Gundersen: The dominoes are starting to fall in U.S. — I think we’ll see quite a few nuclear plants shutting down permanently (VIDEO)

Published: December 4th, 2012 at 5:58 am ET


Title: Nuclear Energy Information Service Q&A
Author: chicagomultikulti
Date: December 1, 2012
h/t MsMilkytheclown

Nuclear Expert Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education: The Kewaunee plant in Wisconsin, it’s a 600 megawatt plant, a single unit plant and the owner of the plant has decided that it makes no economic sense to run it so they’ll be shutting down. […]

The dominoes are starting to fall, small single unit reactors like Oyster Creek, Vermont Yankee and others. The commercials pressures on them to keep them running, especially in light of Fukushima modifications, I don’t think Kewaunee will be the only plant to shut down. I think we’ll see quite a few.

Watch footage of all the presentations here

Published: December 4th, 2012 at 5:58 am ET


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38 comments to Gundersen: The dominoes are starting to fall in U.S. — I think we’ll see quite a few nuclear plants shutting down permanently (VIDEO)

  • gr81 gr81

    Why wait? Shut them down NOW!

  • Stephengn

    This is good news. Unfortunately, the immediate replacement is coal and or oil. As plants shut down people need to demand commitments that they will be replaced by renewables

      • Sol Man

        The Fort St. Vrain Power Station converted from nuclear to natural gas years ago. So there is no npp in CO. I am not certain if the old fuel is still housed there, though. Here are some photos.

        With our current abundance of gas why not?

        • Sol Man

          In Platteville, CO.

        • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

          Yes, all the fuel is still there. It is being stored until at least 2030. A lot of the fuel is live fuel as it wasn't in existence very long. The fuel is being air cooled. This npp is a failed thorium and sodium reactor.

          • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

            “safety was assured to a substantial level” [i.e., double speak for ‘it wasn’t safe.’]
            “The primary coolant was helium which transferred heat to a water based secondary coolant system to drive steam generators. The reactor fuel was a combination of fissile uranium and fertile thorium microspheres dispersed within a prismatic graphite matrix….The typical steel-reinforced, pre-stressed concrete containment dome structure was omitted in favor of a steel-frame containment structure while the reactor core was partially contained within a prestressed concrete reactor pressure vessel (PCRV)….
            “Three major categories of problems were experienced at Fort St. Vrain: first, water infiltration and corrosion issues; second, electrical system issues; and third, general facility issues….
            “exceedingly close tolerances were needed to ensure that helium did not exfiltrate through the circulator while in use. Moving surfaces, in particular, were hard-pressed to provide the kind of seal required to keep the helium coolant in. Thus a water-lubricated bearing design was used to provide an adequate solution to the potential issue of helium exfiltration….
            “Unfortunately, in satisfactorily preventing helium exfiltration, the designers caused another issue: water infiltration…
            “By these mechanisms, water entered the sealed volume of the PCRV and caused havoc with numerous operations-critical systems.

          • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

            Shutdown Nuclear Power Plants in the United States
            “…A converter reactor, it used U235 and Thorium as fuel. Thorium is non-fissionable and less costly than other nuclear fuels, but when combined with U235 it is converted into fissionable U235….
            “The plant operated during December 1976 and August 1989, in between a series of reactor shutdowns…
            “The plant was last shut down in August 1989 to repair a stuck control rod discovered during routine safety testing. During the repair activities, hairline cracks were discovered in tubes that supplied heated steam to drive the turbine….”

          • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

            Thorium fuel cycle
            “In 232Th–233U fuel cycle, much lesser quantity of plutonium and long-lived Minor Actinides (MA: Np, Am and Cm) are formed as compared to the 238U–239Pu fuel cycle, thereby minimizing the radiotoxicity associated in spent fuel. However, in the back end of 232Th–233U fuel cycle, there are other dionuclides such as 231Pa, 229Th and 230U, which may have long term radiological impact…

            “The melting point of ThO2 (3 3500C) is much higher compared to that of UO2(2 8000C). Hence, a much higher sintering temperature (>2 0000C) is required to produce high density ThO2 and ThO2–based mixed oxide fuels. Admixing of ‘sintering
            aid’ (CaO, MgO, Nb2O5, etc) is required for achieving the desired pellet density at lower temperature.

