SNC-Lavalin gets Contract to Start Work on 2 CANDU type reactors for China
Czech Republic PM C alls for Supplier For New Dukovany System To Be Chosen In 2022
UAE 1 st PWR at Barakah Operating License On Set up for 1 Q/2020
DOE Awards $3.5 Million to X-Energy for Work on Its New Gas Reactor Style
Advanced Reactors / NRC A dopts Recommendations for SMR E mergency Planning Zones
With 2019 being a year that great progress was made by multiple firms developing little small modulr reactors, it’s essential to also track the progress in 2020 of projects that will provide full size nuclear reactors.
The year has begun with a waterfall of favorable advancement for nuclear energy tasks large and small. First out of the box is an announcement that SNC-Lavalin, which in 2011 purchased the reactor department of AECL, has landed a agreement with China National Nuclear Power (CNNP) to start work on a two-unit 700 MWe Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR).
The company states the AHWR style is based on the 700 MWe CANDU type (PHWR) design. Improvements are listed as compliance with present worldwide security standards (GEN III), active and passive security systems, and style components that are anticipated to decrease capital expenses and functional maintenance requirements.
The contract is the result of an agreement tattooed in September 2016 to start the style work. Also, the arrangement called for the development of two nuclear reactor design centers, one in China and the other in Canada. The design centers will collaborate to complete the Advanced CANDU type reactor. It is anticipated that the first two systems will be then built in China and then the reactor will offered through export to worldwide markets.
The CANDU type design basis functions a heavy-water moderator and heavy-water coolant in a pressure tube design and can use both recycled uranium and thorium as fuel. This suggests that invested fuel from LWR type reactors can be burned in the AHWR as the fuel assemblies are approximaely 95% U238. India has made significant investments in the development of thorium-based PHWR type reactors as part of its long-term R&D efforts.
Units 1 and 2 of the Qinshan Phase III nuclear power plant in China – majority owned by CNNP – usage the Candu 6 PHWR innovation, with AECL being the primary specialist of the project on a turnkey basis. Building started in 1997 and system 1 began up in September 2002 and system 2 in April 2003. These reactors burn U238.
In a press release, SNC-Lavalin stated the market capacity for this technology in China is significant.
“Each reactor can use recycled-fuel from 4 light-water reactors (LWRs) to create six million megawatt-hours (MWh) of additional carbon-free electrical energy without needing any brand-new natural uranium fuel.”
SNC-Lavalin will produce the top-level licensing basis document (LBD) to outline the licensing procedure along with the regulative and security requirements applicable to the design, analysis, construction, commissioning and operation of the AHWR.
SNC-Lavalin will prepare Safety Design Guides (SDG) and a description and evaluation of the agreed to safety-related design modifications. SNC-Lavalin will likewise evaluation SDGs ready by partner firms included.
Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research study & Design Institute Co. Ltd. (SNERDI) serves as General Design Institute of project, and as technical manager for this contract to evaluation and accept SNC-Lavalin’s deliverables on behalf of CNNP. China Nuclear Energy Market Corporation (CNEIC) has actually been designated by CNNP as its foreign trade representative for this agreement.
Czech Republic PM C alls for Provider For New Dukovany Unit To Be Chosen In 2022
Construction of the new reator must start in 2029 and might be finished by 2036
(NucNet) A supplier/vendor for a brand-new system at Czech energy CEZ’s Dukovany nuclear power station need to be selected by the end of 2022, according to media reports which quality the statement to Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš. The EPC would most likely be a separate company.
In July 2019 the Czech government approved a initial strategy for a CEZ subsidiary to build a brand-new unit at Dukovany. Czech energy policy calls for one new system at Dukovany and possibly three more either at Dukovany or at Temelin.
The Czech government, which owns 70% of CEZ, has actually been in discussions with the energy about how to expand nuclear power and to replace aging commercial reactors that are arranged to be permanently shut down in the years ahead.
A secret issue for CEZ might be to buy out minority non-governmental financiers in the utility who are opposed to building and construction of brand-new nuclear power plants.
In September the Ministry of Environmental Defense authorized the environmental impact evaluation for the building and construction of up to 2 new nuclear power plants at Dukovany. The ministry stated the approval was for up to 2,400 MW of new capability at the site.
CEZ chief executive Daniel Benes said the company must have a tender all set by June 2020 and anticipates provides in 2021 from up to 5 bidders. He stated market estimates for the brand-new unit’s cost varied from about $5.9 bn to $6.9 bn, but a last rate would come out of the tender.
Taken together, two 1200 MW systems costsing $5.9 Bn to $6.9 Bn would come in at at a really competitive price of $2500 to $2900/Kw. Benes’ numbers might be extremely positive. None of the companies that have actually expressed an interest in the project are able to provide complete size reactors in this cost variety. The Czech Republic is not India or China where really low labor expenses and a heavily subsidized heavy industry for long lead time components might drive down costs.
According to media reports, 6 firms have actually revealed interest in structure the brand-new nuclear system or units. They are China’s CGN, Russia’s Rosatom, South Korea’s KHNP, France’s EDF, Westinghouse, and the Atmea consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and EDF.
There are four Russia-designed VVER-440 reactor systems at the Dukovany website. The federal government has said they need to be changed by new ones. The Czech Republic has six commercially operational reactor systems. In addition to the 4 units at Dukovany, there are two Russian VVER-1000 units at Temelín. The more recent VVER got in income service in 2000 and 2002 respectively. They are both due for a 20 year license extension.
UAE Very First PWR at Barakah Operating License on Schedule for 1 Q/2020
(Wire services) An authorities of the UAE nuclear energy regulative company said in a declaration at an market conference that the operating license for the first South Korean built PWR system of the Barakah power station might be released in the very first quarter of 2020. Start-up would follow later on in 2020.
Christer Viktorsson, director-general of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, was cautiously positive about meeting this schedule. He stated that missing unforseen problems, the plant will meet these turning points.
The four Barakah reactors are being developed by the Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO). There have been numerous hold-ups in beginning up the very first system due to problems getting enough staff trained and certified to run the reactor.
DOE Awards $3.5 Million to X-Energy for Work on Its New Gas Reactor Style
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded nearly $3.5 million to X-energy to further establish its innovative nuclear reactor. The project will analyze ways to reduce building and upkeep expenses of the designer’s Xe-100 reactor style.
X-energy, situated in Rockville, Maryland, is developing a pebble bed, high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. The granted task will particularly focus on cutting costs through underground construction, the use of pooled off-site resources and streamlined passive security systems that don’t rely on big local water sources or pumps to avoid fuel damage. DOE is funding $3,468,323 of the $7,127,814 cost-shared project.
“Advanced reactors are taking off in the United States with more than 50 U.S. companies presently developing the technology,” stated Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.
“These private-public collaborations are critical to ensure the success of the next generation of nuclear reactors by making them more inexpensive to construct and run.”
DOE has actually awarded $195 million over the last two years through its U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development financing opportunity. Subsequent quarterly application evaluation and choice procedures will be carried out three times per year over the next 3 years.
Advanced Reactors / NRC A dopts Recommendations for SMR E mergency Preparation Zones
(NucNet) The US N uclear Regulative Commission has voted to adopt personnel recommendations to use “appropriately-sized” emergency situation preparation zone requirements for advanced nuclear technologies, consisting of little modular reactors, according to a declaration by the Nuclear Energy Institute.
The NEI said the relocation “demonstrates a dedication to updating policies so they align with the smaller sized size and the intrinsic security functions of innovative nuclear innovations.”
The NRC has modified the procedure for establishing the size of an emergency planning zone basing its radius on the potential effects related to the type of the advanced reactor.
Also, the NRC said it was seeking public comments on the proposed rule for emergency situation preparedness for SMRs and other new technologies. The NRC is proposing to change its guidelines and develop alternative requirements adopting a “risk-informed, performance-based, and technology-inclusive” approach.
The company stated in its declaration that the option requirements would include a scalable method for determining the size of the emergency situation planning zone around each center, based on the distance at which possible radiation dosages could need protective actions. The public and other interested celebrations can usage this rule making effort to comment on emergency preparedness policy issues such as:
• What planning activities ought to use to the performance-based method? • How need to risk analysis be used to the performance-based technique? • What particular factors or technical factors to consider are needed when using the scalable EPZ technique?
NEI applauded the NRC action calling is it a “major turning point”
In its press declaration the NEI, which is a U.S. industry trade group for the nuclear energy market, consisting of utilities and item and service service providers, said it was pleased by the NRC’s action.
