Nuclear power study says waste remains issue

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Oct. 9 -- New nuclear plant designs promise to overcome some of the commercial and safety barriers of nuclear power, said the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in a recent report.

But the institute said designs are still burdened by poor public perception, the risk of rogue states using nuclear power plant construction and refueling as a cover for nuclear weapon proliferation, and nuclear waste problems.

Nuclear technology is moving towards smaller scale design, just as conventional power plant technology is, the report said.

The so-called micro-nuclear technology involves new designs that make reactors smaller, with fewer components, simpler design, and simpler operation and maintenance. The new designs include:

� International Reactor and Secure Nuclear Power System, a pressurized water reactor with steam generators integrated within the reactor pressure vessel.

� Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, a modular graphite-moderated, helium-cooled reactor that employs a direct cycle gas turbine and fuel contained in small graphite-covered balls.

� 4S, a sodium-cooled modular fast reactor designed to operate for 30 years without refueling.

� Encapsulated Nuclear Heat Source Reactor, a modular lead-cooled reactor designed to function as a nuclear battery; it is shipped to the site fueled and then replaced by a new module after 20 years of operation.

An advantage to modular design would be shortened construction time compared to conventional reactors, which take at least 5 years to construct. The smaller modular units should be built in less than a year, said the institute.

The cost advantage still would not materialize unless enough modular plants were ordered to make the manufacturing facilities cost-effective, noted the institute. It would not be economic to build a manufacturing facility to produce one nuclear plant module. "The chicken-egg problem of the manufacturing process will stand as a barrier," the report said.

Several of the designs expected to be ready after 2020 eliminate the possibility of severe accidents by relying on the physical process itself for safety as opposed to the functioning of mechanical and electrical components like valves and pumps. For example, because some of the new designs don't circulate coolant, they will avoid accidents that involve large loss of coolant, the report said.

However, other safety issues that involve the possible failure or leaks from the containment structure have not been overcome, said the report.

It noted that because these units would require refueling less often, they would help ease concerns about clandestine nuclear weapon proliferation under the pretense of refueling.

The institute proposed that modular plants could be constructed in one country in a heavily guarded "nuclear park." Then the modules could be shipped to the host country. However, the institute admitted the concept might be politically difficult to implement.

Finally, no matter what the technology, waste disposal challenges will be "daunting." The Baker Institute said if nuclear power were to become the fuel of choice internationally, the spent fuel generated annually would be about 50,000 tons -- equivalent to one Yucca Mountain dumpsite being constructed every 18 months.

To date there is no long-term repository for spent nuclear fuel available in the US, as Yucca Mountain is still under review.

Related Articles

Obama urged by IPAA president to lift ban on US crude exports

07/07/2015 Commending the administration for its actions allowing some condensate to be exported as a petroleum product, Independent Petroleum Association of ...

Emerging producers offered guidelines for governance

07/06/2015 Like most worthy endeavors, governing oil and gas activity at the national level is easier said than done-especially where oil and gas never before...

Nelson-Farrar Quarterly Costimating Indexes for selected equipment items

07/06/2015 The Nelson-Farrar refinery construction index rose to 2,475.6 by December 2012 from 2,467.4 in January of the same year. The index continued to ris...

Oman lets contract for Sohar refinery unit revamp

07/06/2015 Oman Oil Refineries & Petroleum Industries Co., has let a contract to MAN Diesel & Turbo SE, Augsburg, Germany, for work related to the ove...

Gas faces more competition from coal, renewables, IEA official says

07/06/2015 Natural gas faces growing competition from coal and renewable energy sources at a time when its potential demand growth is slowing down, an Interna...

OGJ Newsletter


International news for oil and gas professionals

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

Security through change


At the start of this month the US Army published its "Energy Security & Sustainability (ES2) Strategy" report. 

White Papers

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

When Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


On Demand

Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors


Driving Growth and Efficiency with Deep Insights into Operational Data

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Capitalizing on today’s momentum in Oil & Gas requires operational excellence based on a clear view of what your business data is telling you. Which is why nearly half* of oil and gas companies have deployed SAP HANA or have it on their roadmap.

Join SAP and Red Hat to learn more about using data to drive process improvements and identify new opportunities with the SAP HANA platform running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This webinar will also show how your choice of infrastructure impacts the performance of core business applications and your ability to achieve data-driven insights quickly and reliably.

*48% use SAP,


OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected