Biello follows up his mention of the "so-called fast breeders" with an obligatory account of the 1995 shut down of the Japanese Monju LMFBR. Reader "bhoglund' caught an error in Biello's text that has since been corrected in the online article. The original text stated, according to bhoglund's comment, "... including a fire caused by a leak of its molten salt coolant, ..." That is right folks, Biello did not know the difference between Molten Salt and Liquid Sodium.
Now as my readers know I am not a big fan of sodium-cooled reactors, but Biello seems to think that they represent the only option in reactor disposal of nuclear waste, and of course they do not. CANDU reactor technology offers a second reactor option. And of course, Molten Salt Reactor/LFTR technology produces excellent synergies in for the disposal of reactor-grade plutonium and other nuclear waste actinides. Now why doesn't Biello know this? You would think that Scientific American could find a technology editor who actually knew something about nuclear technology, not some ignorant journalism school graduate.
Biello ritually recites every one of the obligatory anti-nuclear motifs. Guess who he consults on the Uranium availability question?
"The energy payback time of a nuclear power plant is at present about 11 years compared with natural gas at half a year, by 2070, Storm van Leeuwen found, the amount of energy it takes to mine, mill, enrich and fabricate one metric ton of uranium fuel may be larger than 160 terajoules—the amount of energy one can generate from it.That is right, Biello uncritically quotes Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, who he describes as "energy and technology analyst at Ceedata consultancy in the Netherlands". Biello, of course did not Google "Ceedata consultancy" which appears to be nothing more than a front designed to add weight to Storm van Leeuwen exceedingly meager credentials. Nor did Biello google "Storm van Leeuwen" and "discredited" Bello goes along with the Ceedata consultancy gag, telling us that the us that "the Ceedata consultancy . . . advises European governments on nuclear issues . . ." well not quite, Storm van Leeuwen gets paid through an EU slush fund assigned to European Greens, for writing anti-nuclear propaganda. It is exceedingly damming to Biello's credibility that he relies on Storm van Leeuwen defective analysis of the EROEI of Uranium nuclear technology.
"The energy payback time of a nuclear power plant is at present about 11 years compared with natural gas at half a year," Storm van Leeuwen argues, when the full cost of decommissioning a nuclear power plant at the end of its useful life is included. "The cost in the U.K. for dismantling a reactor is now estimated at about 7 billion euros ($9.9 billion) per reactor of one gigawatt-electrical. That's before the first bolt has even been loosened."Biello offers a form of pseudo-balance to his account by noting that
And by 2070, Storm van Leeuwen found, the amount of energy it takes to mine, mill, enrich and fabricate one metric ton of uranium fuel may be larger than 160 terajoules—the amount of energy one can generate from it.
one metric ton of natural uranium yields nearly 20,000 times as much energy as the equivalent amount of coal—the cheapest form of electric generation at present. In other words, one metric ton of uranium can produce the same amount of electricity generated by burning more than 19,000 metric tons of coal.But as Robert Niles tells us
balance . . . ought to mean that truth gets treated like truth and lies get treated like lies.Balance is only possible when you are sorting out lies from truth, not when you perpetuate them.
Biello does the usual anti-nuclear song and dance about nuclear safety. Thus fundamental nuclear safety concepts, like passive safety, inherent safety, defense-in-depth are simply ignored, while much of the article is devoted to the safety problems of the Davis–Besse reactor. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are also discussed with emphasis on operator error. Biello claims that the Chernobyl reactor
exploded through its containmentas if the Chernobyl reactor had a containment structure. Needless to say, Biello does not discuss the history of nuclear safety, does not discuss the the lessons learn from the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. He does not discuss strategies designed to prevent human error from causing nuclear accidents. But we cannot expect an anti-nuclear hack to understand the difference between nuclear safety and talking about accidents including accidents that did not happen.