Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
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Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Post by Reformator » Mon Sep 22, 2008 8:00 am

Hi all,

I'm new here, and I'm disturbed by that news:

Nuclear Denial



by Michael Mellish



Nuclear power plants have a productive life of at least forty years. Unfortunately unlike other power plants, after forty years they cannot simply be decommissioned, razed and the site redeveloped into other uses.



Fuel rods used in nuclear power plants are actively exothermic (generating heat) for up to seventy-five years after removal from the reactor. The fuel rods require active cooling to be safely stored for those 75 years. Today, this storage and cooling is usually done in storage ponds on the site of the power plant. In other words, a power plant site, even when it has reached the end of its electricity-generating life, must remained staffed to operate the cooling ponds, with full security to prevent site intrusions and theft of the spent fuel rods.



Today, the fuel rods have to stay in the ponds on the site because there is no other place for them to go. The U.S. doesn't operate a fuel rod processing plant (like BNFL does for the United Kingdom) and has no current plans for such a vitrification facility (imbedding the active radio active waste within glass). Even then the glass-encased radioactive material must be actively cooled for 75 years, so it must be kept somewhere with human management of the site.



Who is going to pay for this? Consider the cost of staffing for 75 additional years when there is no revenue stream from electrical generation to cover this, and there is no easy way to pass the cost onto the electrical customers. This problem is only starting to be recognized since so few reactors have actually reached the end of life in the U.S. If you check the balance sheets of the major electrical utilities that own and operate nuclear power plants, you will not see any allowances for this future cost. It would be simpler to spin off the plant, let it go bankrupt and leave it to the taxpayers to deal with the mess.



More to the point, even after 75 years of controlled storage in a pond, the material will remain harmfully radioactive for somewhere in the vicinity of 100,000 years. We have no real solution for the first 75 years, so you can just guess how good the solution is for the next 99,925 years...NONE!



Why do we have no storage solution for either short term or the long term? Start with NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard. A nuclear waste storage solution isn't like a temporary construction project in your neighborhood that might impact home value, neighborhood safety and traffic flow. A long-term storage facility will continue to receive "spent" but still highly radioactive fuel rods for as long as America operates its power plants. This means a steady traffic of nuclear materials from all over the U.S. to this site. The site itself must be capable of holding in the entire radioactivity, without site collapse, without ground water contamination and/or flooding and do this without failure or error for 100,000 years.



The oldest structures built by mankind that haven't been completely erased by the forces of nature are around 5,000 years old. These are clearly no longer habitable or functional, they are "ruins." The long-term nuclear storage solution requires a facility that can remain structurally sound and sealed to air and ground water for at least 20-times more years then mankind has ever achieved. The very concept borders on nonsensical.



No human civilization has survived such a test of time (most civilizations last less than 1,000 years), no spoken or written language (to mark the site, provide maintenance instructions, etc.) has lasted more than a couple thousand years. No objects, metal tools or vessels created by man have survived corrosion and structural failure for more than a couple thousand years. Suddenly we can build fuel rod containers will magically last 100,000 years?



The operation of existing nuclear power plants, labs and facilities has been fraught with accidents, incidents and discharges throughout the 50-year history of nuclear power. Full and open disclosure of the accidents and risks taken by operators (including the U.S. government) remains dubious at best.



In a recent case, the U.S. government failed to disclose on a timely basis that a U.S. nuclear submarine may have leaked radioactive water inside a Japanese harbor. In this case, the incident came at an "awkward time" for the U.S. government because it was replacing a Japan-based U.S. oil-powered carrier with a nuclear-powered carrier, which the Japanese were already uneasy about. Disclosure would have made the negotiations much more difficult.



U.S. electrical utilities have billions tied up in each nuclear power plant. Any incident can require shut down, failure analysis and corrective action, retraining (on new equipment and procedures) and potential suspension of the license to operate. All down time means zero revenue from the plant even while most all of the operating expenses remain (including serving the billion dollar debt), so it is in the interest of every plant operator to run as many hours as possible, to have as little down time as possible and to keep "incidents" under wraps as much as possible.



