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PostPosted: Dec 12, 2016 9:00 pm 
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Will molten salt reactors of any flavor ever become so safe that they can get ordinary private company insurance just like natural gas power plants? If government has to insure these reactors, that is a hidden government subsidy that taxpayers should know about.

My other concern is proliferation of dirty bomb material. Fusion beats fission because we don’t want countries like Somalia to ever have highly radioactive materials, yet the whole world needs energy to survive, not just first world nations.


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PostPosted: Dec 13, 2016 10:39 am 
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Christopher Calder wrote:
Will molten salt reactors of any flavor ever become so safe that they can get ordinary private company insurance just like natural gas power plants? If government has to insure these reactors, that is a hidden government subsidy that taxpayers should know about.

My other concern is proliferation of dirty bomb material. Fusion beats fission because we don’t want countries like Somalia to ever have highly radioactive materials, yet the whole world needs energy to survive, not just first world nations.


Nuclear power companies do have insurance. But like all insurance, it is limited. If you look at your motor policy, you'll see there is a limit to what the insurers will pay. If you cause more damage than what the insurer will pay, after you've been declared bankrupt, the Government will pick up the tab.

In this respect, we could see both a conventional and MSR reactor having the same insurance cap - perhaps $2-5 billion.

The difference is - it's hard to see how a MSR can do more damage than $2-5 billion (compared to 10s of billions of cost for Fukushima). But the Government is still liable for an excess - it's one of the reasons for Government.


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PostPosted: Dec 13, 2016 3:08 pm 
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Christopher Calder wrote:
Will molten salt reactors of any flavor ever become so safe that they can get ordinary private company insurance just like natural gas power plants? If government has to insure these reactors, that is a hidden government subsidy that taxpayers should know about.

My other concern is proliferation of dirty bomb material. Fusion beats fission because we don’t want countries like Somalia to ever have highly radioactive materials, yet the whole world needs energy to survive, not just first world nations.


Insurance in the nuclear industry is different (at least in the US), with the government being an insurer of last resort.
Instead of giving money to insurance companies, there's a pot of money, that keeps increasing, that all nuclear operators pay in.
So far, the US government never had to step in, the pot dealt with 100% of claims, and has tens of billions in it.
Perhaps the real "problem" is the pot isn't giving the insurance industry profits. Its a social program for the nuclear industry.

Countries like Somalia use little electricity and energy in general. Until they become a safe/stable society, they don't get big factories which keep their electricity demand low, keep their people poor. So before Somalia needs big reactors (or any oher large scale electricity source) they will first have to fix their societal problem.
They way you word it, its like the world is first world or ... Somalia. Lets mention a few countries that operate civilian nuclear reactors that are not first world... India, Pakistan, Brazil, China, Argentina. The overwhelming majority of countries not the in developed country list doesn't have security problems that would prevent them from having nuclear reactors safely. Of that list, only Pakistan is a problematic country.
The issue with materials for dirty bombs is quite questionable. A big van filled with Cl2 or F2 (Chlorine or Fluorine gas) exploded in the right place will kill thousands. The chemical industry doesn't have the stigma of nuclear power (its quite easy to make or steal Cl2 or F2, Cl2 is made from table salt, Fluorine is a key component of most tooth pastes). Syria is seeing frequent Cl2 attacks in Aleppo, while when was the last dirty bomb attack anywhere ? The issue isn't that dirty bombs are massively deadly, the real issue is the people are already paranoid enough with nuclear power and if a dirty bomb goes off somewhere in the world and kills a handful of people, it sets the nuclear industry back a decade. Hollywood LOVES to use anything nuclear to sell movie tickets. The biggest problem with nuclear is people's paranoias and feelings.

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Last edited by macpacheco on Dec 15, 2016 11:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Dec 13, 2016 11:31 pm 
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I have a hard time justifying my opposition against operational subsidies for wind, solar, and fossil fuel projects while supporting operational subsidies for nuclear power. I think government has a role in limited amounts of general research funding, but I think products should pay for themselves through sales to customers. If molten salt reactors cannot get ordinary power plant insurance, that is a red flag that something is wrong with the design. If we could keep the government out of the insurance issue through a very safe design, I would have no problem with it. We have enough natural gas to make electricity for many decades or even a century or more, so maybe gas is better than a design that cannot be privately insured.

