (and sometimes other elements) are extracted constitutes the reprocessed wastes. Reprocessing increases the volume of the residue and puts it in a form that can more readily escape into the environment....

Categories of Nuclear Waste The Nature of the Problem

The term nuclear waste embraces all residues from the use of radioactive materials, including uses in medicine and industry. The most highly radioactive of these are the spent fuel or reprocessed wastes from commercial nuclear reactors and reactors that produced plutonium for nuclear weapons. The other wastes have much lower levels of activity and have far less potential to cause harm, although the establishment of sites for the disposal of these wastes has encountered public opposition in many...

Impact of Fuel Cycle Changes and Breeder Reactors

The question of changes in the fuel cycle and particularly the question of breeder reactors is closely connected to the issue of resources. For the most part, we have assumed a once-through fuel cycle using uranium. If, instead, a comprehensive reprocessing plan is implemented, such as the full actinide recycle option discussed in Section 9.4.3, the situation would be somewhat relieved. In this cycle, the uranium required for a given electricity output is roughly halved, which effectively...

Uranium from Seawater

Uranium from seawater represents a very large potential additional resource, but at a cost that may be considerably higher than that of any uranium resource considered earlier. The volume of seawater in the oceans is about 1.4 x 1021 L, with an average uranium concentration of 3.2 parts per billion (see Section 3.4.3), corresponding to 4 billion tonnes of uranium. However, the energy content is very dilute, and vast amounts of water would have to be processed to extract uranium. The cost of...

Adequacy of Terrestrial Uranium Resources

Adopting the probably conservative resource estimate of 20 million tonnes, uranium resources would suffice for the needs of LWRs for about 100,000 GWyr at a rate of 200 tonnes of U per gigawatt-year. Present world generation from nuclear power is roughly 300 GWyr yr. Thus, a resource of this magnitude could sustain four times the present rate of generation for 80 years. Such an increase does not appear to be imminent and, therefore, there is little pressure on uranium resources at this time....

Estimates of Uranium Resources Classification of Resources

An extensive description of the world uranium industry is provided by the Red Book series, published by the OECD since the 1960s under the title Uranium Resources, Production and Demand (see, e.g., Ref. 4 ). It is common to classify resources in terms of the degree of knowledge of the location and extent of identified or expected uranium deposits. So-called conventional resources are divided in the Red Book into four groups reasonably assured, estimated additional (in two categories of...

Uranium Prices and Electricity Costs

Uranium prices are now very low compared to those projected several decades ago. They dropped markedly in recent years, in large measure due to the lag in the expansion of nuclear power. U.S. prices peaked in 1978 at an average of 43 lb of U3O8 47 . In 2001, the average price paid by U.S. utilities was 10 lb U3O8 ( 26 kg U) 17, p. 11 . The relationship between uranium price and the contribution of uranium fuel costs to electricity costs depends on the effectiveness of fuel utilization. As was...

Conventional Units for Amounts of Uranium

The magnitude of uranium resources can be specified in terms of the amount of uranium oxide (U3O8) or the amount of natural uranium (U). Commonly, U.S. organizations expressed the resources in short tons of U3O8, whereas international organizations, such as the OECD, use tonnes of uranium. The units are related by the equivalence 30 In terms of the units in which uranium prices are usually couched, 1 kg of U is equivalent to 2.60 lbs of U3O8 therefore, a price of 100 lb of U3O8 is equivalent to...

Waste Disposal

All countries with announced plans for disposing of high-level radioactive wastes are planning on eventual disposal in deep geologic repositories, typically made by excavating caverns or holes in favorable environments. Many of the plans for these permanent disposal facilities include a period during which the waste could still be retrieved. Deep geologic disposal has been the favored course in U.S. thinking since the first attempts to formulate plans. There have been continuing efforts to...

General Features of Reprocessing Options

Any fuel cycle that recycles the fissile components of the spent fuel (mainly the remaining 235U and the plutonium isotopes 239Pu and 241 Pu), increases the energy obtained from the existing uranium resources. If the minor actinides are included with the uranium and plutonium in the new fuel, the wastes will have much less long-term radioactivity than wastes in the once-through fuel cycle. The mass of the spent fuel is greatly reduced if the uranium is either returned to the reactor or is...

Pyroprocessing

The above-discussed chemical reprocessing processes are known as aqueous processes. An alternative approach, under active exploration for use in conjunction with future reactors, is the pyroprocess or electrorefining process. In this method, the spent fuel is dissolved at very high temperatures in molten cadmium, creating an electrolytic bath. Groups of chemical elements are separately extracted on the basis of differences in the potentials at which they dissolve and ionize. In particular, ions...

The UREX Process

An alternative to the advanced aqueous process is the uranium extraction process (UREX and UREX+). It differs in the means of separating out the uranium. Several output streams are specifically identified in this process 45, p. II-3 1. Uranium. The uranium is extracted in very pure form (at purity levels of 99.999 percent). The leaves it free of highly radioactive contaminants and makes it easy to handle for disposal or reuse in a reactor. 2. Plutonium and minor actinides. Neptunium, americium,...