            “ThO2 and ThO2–based mixed oxide fuels are relatively inert and, unlike UO2 and (U, Pu)O2 fuels, do not dissolve easily in concentrated nitric acid. Addition of small quantities of HF in concentrated HNO3 is essential which cause corrosion of stainless steel equipment and pipings in reprocessing plants. The corrosion problem is mitigated with addition of aluminium nitrate. Boiling THOREX solution [13 M HNO3+0.05 MHF+0.1 M Al(NO3)3] at ~393 K and long dissolution period are required for ThO2–based fuels.

            • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

              “In the conversion chain of 232Th to 233U, 233Pa is formed as an intermediate, which has a relatively longer alf-life (~27 days) as compared to 239Np (2.35 days) in the uranium
              fuel cycle thereby requiring longer cooling time of at least one year for completing the decay of 233Pa to 233U. Normally, Pa is passed into the fission product waste in the THOREX process, which could have long term adiological impact. It is essential to separate Pa from the spent fuel solution prior to solvent extraction process for separation of 233U and thorium.

              “The three stream process of separation of uranium, plutonium and thorium from spent (Th, Pu)O2 fuel, though viable, is yet to be developed.

              ”The database and experience of thorium fuels and thorium fuel cycles are very limited, as compared to UO2 and (U, Pu)O2 fuels, and need to be augmented before large investments are made for commercial utilization of thorium fuels and fuel cycles.

          • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

            Thorium fuel cycle

            “At Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s, the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment used 233U as the fissile fuel as an experiment to demonstrate a part of the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor that was designed to operate on the thorium fuel cycle. Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) experiments assessed thorium's feasibility, using thorium(IV) fluoride dissolved in a molten salt fluid which eliminated the need to fabricate fuel elements. The MSR program was defunded in 1976 after its patron Alvin Weinberg was fired.[9]…
            “after a few hundred years, the waste from a thorium reactor can be less toxic than the uranium ore that would have been used to produce low enriched uranium fuel for a light water reactor of the same power. Other studies assume some actinide losses and find that actinide wastes dominate thorium cycle waste radioactivity at some future periods.[18]…”

            • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad


              Mind if I use your material for a blog post?

              • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

                A Green Road, you are always welcome to use any material I post. It is all in the public domain and I appreciate very much that you have an organized depository of all this information.

          • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

            High Temperature Gas Reactors
            Figure 1 shows the approximate dates of construction, operation, and major outages for the HTGR plants. All of these plants except Dragon (Winfrith, England) and HTTR (Tokaimura, Japan) were equipped to generate electricity, although AVR (Julich Research Center, West Germany), Peach Bottom (Delta, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), and HTR-10 (Tsinghua University,Beijing, China) were all small enough that they can be considered prototype plants rather than as commercial power plants intended to make a profit….”

          • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

            ¡¡The Japan Atomic Energy Research institute (JAERI) has been building a high temperature engineering test reactor (HTTR) to develop and upgrade high temperature gas-cooled reactor technology and conduct research on high temperature engineering. Under construction for eight years, the HTTR reached its first criticality on Novenmber 10, 1998. Final conditioning tests continue prior to its power ascension.

      • Maggie123

        PU239 – n.gas? Yikes! Gas IMO is next looming earth/life destructive force due to fracking being technology of choice. Just searched fracking for EU and global. (Am aware of US, UK, and Canadian activity). Fracking is everywhere.

        Search brings abundance of pro/anti fracking sites & articles. Business analysts appear enthusiastic with little to no concern for collateral consequences:

        Beyond our habitual habitat destruction by tearing down vegetation and tearing into earth – fracking brings two deeply worrying consequences.

        Quakes – so far few proven related to fracking are huge, often 2 to 4 on R.scale, but buildings have been damaged. (Was there a disastrous one in Spain or that region early this year finally linked to fracking?)