The issue of contaminants in the liquid fuel creating new radioactive elements that may form radioactive gasses and then might escape the plant worry me. Clearly, public support, which is essential, would be strongest for a fusion design. I am hoping that Lockheed Martin really has something. As you probably know, the Germans are claiming a recent breakthrough in fusion plasma stability and containment. I would support government research funding into molten salt reactors as well as the various flavors of fusion power, but honestly I hope for fusion to be developed soon. In the mean time, I like natural gas and I have no worries about CO2 in the atmosphere. Our trees and plants of all kinds need it to grow.


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PostPosted: Dec 14, 2016 9:12 am 
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Nuclear power stations are never going to get actual insurance.

Because actual insurance would require that the payouts be somewhat related to the damaged caused by an accident. And clean up costs for Fukushima are typically far in excess of the value of the (mostly) farmland that was contaminated.
At which point clean-up should consist of buying the land, fencing it and leaving it for 30 or more years.


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PostPosted: Dec 14, 2016 11:29 am 
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E Ireland wrote:
Nuclear power stations are never going to get actual insurance.

Because actual insurance would require that the payouts be somewhat related to the damaged caused by an accident. And clean up costs for Fukushima are typically far in excess of the value of the (mostly) farmland that was contaminated.
At which point clean-up should consist of buying the land, fencing it and leaving it for 30 or more years.


Thanks for the straight answer.


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PostPosted: Dec 15, 2016 10:48 am 
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Christopher Calder wrote:
I have a hard time justifying my opposition against operational subsidies for wind, solar, and fossil fuel projects while supporting operational subsidies for nuclear power. I think government has a role in limited amounts of general research funding, but I think products should pay for themselves through sales to customers. If molten salt reactors cannot get ordinary power plant insurance, that is a red flag that something is wrong with the design. If we could keep the government out of the insurance issue through a very safe design, I would have no problem with it. We have enough natural gas to make electricity for many decades or even a century or more, so maybe gas is better than a design that cannot be privately insured.

The issue of contaminants in the liquid fuel creating new radioactive elements that may form radioactive gasses and then might escape the plant worry me. Clearly, public support, which is essential, would be strongest for a fusion design. I am hoping that Lockheed Martin really has something. As you probably know, the Germans are claiming a recent breakthrough in fusion plasma stability and containment. I would support government research funding into molten salt reactors as well as the various flavors of fusion power, but honestly I hope for fusion to be developed soon. In the mean time, I like natural gas and I have no worries about CO2 in the atmosphere. Our trees and plants of all kinds need it to grow.


Beyond what E Ireland pointed out there's also the issue of LNT, so long as it's a model that could carry the day in court it's a sword of damocles held over the head of anyone who has to deal with liabilities from a nuclear accident. No insurance company wants to be faced with a situation where they're paying out for some fraction of a percent chance of an increased risk of cancer spread over thousands. Even denying those claims would become burdensome nevermind actually paying out for all that theoretical risk.


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PostPosted: Dec 23, 2016 4:57 pm 
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macpacheco wrote:
Insurance in the nuclear industry is different (at least in the US), with the government being an insurer of last resort.

Sorry, but this is incorrect. The government USED to be the insurer of last resort but either the nuclear industry as a whole, or the company is now. The first resort is the private insurance each company must buy (~$375M, IIRC). The second resort is the mutual insurance policy (~$12B) that the industry is liable for. There is no required fund for this, just a statement of liability. The final resort is whatever congress decides at that time it should be. I've read that the industry thinks it will be the company's burden.

I suspect that the FedGov will not be as stupid as the JapGov and require the insured to pay $4000 per person who voluntarily evacuates.

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PostPosted: Dec 24, 2016 2:21 am 
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The test of MSRs isn't insurance.
The test of MSRs is delivering cheap, high temperature heat (and cheap electricity) competitive with natural gas in the USA. With outlet temperatures high enough they can replace at least half of natural gas burning in industry.
I would add that additional test of MSR burners is to achieve many times the burnup of PWR/BWR, substantially reducing its waste volume production and enabling pyro reprocessing of its spent fuel, which could result in 10x the electricity production per ton of mined Uranium (or Thorium) vs PWR/BWR.
I would love to see LFTRs being sold by the dozens, but until the NRC can be convinced its not a problem to have the core running on nearly 80% U233 vs other Uranium isotopes isn't a problem. So until somebody explains how this will get through certification, I'm falling back to hoping at least MSR burners become a reality.

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PostPosted: Dec 24, 2016 10:38 am 
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E Ireland wrote:
Nuclear power stations are never going to get actual insurance.

