Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ideal Nuke II

I really want a new nuclear plant for Ontario, but it has to be done right (Fat Chance!). Everybody who has ever done a project knows that there is a technically clean reference design, which can be built on-time, on-budget, with a high margin against failure. But then you have to make all the stupid modifications, pushed by powerful interest groups. I find that small variations from the ref design has a non-linear effect, in terms of time, money, and chance of success.

The easiest thing to deal with are superfluous frills, like the paint colour, or 'look and feel' for a computer project. The worst are fundamental changes, imposed by groups refusing this or that, or the fact you have to use some incompetent cousin to build it!

For Ontario, the first thing we have to do is pick out the type of fuel: natural, 2% or 4%. This is on the critical path, since the enriched stuff is so difficult to get; we would have to start obtaining it from Iran immediately (just kidding!). I would go with a modern 4% design from the US. I could have gone with France, if they sell us the fuel, but they are more silent than Japan, and I don't trust them.

Second, we need a site. We have to go with 2 twin reactors, because the bureaucracy involved with a 4 unit station is just too hopeless. Think of every small group in OPG resembling the whole company, a complete self-similar organization, with information hiding, politics, silence, the whole bag.

Dual twins need space. We can't go for the existing Darlington site, because it is too small, and jammed up against the largest active quarry in the world. Think the Japanese have a problem because their nuclear plant is on a fault? We have to go to next-door Wesleyville, and mow down all the silly regulations on existing versus new nuclear sites. It's only a few kilometres away, kiddies!

The site has to be laid down parallel to the shore, because all the dang power needs to be shipped out on high voltage lines. The infamous sideways design (on the Darlington site) never shows the wires! As well, we need a common water intake, and tunnel outflow (no cooling towers!).

The plant can be built totally seismic-proof without a speck of ridiculous seismic analysis. Just make sure everything (even transformers!) are built on the solid rock. The physics of seismic waves (more on that later) ensures that the Peak Ground Velocity (PGV) cannot exceed damaging levels.

This design can be built economically, and can actually run well. Most likely, the political people will say it's impossible, but I can't envision anything else working. I do know that continued Japanese-type silence will end in a 'Pickering restart type' muckup.

But, this is just a dream. It's in the self-interest of the power-people to appease all interest groups, and come up with a committee design. Then, they might lop off a few extra legs to come up with something that appears to be doable. Finally, when it can't be done, they throw up their hands, and collect severance. Of course, this will never happen....

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