“This is a major turning point. The staff’s recommendation to define more appropriately-sized emergency situation planning zone (EPZ) requirements for innovative nuclear innovations, the NRC shows a dedication to improving policies so they align with the smaller sized size and the intrinsic safety features of innovative nuclear innovations.”
The 10- mile zone in usage for existing plants was developed 40 years ago; since then, there has been extra research and boosted understanding of the security benefits of sophisticated reactor styles.
NRC regulations on emergency situation readiness were developed in the late 1970 s and have focused on big light-water reactors. In 2016, the NRC began evaluating its guideline making procedure taking into accountant emerging nuclear technologies like SMRs.
It made a big distinction having only 7 prospects on the dispute stage tonight. Practically everybody got time to weigh in on practically every subject, and there was less downtime while the debate unexpectedly appeared to stop dead so we could hear from the folks who had no organisation being there. That said, here are my very first impressions of how everybody did:
Amy Klobuchar appeared like the huge winner, relatively speaking. She got plenty of speaking time, she was clearer than normal in her answers, and she did the best job by far of selling a moderate vision without straight attacking Warren or Sanders.
Pete Buttigieg was the huge loser. I idea he sounded more politician-y and practiced tonight than normal, and his newfound combativeness didn’t play well. Throughout his squabble over fundraising with Warren and his squabble with Klobuchar over experience, I idea he came out on the losing end both times.
Joe Biden had a great night. For one thing, the tone of this debate was louder and more aggressive than past arguments, and by contrast Biden sounded like a cool drink of water whenever he spoke. That’s a great appearance for him. He also did well when he got a little more animated, as he did when talking about migration and Afghanistan.
Bernie Sanders was . . . Bernie Sanders. Even after you account for the truth that I’ve never ever been a big fan of his, he just sounded like he had absolutely nothing new to state. In dispute after debate, all we hear is that he’s somehow going to lead a transformation and then all our progressive dreams will come true. Meh.
Elizabeth Warren had some good answers and some bad ones. I’m uncertain about whether it was smart to just say “They’re wrong!” when she was asked about financial experts who said her two-percent wealth tax would be bad for the economy. On the one hand, yay! She’s most likely right. On the other hand, don’t you have to at least pretend to take the professionals seriously? This is a Democratic debate, after all, not a Republican one.
On the favorable side, “billionaires in red wine caves” is most likely to be the meme of the night.
Andrew Yang revealed some great flashes of humor, and I admire the guts of anybody who’s ready to state “thorium nuclear reactor” on a public stage. But he’s still never ever going to be president of the United States.
Tom Steyer didn’t matter prior to the dispute, and he still doesn’t matter.
I’ll take a wild guess that you don’t need any convincing about the need for action on climate change. You know that since the start of the Industrial Revolution we’ve dumped more than 500 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere and we’re adding about 10 billion more each year. You know that global temperatures have risen 1 degree Celsius over the past century and we’re on track for 2 degrees within another few decades.
And you know what this means. It means more extreme weather. More hurricanes. More droughts. More flooding. More wildfires. More heat-related deaths. There will be more infectious disease as insects move ever farther north. The Northwest Passage will be open for much of the year. Sea levels will rise by several feet as the ice shelves of Greenland and the Antarctic melt, producing bigger storm swells and more intense flooding in low-lying areas around the world.
Some of this is already baked into our future, but to avoid the worst of it, climate experts widely agree that we need to get to net-zero carbon emissions entirely by 2050 at the latest. This is the goal of the Paris Agreement, and it’s one that every Democratic candidate for president has committed to. But how to get there?
Let’s start with the good news. About three-quarters of carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuels for power, and we already have the technology to make a big dent in that. Solar power is now price-competitive with the most efficient natural gas plants and is likely to get even cheaper in the near future. In 2019, Los Angeles signed a deal to provide 400 megawatts of solar power at a price under 4 cents per kilowatt-hour—including battery storage to keep that power available day and night. That’s just a start—it will provide only about 7 percent of electricity needed in Los Angeles—but for the first time it’s fully competitive with the current wholesale price of fossil fuel electricity in Southern California.
Wind power—especially offshore wind—is equally promising. This means that a broad-based effort to build solar and wind infrastructure, along with a commitment to replace much of the world’s fossil fuel use with electricity, would go pretty far toward reducing global carbon emissions.
How far? Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that by 2050, wind and solar can satisfy 80 percent of electricity demand in most advanced countries. But due to inadequate infrastructure in some cases and lack of wind and sun in others, not all countries can meet this goal, which means that even with favorable government policies and big commitments to clean energy, the growth of wind and solar will probably provide only about half of the world’s demand for electricity by midcentury. “Importantly,” the Bloomberg analysts caution, “major progress in de-carbonization will also be required in other segments of the world’s economy to address climate change.”
This inevitably means we have to face up to some bad news. If existing technologies like wind, solar, and nuclear can get us only halfway to our goal—or maybe a bit more—the other half would seem to require cutting back on energy consumption.
Let’s be clear about something: We’re not talking about voluntary personal cutbacks. If you decide to bicycle more or eat less meat, great—every little bit helps. But no one who’s serious about climate change believes that personal decisions like this have more than a slight effect on the gigatons of carbon we’ve emitted and the shortsighted policies we’ve enacted. Framing the problem this way—a solution of individual lifestyle choices—is mostly just a red herring that allows corporations and conservatives to avoid the real issue.
The real issue is this: Only large-scale government action can significantly reduce carbon emissions. But this doesn’t let any of us off the hook. Our personal cutbacks might not matter much, but what does matter is whether we’re willing to support large-scale actions—things like carbon taxes or fracking bans—that will force all of us to reduce our energy consumption.
Solutions depend on how acceptable these policies are to the public. To get a rough handle of what a significant reduction means, the Nature Conservancy has a handy app that can help you calculate what it would take to cut your household carbon footprint in half. If you’re an average household, you need to pare down to one car. If it’s an suv or a sports car, get rid of it. You need a small, high-mileage vehicle (the calculator assumes a regular gasoline car) and drive it no more than 10,000 miles per year. That’s for your whole family. You need to cut way back on heating and cooling. You need to live in a house no bigger than 1,000 square feet. And you need to buy way less stuff—about half of what you buy now.
There are solutions to some of these problems—electrification obviously helps with transportation, and better insulation helps with heating and cooling—but only to a point. One way or another, any government policy big enough to make a serious dent in climate change will also force people to make major lifestyle cutbacks or pay substantially higher taxes—or both.
How many of us are willing to do that? It turns out we have a pretty good idea. In 2018, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago fielded a national poll on climate change. Only 71 percent of respondents agreed it was happening, and of those, more than 80 percent said the federal government should do something about it.
Then the pollsters presented a scenario in which a monthly tax would be added to your electric bill to combat climate change. If the tax was $1, only 57 percent supported it. If the tax was $10, that plummeted to 28 percent. Those aren’t typos. Only about half of Americans are willing to pay $1 per month to fight climate change. Only about a quarter are willing to pay $10 per month.
And that’s hardly the only evidence of the uphill climb we face. There’s abundant confirmation of the public’s unwillingness to accept sacrifices in living standards to combat climate change. In France, a 2018 gasoline tax increase had to be withdrawn after yellow vest activists—generally an eco-friendly movement—took to the streets in furious protest. In Germany, where the growth of renewable energy has made it possible to shut down old power plants, the Fukushima disaster in Japan prompted the closing of climate-friendly nuclear plants before coal plants—despite the fact that German nukes have a spotless safety record over the past 30 years and are under no threat from tsunamis. In Canada, a recent poll reported that most people say they’re willing to make changes in their daily lives to fight climate change—but only when the changes are kept vague. When pollsters asked specific questions, only small fractions said they’d fly less frequently, purchase an electric car, or give up meat. And a paltry 16 percent said they’d be willing to pay a climate tax of $8–$40 per month.
None of this should surprise us. Fifteen years ago, UCLA geography professor Jared Diamond wrote a book called Collapse. In it, he recounted a dozen examples of societies that faced imminent environmental catastrophes and failed to stop them. It’s not because they were ignorant about the problems they faced. The 18th-century indigenous inhabitants of Easter Island, Diamond argues, knew perfectly well that deforesting their land would lead to catastrophe. They just couldn’t find the collective will to stop. Over and over, human civilizations have destroyed their environments because no one—no ruler, corporation, or government—was willing to give up their piece of it. We have overfished, overgrazed, overhunted, overmined, overpolluted, and overconsumed. We have destroyed our lifeblood rather than make even modest changes to our lifestyles.
Even if we could get wealthy Western countries to accept serious belt-tightening, they’re not where the growth of greenhouse gas emissions is taking place right now. It’s happening in developing countries like China and India. Most people in these countries have living standards that are a fraction of ours, and they justifiably ask why they should cut back on energy consumption and consign themselves to poverty while those of us in affluent countries—which caused most of the problem in the first place—are still driving SUVs and running air conditioners all summer.
This is the hinge point on which the future of climate change rests. Clearly the West is not going to collectively agree to live like Chinese farmers. Just as clearly, Chinese farmers aren’t willing to keep living in shacks while we sit around watching football on 60-inch TV screens in our climate-controlled houses as we lecture them about climate change.
This is why big government spending on wind and solar—everyone’s favorite solution to global warming—isn’t enough to do the job. Subsidies for green energy might reduce US emissions, but even if the United States eliminated its carbon output completely, it would only amount to a small reduction in global emissions.
Yes, we should be fully committed to the kind of framework that congressional Democrats propose in the Green New Deal, which provides goals for building infrastructure and ways of retraining workers affected by the transition to clean energy. But there’s no chance this will solve the problem on a global scale, and 2050 isn’t that far away. We don’t have much time left.
So what do we do? We need to figure out ways to produce far more clean energy, in far more ways, at a cost lower than we pay for fossil fuel energy. As the socialist writer Leigh Phillips warns his allies, “Households need clean energy options to be cheaper than fossil fuels currently are, not for fossil fuels to be more expensive than clean energy options currently are.”
This requires a reckoning. Time is running out, and we can no longer pretend that we can beat climate change by asking people to do things they don’t want to do. We need to focus our attention almost exclusively not on things people don’t like, but on something people do like: spending money. Lots of money.
As the Green New Deal suggests, part of the solution is building infrastructure for what we already know how to do. But our primary emphasis needs to be on R&D aimed like a laser at producing cheap, efficient, renewable energy sources—a program that attacks climate change while still allowing people to use lots of energy. This is the kind of spending that wins wars, after all. And make no mistake, this is a war against time and physics. So let’s propose a truly gargantuan commitment to spending money on clean energy research.
How gargantuan? The International Energy Agency estimates that the world spends about $22 billion per year on clean energy innovation. The US share of that is $7 billion—that’s about 0.03 percent of our economy. (Trump proposed cutting that figure almost in half.) This is pathetic if you accept that climate change is an existential threat to our planet. During World War II, the United States devoted 30 percent of its economy to the war effort—or one thousand times what we’re spending on green tech.
There were three elements to this mass mobilization. First, Americans were asked to make modest sacrifices over the course of a few years. Victory gardens were planted, tin was collected, sugar and gasoline were rationed. Men enlisted and women went to work in factories. The rich paid high taxes and the rest of us bought war bonds. Perhaps there’s a limit to how much we can ask of people, but plainly we can ask something of them.
Second, we built an enormous war machine: 89,000 tanks, 300,000 aircraft, 1,200 major combat ships, 64,500 landing craft, 2.7 million machine guns, and $2.6 trillionworth of munitions in today’s dollars. And it’s worth noting that much of this we simply gave away to allies like Britain and the Soviet Union. This was a global war that required American leadership and funding on a global scale.
Third, we spent money on R&D. There was the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb, but there was also the development of radar, code breaking, computers, jet aircraft, plastic explosives, and M&Ms.
That last part isn’t a joke. It’s true that M&Ms were developed with a candy coating so they’d melt in your mouth, not in your hand, but they provided their first jolt of calories on the battlefield, not in corner candy shops. They were initially produced by a private company in 1941, but for the next five years were available exclusively to the military.
Why mention that? Because there’s never any telling beforehand what research will pan out and what won’t. M&Ms were obviously not as crucial to the war effort as the Bletchley Park code-breaking project was, but they were an unexpected success in their own way. We should commit to funding any clean energy research that looks even a little promising. We should do our best to get commitments from other countries to do the same. If we’re successful, we’ll end up developing cheap technology that can spread quickly around the world and truly address warming on a global basis. Other countries will adopt our technology not only because it requires no sacrifice, but because it’s actually cheaper and better than what they have now. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of our R&D, especially if we give it away for nothing?
So how much should we spend? For argument’s sake let’s be modest and aim for only 10 percent of peak World War II–level spending. That’s $700 billion per year in today’s dollars—a hundred times more than we currently spend on energy R&D, but barely 15 percent of what we spent to defeat the Axis. It also amounts to not quite 16 percent of our current federal budget.
That’s a big number, and we won’t get there at once. It requires a combination of raising money and cutting spending in other areas. The most obvious candidate for cuts is our swollen defense budget—which accounts for one-sixth of all federal spending—but that’s politically risky, and given that climate change is truly an existential threat, we have to continually remind ourselves not to put up roadblocks to addressing it. Maybe we can persuade defense contractors that creating green tech is profitable. But if we have to keep building tanks and missiles for political reasons while we dial up spending on clean energy R&D, maybe that’s just something we have to do.
If an R&D commitment bigger than the Manhattan Project were all we needed, our task would be relatively easy. No one is actually opposed to the concept of R&D, after all, and every climate plan worth the name acknowledges the value of continuing it.
What I’m proposing is not just that we focus on R&D, but that we focus nearly exclusively on R&D—at least at first. That we throw gobs of money at all the projects I detail in the following pages, and any others that seem promising.
Why so much emphasis on R&D? Turns out I share something with those environmentalists who think that talk of voluntary personal sacrifice is mostly just a smoke screen. I first became skeptical of the standard approach to climate change about a decade ago. Since then I’ve watched as, year after year, we’ve done far too little even though we know perfectly well how critical it is. Sure, Europe has a cap-and-trade plan to reduce carbon emissions, but we couldn’t pass even a modest version of cap and trade in the United States. President Barack Obama raised mileage standards for cars and trucks, but President Donald Trump promptly rolled them back. Everything has been like that. There have been a few minor victories here and there, but all of them against a background of relentlessly increasing emissions.
How could this be? It’s not that nothing is happening. There are plenty of dedicated activists, climatologists, and politicians who have worked hard for years to rein in climate change, and these people are heroes. The problem is that the global public—or at least their elected representatives—are plainly reluctant to accept many of the policies the experts propose.
Take Germany. It’s one of the most green-centric countries on the planet, and it boasts both a highly educated, highly productive workforce and a population genuinely dedicated to tackling climate change. Their Energiewende—or clean energy transition—took off in the 1990s, and Germany represents one of the best cases we have of a major economy making a serious effort to address climate change.
But Germany’s progress is tepid. There’s been a massive commitment to wind and solar over the past two decades, which now represent a third of Germany’s energy production, but that’s barely made a dent in their greenhouse gas emissions. The reason is simple. Instead of using green energy to eliminate fossil fuels, Germany has used it to subsidize other priorities: expanding overall power capacity to support a growing economy; increasing exports of electric power; and eliminating those aforementioned nuclear power plants. Use of coal has declined only slightly, and use of natural gas has increased by about half. As a result, progress has plateaued. Greenhouse gas emissions dropped about 17 percent from 1990 to 2000; then dropped only 12 percent more over the next decade; and have barely dropped in the past decade. German households already pay some of the highest energy prices in Europe, but they’ve been unwilling to cut their electricity usage, which has remained stubbornly stable since 2000. And overall power consumption hasn’t declined at all; it’s higher than it was two decades ago.
If this kind of pitiful response to climate change continues—even in a country with the means and political will to really make change—the end result will be the greatest catastrophe in human history or an unprecedented experiment in geoengineering with uncertain and potentially disastrous effects. It’s past time for a radically different approach. As in World War II, a call for modest sacrifice is fine: It produces a sense of solidarity against a common enemy and gives people a personal stake in the outcome. But in the end, that’s not what won the war. It was big spending and lots of R&D.
This approach will require some sacrifice from the progressive community. If we truly accept that climate change is an existential threat, then it has to take priority over other things we’d normally fight for. Desert habitats may be compromised by utility-scale solar plants. Birds will be killed by wind turbines. Labor unions need to accept that some existing jobs will be lost as fossil fuel plants are shut down. Nuclear power is probably part of the answer, at least for a while.
