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posted by Dopefish on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:00AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the all-hail-the-almighty-atom dept.

CyberB0B39 writes: "The Department of Energy is set to approve $6.5B for a Georgia nuclear power plant, the first such plant in more than 3 decades. While other nuclear plants are shutting down due to competition from natural gas, Atlanta-based Southern Company is forging ahead with its planned construction of the plant."

[ED Note: "For those that are wondering, the new nuclear plant will be based on the AP1000 design by Westinghouse Electric Company LLC, a company based in Pittsburgh, PA and a subsidiary of Toshiba."]

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by TrumpetPower! on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:21AM

    by TrumpetPower! (590) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:21AM (#5043) Homepage

    So, first, it's $6.5 billion in loan guarantees. The plant as an whole is going to cost at least $14 billion -- presumably before the inevitable cost overruns.

    That $6.5 billion could instead put rooftop solar installations on half a million homes, making them net-neutral energy consumers with zero emissions for the next half a century. The entire $14 billion would just about be enough for an entire large metropolitan area to go solar.

    Yes, that doesn't address baseload power. Worst case, double the dollars or cut the number of homes in half, and put iron Edison-style batteries in each of the homes, and there's your overnight / baseload power, supplemented when necessary by existing power plants -- plants that would only have to run at greatly reduced capacity, thus extending their lifetimes and reducing maintenance and operations costs.

    I'm sure this power plant is going to be hugely profitable for the contractors and the shareholders and the CEOs and the other usual suspects. But it's an investment in their future. Solar would be an investment in our future.

    Cheers,

    b&

    --
    All but God can prove this sentence true.
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by jcd on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:44AM

      by jcd (883) on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:44AM (#5047)

      By why on Earth would the DoE spend money to support the population?

      --
      "What good's an honest soldier if he can be ordered to behave like a terrorist?"
      • (Score: 1) by velex on Sunday February 23 2014, @05:32PM

        by velex (2068) on Sunday February 23 2014, @05:32PM (#5237) Journal

        *sigh*

        As someone who agrees with GP's sentiment as concerns rooftop solar at least, where's my +1 sad but true mod?

        In my perfect world, instead of subsidizing oil companies, we'd subsidize rooftop solar installations. In addition to providing power during summer at least when it's most needed to run air conditioners (and maybe a little power where I live in the winter during the 2 or so days between Labor Day and Memorial Day when we see the sun), I wonder how such a project would improve the economy by creating a whole bunch of jobs to make it happen. On the other hand, one would have to consider what would happen to those jobs once every rooftop already has a solar installation and we move to maintenance mode.

        Unfortunately, we seem to live in a world that's addicted to the economic model of consumerism. Well, of course, there's nothing stopping me from scrimping and saving over the next few years so that I can get some panels on my own roof. However, the sad but true part comes in when we realize how easy it is for big players to get deals and special dispensation and discounts and whatnot and how unwilling we are to give a private individual anything, no matter how much it may be beneficial for all of us, because we demand that private individuals prove that they're morally virtuous. It would be terrible if the wrong person got a cheaper electricity bill.

        Otherwise I should probably just add that I'm all in favor of expanding nuclear power. Is it dangerous? Well, the way I look at it, it's only as dangerous as we're willing to be irresponsible about it. Driving a car is dangerous, which is why we discourage drunk driving instead of concluding that because some people drive drunk and kill others, cars are just too dangerous period. (Note on the car analogy: in actuality, cars are far, far more dangerous than nuclear at present if you count injuries and deaths.) We're going to have to get power from somewhere once fossil fuels run out. Solar/hydro/geothermal/etc won't be able to do it. Fossil fuels will run out, even if it takes 200 or 300 more years before they do.

        • (Score: 1) by demonlapin on Sunday February 23 2014, @05:41PM

          by demonlapin (925) on Sunday February 23 2014, @05:41PM (#5240) Journal
          Rooftop solar makes sense in Arizona. It's a lot less suitable for New England.

          I wonder how such a project would improve the economy by creating a whole bunch of jobs to make it happen.

          That money - because it's a subsidy - comes from either taxing people, or from borrowing against future tax receipts. So you do see the jobs that are directly created, but you don't see the jobs doing other things that weren't created because the money that people would have spent to create them was taxed away to subsidize solar.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by wjwlsn on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:50AM

      by wjwlsn (171) on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:50AM (#5051) Homepage Journal

      Loan guarantees are not loans, but are mind of like insurance; they only pay out if the recipient defaults. Georgia Power will still have to borrow that money elsewhere and pay it back themselves. The point of the loan guarantee is to help the borrower obtain the loans it needs by soaking up some of the credit risk. In addition, the nuclear loan guarantees from DOE are structured such that the utility actually pays the credit subsidy costs. The loan guarantee does not pay out unless GP defaults.

      The issuance of this loan guarantee does not mean that $6.5B going out the door, so you can't really say that the money could be used elsewhere. It's not really money yet, just the promise of money if something unexpected happens in the future.

      --
      I am a traveler of both time and space. Duh.
      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Appalbarry on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:57AM

        by Appalbarry (66) on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:57AM (#5052) Journal

        I'll bite: if there's solid business case for GP building this project, why do they need government guarantees to get the money to do it?

        If the Market won't lend them money based just on the business's likelihood of profit, then I have to assume there's some kind of significant risk that we're not being told about.

        • (Score: 5, Informative) by wjwlsn on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:15AM

          by wjwlsn (171) on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:15AM (#5054) Homepage Journal

          Moody's had this to say about it last year, before the loan guarantees were approved:

          "In the event the two parties cannot come to agreement on the final terms and conditions of a guarantee, Georgia Power would continue to finance the plant as it has done thus far with its own capital market financings. We would view this situation as only a slight credit negative as interest costs would be marginally higher than DOE guaranteed debt, although this is mitigated over the near term by the low aggregate level of interest rates, as well as by Georgia Power’s strong credit quality and capital markets access. We note that the South Carolina Electric & Gas has proceeded with a nearly identical nuclear construction project without a DOE loan guarantee."

          I'm no finance guy, but to me, this says that GP not getting the loan guarantees wouldn't be a show-stopper. With the loan guarantees, they'll get marginally better interest rates.

          PDF linky - http://matchbin-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/public/sit es/274/assets/9O21_Moodys_report_on_Vogtle_July_11 _2013.pdf [amazonaws.com]

          --
          I am a traveler of both time and space. Duh.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2014, @05:48PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2014, @05:48PM (#5246)

            Awesome; thanks for the info.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:42AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:42AM (#5062)

          I would assume the biggest risk for anything nuclear would be political.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by evilviper on Sunday February 23 2014, @04:06AM

      by evilviper (1760) on Sunday February 23 2014, @04:06AM (#5068) Homepage Journal

      That $6.5 billion could instead put rooftop solar installations on half a million homes, making them net-neutral energy consumers with zero emissions for the next half a century.

      I imagine most homeowners can already get a $13,000 loan, so those "half a million" probably don't NEED a government "loan guarantee" to put up solar panels in the first place. Most of them *could* start doing that now, if they chose. FORCING them to do so would be something else, entirely...

      And all those solar installations will only give you a fraction of the 2x1117MW these nuke plants will supply.

      put iron Edison-style batteries in each of the homes

      Considering that those cost several times more than lead-acid batteries, it doesn't seem like they're a good deal, even in the very long-term.

      plants that would only have to run at greatly reduced capacity, thus extending their lifetimes and reducing maintenance and operations costs.

      No. It really doesn't work that way...

      --
      Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by lgw on Sunday February 23 2014, @07:15AM

        by lgw (2836) on Sunday February 23 2014, @07:15AM (#5107)

        Well put! I think solar + batteries on ever roof is the future, but it's sadly not the present. We're nearly there - it's tantalizing - but current tech still doesn't cut it. Top-quality photoelectric panels are bottlenecked on rare materials, and price would go through the roof if demand picked up. Batteries aren't quite there yet to allow the base load capacity to actually be reduced in cities.

        We've come far enough that the idea isn't fantasy any more - it's near future SF. But it's still fiction right now, and I'm eager to see a modern nuclear plant get built and see how it compares to what advocates like myself have been claiming. In theory new plants should be very safe and much more cost effective, but they're as vulnerable as ever to corruption and shortcuts while being built.

        If we can build one in the Deep South and not have it become a boondoggle and hidden safety menace (due to low quality parts sneaking in and cash sneaking out), that will be a great sign for America.

