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With US Nuclear in Decline, Scientists and Analysts Urge Support for Next-Generation Technologies

“The full gamut of electricity-generation sources — including nuclear power — must be deployed to replace the burning of fossil fuels.”

The global nuclear industry is in steady decline. Since hitting a peak in 1996 at nearly 18 percent of global energy production, the industry’s share has dropped down to less than 11 percent.

Even with countries like China and India looking to boost their low-carbon energy supplies with nuclear, project developers around the world have faced long delays, cost overruns, and strong competition from natural gas and distributed resources, as well as policies designed to phase nuclear out entirely.

America is facing its own imminent decline in nuclear generation. With a wave of aging plants slated for closure in the coming years and almost no plans to replace them, some worry that the country will reverse the recent decline in emissions, potentially even hurting a long-term global deal to reduce carbon pollution.

Nuclear currently makes up 19 percent of the country’s generation. If enough plants end up retiring all at once, the government warns that emissions could climb by 4 percent per year. (The actual change will also depend on how many coal plants are retired, how much natural gas is consumed, and how quickly renewables ramp.)

Worried about how the deterioration of America’s nuclear fleet will impact climate goals, a group of scientists and energy analysts this week urged a rethinking of U.S. nuclear policy. The separate calls, all made within days of each other, came from a leading Washington-based think tank, 73 conservation scientists and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“There is a need…to develop and articulate a clear strategy for nuclear power, including a statement of how the federal government will provide long-term support,” wrote IEA in its latest review of U.S. energy policy.

A comprehensive federal plan, says IEA, is the only way to keep the industry relevant. Low natural gas and wind prices are challenging the economics of nuclear plants in the U.S., forcing some plant operators to consider retiring older plants ahead of schedule. 

“The domestic nuclear industry is therefore at a critical juncture as a consequence of its declining economic competitiveness, and existing market mechanisms do not favor investment in high capital-intensive nuclear technology,” concluded the IEA.

Articulating that strategy will not be easy. 

On a levelized-cost-of energy basis (an admittedly limited metric), distributed renewables are competing with nuclear plants, adding to the pain inflicted by low natural gas prices. Both free-market advocates and renewable energy proponents say new nuclear shouldn’t be built if it can’t compete in today’s market.

Cost overruns are also hurting the industry’s image. The first U.S. nuclear project to be built in 30 years, the Vogtle power plant in Georgia, is now $1.5 billion over budget and getting more expensive. Angry about rate increases caused by Vogtle, the Green Tea Party and environmental groups were able to force Georgia Power to support half a gigawatt of new solar in the state — much of it procured for 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Meanwhile, many environmentalists remain staunchly opposed to nuclear for traditional health and safety reasons.

In response, a group of 73 conservation scientists wrote an open letter to green groups on Monday asking them to reconsider their opposition.

“As leading climate scientists have recently advocated the development of safe, next-generation nuclear energy systems to combat global climate change, we entreat the conservation and environmental community to weigh up the pros and cons of different energy sources using objective evidence and pragmatic tradeoffs, rather than simply relying on idealistic perceptions of what is ‘green.'”

The letter was a follow-up to a paper recently published in the journal Conservation Biology, which argued for a nuclear development as a strategy to prevent biodiversity loss. 

“Given the historical antagonism toward nuclear energy amongst the environmental community, we accept that this stands as a controversial position,” they wrote.

For nuclear to have any chance of succeeding, strong government intervention will be needed to fund more R&D and back loans for commercial-scale plants, say proponents.

In an essay written for the Brookings Institution last Friday, Joshua Freed, the director of energy at the think tank Third Way, outlined the elements needed to support emerging nuclear technologies that can recycle waste, use more diverse fuels, reduce plant size and increase operational safety.

Increasing funding for government labs to create an advanced reactor test facility would be the first step, argued Freed. But the funds set aside for R&D are far below levels needed.

“An unholy and unwitting alliance of right-wing climate deniers, small-government radicals, and liberal anti-nuclear advocates have joined together to keep nuclear lab budgets small,” wrote Freed.

As technologies near commercialization, financing support programs like loan guarantees will also be needed, argued Freed. That’s an area where the government has been most supportive. Last week, the Department of Energy announced the availability of $12.5 billion in loan guarantees for advanced reactor designs or enrichment processes.

The ambitious goals of nuclear startups “cannot be accomplished by Silicon Valley VC-scale funding,” he wrote.

Finally, argued Freed, federal regulators need to change how they approve new power plant designs.

“The NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] makes no pretense of being prepared to evaluate reactors cooled by molten salt or run on depleted uranium. And it insists on pounding these new round pegs into its old square holes, demanding that the new reactors meet the same requirements as the old ones, even when that makes no sense,” he wrote.

That kind of government help is unrealistic given today’s political and market conditions. But if emissions start creeping back up in the U.S., it’s likely that more groups will throw their support behind a next-generation nuclear strategy.

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Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 25, 2014

It will take at least 15years before advanced nuclear can deliver meaningful power plants.

So the issue is whether advanced fission nuclear, such as MSR, can compete against the price of solar+wind+storage solutions in the 2030 – 2060 period.
Afraid that the answer is negative, as experts predict then price levels of 2-3cnt/KWh for solar+wind+storage.

Why invest in a technology that cannot compete against the all renewable solution?


Paul O's picture
Paul O on Dec 25, 2014

Obama needs to go away. I may catch a lot of hate for this opinion, but I’m saying it anyway.

There is less than a snowball’s chance in hell that Nuclear power will do anything as long as he is around. Once Obama (and Reid) disappear (politically), we might see some newer, modern Nuclear Technologies make some useful strides in the fight against AGW.

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Dec 25, 2014


I would like to think that TEC comments would add factual information or interestng perspectives. 


douglas card's picture
douglas card on Dec 25, 2014

Paul, you won’t get hate, you will get derision for making a comment that seems knee jerk.  Who was the last POTUS to have a ground breaking for a new facility before Obama?  So we have not only the 4 reactors that were approved in 2012, but the last POTUS to start one was Carter. 

What has Reid done to stop them from being built? 

6.5 Billion approved in February this year for research seems resonable considering Americans are split on Nuclear.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Dec 25, 2014

The intrinsic costs of a masss produced advannnced reactor build up is less than the intrinssic costs of storing (almost) the inverse of RE capacity facttor for 12 billion people living aat high standardss. Thereffore, why NOT also invest in the source that reliably provides 90% capacity factor, which requires FAR less sttorage and requires far less land and materials. Besides, we’ll neeed the UNLIMITED power from fission just to greeen a deserrt.

(Don’t ever buy a hp lapttop –  keyboard too seensitive)

Keith Pickering's picture
Keith Pickering on Dec 25, 2014

Well, Bas, if we’re allowed to use “predicted” costs for wind, solar, and storage, shouldn’t we also be allowed to used predicted costs for MSRs? Because when you consider that (a) because MSRs operate at ambient pressure, rather than 100 atmospheres, piping doesn’t have to be nearly as massive; (b) MSRs cannot melt down and cannot explode, so building below grade eliminates the need for a containment building; (c) MSRs have no need for emergency, secondary emergency, or tertiary emergency cooling systems; and (d) the cost of all the aforementioned amounts to about 70% of the cost of a conventional LWR; 


(e) the predicted cost of an MSR will be less than half the cost of a current LWR.

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Dec 25, 2014


Over 30 years, strange and wonderful things may come from nanotechnology — supercapacitors, extremely efficient solar cells, flexible solar cells, high capacity batteries, inexpensive catalysts for synfuel, super insulation, etc. Everything we have now will likely seem primitive.



