Nuclear power provides carbon-free electricity for a warming world. But is its use still practical, can it still be economic, is its promise still achievable, and is nuclear a key to combating climate change? So far, nuclear power has fallen short of those goals. Looking at advanced nuclear technologies, it’s not certain that will change. Japan’s Toshiba Corp. in November said it will scrap its NuGeneration subsidiary and the planned Moorside nuclear station in Britain. Toshiba, owner of Westinghouse’s advanced nuclear technology, said it would take a $162 million hit for killing the project. The Guardian newspaper commented, “The decision represents a major blow to the government’s ambitions for new nuclear and leaves a huge hole in energy policy. The plant would have provided about 7% of UK electricity.” The Moorside failure is a symbol of the problems that have plagued the latest generation (Generation III, or Gen III) of large, advanced light-water nuclear reactors. Industry and government have offered advanced nuclear designs as a salvation, with a new generation of nuclear plants aimed at the goal of a carbon-free generating technology. Are advanced nuclear reactor designs the answer to the decades-long doldrums for nuclear power? For the U.S., a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel led by long-time nuclear advocate M. Granger Morgan of Carnegie Mellon University, issued a pessimistic report last July—US nuclear power: The vanishing low-carbon wedge. The academy’s report found, “While advanced reactor designs are sometimes held up as a potential solution to nuclear power’s challenges, our assessment of the advanced fission enterprise suggests that no US design will be commercialized before midcentury.” That’s a chilling indictment for all advanced LWRs. The crux of the Morgan report is an assessment that the economic hurdles for nuclear in the U.S. are insurmountable.
Power Mag 1st Jan 2019 read more »