We'd all like to believe that public utilities and the U.S. government have a safety-first, do-the-right-thing, and keep-the-public-informed approach to nuclear power. Practical experience with the nuclear industry over the past 50 years, combined with the actions of respected CEO's and financial managers in America who have given us the dotcom-bubble, Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, Global Crossing and the current banking crisis, must be a warning to Americans to not so freely hand their trust over to those who support a nuclear power rebirth in America or the world.

Consider also that our current President repeatedly rejected the notion of climate change, the necessity of taking action to use clean energy to address climate change as well as cleaner air and water for America. The avocation of nuclear power by George Bush's proposed replacement, John McCain, may just be the wake-up call that Americans need to see that presidents and presidential candidates are not immune to the financial greed that has plagued America for the past 25 years.



Ask any consumer who can remember the cost hit they took to purchase a KWh of electricity once their utility started to operate. Nuclear power plants always cost more than promised, take longer to construct and have considerable down time periods for refueling, refurbishment and retraining. During the downtime, high-priced electricity from other sources must be purchased to replace this capacity. This leads to price hikes to the local consumers in nearly every case.



Uranium mining and processing of uranium ore to fuel grade is hardly a "clean" activity. Vast quantities of overburden must be removed to mine the ore (with all the attendant pollution problems). The ore itself is quite difficult to process, separating the useful material U235 from its counterparts clearly produces significant quantities of radioactive waste products, dust and chemical wastes from the separation process, all of which are quite nasty.



Uranium isn't a renewable energy source, it is a mineral. Once mined, processed and consumed in power plants it is gone forever, leaving behind toxic and radioactive by products. It cannot be "recycled" like copper, iron or aluminum to use again. It is estimated that if the whole world turned to nuclear power, we would consume the uranium on earth in as little as 50 years.

We need renewable, carbon-free energy solutions to sustain the American economy and the American dream through this century. We need to stiff-arm attempts to deny the need for green energy, to divert the renewable energy effort into dead ends, and we need to be wary of attempts to use the desire of Americans to take action as a means to hand out bailouts for dying industries.



Michael Mellish is a process and system consultant with 30 years of experience in power quality and energy management, substation automation and electrical distribution. Michael holds patents in digital signal processing applications, object-based software for automation and manufacturing execution, and automated diagnostics systems. Michael is a graduate of the University of Lowell with a B.S. in chemical engineering.



The information and views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on its Web site and other publications.



Copyright © 1999-2008 RenewableEnergyWorld.com
All rights reserved.



- - - -



World leaders sign up to nuclear renaissance

Leaders at the Group of 8 (G8) summit in Hokkaido, Japan, in early July 2008 reiterated their commitment to build new nuclear power stations. They see a nuclear renaissance in mitigating climate change and energy security that would reduce dependence on fossils fuels and greenhouse gas emissions [1, 2]. The G8 includes the industrial nations Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States of America. The European Union is represented but does not have the right to host or chair a meeting. Also invited to the summit were China and India.

Some 29 countries worldwide have indicated they wish to introduce nuclear power, while most existing users have announced plans to expand their nuclear capacity. By 2030, Japan will increase nuclear power generation to as much as 40 percent of total electricity, and Russia’s share of nuclear power will grow to 20-25 percent from the current 16 percent [3].

Several days later, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that Britain must build at least eight new nuclear power stations during the next 15 years to replace ageing plants and contribute to a post-oil economy” [4].

Earlier in May, Italy’s newly elected government said that within five years, it planned to resume building nuclear plants [5]. The country dropped nuclear energy 20 years ago after a referendum resoundingly condemned nuclear power. Environmental groups immediately attacked any plan to bring back nuclear power. Giuseppe Onufrio, a director of Greenpeace Italy, called it a declaration of war.”

France has been the world’s top nuclear nation, and will continue in that capacity (see later).