Paul O's picture
Paul O on Dec 25, 2014

While my comment is a gut feeling

The future of 4th Generation Nuclear Power, and the intermidiary use of Light Water reactors, requires a far more Nuclear Oriented Presidency than Obama’s. I am convinced of this because of the manner Obama Killed off Yucca Mountain at Reid’s prompting. My gut gut feeling is that we will see a new president in the White House before we see real progress in the Nuclear front. We certainly need a far more positive push/leadership than Harry Reid and Obama have given us. It’s hard anyone to deny this.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 26, 2014

So your MSR becomes extremely vulnerable for an (200ton) aircraft attack, etc.
Anyway, no big pressure needed for leakage; a broken thermo-couple is enough as shown at Monju.

As the 700°C molten salt also contains the very radio-active fuel, such leakage implies that the room at the leakage will become highly radio-active. Such room containing the solidified salt+fuel mixture, will be impossible to enter by humans due to the high radiation (similar situation as in some rooms at Fukushima). So such leakage implies probably the end ot the MSR power plant.

Hence the insurance premium (investment, decommission risks/cost) will be high, unless these costs are socialized as at Vogtle.

The MSR needs two molten salt circuits with pumps and heat exchanger each, Those heat exchangers add greatly to the costs.
Especially since special steel is needed to withstand the high temperatures (normal steel glows red and can be forged at 650°C). Even the special steel wears relative fast (something better than Hastelloy-N desired).

The extreme high temperatures imply also increased failure rates for pumps, sensors and other equipment. For repair the temperature of the molten salt circuit often will have to be decreased to <250°C, which implies closing the reactor and restart. Hence an outage of weeks or more.
So the capacity factor of the MSR plant may not reach the 50% (compare commercial NPP Superphénix).

The two molten salt circuits with heat exchanger each also imply that load following will be difficult, which imply it can operate only as baseload plant. But baseload cannot compete in an environment with substantial share of wind+solar, as a.o. German experience shows.

So even if the stability issue (how to prevent hot spots in the fluid – fuel mixture) is solved, it’s electricity cost price (LCOE) and vulnerability together with its base load characteristic, stays highly problematic.
But we will see whether the top-rated Chinese team succeeds in next 2 decades.

Investing the money in research to accelerate the price decrease of solar panels and batteries, delivers far more. Also for the >1billion people who don’t have a grid connection. They get non-polluting good light, etc.

Leo Klisch's picture
Leo Klisch on Dec 26, 2014

The present administration did what should have been a big favor for the nuclear industry by instructing the EPA to use it’s powers for restricting the amount of CO2 that US power plants can emit, since reducing CO2 emissions is the only reason to invest in more nuclear. Given the amount of reelection funds that the future president and congress members will be raising from the coal, gas and oil industry and their denial of human caused climate change, I don’t expect any change in the near future on this issue.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 26, 2014

On a levelized-cost-of energy basis (an admittedly limited metric), distributed renewables are competing with nuclear plants

Uh, as clearly stated in the Lazard report in the linked article, no, distributed renewables are not cheaper than nuclear plants.  It’s clearly wrong to compared levelized cost of nuclear and distributed solar, but even so, Lazard cites $180-265/MWh for residential solar and $92-132 for nuclear.

The Greentech article linked even states, “The solar-storage combination is not analyzed in the study, although the unsubsidized cost of battery storage is one of the second-most expensive technologies behind diesel generators, according to the analysis.

Note that for energy storage, Lazard assumes: “6 hours of storage capacity, $60/MWh cost to charge, one full cycle per day (full charge and discharge), efficiency of 75% –85% and fixed O&M costs of $22.00 to $27.50 per KWh installed per year.”  This is not enough storage to make solar+storage a replacement for coal or nuclear, such a system would complement baseload power, not replace it. 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 26, 2014

“… many environmentalists remain staunchly opposed to nuclear for traditional health and safety reasons.”

I believe it is much more accurate to say many so-called environmentalist remain staunchly opposed to nuclear for ideological reason, in spite of the proven health and safety benefits. 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 26, 2014

Bas has convinced himself that the all renewable solution will soon be the cheapest.