        Water – diversion and loss. Fracking takes massive amounts of water; fresh water resources are diverted from habitat and human need. A second chilling consequence is permanent water toxification due to chemicals used in the operations. Sensational video clips of people setting tap water on fire as it comes out of a faucet should be a 'heads up'. Water issues tie directly to earth/life need.

        IMO we've got to reduce high consumption lifestyle + shift to alternatives ASAP.

    • aigeezer aigeezer

      Renewables, yes please, and plenty of them, but also some rethinking of how we use our energy resources.

      I read the fine print on a supermarket package of frozen prawns today, curious as to whether they were from the Gulf. To my surprise, the label said "Product of India". (Who knew?).

      It got me thinking of the immense waste of energy involved in sending frozen prawns from India to my home on the ocean shore in Atlantic Canada.

      My guess is that energy consumption could drop dramatically without any particular hardship, just by changing some priorities.

      I would never knowingly have bought seafood from half a world away – obscure labeling practices let "them" slip all sorts of surprises past us and next thing you know we "need" all that energy.

      • or-well

        May be interesting to know, "fresh" green peas -from China – in plastic packaging, regularly in my grocery. In Canada.
        Many more examples I won't list of huge, largely uncosted energy expenditures just in the grocery store.
        Global sourcing of agricultural goods does not, can not, reflect the true "cost" to soil, water or local human and environmental health in addition to energy costs.
        off topic so over and out.

        • bluebonnet bluebonnet

          China is the world's leader in the irradiation of "fresh" food of all kinds – produce, meat , seafood, eggs and dairy. Irradiated food doesn't even have to be labelled as such.
          I read somewhere that they use Cobalt from Canada. It's all very circular. All we can do is to buy from local and organic sources whenever possible. Food from China is even sold by Whole Foods. We can't take anything for granted.

      • patb2009

        i swear a lot of global trade is just trade for trades sake.

        Warren Buffet said the largest source of sugar cookies to the US is Norway. The largest source
        of Sugar Cookies to Norway is America. He says it's a lot cheaper to mail a recipe around.

        • Maggie123

          Trade for trades sake – keeping ourselves busily employed extracting earth materials, hauling* them to factories, making and shipping and selling and buying stuff. Can't run a healthy economy otherwise!

          *(hauling, of course, in assorted transportation devices that are the result of "extracting earth materials, hauling them to factories**, making and shipping and selling and buying stuff") In this case, primary 'stuff' is cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships.

          **(factories built, of course, via the process of extracting earth materials, hauling them to factories, making and shipping and selling and buying stuff" In this case primary stuff is construction*** materials

          ***(there will be transportation infrastructure and housing developments related to construction portion of a healthy economy of course.)

        • aigeezer aigeezer

          patb2009, that's a nice example from Buffet but even it assumes an inefficient dead-tree letter-mail system I suppose.

          I think you are onto something with your trade for trade's sake comment. Apparently GDP is measured in most places by merely recording (taxable) activity. If you mow your own lawn and I mow my own lawn there is no effect on GDP, but if we mow each other's lawn and bill each other then GDP goes up, taxes are collected, and records are kept that trigger all sorts of money-making activity for those who thrive on such things. If we all ship goods to/from the other side of the world, a lot of (unnecessary?) transactions take place along the way.

          It's a strange system we've all somehow managed to create, most of us unwittingly, by simple acts like putting a tempting package into a cart at the supermarket. or-well's "fresh peas" example blew me away. Perpetual motion, with an insatiable demand for fuel!

      • Maggie123

        Aigeezer – I avoid purchasing imported fresh fruits/veggies while usually raising what I can of both or doing without, (or harvesting wild – berries if in right region). But I've certainly bought my share of frozen veggies – peas especially! "Who knew" is right!

        IMO the theme "food security" is yet another major global concern – in some faces and about to be in everyone's.

        Joy of fresh watermelon in February of a northern winter is one thing we need to look at. Experience has caused me to wonder if one reason pickles were so wonderful in simpler times was the mid-winter treat of textured 'acidic' food – replacement for fresh fruit?

        Gardening and permaculture make sense to me not only to reduce transportation costs. By planting we reduce reliability on highly centralized food systems, help revitalize earth, and create wildlife foods and habitat. I hope all with a yard or access to a patch of land consider stewardship, build soil, plant permafoods, etc.