Alternative Reprocessing and Fuel Cycle Candidates Advanced Aqueous Process

In the widely used PUREX process, the plutonium and uranium are extracted and the fission products and minor actinides constitute the wastes. The advanced aqueous process is a modification of the PUREX process in which the minor actinides are recovered as well. Uranium is crystallized out at an early stage to reduce the bulk of the material that must be dealt with in the further chemical processing 44, p. 60 . The two product streams, one of uranium and the other of plutonium and the minor...

Use of Mixed Oxide Fuel

The fuel manufactured from the output of the reprocessing phase is generally a mixture of plutonium oxides and uranium oxides, with 3 to 7 PuO2 and the remainder UO2. It is called a mixed-oxide fuel or MOX. At the higher 239Pu enrichments, a burnable poison would be added to the fuel to reduce its initial reactivity. Due to differences in the nuclear properties of 239Pu and 235 U, most LWRs are limited to using only about a one-third fraction of MOX Table 9.4. Reprocessing plants for commercial...

Isotopes and Elements

It is necessary to keep in mind the distinction between the atomic mass ME of the element, as it occurs with its natural mixture of isotopes, and the mass Mi of any particular isotope. The atomic mass of an element is given by where fi is the fractional abundance of the isotope, by number of atoms. For example, carbon has two stable isotopes 12C and 13C, with atomic masses Mi 4 In this expression, although A is ordinarily defined as a dimensionless integer, we attach to it the same units as the...

Atomic Masses and Energy Release A Atomic Mass and Atomic Mass Number

In describing a nuclear species for example, 238U one could specify either the mass of the nucleus or the mass of the atom (the nucleus plus the electrons). It is virtually universal practice to specify atomic mass. The mass M of an atom (expressed in atomic mass units) is not exactly equal to the mass number A of the atom, except for 12 C, where the equality is a matter of definition. However, the numerical difference between M and A is small. This is because the constituents of the atom the...

Mass Energy Equivalence

The equivalence of mass and energy is basic to nuclear and atomic physics considerations. The energy E associated with the mass m is E mc2, where c is the velocity of light. Expressing mass in kilograms and velocity in meters sec, the energy equivalent of 1 atomic mass unit is 2 1 keV 103 eV 1 MeV 106 eV. 3 Coulomb repulsion is the name commonly given to the repulsion, governed by Coulomb's law, between objects that carry charges of the same sign. E (1.66054 x 10-27) x (2.9979 x 108)2 (1.6022 x...

Energy

Energy is expressed in joules (J) in SI units, but it is much more common in atomic and nuclear physics to express energy in electron volts (eV), kilo-electron volts (keV), or mega-electron volts (MeV), where 1 eV is the energy gained by an electron in being accelerated through a potential difference of 1 volt.2 This energy is qAV, with q e and AV 1. Thus, In atomic physics, the convenient unit is usually the eV. In nuclear physics, where the energy transfer per event is much higher, the more...

Avogadros Number and the Mole

It is convenient in chemistry and physics discussions to introduce the gram-molecular weight or mole as a unit for indicating the amount of a substance. For any element or compound, a mole of the substance is the amount for which the mass in grams is numerically equal to the atomic (or molecular) mass of the substance expressed in atomic mass units. For example, the mass of one mole of 12C is exactly 12 g, and the mass of one mole of isotopically pure atomic hydrogen (1H) is 1.0078 g. The...

Mass

The SI unit of mass is the kilogram (kg). It also remains common in atomic and nuclear physics to express mass in grams (g) i.e., in the centimeter-gram-second (cgs) system when mass must be expressed in macroscopic terms. For most purposes in nuclear physics, however, it is more convenient to express mass in terms of the atomic mass unit (u), which is defined so that the mass of a hydrogen atom is close to unity. More precisely, the atomic mass unit is defined in the so-called unified scale by...

Units in Atomic and Nuclear Physics A Electric Charge

In the International System of Units (SI), the unit of charge is the Coulomb, itself defined in terms of the unit of current, the ampere. In atomic and nuclear physics, it is usually more convenient to express charge in terms of the magnitude of the charge of the electron, e, where1 The charge of the electron is e, and the charge of the proton is +e. The atomic number of carbon is 6, and therefore the charge on the carbon nucleus is 6e, or 9.61 x 10 19 Coulombs.

Isotopes and Isobars

For a given element (i.e., same Z), nuclei with different numbers of neutrons (i.e., different A) are called isotopes of the element. Nuclei with the same mass number A but different atomic number Z are called isobars. Different isotopes of an element are virtually identical in chemical properties (although small differences may arise from their different masses and therefore their different mobilities). In nature, the relative abundances of different isotopes are usually closely the same for...

Atomic Number and Mass Number

The chemical properties of an element are determined by the number of electrons surrounding the nucleus in an un-ionized atom, which in turn is equal to the number of protons in the nucleus. This number is the element's atomic number, Z. Each element can be identified in terms of its atomic number. Thus, Z atomic number no. of protons in nucleus no. of electrons outside. The natural elements range from hydrogen (Z 1) to uranium (Z 92). Beyond that, the next elements are neptunium (Z 93) and...

Simple Atomic Model A Atoms and Their Constituents

Before 1940 scientists had identified 92 elements. These were commonly arranged in the classical periodic table, which organized the elements into groups with similar chemical properties. The last element in this table was uranium, and for many years it seemed as if this table provided a full representation of matter. Then, with new facilities and insights, attempts were made to produce elements beyond uranium, the so-called transuranic elements. These efforts eventually proved successful,...

