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Update on the Romanian plans to complete 5 CANDU nuclear reactors.

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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 02:43 AM
Original message
Update on the Romanian plans to complete 5 CANDU nuclear reactors.
Edited on Wed Oct-11-06 02:56 AM by NNadir
Romania operates a single CANDU type nuclear reactor, Cernavoda-1, which has operated since 1996.

The reactor has been a spectacular success, operating with a capacity utilization of over 90%, and producing electricity at some of the lowest operating and maintenance costs in Europe, about 1.25 US cents/kw-hr. Each year, the reactor prevents the release of 4 million tons of carbon dioxide.

An interesting feature of the reactor, uncommon among the world's 440 reactors, is the use of the waste heat from the nuclear plant for district heating, meaning that the reactor is a "co-generation" facility. As climate change proceeds, should rationality begin to become popular, one hopes that such "co-generation" opportunities will become more common. (Many old Soviet reactors also had this feature.)

The reactor produces between 10 and 12 percent of Romanian electricity.

Next year, in 2007, a second reactor, partially financed by the European Union, Italy, Canada and the United States will be completed.

Originally 5 reactors were planned at the site, but for financing reasons, construction of four of them were stopped for a time. Of the restarted completion of the other 4, only reactor #2 is nearing completion. The reactors were originally planned under the criminal dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaucescu, who not only severely repressed his people, but also bankrupted his country.

However, as Europe comes to grip with the realities of global climate change, and recognition increases of the unavoidable fact that global climate change cannot be slowed without the use of nuclear power, plans have been announced to complete all 5 reactors by 2020, should global climate change not more completely destroy the global economy before then than Nicolae Ceaucescu destroyed the Romanian economy. Europe never abandoned Hitler's Volkswagen, and neither should it abandon Ceaucescu's reactors.

Plans are now afoot to complete Cernovada-3 and Cernovada-4 by 2014, and Cernovada-5 by 2020.

The presence of 5 CANDU type reactors in Europe will have interesting implications in the internationalization of the nuclear fuel cycle, which all rational persons who are invested in peace support. Although CANDU reactors both in theory and practice can be used to make weapons grade plutonium of high isotopic purity - they are the most suitable commercial reactor types for such use - they can also be employed in such a way as to destroy plutonium as an element of the thorium cycle. In this approach, weapons grade plutonium is denatured in such a way as to make the plutonium more difficult to handle and to cause any weapons containing such plutonium to "fizzle," giving a very low, if any, yield. If uranium is recycled in these reactors, the uranium can be rendered so denatured that it will be ineffective for use in enrichment plants, and incapable of being used for the purpose of making weapons grade uranium. In contrast to natural uranium, which contains on 3 isotopes, one of which, U-234 is present as an equilibrium trace, CANDU recycled plutonium could consist of 6 isotopes, including significantly larger amounts of U-234, as well as the unnatural isotopes U-232, U-233, and U-236. The latter isotope, U-236, will mean that any attempt to make weapons grade plutonium from that uranium would effectively fail, since large amounts of the heat generting Pu-238 would be formed at the same time. U-232 makes it difficult to handle the uranium nuclear fuel, making unauthorized diversion very problematic. This uranium would completely stymie any enrichment facility seeking to make bomb grade uranium. :-) Under thorium cycle conditions, the CANDU can operate as a breeder reactor, creating slightly more fissionable nuclear fuel than it consumes, further extending nuclear resources for many centuries. One element of nuclear control that may be available in future centuries would involve the admixture of CANDU treated uranium with virgin uranium obtained from seawater and mineral sources.

Like many technologies, the ultimate use of CANDU technology will represent a moral decision. By itself the technology is neither ideal or disasterous; it can be either depending on who is using it.

Thus under close supervision of international authorities, the CANDU is an important element of world nuclear technology that can play a critical role in peace, security, and the important fight against climate change. I hope these reactors will be well integrated into the European nuclear infrastructure and will be used to manage and reduce plutonium inventories, particularly those associated with military use.

More details about the Romanian nuclear program can be found here: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf93.htm

http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/about/pubs/Inventory/Romania.pdf
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 04:00 AM
Response to Original message
1. It's a good thing Romania has not angered the world like the US
Unlike reactors in the US, Romanian reactors do not have to deal with the fallout of a government foreign policy that alienates and enrages large segments of the world.
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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 09:46 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Natural uranium heavy water reactors like CANDU are the proliferators
technology of choice (NK used one for its plutonium production program).

Romania will now be able to reprocess its spent fuel to extract plutonium for whatever purpose they have for it...
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 12:27 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. That's true, but I don't think Romania is in the arms market here.
Edited on Wed Oct-11-06 12:32 PM by Selatius
Unless there were objections raised by the EU and the US, both partially funded the construction, and the IAEA, I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed to build them, since it seems nobody believes they are a proliferation threat.

