MCFly reader Patrick Sudlow went along to an event a couple of weeks ago, and has sent us this report.
I attended a presentation on the “New Nuclear Build Programme”, at the Chinese Art Centre, organised by the IET (Institute of Engineers and Technicians). The audience was quite mixed, young and old, ethnic origins and sex. It began with a buffet of dim sums , to allow people to network. I spoke to a young lad (of African descent), who worked at a nuclear power plant, at Hartlepool(?). He did clear one thing up for me; he informed me civil power plants do use superheated steam, via steam regenerators. This might not mean much to you, but naval nuclear power plant use saturated steam. This is an inefficient use of power. Efficient power plants use superheated steam, as according to the Rankine cycle, it is about maximising the heat difference. Also, they do not use cooling towers, which contribute to water loss, but use seawater. This causes another environmental problem, localised warming of local coastal waters. This is because they are discharging water back at 40°C, with a maximum limit of 50°C. We already have enough problems with our waters warming, which is allowing alien seaweed and other species now becoming invasive.
The basic presentation began with John Roberts, Physics & Astronomy, University of Manchester. He began by, bemoaning the lack of funding and education in nuclear educational research. The fact that for hands-on training, students now have to go to Austria (A non nuclear power nation, his point) and the Czech Republic. This is because Manchester no longer has a training reactor.
There was also a presentation from Wang Bin, from the Chinese Peoples Republic. Unfortunately, his presentation was let down because English was not his first language, (not his fault!). He mentioned how his company was building US Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors. The first units were supplied by Westinghouse and subsequent units would be locally sourced. An interesting point he made is the monolithic placement, the foundations, consisted of 4982m³ concrete, a point I will come back to. Also the heaviest modules were 969 tons.
Next up was a Gavin Dobbing, of AMEC. Talking about new designs to be passive cooling, they can be safely left unmanned for up to 7 days. After that, people have to go back in to top up the water. China developing full life-cycle of nuclear fuel. Because fossil-fuels energy is damaging global economy and health. He had some bullet points about –
- Energy Policy/ Energy Politics
- Public perception of risk
- Finance/programme certainty
- Safety and Quality
- Local Regulations
Payback time to be 30 years. Personnel should have a culture of investigating anything unusual/unexpected. UK Regulatory regime is perceived as current ‘Gold Standard’.??? Nuclear Industry Association earning §3 million/day, Hitachi §20 billion when producing.
Still no answers on waste and Energy Minister pushing for nuclear. There were some questions from the audience for the panel.
What I thought was missing
Any mention of the life-cycle analysis of nuclear energy, from ‘cradle-to-grave’. No mention of the 1-1.5% of uranium grade ore which is running out. The mining, spoils, energy input and health risks to the miners in extracting the ore. The fact that about the 20 tonnes of ore then needed to be processed to produce 1 tonne of uranium, the associated waste and energy input, transporting the ore and processing into nuclear fuel rods and energy inputs. The energy inputs into building the reactors and associated building, plant and machinery. The impact of the waste heat and being a large centralised power plant and the resultant losses. Then the still unanswered question of the waste and they still class it as carbon-neutral and renewable?