China, on the other is hand is betting hundreds of billions of dollars that he is wrong!  They have 22 new nuclear reactors under construction now, and expect to have 58 GWatts on-line by 2020; by 2030 they expect to surpass France and the US to become the world’s largest producer of nuclear power.

One of the reasons that the US nuclear industry needs to develop advanced technology is so we can offer exports to compete with conventional light water reactors which China is expected to start exporting within the next few years (by purchasing technology which originated from US and French companies).

China is also investing in renewables.  Not renewables supported by energy storage as Bas envisions, but renewables supported in the usual way – with fossil fuel combustion.


Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 26, 2014

The problems with that figure:

– renewable advocate a cheaper and much faster to implement solution without fossil fuels.
A solution with no such deaths; 100% wind+solar+storage.

– renewable argue that nuclear created similar death numbers and more seriously hampered babies as well as significant DNA damage. While nuclear delivered only a small fraction of the energy, compared to fossil fuels, in that period. So nuclear more dangerous per unit of energy.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 26, 2014

Lazards lags a little behind.

Even Georgia Power, who ordered the new NPP at Vogtle, stated to the Public Service Commission in Georgia: that solar can “provide competitive pricing when challenged to do so.”.

They decided to buy ~500MW solar for 6.5cnt/KW.
Not the <5cnt/KWh price that Austin payed last year for PV-solar, but Georgia has a less solar friendly climate.

Considering its continuing costs overruns and delays, the LCOE from the new Vogtle NPP will probably be twice as much,
Despite shifting major investment risks to the rate payers, federal loan guarantee subsidy, and liability limitation subsidies.

I expect it will take until 2020 before it delivers full electricity. The usual lead time of >10years..
While solar projects take ~1 year.
So what about speedy roll-out to fight climate change?

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 26, 2014

Nathan,China has enough hydro to take care of the highly predictable variability of wind and solar.

Note that electricity production by wind surpassed nuclear greatly and that solar is on the path to do the same in few years.

China is shifting towards renewable as they start to experience also the usual delays and costs overruns with increasing safety requirements for nuclear plants.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 31, 2014

I studied the ORNL MSRE, the Chinese MSR project (they have an excellent team), the TAP proposal.
Estimate that it will cost >15years and >$10billion to develop a commercial MSR.
And ~50% chance that the resullting MSR will be viable (will operate during >80% of the time).

Add the long construction period requiring well educated people.
Then you need scarce highly educated people to run those plants safe.
So even after 2030 the roll out will be inevitable very slow.

If we put same $10billion in research to speed-up the price decrease of PV-panels+inverters and batteries, than we have solar+batteries for 2-3cnt/KWh in ~2030.

Then that solar+batteries will be so cheap that everybody, including the >1billion people without grid connection, will install those (except the few people near the poles of course).
Roll out will go fast as installing such PV solar requires very little knowledge.

Most important, it will also be a great help for the >1billion people without grid connection, as those live almost all near the equator!

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 26, 2014

The belief that nuclear power creates similar death rates as fossil fuel is “flat Earth” fringe, not mainstream science.   As this article, Like We’ve Been Saying — Radiation is Not a Big Deal from states, the United Nations Scientific Committee on Effects of Atomic Radiation recently issued a report stating that low dose radiation (such as the contamination surrounding Chernobyl and Fukushima) does not produce any measurable health effects.  

The hypothesized radiation effects are far too small to demonstrate with controlled laboratory experiments on animals, and so the ideologically driven pseudo-scientists bent on finding evidence of harm turn to clinical data from human populations which are far more difficult to analyze correctly.  The result is: the more biased the scientist, the more harm they find!

Regarding the notion of 100% wind+solar+storage being faster and cheaper then nuclear, things may change in the future, but as of today, nuclear is still much cheaper (see the Lazard report mentioned above).  And while a single wind-farm is faster to build than a single nuclear plant, historically, whole fleets of nuclear plants have been built in less time than the current renewables build-out has taken, and the nuclear fleets have achieved much higher grid penetration.  Considering the whole nuclear fleet holistically also gives an even lower cost for nuclear power, since the long 60+ year lives of the plants means that older plants (whose mortgages are paid off) produce very cheap power, driving down the average.