A cold-blooded dedication to stopping climate change means having the willingness to step away from our comfortable shibboleths, accept the criticism that comes with that, and place ourselves squarely behind a plan that has a chance of working. Building out renewable energy will get us part of the way there, but we’ve got more to do and not much time to do it.
This isn’t a rosy-hued proposal. You can find plenty of naysayers for every project I propose funding. Solar presents problems of geography. Wind presents land-use problems. Carbon sequestration requires mammoth infrastructure. Nuclear produces radioactive waste. Biofuels have been unable to overcome technical problems even after decades of effort. Fusion power has always been 30 years in the future and still is. Geoengineering is just scary as hell.
Ultimately, massive R&D might fail. But unlike current plans, it has one powerful benefit: At least it’s not guaranteed to fail.
Over the past 40 years, the price of delivering one watt of solar power has dropped from about $100 to $1. This makes solar one of the most promising success stories of carbon-free power, and a technology that needs relatively little government research help to keep improving. But although the cost is now close to that of the most efficient natural gas power plants, close isn’t always good enough for investors. The price of large-scale solar needs to keep dropping if it’s going to have a serious global impact, and money for both R&D and the massive infrastructure build-outs that the Green New Deal framework imagines can make that happen.
The same is true of wind turbine technology, which has benefited from steady improvements in blade design, tower height, and computer control. Wind farms today supply electricity for about half the price they did a decade ago, and offshore wind is another promising area for expansion. Denmark, for example, has lots of shallow offshore regions that are ideal for wind turbines and produces nearly half of its electricity via wind. But not every country has Denmark’s advantages. It’s difficult to anchor wind towers in water more than 200 feet deep, and creative new ways to build turbines in deeper waters are good targets for R&D spending.
Solar and wind get most of the attention among renewable energy sources, but there are other promising technologies. For example, ground source heat pumps take advantage of the fact that temperatures just a few feet below ground tend to stay the same throughout the year. In summer, they can pump warm air out of the house, and in winter, the underground warmth can heat water. Heat pumps’ only real drawback is that they cost a lot to install, which makes them an ideal target for both research (to lower costs) and federal subsidies (to incentivize installing them in the meantime).
There are less familiar types of renewable energy, including tidal power and geothermal energy, which are not yet always more cost-effective than fossil fuels. But some of them will probably be instrumental in the future, so we should invest in them all.
Nuclear power plants are almost carbon-free and provide steady “base load” power that doesn’t depend on sun or wind. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they produce radioactive waste with lifetimes measured in hundreds of centuries. They’re also expensive and vulnerable to catastrophic meltdowns.
But they don’t have to be. Failsafe technology has been on the drawing board for years and is incorporated into designs known as Gen IV nuclear power. In the last 10 years, the United States has committed $678 million to new nuclear technologies, and boosting this amount could produce commercial reactors virtually immune to meltdowns within a few years.
In China, experimental reactors are being built that use thorium rather than uranium as their nuclear fuel. Thorium is more abundant than uranium, but its biggest advantage is that it produces far less—and less dangerous—nuclear waste than uranium reactors. If their research goes well, China hopes to have commercial thorium reactors online within a decade.
Nuclear power may not be a long-term answer to climate change, but it’s relatively green and the technology is relatively advanced. With additional R&D, it could be made better and safer and could provide a stopgap source of carbon-neutral energy until we have permanent solutions up and running.
It’s not enough to generate electricity cleanly; we also need to store it. Batteries—the kind that power electric cars—have gotten lots of attention, but there are other ways to store power. You can, and we already do, pump water uphill into a reservoir and use it later to power turbines on the way down. You can heat salt into molten form and draw off the heat later to drive steam engines, which turns out to be surprisingly efficient. And there’s compressed air, an old technology now being tried by some utilities. During the day, a solar plant can generate power that compresses air, stores it underground, and releases it at night to power turbines.
There are only two feasible storage options for use in cars and trucks right now: hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries. One promising research avenue for fuel cells is solar-powered electrolysis of ordinary water. The cost has dropped by half over the past decade but needs to fall considerably more to become competitive.
Battery technology is the target of intense research. Some research is focused on alternatives like nickel-zinc and potassium-ion, and there’s seemingly weekly news of advances in solid-state batteries and so-called supercapacitors. All of these are prime targets for worthwhile government investment.
Although global warming is primarily the result of CO2 emissions, there are other greenhouse gases. Among them are methane and nitrous oxide, largely produced by farming and ranching. These go under the rubric of “land use,” which is responsible for about 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. This includes deforestation, methane from cows, and nitrous oxide from fertilizers. But agriculture also presents opportunities to remove carbon from the atmosphere, sometimes by measures as simple as changing the way soil is tilled or treating farmland with compost. These methods are called “carbon farming,” and in France there’s a government initiative called “4 per 1,000,” which aims to increase carbon storage in soil by 0.4 percent per year.
Until recently, carbon farming has been a fringe activity, despite the promise it holds not to merely slow the growth of carbon emissions, but to actually remove carbon that’s already there—for example, through massive reforestation. There’s every reason to think that a serious commitment to further research, along with government-sponsored incentives for farmers, could make a big contribution to fighting climate change.
Here’s a disturbing fact: Even if we stopped emitting carbon completely, that wouldn’t be enough. “Meeting the climate goals of the Paris Agreement is going to be nearly impossible without removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” researchers Jan Christoph Minx and Gregory Nemet warned in the Washington Post in 2018. Given how much damage we’ve already done and the near certainty that we’ll increase carbon emissions for at least another decade, we need to figure out how to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a massive scale.
According to the International Energy Agency, governments around the world set aside $28 billion for carbon capture projects over the past decade but spent only $4 billion. We’ve given up just when we should be doubling down. The Energy Futures Initiative, a think tank, recommends that the United States commit $10.7 billion over the next 10 years for carbon capture R&D.
The infrastructure to store carbon needs to be built at roughly the same scale as the infrastructure that produced it, which means that pumping even a fraction of it underground would require construction on a scale similar to today’s entire oil extraction industry. That doesn’t seem politically feasible, but even storing a fraction of our carbon emissions could be a big part of the solution.
Carbon dioxide can also be removed from the air, combined with hydrogen, and turned into fuel. The fuel itself emits carbon when it’s burned, but the entire cycle is net carbon neutral. A team of scientists at Harvard recently announced a cost breakthrough, estimating they could do this for less than $100 per ton of carbon removed from the atmosphere—or $1 for every gallon of gasoline we burn.
There are also natural methods of carbon capture. A research team in Zurich, after studying satellite images of the entire globe, estimated that 2 billion acres of land not in use for agriculture are suitable for reforesting; the researchers say this would remove two-thirds of all the carbon dioxide that humans have added to the atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Other teams are investigating gene editing that would increase the amount of carbon that plants can store in their root systems.
All of these solutions, from industrial facilities to planting more trees, need intensive research to be made viable. They’re ideal targets for an R&D program dedicated not to dribs and drabs that can disappear with the next Congress, but one that fights climate change like a war.
The world uses about 20 billion tons of concrete every year. Unfortunately, concrete’s main constituent is cement, and the chemical process for creating cement is CaCO3 + heat ➞ CaO + CO2. In other words, the concrete industry is basically a huge global machine that digs up limestone, heats it, and turns it into quicklime and CO2. The industry is responsible for about 8 percent of global carbon emissions.
Cement production can be made more efficient, but that helps only at the margins. What we really need is a replacement as cheap and durable as the real thing. Companies are already working on this, including some that approach net-zero carbon by pumping CO2 back into the concrete during the curing process.
Concrete is one of the world’s most popular building materials, and engineers are naturally reluctant to experiment with unproven replacements. Nobody wants to find out, a decade after a skyscraper has gone up, that a new type of concrete doesn’t age well. That makes concrete a long-lead item in the war on climate change, which means large-scale research needs to be funded now.
This is not a widely loved subject, because it means we’re openly admitting that maybe we’ll fail to stop climate change. And no one wants to say that. But the truth is we’ve already failed to stop it, and we’re vanishingly unlikely to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius. Even 3 degrees is looking all too likely. Either scenario would require some serious adaptation. Yet the implementation of adaptation strategies is in its infancy.
Part of the problem is that adaptation means something different in every place in the world. In Bangladesh and Battery Park, the problem is storm surges, while in the Sahel the problem is drought and declining pastureland. California worries about coastal erosion, while Kansas fears crop losses from insects.