        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by evilviper on Sunday February 23 2014, @08:56AM

          by evilviper (1760) on Sunday February 23 2014, @08:56AM (#5127) Homepage Journal

          Batteries don't make much sense if you're connected to the grid. They will always have SOME losses, even if they're reduced from the current level, in addition to the up-front investment.

          Meanwhile, running wind turbines all night, cranking-up hydro off-peak, and using solar-thermal with heat storage, etc., doesn't have the chemical conversion storage losses, nor the extra inverter losses. And if you do need storage, in the event of occasional excessive supply, pumped hydro is a far better option for grid-scale applications, and is extremely cheap to add-on to any existing dams.

          --
          Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by mojo chan on Sunday February 23 2014, @10:52AM

        by mojo chan (266) on Sunday February 23 2014, @10:52AM (#5145)

        I imagine most homeowners can already get a $13,000 loan

        I don't know about the US but a $13,000 loan is not small thing for most people where I live. The government here has a scheme where you are loaned the money but all the repayments go onto your energy bills, the idea being that the panels reduce the bills by more than the repayments. After 10 years it is all profit for you.

        I don't think anyone would suggest forcing people to have solar panels, but if given the opportunity most people would take them up for free. Zero electricity bills is a rather attractive proposition. The problem is that the US is not very good at funding stuff like that, where the benefit is only to the electorate and not to some corporation that is bankrolling the local politicians. Look at the number of places that have banned municipal broadband.

        And all those solar installations will only give you a fraction of the 2x1117MW these nuke plants will supply.

        Doesn't matter. It is always cheaper to reduce demand by installing solar and improving homes than it is to build new capacity. Plus, it reduces emissions far more, and you get rid of the network losses by having power generated close to where it is used. There are knock-on effects too, like the fact that everyone's energy bill goes down and they can charge their electric vehicles very cheaply or for free, further reducing emissions. It also creates a lot more employment installing and maintaining a large number of panels, rather than just one nuclear plant.

        Considering that those cost several times more than lead-acid batteries, it doesn't seem like they're a good deal, even in the very long-term.

        I agree. The Japanese have developed low temperature sodium sulphur batteries that are an ideal fit. There are some 50MW range installations up and running already to back up wind farms. They can be installed at residences too. It is also possible to recycle used NiMH or lithium cells for this application.

        --
        const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
        • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Monday February 24 2014, @12:14AM

          by evilviper (1760) on Monday February 24 2014, @12:14AM (#5392) Homepage Journal

          I don't know about the US but a $13,000 loan is not small thing for most people where I live.

          It's a pretty modest expense in the US. For some context:

          2010, USA new home prices - Median: $221,800 Average: $272,900

          "The 2011 Median Income of US households was $50,054 per annum"

          So $13k is just 6% of the median home value, and just 26% of the annual household income (though a loan would typically allow 15-30 years to repay).

          It is always cheaper to reduce demand by installing solar and improving homes than it is to build new capacity.

          It's already clear that just installing solar panels won't do it. What were your other ideas for "improving homes"? If you're talking about extra insulation or similar, that probably won't help much with ELECTRICAL demand, because home heating dominates domestic energy usage in the US, and that's generally via natural gas, NOT electricity. I can see how it would help in tropical climates.

          Plus, it reduces emissions far more, and you get rid of the network losses by having power generated close to where it is used.

          I would agree if we were talking about coal power plants, but these nuclear power plants will have almost zero emissions. Also, grid losses in the US only average 7%... Not a substantial amount, and certainly not enough to change the math in favor of 1/5 as much solar capacity.

          The Japanese have developed low temperature sodium sulphur batteries

          Thanks for the tip, I'll look those up some time.

          --
          Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
      • (Score: 1) by TheRaven on Sunday February 23 2014, @01:33PM

        by TheRaven (270) on Sunday February 23 2014, @01:33PM (#5175) Journal

        The other problem with deploying solar is that the technology is advancing quite quickly. Fourth generation nuclear power plants have a planned lifetime of 50 or so years and have been around for a couple of decades. Unless there's some unexpected LENR or fusion breakthrough, you're better off building a nuclear power plant now and starting to use it than you are waiting for a few years and then building it.