Furthermore, nuclear plants can be placed close to the demand, hence they requires less long distance grid transmission than wind (which slows wind power build-outs and drives up cost).  Close proximity to demand also allows nuclear to supply combined-heat and power through district heating, and to power desalinization at coastal sites.

Nuclear offers the best hope for large scale replacement of petroleum fuels for transportation.  The reliable night-time off-peak power from nuclear plants is the best compliment for electric vehicles.  The high temperature heat from advanced nuclear plants, when combined with thermo-chemical hydrogen production is predicted to be the cheapest source of non-carbon-based syn-fuel.  Nuclear process heat can also be used to process biomass into liquid fuels, which increases fuel yield per acre and reduces the fossil fuel input for a given amount of produced fuel.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Dec 26, 2014

Right on Nathan. Below is a link to another round of Accademics seeking to reason with environmentalists.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Dec 26, 2014

The prevention of excess CO2 is not the only reason to scale up nuclear. Fossil fuels cause more health problems and will eventually run out. All developing countries would blow us away economically if they chose to employ advanced melt down proof closed cycle nuclear because, without the costs of unecessary hands at the regulation trough, the rather unlimited amount of energy would be cheaper than coal. This is because closed cycle nuclear requires far less mass to be mined for fuel which would last hundreds of times longer than the supply of coal.

By then, we shall have figured out how to harness the 5% or so of solar energy necessary to power 20 billion people at space age standards (from space). Fission is just another required step toward the powering up for this awesome reality.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Dec 26, 2014

Fission is a must to achieve that lofty yet realistic goal of (outer) space industrialization. Mere renewables as we know them now, are not capable of catapulting the human race to the ability necessary to gather unlimited solar energy from space.

In order of human development, the progression of energy sources would be from: wood, to renewables and wood, to fossil fuels and renewables, to fission (and renewables) and finally to the attainment of space based (and unlimited) solar energy. Fusion will not even be needed unless anti-matter is not developed for interplanetary travel.

Each of the steps are required to prevent human (and now, planetary) decay. I believe this is an obvious and natural set of human development, as anything less would eventually render us as doomed as the dinosaurs. Therefore, any obstructions to the proper development of advanced closed cycle meltdown proof nuclear must be seen as a threat against the ability to prevent excess CO2 from causing undue warming and acidification, and against the gold standard of space colonization which is absolutely necessary to  prevent asteroids with our name on them.

No one has enough energy at this time to even come close to this awesome objective.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 26, 2014

Suggest that we first help the >1billion people not connected to the grid, with cheap high efficient PV-solar panels (~400Watt/m²) + cheap batteries, so they can develop.

Propose to reserve at least $10billion for research to develop real cheap PV-solar+battery solutions. We can use the money that comes free when we no longer invest in fission nuclear. Such as a Molten Salt Reactor as:

– the excellent Chinese team is targeting the same. So why duplicating, especially since the Chinese are already two years ahead;
– there is anyway only ~50% chance that such investment delivers a commercial viable reactor in the 2035 – 2080 period (it takes >10yrs to develop and then ~10yrs to construct the first commercial reactor).


Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 27, 2014

Nathan:”… low dose radiation … does not produce any measurable health effects…”.

That contravenes the general accepted Linear No Threshold (LNT) these. However LNT:
– is supported by main stream science;
– is the basis for the radiation safety standards;

LNT is also supported by the rock-solid research results regarding the damaging effects of the low level Chernobyl caused radiation in S-Germany (~1000miles away); the ~million missing girls after Chernobyl, etc.

New nuclear is no longer cheaper as that takes~10years to build and at 2024 renewable will be substantial (factor 2) cheaper.