Half a dozen big US cities have started work on adaptation plans, including New York and Chicago. In 2019, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a $10 billion plan to protect lower Manhattan from rising sea levels. That’s a start, but only barely. With storms likely to become bigger and more frequent, we need to invent better forecasting systems. Restoring mangrove forests can protect some coastlines and restoring oyster beds can help others. Far more preventive work like this needs to be done, and far more funding needs to be committed to it.
The best-known biofuel is ethanol made from corn—which is no more carbon-friendly than gasoline once you factor in its entire production cycle. But that doesn’t mean biofuels are a dead end. The real holy grails in this area are algae-based and have received much less investment than ethanol. One of their many technological challenges is the lack of a scalable method for drying out algae so that energy-storing lipids can be separated out. But the drying process could be replaced by pyrolysis, which involves heating plants to a high enough temperature that they effectively melt into fuel. And pyrolysis isn’t just viable for algae. The pyrolysis of wood chips could theoretically be carbon-negative on a long enough timeline because it would require planting more trees, and the carbon-heavy charcoal byproducts could be returned to the soil.
Even with these innovations, ethanol is a low-density fuel and will be less important as more cars and trucks go electric. But other things will require high-density liquid fuel. Air travel, for example, can’t yet be electric-powered like cars, and by 2050 commercial aircraft will emit about a gigaton of carbon every year, consuming a quarter of the “carbon budget” that would keep us under 1.5 degrees Celsius warming—if flights continue to use petroleum-based jet fuel. We need alternatives.
Less Meat, Mostly Plants
Production of meat—especially beef—is responsible for at least 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If we replaced three-quarters of animal-based food with grains and vegetables, we would effectively reduce annual emissions in 2050 by more than two gigatons—the equivalent of one-sixth of current emissions.
Sure, people should cut back on meat, and those corn and soy fields could be turned into forests or crops for human consumption. But historically, as poor countries get richer, one of the first things that happens is an increase in meat consumption. This makes recent announcements about plant-based burgers and oat milk more than just a gimmick. And if those products get good enough—and production gets efficient enough—they too could go a long way toward reducing carbon emissions associated with a meat-rich diet.
Fusion reactors use hydrogen as fuel and produce negligible radioactive waste. It sounds perfect, but to make a fusion reactor work, hydrogen has to be heated to temperatures hotter than the sun’s core and held in place for at least several seconds. No one has come close to doing this on an adequate scale.
But fusion power is too promising to give up on. MIT’s SPARC (Smallest Possible Affordable Robust Compact) project, for example, could begin producing power on a small scale by 2025. That’s also the year that ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), a massive fusion project, is scheduled to reach “first plasma,” the beginning of serious testing on a larger scale.
A surprising number of startups have begun work on innovative ideas for creating fusion reactors on a smaller and less expensive scale than megaprojects like iter. They could be good candidates for federal investment.
This is everybody’s least favorite idea: massive engineering projects to cool down the Earth if it turns out we can’t reduce carbon emissions. Some geoengineering proposals sound crazy, like putting a fleet of mirrors in orbit to reflect sunlight back into space. Others are more practical, like mimicking the effect of volcanoes by spraying aerosols of sulfate particles into the stratosphere. This is both feasible and cheap: A program that costs $2–$5 billion per year could reduce global temperatures by a quarter of a degree Celsius.
But while sulfates can lower global temperatures, they don’t do anything to actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere. If spraying ever stops, temperatures would jump. Another proposal, called Project Vesta, seeks to mimic a natural method of removing carbon that normally works over millions of years. It involves grinding up a mineral called olivine and spreading it on tropical beaches, where it combines with CO2, washes out to sea, and falls to the ocean floor. This has the benefit of removing carbon from the atmosphere, but it costs a lot more than sulfate spraying.
Other possibilities include seeding the seas with iron to increase the population of carbon-absorbing phytoplankton, a marine algae, and thinning the cover of high-altitude cirrus clouds, which trap heat.
All of these proposals have drawbacks, including a political one: Who decides? The United States could easily spray megatons of sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere. So could China or Brazil or the European Union. But the result is global and might impact some areas more than others.
Geoengineering is inherently dangerous because there’s no way to know beforehand what the side effects might be—and they could be enormous. And once it starts, there’s no going back. If anything, the very danger of geoengineering is the best argument for continuing to study it. No one can say for sure that we’ll never have to resort to it, and if we do, we ought to be prepared.
The history of science is littered with accidental discoveries. Many of us are alive today only because Alexander Fleming accidentally left open a petri dish containing a staph bacteria and discovered penicillin. This is why an R&D program for clean energy needs to be huge and wide-ranging. We simply don’t know which discoveries are most likely to pan out, and climate change is dire enough that we can’t afford to close off any possibilities.
gordm composes: Dr. Charles Forsberg observes technological overlap in between Molten-Salt Reactor (fission) development and Blend Reactors due to manufacturing development of Rare-Earth Barium Copper Oxide (REBCO) Superconducting Magnets onto steel tape.
REBCO superconducting tape makes it possible for doubling magnetic fields.
Size of magnetic combination system for any given power output varies as one over the fourth power of the magnetic field. Greater magnetic fields can diminish combination system size by an order of magnitude, power density in the fusion blanket increases by an order of magnitude.
Higher power densities in the blanket make it difficult to cool solid blankets. High magnetic fields produce large incentives to have a coolant with low electrical conductivity to prevent coolant/magnetic field interactions.
REBCO Fusion Prefers a Molten-Salt (particularly FLiBe Salt) Blanket.
Why Flibe (Li2BeF4) Salt?
Maximize tritium production (90% Li-6) to produce adequate tritium for self-reliant fusion machine. Beryllium (n, 2 n) reaction produces more neutrons. Lithium plus neutron yields tritium. Outstanding heat transfer relative to other salts.
Flibe (Li2BeF4) Salt Combination Blankets Applicable to all Blend Technologies. ARC is the Very first Style with REBCO S uperconducting Magnets; Other Blend Systems Likely to Follow with Rewards for Flibe Blankets.
Synergisms In Between Flibe-Salt-Cooled Fission and Fusion Reactors: – Standard science of salts – Design tools – Technology (materials, tritium control, salt purification, power cycles) – Supply chains (equipment, FLiBe salt, lithium isotopic separation)
Synergisms Will Speed Up Development of All Salt Systems.
THE PAPER: https://doi. org/10.1080/002954 … Fusion Blankets and Fluoride-Salt-Cooled High-Temperature Reactors with Flibe Salt Coolant: Typical Obstacles, Tritium Control, and Opportunities for Synergistic Development Methods In Between Fission, Combination, and Solar Salt Technologies. Charles Forsberg, Guiqiu (Tony) Zheng, Ronald G. Ballinger & Stephen T. Lam
Abstract — Current developments in high-magnetic-field combination systems have actually created large rewards to develop flibe (Li2BeF4) salt combination blankets that have four operates: (1) convert the high energy of blend neutrons into heat for the power system, (2) convert lithium into tritium—the combination fuel, (3) guard the magnets against radiation, and (4) cool the first wall that separates the plasma from the salt blanket. Flibe is the same coolant proposed for fluoride-salt-cooled high-temperature reactors that usage tidy flibe coolant and graphite-matrix coated-particle fuel. Flibe is likewise the coolant proposed for some molten salt reactors (MSRs) where the fuel is dissolved in the coolant. The multiple applications for flibe as a coolant develop large incentives for cooperative fusion-fission programs for development of the underlying science, style tools, technology (pumps, instrumentation, salt filtration, materials, tritium removal, and so on), and supply chains. Other high-temperature molten salts are being established for alternative MSR systems and for sophisticated Gen-III concentrated solar power (CSP) systems. The overlapping characteristics of flibe salt with these other salt systems produce significant rewards for cooperative fusion-fission-solar programs in multiple areas. We describe the fission and blend flibe-cooled systems, what has actually developed this synergism, what is different and the exact same between fission and fusion in terms of using flibe, and the common obstacles. We review (1) the characteristics of flibe salts, (2) the status of the innovation, (3) the alternatives for tritium capture and control in the salt, heat exchangers, and secondary heat transfer loops, and (4) the coupling to power cycles with heat storage. The technology overlap in between flibe systems and other high-temperature MSR and CSP salt systems is described. This specifies where there are opportunities for cooperative programs throughout fission, blend, and CSP salt programs.
Note from the poster:
I was very first interested in Molten-Salt Reactors because it is possible to construct a 2- fluid design for breeding Thorium into U-233, and fueling a nuclear reactor with Thorium. The breeder blanket is FLiBe salt consisting of Thorium.
This talk showed how the exact same FLiBe salt acts nearly identically as a “breeder blanket” where it … – Safeguards vessel walls from neutron radiation by taking in neutrons. – Breeds brand-new fuel (U-233 or Tritium) to sustain fission or fusion. – Transfers heat, leveraging the broad liquid temperature level variety of FLiBe.
This story was initially released by HuffPost and appears here as part of the Climate Desk partnership
The 6th Democratic main dispute on Thursday was the very first to raise climate modification within the very first half-hour, but the concerns were framed mostly around the sacrifices required to curb emissions and adapt to already-unavoidable warming.
Should we pay to relocate families from drowning seaside communities? And should we trade America’s oil and gas boom for climate policy, even if it displaces fossil fuel employees?
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called for rejoining the Paris agreement and bring back Obama-era regulations. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg deflected and promoted his carbon rates proposition. Previous Vice President Joe Biden stated sacrifice was worth the opportunity of green tasks.
But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pushed back versus the extremely facility of the question.
“It’s not an problem of moving people and towns,” Sanders said. “The problem now is whether we save the world for our children and grandchildren.”
The crowd roared. At 78, Sanders is the earliest prospect in the race. Yet even before the main contest began, the Vermont senator emerged as one of the most vocal advocates on an concern of top issue to young citizens.
Last December, Sanders held a telecasted town hall occasion on climate modification. In August, he unveiled a $16.3 trillion Green New Offer proposition that consisted of everything from establishing a federally run public alternative for electricity to costs close to $15 billion on worker-owned grocery stores. In November, the prospect made environment the main focus of his Iowa campaign in the lead-up to the carefully watched first caucus, and also sponsored a sweeping green public housing bill with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
“We’re talking about the Paris arrangement, that’s fine,” Sanders stated at Thursday’s dispute. “But it ain’t enough.”
In the past few arguments, Sanders beat mediators to the punch in discussing climate modification. He did so again on Thursday night, utilizing an opening concern on whether he’d vote for the United States-Mexico-Canada Arrangement to criticize the reality that the trade offer, dubbed NAFTA 2.0, made no reference of environment modification. Sanders called that “an outrage.”
We’re talking about the Paris contract, that’s fine. But it ain’t enough.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Later in the very first round of the debate, Sanders once again redirected a concern about racial disparity to environment change.
“This is the existential problem,” Sanders said. “People of color are, in fact, going to be people suffering most if we do not offer with climate change.”
When Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s turn came up in the line of climate concerns, Tim Alberta, the chief political correspondent for Politico Publication, asked about the role nuclear energy need to play. Nuclear reactors supply the bulk of the United States’ zero-emissions electricity. However the high expense of brand-new plants, the harmful waste they produce, and the danger of meltdowns like the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe in Japan make nuclear power deeply unpopular.
Warren doubled down on her opposition to structure brand-new plants. But to stop “putting more carbon in the air … we need to keep some of our nuclear in place,” she said.
That position separates her from Sanders, who promised in his climate proposition to shut down existing reactors and refuse to restore licenses for existing plants.
Businessman Andrew Yang took a markedly various tone. He reiterated his calls to invest in new reactors that usage thorium, which produces less radioactive waste than uranium, according to the World Nuclear Association, and isn’t utilized in weapons. The advanced nuclear startup Oklo received a permit from the Energy Department to construct a advanced little reactor at the Idaho National Lab. In an analysis of whether a Yang administration might bring thorium reactors to fulfillment by 2027, Wired publication summed up the potential customers with this headline: “Good luck, pal.”
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Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual
posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its
management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the
exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson
This story was originally published by HuffPost and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration
The sixth Democratic primary debate on Thursday was the first to raise climate change within the first half-hour, but the questions were framed largely around the sacrifices necessary to curb emissions and adapt to already-unavoidable warming.
Should we pay to relocate families from drowning coastal communities? And should we trade America’s oil and gas boom for climate policy, even if it displaces fossil fuel workers?
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called for rejoining the Paris agreement and restoring Obama-era regulations. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg deflected and touted his carbon pricing proposal. Former Vice President Joe Biden said sacrifice was worth the opportunity of green jobs.
But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pushed back against the very premise of the question.
“It’s not an issue of relocating people and towns,” Sanders said. “The issue now is whether we save the planet for our children and grandchildren.”
The crowd roared. At 78, Sanders is the oldest candidate in the race. Yet even before the primary contest began, the Vermont senator emerged as one of the most vocal advocates on an issue of top concern to young voters.
Last December, Sanders held a televised town hall event on climate change. In August, he unveiled a $16.3 trillion Green New Deal proposal that included everything from establishing a federally run public option for electricity to spending close to $15 billion on worker-owned grocery stores. In November, the candidate made climate the primary focus of his Iowa campaign in the lead-up to the closely watched first caucus, and also sponsored a sweeping green public housing bill with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
“We’re talking about the Paris agreement, that’s fine,” Sanders said at Thursday’s debate. “But it ain’t enough.”
In the past few debates, Sanders beat moderators to the punch in mentioning climate change. He did so again on Thursday night, using an opening question on whether he’d vote for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to criticize the fact that the trade deal, dubbed NAFTA 2.0, made no mention of climate change. Sanders called that “an outrage.”
We’re talking about the Paris agreement, that’s fine. But it ain’t enough.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Later in the first round of the debate, Sanders again redirected a question about racial disparity to climate change.
“This is the existential issue,” Sanders said. “People of color are, in fact, going to be people suffering most if we do not deal with climate change.”
When Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s turn came up in the line of climate questions, Tim Alberta, the chief political correspondent for Politico Magazine, asked about the role nuclear energy should play. Nuclear reactors provide the majority of the United States’ zero-emissions electricity. But the high cost of new plants, the toxic waste they produce, and the risk of meltdowns like the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan make nuclear power deeply unpopular.
Warren doubled down on her opposition to building new plants. But to stop “putting more carbon in the air … we need to keep some of our nuclear in place,” she said.
That position separates her from Sanders, who vowed in his climate proposal to shut down existing reactors and refuse to renew licenses for existing plants.
Businessman Andrew Yang took a markedly different tone. He reiterated his calls to invest in new reactors that use thorium, which produces less radioactive waste than uranium, according to the World Nuclear Association, and isn’t used in weapons. The advanced nuclear startup Oklo received a permit from the Energy Department to build a cutting-edge small reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory. In an analysis of whether a Yang administration could bring thorium reactors to fruition by 2027, Wired magazine summed up the prospects with this headline: “Good luck, buddy.”
A malware infection in the IT network of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) located in Tamil Nadu was first reported in social media on October 28.1 The coincidental shutdown of one of the plants in the preceding week led to speculations that the two were connected. An initial official response from the plant authorities refuted these reports.2Subsequently, officials from other agencies including office of the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) confirmed these reports, and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) – the parent body responsible for running the nuclear power plants in the country – came out with an official press release giving some details of the incident. In its October 30 press release, the NPCIL clarified that the infected personal computer was in use for administrative purposes only, and the control systems of the plant and critical functions were unaffected by the breach.3These details were later confirmed by the Union Minister of State for the Department of Atomic Energy in the Parliament on November 20.4
The breach of a critical information infrastructure, particularly in the nuclear domain, cannot be taken lightly. It also affords an opportunity to review existing security practices and address the lacunae, where found. Now that much of the dust has settled down, this issue brief seeks to examine the incident and address the larger questions it raises about the security of critical information infrastructure.
Security of the Control Systems: A Backgrounder
Nuclear power is considered to be pivotal to the energy security of developed and developing countries alike. At present, around 10 per cent of the global electricity need is met by 450 nuclear power reactors in 30 countries, with a total installed capacity of around 394 GWe.5 Given the vulnerability of nuclear installations to accidental, adversarial, and environmental events – Chernobyl in 1986, Stuxnet in 2010, and Fukushima disaster in 2011 – they have been subject to tight safety regulations. Nuclear programmes and research facilities themselves are of great strategic vlue, and they are closely guarded – physically as well as otherwise.
Not surprisingly, they are often found to be a prime target of espionage operations. Cyberspace has just added a whole new dimension to the debates on nuclear safety and security. Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), for business needs and safety and control systems respectively, has become a new front for clandestine operations and has opened vast opportunities for both espionage and sabotage. In the OT space, Industrial Control Systems (ICS)6 remain the prime target as they control the core functions and physical processes in industrial plants. Their unavailability, incapacitation, degradation or destruction could have physical consequences. In the case of nuclear installations, at the extreme, it could be the release of radioactive material in the environment.