Yes, for the sake of safety, it was probably best if they had simply been given light-water reactors, but the argument is over in as much as they already possess the heavy-water reactor.
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 02:12 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. CANDU's are essential tools in nuclear disarmament.
When the US and Russia began to discuss plutonium burning in dismantled nuclear weapons, some of the first reactors they looked at were the Canadian CANDU's.

Because of its neutron economy, the CANDU is an excellent choice for consuming excess plutonium and for denaturing it. Here is a technical paper that shows some of the power of this approach. Table 4 therein shows ton quantities of plutonium being consumed.

http://democrite.ccsd.cnrs.fr/docs/00/10/31/27/PDF/C111.pdf

Many people attempt to confuse issues of nuclear power with nuclear weaponry, but mostly these appeals are irrational and based on a dogmatic "no! no! no!" approach to all nuclear technology in a very simplistic and poorly nuanced approach. Nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented and many nations - including the United States - built nuclear weapons without access to commercial nuclear power. The issues are not generally related and appeals that insist that they are are elements of desperate thinking that has been internationally discredited in the international emergency now before us. It happens that nuclear weapons cannot be destroyed without access to nuclear reactors, since the only way to destroy plutonium is to fission it.

I think a reasonable portion of the expanding nuclear fleet should include CANDU's, but special care should be taken to monitor these reactors so that they are not abused. I can't imagine that the Romanians would have any objections whatsoever to such oversight. Since it is impossible for the world to ameliorate global climate change without the use of nuclear power, I think the best hope for humanity is simply to strengthen oversight on critical nuclear technologies, including enrichment and CANDU type reactors that offer the technical capacity for dual use. However the social and political spheres will necessarily vary. I think with proper use of CANDU's it may well prove possible to eliminate enrichment at all, or to render many nuclear materials difficult to enrich for weapons purposes.

You will always have people trying to claim that Canada is North Korea but I think that the claim that Canada is North Korea is absurd, probably too silly even to dismiss. I don't think there is any rational person who worries that the CANDUs in Argentina, Canada or South Korea or Romania are going to lead to nuclear war. All of these states have operated CANDUS and none of them have participated in the nuclear arms industry.

It is very clear that both Pakistan and India have used CANDU technology to build nuclear weapons. However, it is also clear that many countries around the world have used petroleum technology to make napalm. As the situation now stands, even though napalm has killed an order of magnitude more people than nuclear weapons, there is, sadly enough, no call to ban petroleum products, though maybe there should be such a call. The choice of how to use CANDU's and how to use crude oil are both moral choices, but neither preclude the sane use of the technologies involved.
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eppur_se_muova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 06:05 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. "... the only way to destroy plutonium is to fission it."
That seems obvious to the technically minded, but bears a lot of emphasis and repitition for those who aren't. May as well get some power out of all those unused weapons -- beats waiting thousands of years for the Pu to decay.
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-11-06 10:59 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. To be clear, I favor the continued production of plutonium.
I don't favor the production of plutonium with an isotopic purity for plutonium-239 above 90%, but I think it is important to continue to make plutonium, as most nuclear reactors, unless they run on thorium/plutonium mixtures, do.

It is important to have access to nuclear reactors to provide for plutonium stocks that are isotopically mixed and contain the 238, 240, 241, and 242 isotopes as well as 239. It is possible in continuous recycling schemes to manage plutonium inventories that contain considerably less than 50% plutonium-239. It is impossible to make such plutonium of course, without access to nuclear reactors. Nuclear weapons can be made difficult to reassemble by blending weapons grade plutonium with advanced recycled fuels. This is probably the quickest way to minimize the return of weapons plutonium to military arsenals - add in inconvenient isotopes. Such an approach cannot eliminate the possibility of a weapon being manufactured, but it can make such a weapon less reliable, more difficult to conceal, problematic to assemble, and of much lower yield.

Of course, I don't know, but I would not be surprised to learn that the reason the North Korean weapon gave such a poor yield, why it effectively fizzled, had much to do with a premature denotation owing to too much plutonium-240 in their core. Making a nuclear weapon is nowhere near as easy as people like to think it is.

In any case, I see CANDU's as an element of managing plutonium inventories, but not solely for the consumption of weapons cores.

Another use for the CANDU is to burn once-through uranium from spent PWR fuel. CANDU's do not require enriched uranium to operate. Even after removal from a reactor after a fuel cycle, the uranium remaining in the spent fuel is more enriched than is necessary to operate a CANDU. Thus CANDU's can be used to increase the burn-up, and thus the energy recovered, from spent fuel.