        For solar, the value proposition is quite different. It has a large up-front cost with around a 10-year ROI, but within five years you're likely to be able to get panels that are either much more efficient or much cheaper (or both), making a five-year ROI feasible. Or, to put it another way, you can either spend that $13K now and be energy neutral and paid off in ten years, or spend it in five years and be energy neutral and paid off in ten years. Which makes more financial sense?

        --
        sudo mod me up
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by davester666 on Sunday February 23 2014, @09:03AM

      by davester666 (155) on Sunday February 23 2014, @09:03AM (#5130)

      Why the hell are we building a nuclear reactor in an ex-Soviet state between Russia and Turkey?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2014, @05:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2014, @05:50PM (#5248)

      Or buy a messaging app instead?

  • (Score: 0) by JimmyCrackCorn on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:48AM

    by JimmyCrackCorn (1495) on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:48AM (#5050)

    Can this power plant produce electricity that can be used to do things and then pay back the investment with a profit? or is this a boondoggle with government subsidies?

    Does that cost include accidents and disposal?

    Scrubbing CO2 is now possible.

    Carbon Credits are tickets to pollute and enslave.

    It takes energy to produce energy, those solar panels too.

    Complicated source to use flowchart for power plants of any type.

    Seems, like nature, diversity may be best approach toward continued energy production to meet demand and to act as decent steward of our biosphere.

    Unintended consequences are easily ignored.

    If society could mimic energy sources of humans, in that we get energy from a variety of sources, maybe our genes could change with any changes from the humans interaction with earth.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by forsythe on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:24AM

    by forsythe (831) on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:24AM (#5056)

    (Thanks, Editors, for answering my question before I asked it)

    Looks like the AP1000 is a pretty popular plant. Wikipedia says China is using the AP1000 design as a standard, and a few other countries have started preliminaries for construction, but none are currently operating, as the Sanmen I [wikipedia.org] plant is scheduled to be the first.

    • (Score: 1) by Dopefish on Sunday February 23 2014, @05:08AM

      by Dopefish (12) on Sunday February 23 2014, @05:08AM (#5085)

      Not a problem! I noticed the original article the submission linked to made no mention of the exact tech behind the power plant, and I thought I'd add that extra bit of information for everyone's benefit. Thank you for your feedback!

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Qzukk on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:25AM

    by Qzukk (1086) on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:25AM (#5057) Journal

    I searched the internet and found that people claim there's a 50% risk of default, but I can't find any articles that show where this percentage came from. Apparently the CBO came up with that number a decade ago (7 years prior to 2010 [motherjones.com]. Have half the nuclear plants actually defaulted on their loans? Or is this number just pulled from someone's ass?

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by randmcnatt on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:55AM

      by randmcnatt (671) on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:55AM (#5063)
      There's a newer CBO report (2011) [nirs.org] online. I looked it over and the best I could get out of it was:

      Default rates and recovery rates are likely to vary considerably, both across projects and over the life-time of a given project. CBO does not have enough information to independently estimate an average recovery rate for nuclear construction loans.

      And it seems like every reactor defaults at sometime during construction or operation. The report does say that CBO assumes a 55% recovery rate, but it's not clear if that's just reactors or every leveraged business.

      --
      The Wright brothers were not the first to fly: they were the first to land.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by wjwlsn on Sunday February 23 2014, @04:13AM

        by wjwlsn (171) on Sunday February 23 2014, @04:13AM (#5070) Homepage Journal

        I was just looking at the same report. It's difficult to conclude anything based on all the hand-waving within. Anyway, Appendix A has a section called "Default and Loss Experience" that is probably the best source of info... but again, they don't come right and give a clear answer. At one point they say "...episodes in which bondholders lose money have been fairly rare ...", but later on they say "...n several notable cases, bondholders have taken sizeable losses ..."

        I'm so glad I'm an engineer and not a money guy... talking around the issue without stating any conclusions (like these guys seemed to do, IMO) would drive me nuts.

        --
        I am a traveler of both time and space. Duh.
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by evilviper on Sunday February 23 2014, @04:41AM

      by evilviper (1760) on Sunday February 23 2014, @04:41AM (#5080) Homepage Journal

      I searched the internet and found that people claim there's a 50% risk of default

      Doesn't matter... Haven't been any new nukes since the 1970s, so any numbers you get will be several decades old, and not necessarily relevant to the world, today.

      From TFA:

      "The project is widely considered a major test of whether the industry can build nuclear plants without the endemic delays and cost overruns that plagued earlier rounds of building in the 1970s."