For now compare Georgia. Georgia Power bought ~500MW PV-solar for 6.5cnt/KWh, while it’s new NPP will produce for ~13cnt/KWh (taking into account cost overruns).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 27, 2014

For space we need a leap forward, such as fusion in a chamber with walls that convert the Ɣ-radiation and other high energy particles, direct into electricity.
Using special PV-like layers and/or thermocouples at those walls.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 27, 2014

Stephen, I can’t help but notice a welcome thaw in GreenTech Media’s antinuclear/anti-utility position with this contribution. It’s a start. We need more encouragement for safe, 4th-generation nuclear – which is in no way diminishes the contribution of renewables, but adds to it.

Buried within Obama’s Clean Energy Plan is a nonsensical proposal to give 100% carbon-free nuclear energy only 5.8% credit toward individual states’ carbon emissions reductions. The result is that 94.2% of nuclear’s clean energy contribution can be replaced by coal or gas, with no penalty. The final decision will not be made by the EPA until June. By helping to counter backwards-thinking policy like this GTM could not only promote development of safe nuclear but differentiate itself, in a positive way, from ideologically-driven orgs like NRDC and Greenpeace.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Dec 27, 2014

We need to support the mastery of fission. The best way is to convert spent fuel via molten salt (or other) advanced reactors into unlimited and safe energy. Why would any environmentalist not like that?

In the U.S, TMI killed no one (because it already had enough engineered safety) yet it’s hysteria caused the collapse of an entire industry. We could have had twice the number of clean power generation. Now, we burn more fossil fuels.

We need to get on track for developing a safe and mass producable reactor design ASAP – and go “back to the Future”!

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Dec 27, 2014

Yep, we need to power up the rest of the world – with ALL sources of clean power. Currently, many people only have a few watts per day (since that’s all the solar panels and batteries give). Fusion requires temps 100,000 times higher than fission – don’t bet on it anytime soon. The goal is to provide a grid powered by clean energy so as to lift them from poverty and to accelerate advancement of the race.

Again, all sources are needed (and we don’t want to just rely on the Chinese).

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 27, 2014

Bas, one author of your “rock-solid research” is a self-described “scientist” and “doctor” who lists no training whatsoever in his bio. He claims to be a staff member of the “Institute of Computational Biology”, the headquarters of which appear to be the bedroom of an apartment in Munich. The other author is a self-described dentist.

Do you blindly accept the qualifications of every poseur who writes a paper, or just the qualifications of those who validate your opinions?

Headquarters of the Institute of Computational Biology


Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 29, 2014

The Institute of Computational Biology has a staff of ~50 scientists. It is part of the Helmholtz center in Munich , which is the German environmental research institute.
Even the URL of the institute shows that it belongs to Helmholtz:

The lead author, Dr. Scherb*), has a long list of publications in scientific journals.
He is one of the top scientists in his field.
He was invited to present his research results at the German parliament. So I’m not the only one who trust him.

One of his recent presentations concerns the Genetic Effects in the Vicinity of Nuclear Facilities in France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands.

His co-author Weigelt is a scientist experienced in data analysis. She retired in 2004.
Of course Helmholtz does not accept dentists for scientific positions.

*) The Dr. titel is roughly similar to PhD in USA. 
**) Why do you present a picture of a fire exit??

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 29, 2014

Bas, being able to call youself a “doctor” or “scientist” without any training may be possible in the field of Advanced Antinuclear Propagandizing, but to legally call yourself a doctor in the U.S. (and most places in the world) you need to earn a doctoral degree from an accredited university.

What education or training has Dr. Scherb received which qualifies him to make conclusions about radiation effects on public health?

Can anyone with a long list of publications identify themself as a “scientist” in the Netherlands? Is there any differentiation between scientific disciplines, or does a dentist’s opinion on radiation carry as much weight as that of a radiologist?

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 30, 2014

Of course Dr. Scherb has earned a doctoral degree at a regular university. You cannot state such a titel at Helmholtz without showing the credentials. It’s Germany.