        We've got major water issues also already in-our-faces or about to be. We tend to think it's only an 'undeveloped nation' issue but it's coming fast to all nations. See fracking notes to Pu239 above; see also anything on global water "commodification". Here's one I found in a quick search minutes ago:

        • Maggie123

          Meant to directly link food security directly to water issues.

          Also meant to encourage community gardening/permaculture projects – found quite a bit on line about it a couple of months ago. Especially interesting is community use of boulevards, empty lots, parts of city parks, and so on to plant food-producing trees and shrubs.


            if you haven't seen it yet Maggie123, you should checkout:

            Last Call at the Oasis


            • Maggie123

              Aftershock – Thank you for absolutely on-point film recommendation. Watched only the preview so far but caught the perfect statement by Erin Brockovich to highlight a concern I have re general awareness: "You may think this only happens over there, to other people – but it's happening to you, now." (paraphrased) Looks like a first rate documentary. Fingers crossed with wish it will have great impact!

    • patb2009

      takes 2 years to get a coal plant on line, minimum, but, you can get solar or wind on line in 30-90 days and build them in much more convenient increments.

      • Maggie123

        patb2009 – We should be wearing your statement on t-shirts while standing in cashier lines!!

      • bluebonnet bluebonnet

        Like a comment I saw on Twitter – If we can "safely" store nuke waste for 1000s of years why can't we store solar power overnight?

  • or-well

    All Aboard!
    Here comes the mini-nuke train!
    Then we can forget about transmission drains.

    Closing plants without profits won't break the chains
    the belief we need MORE has on our brains.
    An aversion to LESS is how we've been trained,
    blending "want" with "need" has been the refrain.

    For US as a nation, there's no need for nukes;
    conservation alone would nuke-need rebuke.
    It's cities or regions have become dependent,
    local is where there must be amendment.
    A de-centralised grid is better defended
    from much that could make us all repentent.

    Care for a Carrington? How 'bout a quake?
    There is no system completely fail-safe
    but a suite of options more sense makes
    than falling for any more nuke head-fakes.

  • weeman

    I can see these older units being shut down, but I doubt that they will decommission them immediately and what about all the spent fuel, they will continue to store in a glorified swimming pool that has no containment.

    In Canada on our hydro bill there is a charge for debt retirement charge every month $25.05.
    Delivery was $200.81., also a .092 charge for loss of electricity, taxes hst $73.60.
    We also are charged different prices for electricity depending on time of day used, on peak, mid peak and off peak and a summer and winter schedule.
    My bill was $586.51 after my 10% ontario clean energy benefit, total bill was $639.73, my electic used was $315.04.
    What a rip off, made to confuse and hide the fact that they could not run a whore house never mind a utility.

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    Fukushima and Chernobyl wrecked the Northern Hemisphere. And all for nothing.

  • Lets find the old single plants, the weak antelope in the herd, and make a list of them, and make a list of the legislators in the states, and then lets get the constituents and anyone who lives on the HOME PLANET to write to those legislators.

    Lets get to the media in those areas, and point out the infractions per open NRC records, lets review the flood and quake damage possibilities. And publish them.

    Lets tally up the spent fuel pool information, and mentally stress test the security, and publish the results of an attack or a Carrington in the area, and its effect on the economy.

    Pick of the weak ones first. yes its cruel, and nuke on our home planet with these pyschopaths stroking their own "matter busting" egos is cruel too. Shut them DOWN!

  • I think the economic impetus is to keep them running to continue some sort of positive cash flow. The reality is that as soon as you shut down a reactor it becomes a money pit requiring ongoing maintenance for years with no income. However, seeing the damage done in Japan while acknowledging the punitive court system here it is definitely becoming harder and harder to find new investors. Given the age of the average plant in USA its just a matter of time before they all shut down. At this point the technology is really looking bad with a lot of people. Germany is a good example.

  • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

    Sodium Cooled Monju Nuclear Fast Breeder Power Plant Accident; via A Green Road

    Nuclear Accidents, Recycling Nuclear Weapons/Fuel