      --
      Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
    • (Score: 1) by mojo chan on Sunday February 23 2014, @10:55AM

      by mojo chan (266) on Sunday February 23 2014, @10:55AM (#5146)

      The 50% default rate is for commercial loans. When the government guarantees a loan and then the operator can't service it the government usually throws in more money to keep the project afloat. Aside from not wanting to lose the original guarantee amount the government also wants the energy that the plant will generate. That's why guarantees from the government are worth so much more than a guarantee from anyone else - they will keep throwing more and more money at the project almost indefinitely.

      --
      const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Khyber on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:26AM

    by Khyber (54) on Sunday February 23 2014, @03:26AM (#5058) Journal

    Topic says it all.

    --
    Destroying Semiconductors With Style Since 2008, and scaring you ill-educated fools since 2013.
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by wjwlsn on Sunday February 23 2014, @04:44AM

      by wjwlsn (171) on Sunday February 23 2014, @04:44AM (#5081) Homepage Journal

      LFTR is a great idea. We need a utility-scale demonstrator to be built and run for a few years before anybody will take it seriously, though. Gone are the days where such demonstrator plants can be built quickly and inexpensively to test unproven designs. (And please don't try to tell me LFTR is proven... I'm talking about detailed design ready for construction, commissioning, startup testing, and commercial ops... not a conceptual design.)

      I'm talking about demonstrators (US-centric) like:

      Vallecitos, Elk River, La Crosse, Humboldt Bay - GE Boiling Water Reactors
      Hallam - Liquid Metal cooled Graphite Moderated Reactor
      Fermi 1 - Liquid Metal Fast Breeder
      Piqua - Organically cooled and Moderated
      Shippingport - Pressurized Water Reactor, later conversion to Light Water Breeder
      Peach Bottom 1 - High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor
      Pathfinder - Allis Chalmers Boiling Water Reactor
      Carolinas_Virginia Tube Reactor (CVTR) - Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor
      Boiling Nuclear Superheater (BONUS) - as the name says
      Saxton - Pressurized Water Reactor

      These were all built in the 60s (I think), each in 3 to 4 years. They were all small reactors, but they were utility-scale. They all started up. Some ran for several years, and some were failures (Hallam, Fermi 1, Pathfinder, etc.) The successes formed the base of the commercial industry that exists today. It's important to note that these were all built and operated by utilities, with Atomic Energy Commission (now Nuclear Regulatory Commission) oversight... not at national labs. This is the kind of thing we need for LFTE before anyone in the industry will ever take it seriously.

      Anyway, those are the ones I can recall off the top of my head. I think I may have missed a couple.

      --
      I am a traveler of both time and space. Duh.
      • (Score: 4, Informative) by Khyber on Sunday February 23 2014, @12:27PM

        by Khyber (54) on Sunday February 23 2014, @12:27PM (#5162) Journal

        "We need a utility-scale demonstrator to be built and run for a few years before anybody will take it seriously, though"

        60MW in Prague already in operation, sir, developed by an Australian company. Prototype was done in 2012.

        --
        Destroying Semiconductors With Style Since 2008, and scaring you ill-educated fools since 2013.
        • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Sunday February 23 2014, @01:36PM

          by TheRaven (270) on Sunday February 23 2014, @01:36PM (#5176) Journal
          60MW is quite a large-sounding number, but it's over an order of magnitude smaller than the kinds of reactor we're talking about here, so I don't know that it counts as utility-scale. It would just about power a small town.
          --
          sudo mod me up
          • (Score: 3) by wjwlsn on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:02PM

            by wjwlsn (171) on Sunday February 23 2014, @02:02PM (#5183) Homepage Journal

            Actually, 60 MW would satisfy me. That's big enough to demonstrate commercial feasibility. Many of the demonstrators I listed were of similar size. Light Water Reactor industry kind of followed a sequence like: 5 MW test, 50 MW demonstrator, 200-300 MW small plant, 600-800 MW full-size plant, 900-1300 MW fully developed evolution of basic design.