Health training
Read his publications that I referenced. Then you see he doesn’t judge health or so.
For his rock-solid Bavarian study that measured significant increases in Down, serious malformations, stillbirth, etc after small increase (0.2 – 0.5mSv/a) in the background radiation, he used the files of the population registers which contain those classifications.

Publications & scientist
If someone with the right credentials (which he has) execute a study that satisfies scientific demands and his report is accepted in peer reviewed scientific journals, he is considered to be a scientist.
Especially when he has many such publications.
Probably, you won’t even pass the internal review of the Helmholtz institute.

Please read. The publications do not show an opinion. They show the measured significant health effects of low level extra radiation which were classified by docters (not Scherb or Weigelt).

Others measured similar effects. Just click the links in the presentation that I referenced in my previous comment.

I realize that these research results are difficult to accept, as they imply that NPP’s have to be closed for public health, especially for the health of next generations.
Closing is now undisputed in Germany. The dispute concerns whether it cannot be realized sooner.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Dec 30, 2014

Low dose radiation does NOT cause problems…


Radon, is a pretty wild substance, being that it has a decay rate of only 3.8 days, however, the mine shafts to which the link above refers, “tout radon levels as much as 175 times the federal safety standard for houses. Yet, visitors claim miraculous recoveries and disease remissions in the damp, cool passages.” This may be just an ad without any scientific basis, however, the fact that most the visitors aren’t dropping like flies ought to point to the fact that there is no basis in ditching nuclear that releases far less than radon.

Wikipedia states it’s dangerous because radon and its decay products can actually be inhaled – no good! Nuclear power plants convert the uranium (and possibly soon, thorium) that causes radon, instead, into electricty, not into radioactive particles which can be inhaled.

The safest nuclear way possible toward complete global decarbonization would be a fission coolant at atmospheric pressure which does not need human intervention or additional coolant or electricity during an accident. In fact, these can be made to convert LWR wastes into electricity (or process heat)! The sooner, the better!

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 30, 2014

Nice story! Here, ill people go on pilgrimage to Lourdes (France), etc. and (some) return cured.

Roughly, the health damage = (time of exposure)*(level of radiation). And the time is very short. So the dosage is lower than living a year in houses that meet the federal safety standard!

Similar as with smoking, small particulate matter, low level asbestos, mercury, arsenic, etc. health damage becomes mainly manifest after 2-6 decades. Except the DNA damage of courser. That shows in his/her children.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Dec 30, 2014

We agree that we get a destroyed reactor with the plane crash. That implies many leakages of radio-active fuel / molten salt mixture of 700°C. Then the 100ton kerosene, burning some hours, will rise the temperature further. Not sure how this inferno will work out. Think that the cloud will be radio-active.
So radio-active precipitation down wind, with results such as this and/or this, etc. (dependent on the level of radiation which I find difficult to estimate now).

Fuel leaks
The Japanese also thought those couldn’t occur. And if, they would handle it.
And they did handle it! But the high costs that followed, ended the plant in the end.

Two circuits
Then changes in the load have to pass along two circuits and two heat exchangers = delay

With only the primary circuit any leakage in the steam generator implies that radio-activity enters the steam turbine and the environment. Rightly, NRC will never agree. 

It is already difficult to keep the same component ratio’s (fuel <=>salt) in a liquid if the volume is big. And here we have a barrel with many irregularities (graphite, regulation bars, pipes, etc) which cause turbulences, which separate components. With bigger barrels, the problem escalates. And the barrel will become bigger if you want a reactor with more power. Ask a process industry engineer.

Other issues
The metal, improved hastelloy-n, is not suitable for decades of operation at such high temperatures (cracks, porous, embrittlement due to primarily the fast neutrons).

At these high temperatures radio-active gasses such as tritium (³H) migrate through the metal. It’s difficult to bind it. Or keep it in the building.

Those high temperatures imply increased rates of broken valves, pumps, sensors, etc. Repair while the temperature is 700°C, will often be impossible. So long outages.