Competing Considerations

In the end, policies on nuclear power will depend on judgments of the relative risks of using it or of trying to do without it. With it, we may face risks of radioactive contamination from reactor accidents or waste disposal. Without it, we may face increased risks from climate change and energy shortages. In both cases, there are risks of nuclear bomb manufacture and use. Conclusions as to the magnitude of these risks and how they balance are likely to vary from country to country, given...

Past Failure of Prediction

It is interesting to look back almost 30 years and examine the prescience of predictions made then. Conveniently for this purpose, a conference was held in Paris in 1975, with the complacent title Nuclear Energy Maturity. The underlying premise of the conference was that nuclear power had arrived, and that it remained to consider how to proceed so that nuclear power could .represent a long-term-solution, that is for thousands of years rather than the few decades set by the uranium supply...

Predictions and their Uncertainty Summary of Factors Impacting Nuclear Power

As discussed earlier, the factors that will determine whether nuclear power moves ahead or regresses include the following The safety record of existing reactors, the progress of the Yucca Mountain repository, and the perceived safety of next-generation reactors. The level of concern about global climate change, oil or natural gas shortages, and the world's dependence on Persian Gulf oil. The perceived prospects of renewable energy, carbon sequestration, and fusion. 26 However, if the federal...

Constituencies For and Against Nuclear Power

In reaching a national decision as to the future of nuclear power, the role of a constituency is important. At present, there is a determined and effective constituency against nuclear power, including most environmental organiza-tions.25 There has been the image of a comparably active and determined constituency for nuclear power, namely the nuclear industry. However, with the decrease of nuclear reactor construction, the nuclear industry has shrunk, and this has not been a valid image for...

Differences Among Countries

Although all countries are impacted by some of the same economic factors and resource pressures, it is not to be expected that they will all reach the same decisions. The differences in the nuclear policies of different countries can arise from basic aspects of their physical environment or from the political and economic character of their societies. In terms of its environment, Japan is in a particularly difficult situation. It is poor in fossil fuel resources and it has a population density...

The Road to Decisions One Path or Many

A variety of solutions to the world's energy problems are on the table, and each has its enthusiasts and detractors. In the background, and complementing all of the solutions, is conservation. Reduction of wasteful or inefficient uses of energy can substantially reduce the demand for energy. However, at any plausible degree of conservation, world energy consumption will rise and even without a rise in consumption, replacing present fossil fuel use is desirable. The options for the required...

Human Population and Impact

An underlying matter that consciously or not may figure in the nuclear debate is our feeling as to the desirability of satisfying the energy demands of a world population that was 2.5 billion in 1950, was 6 billion at the beginning of the 21st century, and appears headed to 9 billion or more in 2050. Nuclear power is pointed to as an aid in meeting these demands. However, some may take that as a curse instead of a blessing. It raises the question of the size of the population that we would...

Nuclear Power and a Desirable Society Feelings About Material Development

Attitudes toward nuclear power are also influenced by aesthetic or philosophical positions on the nature of a desirable world. Is it better for us (i.e., humans) and the planet to have copious energy supplies or is it preferable for energy limitations to restrain unbridled material development Individual answers to this rather vague question appear to influence the frame of reference in which people view energy issues. We live with a mix of conflicting attitudes toward technology. On the one...

Proliferation Risks and Nuclear Power

Some of the detailed issues bearing on the connection between nuclear power and proliferation of nuclear weapons have been discussed in Chapter 18 and earlier in this chapter. Two contrasting assessments can be made as to the nature of this connection. In one view, any country with nuclear power has a headstart as a potential proliferator. Whether or not it has nuclear weapons at the moment, possession of nuclear power makes its path to nuclear weapons easier in terms of both professional...

Perceptions of Need

Overhanging all of these considerations is the question of need. Logically or not, the perception of the dangers of nuclear power correlates with the perception of the need for it, including judgments as to the promise of the alternatives. Of course, considerations of danger and need are appropriately linked when a cost-benefit analysis is being made even an informal one. They are not appropriately linked when an estimate is being made of the absolute risk. It is therefore important to guard...

More Intractable Issues

If those were the only sorts of issues involved, the nuclear policy debate would be less difficult, notwithstanding the skepticism with which many people react to the conclusions of expert consensus. However, there are two nontechnical issues that cannot be authoritatively decided but that raise profound questions concerning nuclear power. These are the issues of weapons proliferation and of defining what might be called for want of a better description a desirable society. In the former case,...

Issues in Nuclear Decisions Categories of Issues Resolvable Issues

Contentious as nuclear disagreements are, some of the key issues are basically technical, and, in principle, conscientious people can eventually reach a common understanding. In particular, there are strong disagreements as to the safety of nuclear reactors and nuclear waste disposal, but it is possible to localize the points of disagreement and, with enough study and patience, it should be possible to resolve them. If one chooses to be optimistic, one can look forward to an eventual...