            --
            I am a traveler of both time and space. Duh.
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by wjwlsn on Sunday February 23 2014, @01:51PM

          by wjwlsn (171) on Sunday February 23 2014, @01:51PM (#5182) Homepage Journal

          Please provide a reference! This would be exciting news... but the only stuff I can find is the general "consortium is formed, development is in progress, exciting future upon us" kind of thing. The whole situation is rather reminiscent of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) craze from last decade; lots of basic research, lots of announcements, lots of excitement, but still no operating demo reactor anywhere that I'm aware of. The apparent leading consortium for PBMR was placed in a politically induced coma a couple of years ago.

          http://www.bdlive.co.za/articles/2010/09/17/hogan- ends-pebble-bed-reactor-project [bdlive.co.za]

          --
          I am a traveler of both time and space. Duh.
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Walzmyn on Sunday February 23 2014, @01:43PM

      by Walzmyn (987) on Sunday February 23 2014, @01:43PM (#5180)

      Exactly. The real problem with this new reactor is its going to be right beside the other 2 - on the opposite side of the state from Atlanta that actually uses the electricity. We should be building a thorium plant down near the airport on the south side of the city and cutting out the constant transmission line upgrade/expansion (and subsequent eminent domain debate every time we need a new one)

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by krishnoid on Sunday February 23 2014, @06:28AM

    by krishnoid (1156) on Sunday February 23 2014, @06:28AM (#5095)

    This is exactly the kind of article I was hoping this new community could give some insight on. Is there an in-depth description somewhere, of the fundamental radioactive processes occurring in this reactor or reactor type, and the engineering concerns in harnessing these processes in generating energy?

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by mrkaos on Sunday February 23 2014, @11:13AM

      by mrkaos (997) on Sunday February 23 2014, @11:13AM (#5147)

      The AP-1000's design still falls short for accident mitigation and the EPR design is better. Briefly the buildings that service the reactor are split into four (main) operational divisions (and the reactor containment). An accident, failure or maintenance in the other areas can be mitigated by the other divisions. It's planning, and being prepared for, problems.

      None of the AP1000 designs incorporate features to ease the teardown and eventual decommissioning of the facility. For example, Yankee Rowe, was a controlled shutdown of a functioning reactor. It cost half a billion dollars to clean-up and it was only 137 Megawatts, less than a quarter of the size of TMI-2. You have to wait decades to allow the *really* radioactive elements to decay. This is because new and highly radioactive elements are created in the reactor core. It's still not something that has been addressed in an industrially proficient way that makes the sites safe or 'greenfeild'. Considering the 104 reactor sites around America are multi-core the United States will be looking at a conservative estimate of a quarter of a *Trillion* dollars, at todays prices, on reactor decommissioning alone.

      While the cost is a concern, decommissioning the reactor core has to be conducted so that it doesn't release any of the new radioactive elements free to bio-concentrate in the food chain.

      The NRC asked a Nuclear industry panel (Westinghouse, General Electric, Bechtel, Sargent & Lundy, Northern States Power and Commonwealth Edison) for
        design recommendations specifically targeted at reducing the opportunities to sabotage a nuclear reactor installation. The AP-1000 incorporates none of the design changes the industry *itself* recommends be applied to reactor facility design. AP-1000 is a rehash of the Standard Westinghouse Nuclear Utility Power Plant (SNUPPs) examples of which are installed at Wolf Creek [wikipedia.org] and Callaway, you will note in the picture the uncanny resemblence to the AP-1000 design (and similar capacity).

      Having gravity fed cooling is good and I am not taking away from the enhancements, but they're not enough. As for the containment building, it is the exact right place for additional concrete and steel. Consider TMI-2, it was designed with thicker containment than most other reactors so it was resistant to an aircraft crash. Even that suffered from voids that collapsed in the containment building. Aircraft attack on a Nuclear facility is a viable threat, and gravity cooling won't mitigate containment volume vs thermal power, containment is the last thing you want to loose in the event of an accident.

      The design of the AP-1000 has the ratio of containment volume to thermal power below that of today's operating PWRs. That increases the risk of containment over-pressurization and failure in event of a severe accident. Control rooms are still situated too close to the reactor room. Never has the need for that change to be implemented in reactor design been underlined more throughly than Fukushima. Reactor workers are exposed to much more radiation than need be to control accidents and newer designs *still* don't have this feature. Most obviously, newer reactor designs still aren't underground and these are reactor changes that the Nuclear Industry *themselves* recommended.

      --
      My ism, it's full of beliefs.