Because actual insurance would require that the payouts be somewhat related to the damaged caused by an accident.
REEEEEDiculous. Every piece of insurance sold has a limit to payout. In the USA it is limited by the Federal Government and is currently about $375M IIRC. Every NPP must purchase maximum available insurance. Beyond that, they are each and all liable for an additional payout over time of ~$125M as a form of secondary insurance. Fukushima costs are ridiculous in the the JapGov is requiring TEPCO to pay HUGE amounts to people who voluntarily evacuated, even though their homes are perfectly safe to inhabit, radiologically.

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PostPosted: Dec 24, 2016 10:45 am 
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Christopher Calder wrote:
E Ireland wrote:
Nuclear power stations are never going to get actual insurance.

Because actual insurance would require that the payouts be somewhat related to the damaged caused by an accident. And clean up costs for Fukushima are typically far in excess of the value of the (mostly) farmland that was contaminated.
At which point clean-up should consist of buying the land, fencing it and leaving it for 30 or more years.


Thanks for the straight answer.


Straight, but wrong. Molten Salt Rectors will have no problem getting insurance. The only issue is whether SMRs will be liable for the same secondary payout as megareactors. Seems the PAA should be slightly modified to make the secondary liability proportional to the rating of the reactor.

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PostPosted: Dec 24, 2016 11:16 am 
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KitemanSA wrote:
Straight, but wrong. Molten Salt Rectors will have no problem getting insurance. The only issue is whether SMRs will be liable for the same secondary payout as megareactors. Seems the PAA should be slightly modified to make the secondary liability proportional to the rating of the reactor.


If you think there is no circumstance where an MSR cannot cause a significant radiation release then I am afraid you are simply lacking in imagination.
And if there is a significant release the reactor owner is essentially bankrupt either way, the payment will be sized to be as large as can be possibly recovered from said owner.


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PostPosted: Dec 27, 2016 4:31 pm 
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For the record, I still support MSR research, but I am not jumping up and down claiming MSR technology is the very best we can do. Obviously, some kind of fusion is the ultimate solution, but we need energy to survive. How long will it take to produce a low cost fusion reactor? Crystal balls are hard to come by. We need multiple routes to reliable low cost energy. Some seem prefect, but which ones are really doable and economical is still unknown. High priced energy will not work because we make food with energy. High cost energy starves the world and causes economic collapse.


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PostPosted: Dec 27, 2016 5:43 pm 
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I think fission technology implemented through LFTR is vastly superior to fusion.

Fusion will never be a practical energy source. Any fusion scientist or engineer, in an unguarded moment, with admit to this. They pursue fusion not because it is practical or possible but because they get funded for it, and if they are academic, because they can crank out graduate students from it. It will be studied forever and implemented never for a very simple reason:

Charged particles scatter even without collisions; neutral particles do not scatter without collisions.

That is why fusion will always be nigh unto impossible.


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PostPosted: Dec 28, 2016 11:11 pm 
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E Ireland wrote:

If you think there is no circumstance where an MSR cannot cause a significant radiation release then I am afraid you are simply lacking in imagination.
And if there is a significant release the reactor owner is essentially bankrupt either way, the payment will be sized to be as large as can be possibly recovered from said owner.



E Ireland,

Can you be more specific regarding your word "significant". My layman's knowledge of fluoride fueled reactors (LFTR or MSR) is that after a theoretical, catastrophic accident where all cooling scenarios are lost; the fuel will melt through the reactor vessel and spill on the "floor" (no drain available from the floor to drain tank). Iodine and Strontium isotopes will be ionically bonded within the fuel. Off gas tanks (also theoretically destroyed) will release Xenon and Krypton isotopes, but, only in amounts that were currently in the tanks at the time of the accident (hopefully tanks that became full during normal operation are removed from reactor area and are not affected by accident). There will be Xenon and other gases inside the reactor that, at time of accident, have not been collected by the off gas system. These gasses can be released into reactor building. However the majority of fission products and transuranics remain immobile and do not migrate away from the fluoride "mix" and into the environment. Thus making cleanup safer, less hazardous, and, logistically easier since the fuel and majority of radioactivity stay in the reactor building. Do you know what other fission products or transuranics can be released into the reactor building or environment? I understand that the power plant may be lost, at a huge loss, but radioactive release will be much smaller than what has been seen in solid fueled reactor accidents. Hopefully this will make insurance less costly. If I'm wrong or missed something please let me know.


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