Institutional Issues

Some observers, including most advocates of nuclear power, believe that the crucial issues in the United States are more institutional than technical or even economic. The division of authority and initiative among many levels of government has made it difficult to adopt and implement policies that would permit rapid development of nuclear power (or even its prompt curtailment). Important roles are played by the president, Congress, the courts, and a host of federal agencies, including the...

Projections for Future Growth

The long-standing uncertainty about the future of nuclear power in the United States is illustrated by alternative DOE projections made in 1993 for the growth of nuclear power up to the year 2030 38, p. 9 . Three scenarios from these projections are presented in Figure 20.1 (1) a no new orders scenario, in which nuclear capacity decreases as existing reactors are phased out (2) a lower reference case in which there is a cautious resumption of nuclear expansion and (3) an upper reference case...

The Decline in US Leadership

The United States was the world pioneer in nuclear energy and, by virtue of the size of its economy, is still the world leader in total nuclear power generation. However, it is not the leader either in the fraction of electricity that comes from nuclear power, or in rate of growth. The U.S. share of world nuclear generation was 50 in 1975 36 but had dropped to 30 by 2002, and U.S. DOE projections suggest that this share will continue to slip 17, p. 186 . Light water reactors of U.S. design...

World Picture

There is no substantial expansion of nuclear power underway at this time outside Asia (see Chapter 2). Many countries in Europe could undertake a program of nuclear reactor construction, but most lack the political impulse. Exceptions include Finland and, if announced plans materialize, Russia. The Finnish program will perforce be small, perhaps restricted to a single reactor, whereas the Russian program potentially could be much larger. The significance of the Finnish reactor will be one of...

Weapons Proliferation

The most serious objection to nuclear power, in the view of many technical people, is its link to the spread of nuclear weapons, either to additional countries or to terrorists, as was discussed at some length in Section 18.3. A large worldwide expansion could increase proliferation risks, because the greater the number of countries with nuclear power, the greater the number of actual or latent proliferators (see, e.g, Ref. 19 ). For example, more countries could assert the need for...

Nuclear Wastes

The nuclear waste problem can be considered in the context of the U.S. experience. The Yucca Mountain repository has a planned capacity of 70,000 metric tons of heavy metal (MTHM). Typical spent fuel output is now about 30 MTHM GWyr. The contemplated expansion to an annual 325 GWyr would mean, were there no changes in reactor performance, a U.S. spent fuel output of about 10,000 MTHM per year. Thus, one Yucca Mountain scale repository would be needed every 7 years. However, future reactors may...

Uranium Resources

An immediate concern in contemplating such an expansion is the uranium supply. World uranium resources were estimated in Section 9.5.2 to be about 20 million tonnes, enough for 100,000 GWyr of reactor operation for present reactors. This would suffice to sustain a linear buildup to 2700 GWyr in 2050 and roughly another 15 years of continued operation. However, it would make little sense to bring reactors on line in 2050 that would run out of fuel in 2065. The hypothesized expansion could be...

Possible Difficulties in Nuclear Expansion The Pace of Reactor Construction

An expansion to 3000 GWe of nuclear capacity in 2050 may seem a very ambitious goal, especially when at present there is little reactor construction in the world. For a future world population of 9 billion people, the hypothesized per capita nuclear output would correspond to about 40 that of France in 2000. Most of the French increase in nuclear generation occurred in a 20-year period starting in about 1977. It should be possible for the world to achieve less than one-half the present French...

Desalination of Seawater

Many parts of the world are faced with water shortages, as populations and standards of living rise and groundwater resources are depleted. Desalination of seawater offers a solution that is being increasingly employed. An IAEA document published in 2000 reported that in 1997 there were about 12,500 desalination plants in the world operating or under construction, with capacities ranging from the very small to over 400,000 m3 per day 22, Section 2.4 .14 Total world capacity was given as 23...

Hydrogen as a Fuel

A major attraction of hydrogen as a fuel is its cleanliness Combustion of hydrogen leaves no waste product other than water (H2O). As such, it has 11 An earlier review (1976) listed nine such cycles, although it did not include the I-S cycle 24, p. 287 . 12 1 normal m3 (Nm3) has a mass of 0.090 kg and a combustion energy of 12.8 MJ. been urged as an automotive fuel in vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, as well as a source of electricity or heat for the home (see, e.g., Ref. 27 ). The use...

Production of Hydrogen Methods of Hydrogen Production

Hydrogen is sometimes referred to as the energy source of the future. This is a misnomer, or at least misleading. Hydrogen is not a fundamental energy source, in that there is very little hydrogen on Earth in a pure elemental form. Most of the hydrogen is trapped in water (H2O) or in hydrocarbons, and energy must be provided to produce it in elemental form. Once produced, hydrogen has the advantage of having a very high heat of combustion per unit mass 142 megajoules per kilogram (MJ kg) for...

Possible Additional Applications

The preceding discussions have mentioned the possible expanded use of nuclear energy in two important applications, namely the production of hydrogen and the desalinization of seawater. Each addresses limitations in the availability of a key resource. Hydrogen is a potential substitute for oil in transportation and desalinization offers a remedy for regional scarcities of water. They are discussed in the immediately following subsections. In each application, depending upon the method used, the...