In a nuclear power plant, ICS perform a host of monitoring, supervision and control functions, such as reactor protection systems, safety features actuation systems (emergency core cooling), safe shutdown systems, emergency power supply and diesel generator control systems, reactor control systems and access control systems. Digital ICS were inducted for enhanced reliability, improved performance and efficiency, regulatory compliance, and safety requisites. ICS could also be termed as the nervous system of a nuclear power plant as they are not just the interface with physical parameters of the plant operations (monitoring the vital parameters such as neutron flux, temperature, pressure and flow), but they also monitor abnormalities through plant health diagnostic systems and adjust the physical processes through control and safety systems.7 Sensors and actuators are placed in every nook and corner of a nuclear power plant to ensure that temperatures, pressures and flow rates, etc. remain well within the design limits. To prevent untoward incidents, of the likes of core meltdown, reactor protection systems monitor operational variables and initiate a shut down if pre-defined thresholds are passed.
ICS are, therefore, responsible for critical safety functions such as quick boron injection, containment spray, and high pressure safety injection. In a nuclear power plant, systems and networks associated with safety, security, emergency preparedness, and their support systems are termed as Critical Systems. They are designed to withstand seismic and environmental events and built with heightened defences against cyber-attacks so that they can safely shut down the reactor and prevent any radioactive release in the environment.
These are the same control systems which the October 29 KKNPP press release stated to be “not connected to outside cyber network and Internet”8, or in other terms, air gapped. That notwithstanding, ICS are increasingly being connected to the corporate business systems, built with remote access capabilities, and are being designed using industry standard computers, operating systems and network protocols. To prevent any inadvertent exposure of the ICS, they are isolated from the corporate or the IT network of the facility. Though air gaps can provide some basic level of protection to the critical systems from untargeted cyber threats, they are inadequate in the face of threats arising from determined and well-resourced adversaries to the nuclear industry. ICS remain vulnerable to risks such as unauthorised changes to instructions, commands, or alarm thresholds, inaccurate information sent to system operators, initiation of inappropriate actions, modifications to software or configuration settings, and interference with the operation of equipment protection systems or of safety systems,9 especially since many of the software systems used for plant operations are sourced from different companies.
Therefore, stringent controls and security practices are put in place to reduce the risks to ICS and the control network of nuclear power plants from cyber-attacks. Beyond air gapping, these practices vary from the basics such as restricting use of media, personal computers, laptops, etc. to heightening defences using data flow restriction, deep package inspection, deployment of firewalls (packet filtering, stateful inspection, and application-proxy gateway) and intrusion detection systems (network-based and host-based), authentication and authorisation controls, implementing intermediate demilitarised zone (DMZ) network, and consistent monitoring, logging, and auditing.
Nuclear facilities have been a prime target of both espionage and sabotage operations in the past. The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) enlists around 23 cyber incidents at nuclear facilities over the last three decades — owing to a multitude of threat actors and vectors such as software error, espionage, data theft, employee attempted sabotage, network intrusion, spear-phishing, and so forth.10 Stuxnet remains one of the most discussed and referenced cyber incidents, where PLCs were commandeered to sabotage the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant. The cyber incident at KKNPP is going to be a new addition to this list, and it is worthwhile to look at the various motivational factors behind this incident.
One Incident: Many Inferences
The October 29 press release made it quite clear that the control systems at KKNPP are air gapped and the cyber-attack is not possible. However, air gapping alone cannot fully warrant security from cyber-attacks. Heightened defences make it hard for the adversary to access gapped systems, but certainly not an impossible task. Stuxnet remains a prime example of how air gapped systems could be breached. A politically motivated adversary or a well-funded state proxy can have the requisite resources, technical know-how and wherewithal to target IT and control networks. Such attacks need meticulous planning and precise information about the instruments deployed at the facility, its design and process flow documentation. Since business sensitive and classified information traverses over IT networks, and are stored and processed over IT systems, they are an obvious and a soft target to gather sensitive information. It could further be used in perpetrating malicious and hostile acts which could disable, destroy or compromise the computer resource critical to the security or safety of the facility.11
The October 30 NPCIL press release conceded that a personal computer connected to the IT network at KKNPP was found infected with the malware.12 However, the press release explicitly clarified that the plant systems were not affected, and the infected computer was meant for administrative purpose only. Since the infected machine was a personal computer deployed for administrative functions, it could have either carried personal information of the employees, their addresses, email communications, browsing history or information related to procurement, tenders, finance and other aspect of day-to-day administration of the plant. This information might seem irrelevant at the face value, but it could very well be used for precise phishing attacks on the employees, contractors or vendors possibly for a much more serious intrusion. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) is currently investigating the malware incursion along with specialists from the Department of Atomic Energy and other agencies.
There is no denying that the infected computer could possibly have been used to gather information (classified or otherwise) or to harvest login credentials of the users or the administrator to perpetrate an attack. CERT-In had notified the authorities in early September,13 but it is quite likely that the malware was residing on the network before it was detected. The possibility of a much more widespread infection cannot be ruled out either since cleaning operations are still underway. Malware for espionage operations are designed to spread through the network and can still remain undetected. The identified computer might have been the one interfacing the external command and control server, or in other words, could be just the tip of the iceberg. The true extent of the malware infection is hard to assess and it would never be disclosed. However, the incident has given rise to many speculations.
Security researchers analysing the available evidence were of the opinion that the Lazarus group of hackers were behind this malware, that it was custom made to gain access to the IT network of KKNPP, and that those controlling the malware probably had access to the entire IT network.14 Lazarus is a North Korea-based hacker group, held responsible for the 2013 cyber-attacks in South Korea and WannaCry ransomware attacks in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2017. The Seoul-based group of malware analysts, Issue Makers Lab, which has vast expertise in analysing malware of North Korean origin, also produced evidence supporting this argument.15
Prima facie, this seems to have been an espionage operation which means that the attackers were either looking for information specific to KKNPP or about the nuclear programme. Again, information related to the Indian nuclear programme has two aspects – the weapons programme and the three-stage nuclear energy programme. Since the reactors at KKNPP are placed under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards,16 the fuel (1.6-4.1 per cent enriched uranium) and spent fuel is accounted for at each and every step even though India can reprocess the spent fuel and retain the plutonium, but strictly for civil use.17 Moreover, Russia is supplying the fuel for KKNPP. These facts make KKNPP an inappropriate target to seek information either on India’s uranium enrichment programme, or details on the nuclear weapons programme.
The fact that KKNPP houses two units of Russian made VVER-1000 (AES-92) pressurised water reactors (PWRs) also weakens the argument that the attackers were looking for information related to India’s indigenous three-stage nuclear power programme which is based on a thorium fuel cycle. The three-stage programme utilises pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) in Stage I, fast breeder reactors in Stage II, and thorium based breeder reactors in Stage III.18 NPCIL operates two boiling water reactors, 18 PHWRs and two PWRs which are installed at KKNPP. The PWR technology is neither developed indigenously by India nor does it have any pertinent role in India’s three-stage nuclear power programme. India’s competency lies in PHWR technology. Therefore, KKNPP in itself holds little value as a target of espionage seeking information regarding India’s nuclear programme, either civil or weapons. That could also mean that the whole operation ran much deeper or wider; KKNPP being just one of the points where it was detected.
Beyond the circumstantial evidence, as produced by the Issue Makers Lab, the sole motive for North Korea to perpetrate this incident rests on the fact that it has been working on its light water reactor19 for a long time now and is desperately looking for the associated technology. North Korea was assured of the Soviet assistance with light water reactor technology when it joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1985.20 It desired to withdraw from the Treaty to pursue military nuclear ambitions, but an Agreed Framework in 1994, which even promised America-led assistance for the replacement of its graphite-moderated reactors with light water reactor power plants of approximately 2000 MW throughput, was designed to put pressure on it to desist from pulling out of the Treaty.21 However, this never fructified and North Korea finally withdrew from the NPT in 2003.
North Korea has since followed an aggressive nuclear weapons programme. In 2010, it even announced its intention to build an indigenous light water reactor. An experimental light water reactor at the Yongbyon Atomic Energy Research Centre is part of this endeavour. The attack could possibly be a North Korean attempt to gather as much as information available on LWR technology. India is one of the few countries with whom North Korea enjoys good diplomatic relations. India is also the second largest trade partner of North Korea after China. Hacking a nuclear power plant network – either IT or OT – would have serious ramifications, even risking diplomatic and trade ties. These considerations reduce the likelihood of this incident being a state-authorised attack.
