Friday, April 29, 2011

Milking Old Nuclear Plants


Exelon has turned its back on new nuclear power projects, for the balance of this decade, at least, because the power output from the multibillion-dollar new plants could not compete with natural gas-fired power plants in the absence of a carbon price. Instead, Exelon will channel most of its capacity expansion into gas generation, its officials say.
But Exelon has also embarked on a costly plan to increase the output of its existing nuclear plants through uprates achieved by expanding reactor capacity. The uprates would add as much as 1,500 megawatts of new generation if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approves the projects. It is also expected to seek 20-year operating license renewals on the remaining reactors that have not yet been cleared for the license extensions.

They are uprating these horrible old plants, while keeping all the backups the same.  As shown by the recent tornadoes in Alabama, these plants fall back onto emergency systems all the time.  This is not good, and is like the window-washer constantly using his backup rope.  When you constantly fall to a single backup, there is no backup to the backup.  It just takes one more thing (like an earthquake), and that backup is gone.  With uprated BWR's (Japan version), you only got an hour before fuel meltdown and explosions.

Really, if you just lose external power, the plant should be able to reduce power, and just live on it's own turbine, essentially forever.  The diesel backups should just be extreme backups, because there is nothing else.

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