Demand for Nuclear Power

Given the uncertainties in the world demand for electricity and the even greater uncertainties in the future acceptance of nuclear power, any estimate of nuclear power use in 2050 is highly speculative. However, we consider here several estimates for 2050 that suggest the possible scale of nuclear capacity and generation if there is to be a large expansion of nuclear power In the highest of the WEC IIASA projections discussed earlier, annual electricity generation in 2050 was projected to be...

Conservation

Conservation, especially in the form of higher efficiency in energy use, can reduce the demand for electricity. It has already contributed importantly through the introduction of more efficient lighting, refrigeration, and motors. Further exploitation of efficient technologies can make major additional contributions. However, conservation measures are already presumed in the scenarios discussed above. For example, the WEC IIASA scenarios assume for the OECD countries improvements in energy...

Possible Expansion of Nuclear Power Projection of Demand Demand for Electricity

In planning for electricity growth, the time horizon is on the scale of decades, and the year 2050 has been selected in some recent publications as a target date for estimates. Such projections, although highly speculative, are useful in suggesting the scale of efforts required to meet future demand. A number of different scenarios were analyzed in a joint study by the World Energy Council (WEC) and the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). The estimates for world electricity...

Wind Power

Wind is a rapidly growing source of electricity in some countries, particularly in Denmark, and the available resource is large. For the OECD as a whole, wind energy output rose from 0.5 GWyr in 1992 to 3.9 GWyr in 2001, an average rate of increase of 25 per year 1 . Some studies indicate that the wind resources in the United States are adequate to produce more electricity than is generated today from all sources.5 However, wind still makes only a very small contribution in most of the world...

Hydroelectric Power

Hydroelectric power is the most important renewable energy source, and it dominates the renewable contribution to electric power generation. It has played an important role in many countries, including the United States, where in the past it accounted for a large share of all electricity generation (e.g., 32 in 1949 12 ). Some major new hydroelectric dams are still being developed, notably China's project on the Yangtze River, which is expected to provide an annual output of about 10 GWyr....

Direct Use of Solar Energy

All direct uses of solar energy for electricity generation suffer from the dilute nature of the solar source. The average flux of solar energy at the surface of the Earth is about 200 W m2. Thus, it requires about 5 km2 to collect 1 GW of incident solar energy. The area required for electricity generation depends on the efficiency of conversion from solar energy to electricity. One potential source of electricity is biomass, used as a fuel in a steam turbine plant. The main source of biomass...

Renewable Sources Overview of Renewable Sources

In principle, renewable energy sources offer an alternative that avoids the CO2 produced by fossil fuels and the radionuclides produced by nuclear power. The terms renewable energy and solar energy are sometimes used interchangeably, but renewable energy includes the nonsolar sources of tidal and geother-mal power. Tidal power ultimately is based on gravitational forces, with the tides arising from the motions of the Earth and Moon. Geothermal power is ultimately derived from the decay of...

Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide

The reduction of carbon dioxide production would be less of a priority were it possible to sequester the carbon dioxide after it is produced (i.e., to capture 2 It is often pointed out that fossil fuel energy is used in constructing the non-fossil-generating facilities. However, at most, this is a small correction. it before it enters the atmosphere and permanently dispose of it in a secure location). The amounts involved are large. For each GWyr of coal-fired electric power, there is a release...

Fossil Fuels with Low CO Emissions Natural

The combustion of coal in electricity generation was responsible in 2001 for about one-third of the U.S. man-made CO2 emissions (see Section 1.2.3). These emissions would be greatly reduced if natural gas were to be substituted for coal. There are two gains (1) The CO2 production using natural gas is about 56 of the production using coal, at the same thermal energy output (see Section 1.2.3). (2) Gas-fired combined-cycle combustion turbines can operate at a thermal efficiency of over 50 ,...

Options for Electricity Generation Need for Additional Generating Capacity

The worldwide demand for electricity will almost certainly increase substantially in the coming decades. The increase will partly be driven by an expansion in conventional uses, as world population grows and the underdeveloped countries strive to raise their presently very low per capita use of electricity. It may also be driven by the expanded use of electricity in relatively new applications such as the production of hydrogen and the desalination of water. The demand for electricity would...

External Factors Impacting Nuclear Energy

Verdicts on the internal factors discussed earlier will be influenced by perceptions of need. Here, factors external to nuclear power determine the apparent need. These include the following Energy and electricity demand. Economic expansion and population growth act to increase the demand for additional energy, including nuclear energy. Effective conservation measures reduce it. Limitations on oil and gas resources. The need for alternatives is enhanced if these resources are seen to be...

Internal Factors Impacting Nuclear Power

The future acceptability of nuclear energy, which we restrict to energy from nuclear fission here, will depend, in part, on internal factors the strengths and weaknesses of nuclear power itself. Key factors are as follows Nuclear accidents. The sine qua non for the acceptance of nuclear power is a long period of accident-free operation, worldwide. Any major nuclear accident will heighten fears of nuclear power and each decade of accident-free operation helps to alleviate them. Reactor designs....

The Nuclear Debate Nature of the Debate

Debates about nuclear energy have sometimes appeared to have the aspect of a religious war, especially in the 1970s and 1980s when an expanding nuclear enterprise came into conflict with a growing antinuclear movement. Nuclear energy was discussed as if it were intrinsically good or evil, and for many of the protagonists, it became instinctive to oppose or support it. That debate has since become more muted. This does not mean that the basic issues are settled. Rather, it means that less...

Reactor Longevity

A private reactor operator whether a utility or an independent power producer has a responsibility to provide an adequate return to the investors within a reasonable period of time. The amortization period for nuclear power plants is typically 40 years. However, prospective investors today have a shorter time horizon. A discount rate of 12 , as adopted in the NTDG Roadmap, reflects the need to compensate investors relatively quickly. For a 40-year stream of payments at this rate, 90 of the...

Carbon

A direct way of discouraging fossil fuel use, and even discriminating among fossil fuel uses, is the imposition of a carbon tax a levy on fossil fuel use based on the magnitude of the CO2 emissions. Such a tax would automatically give a competitive gain to both nuclear and renewable sources. For example, a tax of 0.50 per tonne of carbon emitted would have the following consequences An increase in the cost of electricity of 1.3 kWh for a coal-fired plant operating at 33 efficiency and of 0.46...

Tax Credits

Renewable energy has received benefits in the form of tax credits, beginning with credits established by the federal government and California in the 1970s. These lapsed, but the federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 instituted an inflation-adjusted tax credit that started at 1.5 kWh and has risen, with inflation, to 1.8 kWh in 2003 15, p. 20 . It favors wind power and some biomass producers (see also Section 19.2.2). These credits have been extended on an annual basis since their original...

Nuclear Powers Need for Federal Support

Given present conditions, it appears unlikely that a new nuclear power plant will be built in the United States in the near future without federal action 16 Net imports represented 53 of petroleum supply in 2002 14, Table 1.7 . to reduce some of the financial risks of such a project. Even if nuclear power had, say, a 1 kWh cost advantage over the main competing source most likely natural gas that might not be enough to encourage a reactor order. The strength of public and government opposition...

Leveling or Tilting the Playing Field Past Government Intervention

Allowing the marketplace to decide is closely related to the often expressed calls for a level playing field. However, this nonintervention ideal does not correspond to past history, which, as discussed earlier, has seen frequent government intervention. Examples of intentional or incidental tilting of the playing field by government action have included the following The incentives given in the mid-1800s to promote railroad construction, which facilitated the shipment of coal throughout the...

Costs and Electricity Choices The Role of Cost Differences

The estimated generation costs for the four main options considered in Table 19.1 are mostly between about 4 kWh and 5 kWh. The MIT estimates overlap this range, although the base nuclear estimate is higher. Overall, the differences among the sources are probably less than the uncertainties in the estimates for each source and are small compared to the variations in the average U.S. cost of electric power over the past several decades and to regional variations (see Section 19.3.4)....

Comparative Cost Estimates

Several estimates of future electricity costs are presented in Table 19.1 for new U.S. plants going into operation in 2010.14 Costs projected by the U.S. DOE's Energy Information Administration are given for advanced coal, advanced gas, nuclear, and wind generation. For nuclear plants, two estimates are made, a reference case and an advanced cost case which assumes that the construction costs are reduced in a manner consistent with goals endorsed by the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy 15, p. 71...

Major Factors Impacting Costs of Gas Coal and Nuclear Electricity

The major question mark surrounding the attractiveness of natural gas for electricity generation is that of natural gas prices. The prices have been quite volatile in the past, and we may face both volatility and a long-term increasing trend if there is increasing natural gas use for electricity generation and other applications. Figure 19.2 displays simulated fuel costs in constant 1996 dollars for coal and natural gas at the prices prevailing from 1973 to 2001, assuming thermal efficiencies...

Costs of Nuclear and Fossil Fuel Electricity Sources Recent Trends in Comparative Costs

For nuclear power to be of interest to commercial companies in a competitive electricity market, its generation costs must be as low as those of coal or natural gas. In the past, the main cost competition has been between nuclear power and coal. From 1975 to 1982, the generation costs of nuclear- and coal-powered plants were about the same, but from 1982 to the late 1980s, nuclear costs rose rapidly while coal costs decreased slightly, both measured in current dollars.11 The rise in nuclear...

Recent Trends in Electricity Prices

The history of electricity prices in the United States since 1960 is shown in Figure 19.1, which gives average prices expressed in both current (or nominal) dollars and constant (or real) 1996 dollars 9, p. 241 . Although the price Fig. 19.1. Average U.S. retail electricity prices, 1960-2001, expressed in current dollars and in constant 1996 dollars. (From Ref. 9, Table 8.6 . Fig. 19.1. Average U.S. retail electricity prices, 1960-2001, expressed in current dollars and in constant 1996 dollars....

Calculation of Capital Charges

If a plant could be built instantaneously, its cost would be the sum of the base construction cost, also known as the engineering, procurement and construction cost, together with a contingency cost. This constitutes the overnight cost. However, a plant cannot be built instantaneously and so-called time-related charges must be added, namely interest on the investment and the escalation of costs during the period of construction. For example, in a study by the DOE-sponsored Near Term Deployment...

The Role of Government in Electricity Generation Decisions

Other levels of government beyond the public utility commissions can also have important impacts on electricity generation. This can be done through subsidies, regulations designed to encourage or discourage a given form of generation, or taxes and fees. For example, coal has been the beneficiary of federal incentives to railroads dating to the 1800s, and nuclear power has been the beneficiary of technology developed for nuclear weapons and naval ship propulsion. Even more directly, U.S....