Another facet of this attack points to the possibility that KKNPP was merely a means to an end. Russia has supplied the same VVER-1000 reactors to another five countries including China and Iran. The model V-466 is installed at Bushehr facility in Iran.22 The Iranian nuclear programme remains a prime target of espionage and sabotage operations. The possibility that KKNPP was used to gather information on the VVER-1000 reactor which could be used for a sabotage operation at an Iranian facility cannot be ruled out outright. It also leads to another possibility of the Lazarus group acting at the behest of another state to either pass on harvested information or simply to ring an alarm among the populace about insecure nuclear power plants, most sensitive amongst the critical infrastructure. Else, the attackers were just imitating the modus operandi of the Lazarus group to direct the needle of suspicion at them, something that has happened earlier.
The fear of accidents and radiation creates a lot of apprehension among the wider populace in the case of nuclear power plants. Thus, the official response must be prompt and factual. In the current incident, there was quite a bit of unnecessary confusion and obfuscation in the initial response which led to much social media frenzy. Media reports were often contradictory, with attribution to various unnamed government officials in the absence of a single point of contact for information. As a case in point, at last count, newspaper reports have credited no less than three different government agencies with discovery of the intrusion, along with sundry other private companies, and even friendly foreign governments.23 By way of comparison, the entire public communication in the case of WannaCry Ransomware incident in the UK was handled by a single entity – the National Cyber Security Centre. Therefore, in the face of cyber-attacks with nationwide significance, designating a lead investigating agency is not just reassuring but also helps in reducing the scope for misinterpretation and disinformation.
Questions have also been raised as to why such attacks on critical infrastructure cannot be deterred or prevented by government agencies. Prevention was successful to the extent that attackers were only able to access the administrative network, as per the official notifications. According to Kaspersky, the most effective measures against the DTrack malware that was used to infiltrate the Kudankulam network includes strong network security and password policies, and constant monitoring of the network for any abnormal activities.24 However, that may not be enough to deter a determined adversary. A more proactive approach would require measures such as monitoring the dark web as well as taking cognisance of the new threat vectors, such as vulnerabilities in third-party vendors since most functions are increasingly being outsourced. Most of the recent high-profile attacks have been through third-party vendors, which range from cloud providers to security intelligence companies. Efforts to reduce the threat surface by mandating measures such as certifying third-party vendors for critical infrastructure notwithstanding, the attack surface is only set to increase as dependency on such third party vendors increases.
Technical and forensic attribution has to be coupled with a broader approach that takes into account the means, motives and methods of the perpetrators in order to have a better visibility and awareness of where the next attack might come from. This will help authorities to be better prepared to recognise such attacks and have measures in place to respond and shut them down. There have been calls to take punitive actions against the perpetrators, to serve as a warning and to deter others from undertaking such actions. The fear of a strong response to an attack and the scale or severity of the retaliation strengthens deterrence by punishment. Failure to punish the guilty weakens the deterrence posture. However, this requires precise attribution, which is difficult in a space where false flag operations, designed to place the blame on a third party are a norm rather than the exception.
None of the major cyber incidents in India have ever been officially attributed, whether to a foreign entity, government or any other threat actor. It must be understood that attribution with high probability is to the core the practice of deterrence by punishment.25 The existing approach to cyber security is heavily tilted towards practising deterrence by denial, essentially by building defences. Be that as it may, countries like the United States that have the capacity and wherewithal to define the “redlines” of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in cyberspace, essential to practice deterrence by punishment, have not had much success in deterring attacks on their cyber-infrastructure. Evidently, the concept of deterrence needs further tweaking to make it workable in cyberspace.
International co-operation in cyber-security has been more of a rhetoric, limited to delivering aspirational statements at various fora with very little progress in practical terms. The 2015 UN Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE) had declared that “A State should not conduct or knowingly support ICT activity contrary to its obligations under international law that intentionally damages critical infrastructure or otherwise impairs the use and operation of critical infrastructure to provide services to the public.”26 This was one of the 11 norms to be followed by states in cyberspace. The UN GGE report was accepted by the UN General Assembly in 2016 but several follow-up reports and proposals expanding on this norm remain only on paper. In the meantime, attacks on critical infrastructure continue to emerge as the new normal in cyberspace.
*About the authors:
Cherian Samuel is Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
Munish Sharma is Consultant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi
6.These systems include Distributed Control Systems (DCS), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, Programmable Logic Controllerers (PLC), Remote Telemetry Units (RTU), etc. SCADA is generally used to control dispersed assets using centralised data acquisition and supervisory control. DCS is generally used to control production systems within a local area such as a factory using supervisory and regulatory control. PLC is generally used for discrete control for specific applications and generally provide regulatory control.
Andrew Yang pointed out Thorium Nuclear Reactors as one of the advanced nuclear fission reactor principles. Yang has likewise talked about making a prototype thorium reactor by 2027. There is a US start-up working on a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. If Flibe Energy was completely moneyed then they could build their planned 20 -50 MW modular nuclear reactor by 2027. China likewise has an substantial molten salt and thorium reactor program. It is also possible to have more traditional reactors or pebble bed reactors adapted to usage some thorium.
Yang has proposed nuclear subsidy—$50 billion over five years. If there was that level of aid, then the other innovative nuclear jobs would total for it. There would be a lot of push for the molten salt reactors that usage Uranium. The Thorcon molten salt reactor seems like a style that might scale to 100 GW per year of building. In the rest of this post, I will review the status of the United States, China and Indian Thorium reactor tasks.
Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors are technically more developed than nuclear combination. A small molten salt reactor was constructed and operated by the US in the 1960 s. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors can be ultra-safe, no nuclear waste, hyper-efficient and really low expense. Standard nuclear fission reactors are the best energy in terms of deaths per terawatt hour. Conventional nuclear can be built at really low expense. 80% of the brand-new reactors being constructed are being developed in or by China, South Korea and Russia. Those reactors are being built in 4 to 6 years and at three times lower expense than recent US and European reactors. The nuclear power in France which powers 70% of french electrical energy was developed in the 1980 s and supplies energy that is about 3 times cheaper than the build up of solar and wind that has been going on in Germany considering that 2000.
India has the style of an Advanced Heavy Water Reactor that would usage thorium. The style of the 300 MWe AHWR (920 MWt, 284 MWe net) was finished early in 2014 at BARC. It is primarily a thorium-fuelled reactor but is versatile relating to fuel. Building of the very first one is due to start 2017 for operation about 2022 2020 for operation about 2025. Nextbigfuture bets India slips to about 2024 start and a 2030 conclusion.
In 2018, Flibe Energy was awarded $2.6 M by the DOE to Establish NF3 Fluorination. In 2019, Flibe Energy gotten 2 GAIN vouchers ($50K-500K with 20% expense sharing). One with the Pacific National laboratory and one with Oak Ridge. NE-19-18706, Metal Organic Frameworks for Noble Gas Management in the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor.
The US D epartment of Energy (especially Oak Ridge NL) is working together with the Chinese Academy of Science on a Molten Salt-Thorium reactor program, which had a start-up spending plan of $350 million. Australia’s Nuclear Science & Innovation Organisation (ANSTO) is likewise involved, along with the American Nuclear Society (ANS) on safety standards for the solid fuel TMSR, and with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) on product processing standards.
Liquid Flouride China’s Thorium Reactor 2 MW T hermal Test Reactor Might Be Done in 2020
In 2011 the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced prepares to commercialize a thorium-based MSR in 20 years (it is likewise establishing non-thorium MSRs and strong fuel thorium reactors). The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics has since employed 700 nuclear engineers for this job.
China in theory has enough thorium to supply all its energy for the next 20,000 years.
* Completed the initial style and pass the specialist evaluation arranged by the Bureau of Significant Tasks, CAS in Jun. 2018. * Start up the processing and manufacturing of key materials and equipment, and identify the manufacturer. * Design of equipment building and construction illustrations was completed jointly with manufacturers in Feb. 2019.
The HTR-PM will pave the method for larger units based on the same module. The 600 MWe Ruijin units will successfully be three HTR-PMs. INET is in charge of R&D, and is intending to increase the size of the 250 MWt module and use thorium in the fuel.