Did you consider the costs of the nearby chemical plant needed?

My conclusions
The Chinese estimate that they have a viable design in 2030, may be rather optimistic.
The LCOE may end up being significant higher than LWR; e.g. 25cnt/KWh.
A design such as TAP solves only one major problem (no high % of U235 needed).

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 2, 2015

As I’ve noted in another thread, regarding DNA damage from low dose radiation: 

We now have techniques to precisely measure DNA damage that can lead to cancer, even at incidences in which no cancer can be detected.  As reported in this article in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, laboratory testing on mice at 400 times the typical background radiation dose found: 

We did not observe any changes in the levels of the DNA nucleobase damage products hypoxanthine, 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine, 1,N6-ethenoadenine, or 3,N4-ethenocytosine above background levels under low dose-rate conditions. The micronucleus assay revealed no evidence that low dose-rate radiation induced DNA fragmentation, and there was no evidence of double strand break–induced HR. Furthermore, low dose-rate radiation did not induce Cdkn1a, Gadd45a, Mdm2, Atm, or Dbd2. Importantly, the same total dose, when delivered acutely, induced micronuclei and transcriptional responses.

This sort of controlled laboratory testing produces results which are much more definitive than any epidemiological/clinical studies could ever be, as clinical studies always involve the difficult challenge of correcting for confounding factors.

I read the article you linked on the decrease in female births.  Again, uncontrolled human clinical data is provided, with no attempt to account for confounding influences.  It has been reported previously that there was a huge spike in elective abortions follow the Chernobyl accident, and in many cultures, abortions have been used to tilt the birth-rate towards more boys.  The important thing to note is that these abortions were not caused by radiation, but by radio-phobia!  

The agressive campaigns by anti-nuclear activists have take a terrible toll on the people living near Chernobyl.  It has been proven that constantly telling people they are doomed leads to higher incidence of depression, alcoholism, unemployment, suicide, and other health effects, in general and specifically for Chernobyl residents.  Each of these factors also increase the abortion rate, even more than just telling people the lie that low dose radiation leads to genetic defeats (which has been proven not to occur for low dose).

As for nuclear plants taking 10 years, I would note that they are routinely built in China in 4-5 years even when the plants are of US or European design.  Since we can and do hire as many Chinese engineers as we need, the only explaination is that nuclear builds take longer in the US as a result of anti-nuclearism and anti-nuclear activists.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 2, 2015

Bas, though it’s possible, there’s no evidence that inherited mutations from Chernobyl radiation are harmful.

“The minisatellites [areas of genome under study] have nothing to do with regions that affect health, cancer, mortality and so on,” said the study director, Dr. Yuri Dubrova, a genetics researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences and the University of Leicester in England. “What we can safely say from our data is that the mutation rate in these particular genetic locations is two times higher after the accident…

A more skeptical view was taken by Dr. James Neel, a geneticist and physician at the University of Michigan, who conducted extensive studies on Japanese atomic bomb survivors and their children.

Dr. Neel said his research did not point to germline effects, nor did a recent study of minisatellite regions in Japanese subjects.

“This new work implies a sensitivity to the genetic effects of radiation that’s far, far in excess of either experimental work with fruit flies or mice, or our own studies in Japan,” Dr. Neel said. “This is not the study that’s going to establish that effect. I would urge them to repeat this work just as soon as possible.

“This is such a sensitive subject. There’s near hysteria in Russia over it.”

And, evidently, in the Netherlands.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 2, 2015

Bas, if “Doctor” Scherb is qualified, please present his qualifications, education, or curriculum vitae.

The fact you can’t, and instead evade the issue, makes me extremely suspicious he’s an antinuclear quack working from a bedroom in Munich.


Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Jan 3, 2015

etc. health damage becomes mainly manifest after 2-6 decades. “

Sorry, what does that study on the effects of gamma and neutron dose received via a nuclear weapon detonation by subjects a km or two away have to do with anything under discussion here about nuclear power? 

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