Institutional Roles Who Provides Electricity

The main suppliers of electricity traditionally were investor-owned utilities, commonly referred to as private utilities. In addition, in many parts of the country, federal and local entities created publicly owned utilities for electricity generation, including large regional organizations such as the federal Tennessee Valley Authority in the southeast and small local bodies such as the city-run Seattle City Light in Washington. In the early days of electricity generation, a large fraction of...

References

Garwin and Georges Charpak, Megawatts and Megatons A Turning Point in the Nuclear Age (New York Alfred A. Knopf, 2001). 2. Robert F. Mozley, The Politics and Technology of Nuclear Proliferation (Seattle, WA University of Washington Press, 1998). 3. National Academy of Sciences, Nuclear Arms Control Background and Issues, Report of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control (Washington, DC National Academy Press, 1985). 4. William Epstein, Indefinite Extension with...

Policy Options for the United States

No attempt will be made here to outline a nonproliferation policy for the United States. The issues are too complex and, in many cases, too removed from nuclear power to be appropriately treated. However, it is worth making a few observations The coupling between nuclear power and nuclear weapons is weak. The issue is important and profound because the stakes are great. But in the end, nuclear power policies, and more particularly, U.S. nuclear power policies, are unlikely to have much impact...

Disposition of Excess Fissile Material from Weapons Programs

With the end of the cold war in the 1990s, the United States and Russian governments concluded that they had more nuclear weapons and more weapons-grade fissile material than were needed for security. In fact, it could be argued that their security would be improved by reductions, because there would be less chance of the accidental or intentional misuse of the weapons or the diversion of stock-piled materials. This conclusion led to the START I and START II treaties under which each country...

Nuclear Power and Moderation of Weapons Dangers Diminishing Conflicts over

So far, we have stressed ways in which nuclear power might exacerbate proliferation dangers. There are also ways in which it might help to reduce them. Conflicts between nations, including conflicts that might escalate into nuclear conflicts, are more likely given severe competition for resources or domestic unrest due to extreme economic difficulties. Were nuclear power able to alleviate these sources of conflict, it could serve to lessen the risks. The most obvious conflicts of this sort are...

Institutional Measures

No matter what the technical measures, a determined proliferator can develop facilities for weapons with or without nuclear power. The most promising means of restraining nuclear proliferation is a combination of rigorous inspections, presumably by the IAEA, backed by economic pressures. These pressures could be exerted through the United Nations or, alternatively, by the United States and like-minded countries. Such mechanisms can be faulted for their initial failures in the detection and...

Reducing Proliferation Dangers from Nuclear Power Technological Measures

There is no infallible technological fix to the problem of nuclear proliferation. There are many routes to nuclear weapons for determined countries that possess even a modest industrial and scientific base. However, as we have seen, the threshold is raised if there is no easy access to separated plutonium. It may be noted in this connection that, although the use of MOX fuel described earlier will decrease the stock of separated 239Pu, it develops facilities that could later be used to...

Subnational Groups

The main premise of the preceding subsections is that it is relatively easy for many countries to build nuclear weapons, including countries that are labeled as developing. However, it would be a difficult matter for any subnational group that does not have a secure geographical base. The difficulty is greatest if it is necessary to start using plutonium from spent fuel or uranium that requires enrichment. In this case, the subnational group would face an almost insuperable task unless the host...

Countries with Neither Nuclear Power nor Nuclear Weapons

Countries that lack both nuclear power and nuclear weapons tend to be countries without a highly advanced technological base. As such, they might not be thought to pose a significant threat. However, a number of countries mentioned above (Iran, Iraq, and Libya, as well as North Korea which may already have built weapons) all could be placed in this category, and they have been viewed as potential threats. Many other countries could mount similar efforts. Those that have abstained often have...

Aspiring Weapons States

Iraq has made a substantial effort to obtain nuclear weapons, although it has been thwarted in this, at least temporarily. Again, commercial nuclear power is irrelevant to its programs, because Iraq neither has nuclear power nor any announced plans to obtain it. Iran is another matter. Russian steps to help it with civilian nuclear power are viewed with suspicion, because it is feared that Iran intended to use this program to further weapons development. An interest in civilian power can be...

Countries with Nuclear Weapons Admitted or Suspected

The most obvious nuclear weapons threats come from countries that already possess weapons The NWSs, which admit to nuclear weapons and have no plans to renounce them. India and Pakistan, which carried out surprise nuclear weapons tests in 1998 and have raised the specter of possibly using nuclear weapons if their political and military conflicts escalate. Israel, which almost certainly could quickly deploy a large number of nuclear weapons if it felt sufficiently threatened. North Korea, which...

Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy

Starting with the Atoms for Peace program of the Eisenhower Administration and continuing through the formulation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it was believed by the U.S. government that it would be possible to keep the military and civilian aspects of nuclear energy separate and that the promise of aid with peaceful nuclear activities could help induce countries to forgo military uses. Articles IV and V of the NPT in fact obligate NWSs to aid non-NWS Table 18.4. Initial methods used to...

