Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #867 - 15 October 2018

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#867
15/10/2018
Article

Transatomic Gen IV startup shuts down

We wrote about Transatomic Power's proposed molten salt reactor (MSR) in the last issue of Nuclear Monitor.1 Since then, the startup has shut down.2,3

Transatomic had raised more than US$4 million from Founders Fund, Acadia Woods Partners, and others. But it was unable to raise US$15 million required for the next phase of the project.

In 2016, following the revelation of false calculations, Transatomic abandoned its plan to use waste (spent fuel) as fuel and it abandoned the associated claim that its 'Waste-Annihilating Molten-Salt Reactor' could "generate up to 75 times more electricity per ton of mined uranium than a light-water reactor".4 Its waste-annihilating reactor was reinvented as a waste-producing, uranium fueled reactor.

Transatomic co-founder Leslie Dewan put a positive spin on the company's collapse: "Today the advanced nuclear technology sector is thriving, with over 70 advanced reactor projects in progress, financing actively flowing to new technologies, promising engagement with the NRC, multiple films and TV documentaries covering innovations, and even bipartisan political support."2

According to the Third Way pro-nuclear lobby group, "at least five companies are already working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to prepare for licensing".5 In other words, not one of the Gen IV startups has gone further than to notify the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of their intent to engage in regulatory interactions ‒ and only five have taken that modest step.6

1. Nuclear Monitor #866, 24 Sept 2018, Film review: 'The New Fire' and the old Gen IV rhetoric, https://wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/866/nuclear-monitor-866-24...

2. Leslie Dewan, Sept 2018, 'Open-Sourcing Our Reactor Design, and the Future of Transatomic', www.transatomicpower.com/open-source/

3. Energy Central, 2 Oct 2018, 'Transatomic Folds Its Tent ‒ Its Legacy May Live On', www.energycentral.com/c/ec/transatomic-folds-its-tent-its-leagcy-may-live

4. James Temple, 24 Feb 2017, 'Nuclear Energy Startup Transatomic Backtracks on Key Promises', www.technologyreview.com/s/603731/nuclear-energy-startup-transatomic-bac...

5. John Milko, Todd Allen, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, 8 Feb 2018, 'Keeping Up with the Advanced Nuclear Industry', www.thirdway.org/graphic/keeping-up-with-the-advanced-nuclear-industry

6. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 'Advanced Reactors (non-LWR designs)', accessed 3 October 2018.


USA: Another nuclear power plant bites the dust

Exelon Generation's Oyster Creek nuclear power plant was retired from service on September 17 yesterday after almost 49 years of electricity generation. The single-unit boiling water reactor was the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the USA.1

"It's a sombre day," said Tim Moore, the plant's vice-president. "We watched emotionally as our reactor shut down for the very last time."2

"We're seeing the economic conditions regarding nuclear power plants erode," said Exelon spokesperson Dave Tillman.2

Oyster Creek was licensed to operate until 2029, but Exelon decided in 2010 to retire the plant early after revisions to New Jersey's water use rules would have required it to build new cooling towers at an estimated cost of more than US$800 million. Exelon announced in February this year that the plant, which was required to close by the end of 2019 under an agreement with the State of New Jersey, would cease operations at the end of its current operating cycle.1

400‒500 staff were employed at Oyster Creek and about 300 will be retained to carry out decommissioning work.

Environmentalists had long sought the shutdown of Oyster Creek over the years, citing corrosion that dangerously thinned its reactor vessel, and the leak of radioactive tritium into groundwater on the plant site. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, called Oyster Creek "a disaster waiting to happen. By closing early, it will help protect both the environment and public safety. We've been fighting this plant for more than 15 years and this closure is long overdue."2

Oyster Creek is the seventh permanent reactor shutdown in the US in recent years (2013 ‒ San Onofre 2 & 3, Crystal River, Kewaunee; 2014 ‒ Vermont Yankee; 2016 ‒ Fort Calhoun). Many others are slated for closure over the coming decade although state government bailouts are slowing that attrition.3 A little over half of the 48 operational reactors in the US have been operating for 40 years or more4 and the average age is 38 years.5

Exelon's senior vice president William Von Hoene said earlier this year: "I don't think we're building any more nuclear plants in the United States. I don't think it's ever going to happen ... They are too expensive to construct, relative to the world in which we now live."6

1. World Nuclear Association, 18 Sept 2018, 'Oyster Creek retires after 49 years', www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Oyster-Creek-retires-after-49-years

2. Wayne Parry / Associated Press, 17 Sept 2018, 'Long held as oldest in US, New Jersey nuclear plant closes', https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/oyster-creek-oldest-nuclear-plant-...

3. www.beyondnuclear.org/reactors-are-closing/

4. https://pris.iaea.org/PRIS/CountryStatistics/CountryDetails.aspx?current=US

5. https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/World-Nuclear-Industry-Status-Report-...

6. Steven Dolley, 18 April 2018, 'No new nuclear units will be built in US due to high cost: Exelon official' www.platts.com/latest-news/electric-power/washington/no-new-nuclear-unit...