Germany and Belgium stand alone among nations that use nuclear power, but have long prohibited the building of new reactors, although old ones are allowed to continue operating for their natural lifespan.

Across the Atlantic in Canada, the nuclear industry showcased its technology and expertise to more than 100 delegates representing 35 countries at the World Nuclear University (WNU) for a six-week series of lectures, facility tours and special events during July and August [6]. The WNU was inaugurated in 2003 in London, UK, as a global partnership committed to enhancing international education
and leadership in the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology.”

Back in the summer of 2006, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a key speech to the UK Chamber of Commerce, noted
that Britain is among those countries poised to begin buying new reactors for the first time in decades, and said [7]. We’ll hope you remember that Canada is not just a source of uranium, we also manufacture state-of-the-art CANDU reactor technology, and we’re world leaders in safe management of fuel waste. That last claim turns out to be gross overstatement [8] see Close-up on Nuclear Safety, SiS 40).

Harper’s speech [7] was delivered three days after the then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair formally proposed that Britain build new nuclear plants to stay on track with its plans to cut greenhouse emissions. President George W. Bush had already signed an energy bill in the summer of 2005 that offered billions in tax breaks and loan guarantees in a bid to jump-start the first new nuclear reactor construction in the US since the 1970s. Given all that action, Harper’s government, goaded by the Canadian federal bureaucrats, lost little time in projecting its embrace of nuclear energy as part of the nuclear renaissance around the globe.

There is a well-orchestrated effort worldwide to promote nuclear power. One of the instruments is the World Nuclear Association (WNA) [9], formerly the Uranium Institute, a confederation of companies connected with nuclear power production from uranium mining to electricity generation and is responsible for 95 percent of the world’s nuclear power outside the US.

According to the WNA [10], the current nuclear renaissance dating back to about 2001 is now in full swing. China plans a five-fold increase in nuclear capacity to 40 GW by 2020, while India’s target is to add 20 to 30 new reactors by 2020; Russia plans to build 40 GW of new nuclear power by 2025; Finland and Sweden have designated permanent disposal sites for nuclear wastes that are accepted by local communities; and several countries in Eastern Europe are currently building (Romania) or have firm plans to build new nuclear power plants (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey)..

US nuclear future unravelling despite slick PR campaign
In the US, The current push for nuclear power began in 2002, when George W. Bush launched the Nuclear Power 2010 programme for the construction of at least three major nuclear power plants [11]. The US Energy Policy Act of 2005 then offered three major forms of subsidy. New nuclear power plants could get production tax credits, federal loan guarantees and construction insurance against cost overruns and delays, together worth $18.5 billion.

Christian Parenti, writing in The Nation [11] reveals how the Nuclear Energy Institute, industry’s main trade group, hired the PR firm Hill and Knowlton to run a slick campaign to green wash nuclear energy. Part of their strategy involves an advocacy group with the grassroots-sounding name, Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. At the hub of the campaign are former Environment Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman and former Greenpeace co-founder turned “corporate shill” Patrick Moore (also a champion of GM crops). Ghost-written op-eds are placed under the bylines of “scientists for hire”.

All the major environmental groups in the US oppose nuclear power. But the PR campaign is having some impact. The online environmental journal Grist found that 54 percent of its readers are ready to give atomic energy a second chance; and 59 percent of Treehugger.com readers feel the same way.

But despite all the corporate spin, public subsidies and presidential speeches, there are signs that the nuclear rebirth is coming to a halt.

In late December 2007, Warren Buffett, “whose name is synonymous with sound money” turned his back on nuclear power. His MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Company scrapped plans to build a plant in Payette, Idaho, because no matter how many times the managers ran the numbers, and they have already spent $13 million doing so, they found they could not balance the books. South Carolina Electric and Gas too, has suspended its two planned reactors, citing costs as the key factor. If nuclear power breaks ground soon, it will likely be NRG Energy's double-reactor plant to be built in South Texas. But that one has also been delayed.

According to Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environment Research [11], “Wall street doesn't like nuclear power.” Parenti agrees, “nuclear power is too expensive and risky to attract the necessary commercial investors.” He points out that even with vast government subsidies it is difficult or almost impossible to get proper financing and insurance. The massive federal subsidies on offer will cover up to 80 percent of construction costs of several nuclear power plants in addition to generous production tax credits, as well as risk insurance. The average two-reactor nuclear power plant is estimated to cost $10 billion to $18 billion to build. That’s before cost overruns, and “no US nuclear power plant has ever been delivered on time or on budget.”

Parenti remarks that [11], “rarely has so much money, scientific know-how and raw state power been marshalled to achieve so little.” An investment of several hundred billion dollars resulted in a US nuclear industry of 104 operating plants, about a quarter of the global total that produces just 19 percent of electricity in the country.

Atomic optimism run amok caused the largest municipal bond default in US history,” Parenti recalls. In 1983, Washington Public Power Supply System abandoned three nuclear plants in mid-construction, plagued by massive cost overruns and incompetent contractors. When the project finally died, unfinished costs had ballooned to $24 billion, and the utility abandoned $2.25 billion worth of bonds.

In 1985 Forbes called the nuclear industry “the largest managerial disaster in history.”

France nuclear accidents wrecks façade of competence and safety
In the very week that the G8 and other leaders were pledging their nations to the nuclear renaissance, a series of nuclear accidents was sending shock waves throughout France, severely denting the façade of competence and safety in the use of nuclear energy that the country had created around itself.

Nuclear power has dominated France since the early 1980s [12]. The country’s main electricity company EDF (Électricité de France) manages its 59 nuclear power stations that produce 87.5 percent of both EDF’s and France’s electrical power. This makes EDF the world leader in producing nuclear power. Much of France’s electricity (18 percent) is exported, to Italy, the Netherlands, Britain and Germany. France has long enjoyed a reputation as Europe’s nuclear energy expert, and is fully committed to continue in that capacity. In 2005, EDF announced plans to replace the current nuclear plants with new 1.6 GWe units as they reach the end of their licensed life starting around 2020. In 2006, the French Government asked Areva (the French nuclear power conglomerate) and EDF to build a Generation III nuclear reactor, the EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) at the Flamanville Nuclear Power Plant. Another new EPR was announced by President Sarkozy in July 2008, at a site still to be selected. Areva has a pilot EPR plant under construction in Finland (already plagued by delay and cost overrun see [13] Nuclear Energy’s Financial and Safety Nightmare, SiS 40), and marketing activities have been extended to US and China

In the first week of July 2008 during the G8 summit, and as Sarkozy assumed the role of president of the EU, the Tricastin nuclear power station in southern France malfunctioned, resulting in 30 000 litres of a solution containing 12 percent enriched uranium to overflow from a reservoir into the nearby Faffiere and Lauzon rivers, raising the concentration of uranium in the two rivers 1 000-fold [14]. This was the first of a series of 9 blunders and leaks in France’s nuclear reactors in three weeks since 7 July [15]. After initially downplaying the seriousness of the accidents, the French government was goaded into action. The Environment Minister Jean-Louis Barloo has since acknowledged that France’s nuclear facilities experienced a total of 115 “small irregularities” this year. Borloo said the government will need a comprehensive examination of France’s atomic industry

The non-government organization CRIIRAD (Independent Commission of Research and Information on Radioactivity) had already noted many malfunctions on the Tricastin site [16]. High radiation levels had been measured in 2002 in various locations. Leaks from the waste pipes and retention tanks were found in April and August 2006; and on the waste treatment station in November 2007. In January 2008 radioactive effluent was inadvertently left in a transfer tank. Above normal releases into the atmosphere were noted in 2006. Areva has registered a request to increase maximum emission norms, which is still under discussion.