Summary of Pathways to Weapons

We summarize in Table 18.4 the ways in which fissile material has been sought or obtained by the various countries that have undertaken nuclear-weapon programs. (Iran is omitted as an ambiguous case.) A striking feature of the table is the reminder it provides that many of the countries that built or aspired to build nuclear weapons have first used enriched uranium rather than plutonium. This means that antiproliferation efforts must take into account uranium-enrichment facilities as well as...

Libya

An attempt by Libya to develop nuclear weapons came to public attention in late 2003, along with an announced agreement by Libya to abandon the program and submit to inspections. The program was based on centrifuge technology for uranium enrichment which reportedly was transferred to Libya by individual Pakistani scientists 40 . This possibly was done without the knowledge of the Pakistani government. The program was abandoned after negotiations with the United Kingdom and United States, but...

Former Soviet Union Belarus Kazakhstan Ukraine

The Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, when Ukraine voted for independence and the Soviet Union, at the initiative of Boris Yeltsin, dissolved into the far looser Commonwealth of Independent States. The nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union were located in four of these states Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. It was agreed that only Russia would remain a NWS and the others would transfer all weapons to Russia and become nonweapon states. By the end of 1996, all three states...

South Africa

South Africa undertook a weapons program based on the enrichment of uranium using an aerodynamic process, developed with German help 2, p. 109 .25 Its major facility for weapons-grade uranium enrichment was built in the 1970s and reportedly had an annual output capacity of about 60-90 kg of 93 enriched uranium 12, p. 382 . This gave South Africa the ability to build a substantial arsenal. In 1990, along with many other changes in political direction, South Africa decided to abandon its...

Brazil

Partly in response to Argentina's nuclear program, Brazil took an important step toward nuclear-weapons capabilities in 1979, with the start of a centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant. It was put into operation in 1988, with the ostensible purpose of producing uranium enriched to 5 or 20 in 235 U 24, p. 250 . Brazil has also had a very small plutonium reprocessing program. At the same time, a 626-MWe PWR was put into commercial operation in 1985. Whatever its original aspirations, Brazil gave up...

Argentina

Argentina obtained a small research reactor in 1958 and a 320-MWe heavy water CANDU power reactor in 1974. It made its first public moves toward a weapons program in 1978, with the announcement of a planned plutonium reprocessing plant and the start on construction of a gaseous diffusion plant for uranium enrichment. Work on the reprocessing plant was terminated in 1990, apparently before it went into operation, but the gaseous diffusion plant began operating in 1988. The plant was designed for...

The Bridling of Weapons Ambitions

Although, by now, a troublingly large array of countries have nuclear weapons or are believed to be trying to get them, the number could be much larger if all countries with the potential ability to do so had made the attempt. Many, in the terminology of a book on the subject, had bridled any weapons ambitions that they may have had 34 . We discuss here the cases of Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and members of the former Soviet Union. Additional examples, mentioned by Albright and...

Iran

Iran has for many years attempted to develop a nuclear power program. Under the Shah, who was driven from power in 1979, this was with the cooperation of Western countries, starting with a 5-MWt research reactor from the United States in the 1960s 2, p. 198 . As part of a larger long-term program, construction was begun in 1974 at Bushwehr of two 1300-MWe West German LWRs 12, p. 354 . Iran also made contracts to obtain low-enriched uranium 21 This capacity, from Ref. 2 , may overstate the size...

Iraq

Iraq's nuclear ambitions have expressed themselves in two, or possibly three, stages. Iraq obtained a large research reactor from France in 1976, the Osirak 19 The agreement was to provide 500,000 tonnes of oil per year, enough to replace approximately 300 MWe of nuclear capacity. 20 The 2 GWe of nuclear capacity could produce roughly 500 kg of reactor grade plutonium a year. However, reprocessing of conventional power reactor fuel (UO2) requires additional equipment, beyond that needed for the...

North Korea

North Korea illustrates how a country with a relatively small technical base may be able to go it alone in weapons development, given sufficient determination and some small initial help. North Korea began with a small light-water-moderated research reactor, its IRT reactor, received from the USSR in 1965 26 . It had an initial capacity of 2 MWt it was later upgraded to 4 MWt and then to 8 MWt 27 . North Korea also was helped by the USSR with small-scale reprocessing equipment, and a small...

Pakistan

Following its defeat in a mini-war with India in 1971, Pakistan reportedly decided in 1972 to develop its own nuclear weapons 24, p. 90 . It took a dual approach toward obtaining fuel, including facilities for both uranium enrichment and plutonium extraction. However, its weapons program is believed to have been based primarily on enriched uranium produced with centrifuges. As of 1990, Leonard Spector concluded that Pakistan probably could deploy five to ten bombs for delivery by aircraft 24,...

Other Countries with Announced Weapons Programs India

India began a rudimentary nuclear program in 1948, shortly after achieving independence from Great Britain. It built a small research reactor in 1956 using enriched uranium from Britain, and in 1960, it obtained a larger research reactor under a joint Canadian-Indian-U.S. program 21, p. 24 . The reactor was given the acronym CIRUS in recognition of its parentage. This was a 40-MWt natural-uranium reactor moderated with heavy water. Part of the initial fuel was provided by Canada and the heavy...