Letter Linda Pentz Gunter: Desperate times for the nuclear industry call for desperate rhetoric. Hence the reach, once again, for “renaissance,” even though the facts support no such thing and the industry itself dare not even resurrect the mythological moniker. With nuclear power priced out of the market – not only by natural gas but, more importantly for climate, by renewables – die-hard nuclear proponents are dressing up old reactors in new propaganda. Sodium-cooled, fast and even small modular reactors are all designs that have been around – and rejected – for decades. Sodium-cooled reactors are prone to fires, explosions and super-criticality accidents. A rapid power increase inside the core of such a reactor could vaporize the fuel and blow the core apart. Far from “walk away safe,” these on-paper designs have not been submitted to the kind of rigorous “all scenarios” testing that could definitively designate them as meltdown proof. The reactor that consumes its own radioactive waste as fuel is not the waste management panacea its sounds like. It could theoretically “transmute” wastes by reducing the proportion of long-lived isotopes contained in them. But radioactive fission products would remain, some of which are very long-lived. Management of these radioactive wastes would still be necessary for several hundred years. They would not magically vanish. Small modular reactors that deliver lower amounts of electricity than large ones present an economy of scale that has proven to be a deterrent to investors. Capitol costs per kilowatt for these reactors are estimated at double those for a traditional light water reactor. Furthermore, so-called “new” designs that are still on the drawing board will remain there for years to come, too late for climate change that can be answered quickly and far more cheaply by immediate and widespread implementation of wind and solar energy, whose prices are falling precipitously.
US News 18th July 2016 read more »