France, which will not be using CANDU's for the purpose, has announced a fuel cycling scheme that will stabilize its inventories at about 500 MT of plutonium. These cycles are planned for PWR type reactors, and will depend on sophisticated types of assemblies containing pins of differing composition. One such scheme is called the CORAIL system. This is a reasonable figure and allows for flexibility in resource management.

Even though France will not rely on them for these purposes - and has developed another type of fuel cycle scheme - the availability of CANDU's in Europe will ease many fuel cycle issues. It will make an excellent niche for Romania, and is sure to offer certain economic advantages over the 60+ years these reactors are designed to operate. It is probably the case that these reactors can operate for their whole life time on uranium inventories found in spent fuel, and never require even ten grams of freshly mined virgin uranium. I really think we could use some CANDU's here in the US, and I eagerly announce the first announcement of one.
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eppur_se_muova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 09:20 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. I never doubted that.
:) But the fact that reactors provide the ONLY way to completely dispose of the plutonium in stockpiles is an interesting selling point, particularly when you find yourself talking to people who are agitated about disposing of the old Soviet (and our) stockpiles of weapons-grade Pu. They might be very surprised to realize that wanting to get rid of those weapons for good implies building new reactors is a GOOD idea. Accept their premise -- getting rid of warheads should be a top priority -- and it leads neatly to a conclusion they may have rejected before.

(I'm making a big assumption here, that current reactors running flat-out couldn't consume all that Pu in a "reasonable" amount of time. Probably lots of room to argue over what constitutes "reasonable", but delay --> greater risk.)
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #7
9. Well, I'm not particularly good at politics or selling, but yeah,
it's a strong argument.

Like most pro-nuclear arguments, it's obvious though, or at least should be. This will not impress the permanently hopeless, but it may persuade some people who are less religious.
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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 10:05 AM
Response to Reply #5
8. I disagree
You cannot completely fission all the plutonium present in MOX fuel - there will always be a substantial amount left in it.

High burn-up MOX fuel is highly radioactive and has a high thermal output - it is much more difficult and expensive to handle and dispose.

The US MOX fuel program (the one that was supposed use weapons-grade Pu) is in complete disarray. One utility that initially agreed to be *paid* to use MOX fuel has pulled out of the program and Congress recently killed funding for the multi-billion dollar MOX fuel fabrication facility in SC.

The easiest-cheapest-safest-most-secure method for disposal of weapons-grade Pu is blend it down, incorporate it into a ceramic matrix and bury it in a secure repository.

This was the Clinton administration's initial plans for US and RU Pu and the best policy on this issue...



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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-12-06 12:02 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. I'm sure you disagree.
Edited on Thu Oct-12-06 12:03 PM by NNadir
You are blissfully unaware of the technical details of all nuclear technology.

MOX fuel is widely used all over the planet with wide success. It fuels French reactors, Belgian reactors, Japanese reactors, and Swiss reactors. I would point examples but you would simply lapse into denial and selective attention and raise yet another pointless objection.

Maybe you think that making plutonium "difficult and expensive" to handle has no anti-proliferation value, but such an idea has no credibility with anyone else. One cannot uninvent nuclear weapons, but it would seem that difficulty with the materials from which they are made is, in fact, in order.

In another context you would appeal to this same problem and argue from the other side of your mouth. You do this when one mentions fuel recycling for instance.

Plutonium handling is more expensive than virgin uranium, and will remain so for many decades. The cost of nuclear fuel is not the question however, since it does not drive the cost of nuclear power very much. The issue involves peace, not economics. There is one way to physically destroy plutonium, and sweeping it under the rug is not it. It is fissioning the plutonium, which will be done.

As it happens, the planet doesn't care what you think. It's not like you and your cohorts are stopping any nuclear program anywhere by repeating your mantras. The technical people engaged in nuclear energy work are completely indifferent to all of your representations. The world's plutonium policy does not depend on Greenpeace approval, which would never come in any case.

Maybe you should stick to breathless descriptions of wind farms and praise of Arnold's solar initiatives and Arnold's other empty promises. We all welcome whatever little renewables can actually accomplish, though, and you're really good at listing these, however insignificant they actually prove to be when you look at the numbers.
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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-13-06 10:24 AM
Response to Reply #4
11. Tortured logic indeed
"CANDU's are essential tools in nuclear disarmament."

"It is very clear that both Pakistan and India have used CANDU technology to build nuclear weapons."

No one has ever used a CANDU reactor to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation.

Ever.

However, they have used them to produce plutonium for nulcear weapons.

and more than once.
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