The enquiry into the 7 July incident also detected pollution of the water table apparently linked to the storage of military nuclear waste at Pierrelatte. And it was decided to test the water tables around all French power plants. Frederic Mariller of Greenpeace said in a press release on 17 July 2008: “this analysis must not stop at the nuclear plants but must be widened to all nuclear sites: to processing sites (such as Cadarache, Marcoule, or the Hague), to disused uranium mines (such as Bessines), to military sites (such as Valduc), and to waste-stocking centres, notably in the Manche region and at Soulaines.”

Areva made €743 million in profits in 2007. The drive for profits led Areva to maintain lax safety standards and insufficient infrastructure investment. Areva has long benefited from the low priced uranium ore from Niger, a former French colony in West Africa. It also runs uranium mines in Canada, and has operations at 40 locations in the US.

Sarkozy has made selling nuclear power infrastructure an important element of his visits abroad. On 11 July, Areva was declared the preferred bidder for the Sellafield site in the UK that is supposed to generate €1.6 billion annually. A nuclear energy deal was part of the €10 billion trade package negotiated between Sarkozy and Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in December 2007. Sarkozy negotiated a €8 billion sale of nuclear plants to China in November 2007, and Areva obtained a €1 billion uranium enrichment contract in South Korea in June 2007.

In August 2008, the British government’s nuclear plans are on hold after French energy giant EDF’s bid to buy UK’s existing nuclear sites was rejected, possibly because existing shareholders in British Energy demanded more than EDF was willing to pay. [17].

We have previously deconstructed the nuclear renaissance in terms of safety, economics, technology and sustainability [18, 19] (Deconstructing the Nuclear Power Myths, SiS 27; Safe New Generation Nuclear Power? SiS 29). Recent developments not only confirm our arguments but give fresh insights as to what’s behind the nuclear renaissance that never was and will never be, as shall be revealed in four further reports. Read on.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When would the world leaders see an alternative in fusion?! Because from what we see they don't have any plans for it

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Chris Bradley
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Re: Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Post by Chris Bradley » Mon Sep 22, 2008 8:31 am


I'm not sure I get your drift?

Fission has to be discussed, and this discussion is a reasonable one often made. I don't think it purports to being a discussion on anything other than fission.

There are no easy solutions to the product of fission reactors, but the reality is that they do most definitely work.

Fusion gets no discussion in the same context because it not yet know to work as a power producer.That's the only reason for it not being discussed in such material.

Certainly the realities of fission are immediate and overwhelm most discussions about fusion, but that is only right in that it is the only non-carbon, non-renewable (viz. reliable/continuous/switch on-off, day or night) game in town.

best regards,

Chris MB.

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Re: Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Post by Reformator » Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:37 am

Yes, but when all over the world now begin to build more fission plants, and the big countries - build additional of them, then the interest in fusion will drop, because we won't have energy thirst, and we'll hang on fission for at least of 100 years! This will stop human technological progress in field of energetics

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Chris Bradley
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Re: Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Post by Chris Bradley » Mon Sep 22, 2008 11:34 am

There is a IAEA report on uranium supplies to 2050;

http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publicatio ... 04_scr.pdf

and if I recall its contents accurately I came to the conclusion that what they are actually saying is that there is enough uranium to last, but so long as demand for it isn't too high!

Actually, I would come to the opposite conclusion: the evolution of fission energy may prove to be fusion's biggest champion. If a neutron generating source could be found, even if doesn't have break-even efficiency then it could still be used to activate thorium in an energy amplifier reactor, leading to fissile U-233.

I'd also say that fusion probably gets MORE than its fair share of funding. Maybe there's an argument to be had over how the funding is used. But can you name one other technology, invention, idea or whole industry that still manages to rake in funding after 50 years of unsuccessful experimentation?? It gets funding because the prize upon success is so great that it is pursued with an alchemist's zeal, blinded by the reality of all the failed experiments!

No other scientific project could successfully argue a rational, business-like analysis for funding if it had a similar history and background to that of fusion. Fusion is very well funded by any politician's or accountant's standards.

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Re: Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Post by Reformator » Mon Sep 22, 2008 11:44 am

What you're trying to say is that even if there is uranium supply for 40 years, when a Fusion power plant is successfully build and tested, fission will be abandoned, right? We'll head to our next level of technology, correct? Because then I don't see any need of fission.

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Re: Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Post by Richard Hull » Mon Sep 22, 2008 6:40 pm

The bottom line is that with our current increased thirst for power we have only two choices that can handle all of this need now. That is Coal and Nuclear. It is basically take your choice.

Fusion power is not even on the distant horizon based on current assessments and immediate power needs.

Alternative are interesting toys based on immediate power quad needs.

We are looking at immediate needs for a very near electrically based world economy. If your solution can't supply the quads needed 24-7-364 then its gotta' walk or play only peak demand supplemental roles. The idea of green might have to suck hind tit at the end of the day.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Post by Carl Willis » Mon Sep 22, 2008 6:54 pm

The articles you post in their entirety are copyrighted and available for free online. In the future, the best way to refer to such material is to provide a link, such as:

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea ... y?id=53558

All you really take from these articles are general observations that can be stated in one line: (A) nuclear fission energy has some problems and (B) is experiencing resurgent popularity.

You expressed disappointment that the contemporary popularity of nuclear fission, due to energy market influences right now, spells "no future for fusion." That's a tad sweeping of an analysis. For one thing, how can fusion compete with fission in today's marketplace for base-load generating capacity when it isn't even a contender? Fusion is a long-term research project and will be for decades, not an off-the-shelf power plant that you can buy when the need arises. So in that sense, comparing it with extant nuclear reactors is to compare apples and oranges. It seems to me that the only way to support a claim that fusion is falling out of favor for the future is to compare it with other speculative, long-term-future energy sources like accelerator-driven subcritical fission, Gen V or VI fission reactor concepts, algal bio-power farms, space-based solar, etc. Among that company, I think fusion is a solid possibility and will see sustained interest and funding--as a research subject.

-Carl
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Re: Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Post by Reformator » Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:06 pm

Yes, and after several years all cars will be electric. So, we have premise for Fusion power!!! But why ITER is taking so long???? 2018 is too late! I can't believe that they'll build a fusion power plant after 1 decade. 10 years are a lot of time! Maybe I won't be alive to see it finished The fusor of other side is enough for a middle city. Will the Fusor leave behind ITER? Any chance?

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Re: Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Post by johnp » Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:47 pm

Forget ITER. ITER's a big toy. No utility would ever build an ITER-style tokamak, even if they could get net power out of the thing. It makes no economic sense. Maybe, after another 130 years of development, they might get the thing finessed to the point where it makes economic sense. Are you willing to pay for that much development?

Nuclear and coal are the birds in the hand. I'm holding out hope for Polywell cause I'm a dreamer. YMMV.

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Re: Fission threat! No future for Fusion :(

Post by Chris Bradley » Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:51 am

Reformator wrote:
> Maybe I won't be alive to see it finished

For ITER, and DEMO that is planned to follow it; if everything goes to plan, then it is most likely you'll not be here to see it completed. If things slip just a little bit, then your grandchildren probably won't be either!

Fusion will need a different plan if we here today are going to see it turn out its first joule.


>The fusor of other side is enough for a middle city. Will the Fusor leave behind ITER? Any chance?

No chance.


Fission will always have a place in energy supply. No energy supply ever becomes 'obsolete'. Nor is ANY energy supply 'safe'. The bigger the energy/power benefit to be gained, the more dangerous it is. To all intent and purpose, I'd say essentially proportinate!

From the day that the very first cavewoman burnt her hand on burning embers we've been obliged to worry about this inevitability but still we burn wood.

Learn to live and love fission!!!

To overcome the issue of decommissioning, is there a good reason not to build a reactor on a big floating platform moored to a convenient point? Then to decommission it you float it out above a subduction zone, like Mariana, and scuttle it. There are more toxic materials at the bottom of a subduction zone than a teeny nuclear reactor will ever compare to.

best regards,

Chris MB.

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