Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Energy Audit of Nuclear Fuel Cycles

Energy audit of nuclear fuel cycles
Ramaswami Kumar
How can one measure the level of corruption when it comes to nuclear power programmes? Our PM has explained he will retire from public life(rather than spend time in jail!)if the allegations of corruption against him are proved! I say mister, if a nuclear power programme consumes five times the energy that it is postulated to deliver during its entire lifetime, is it not a scam with sam of the biggest magnitude for all time? And even if it is not, with the poisons that we(all life) will be contaminated forever with the programme,and our progeny also damaged, is it not nuclear terror at its best? Corruption corruption all the way, the file is corrupted throw it away, even if the file is life in the form of the PM(and all life), if true! We can never fall in love (again), because we are all corrupted, to the core!(Curd Jurgens, May Britt, The Blue Angel,1959).
Check out:

By R. Ashok Kumar,
B.E,M.E(Power),Negentropist,Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal, 299, Tardeo Road, Nana Chowk, Mumbai-400007.
E-mail: ashokuku@rediffmail.com


Although the gross nuclear capacity of the USA reached 104820 MW
(greater than 150 MW capacity only considered), less than 20000 MW
energy capacity was in fact delivered to society in 1991(Table 1).
This is derived as follows:
Gross cumulative energy delivered to society (1991)= Megawatt-years/years =
798860/40=19959 MW or 20000 MW approximately. The rest was all
consumed by the nuclear industry itself. The actual energy- capacity
delivered at the consumption point was much less. Using a figure of
0.597 for the plant load factor(PLF), and 20%
transmission,distribution and conversion loss, the amount of energy
delivered by the programme amounts to only 9.78% of the energy
generated(Figure 1). For the annual energy invested in the nuclear programme,
the energy generated per year per unit was divided by a factor of
1.5(R. Ashok Kumar.1989.The Indian Nuclear Energy Programme:A Net
Energy Analysis. PPST Bull. No.18.March.pp17: Energy Invested in Waste
Storage(See energy audit of the indian nuclear programme). See
also Appendix 1,this article.). Thus as the US programme
of commissioning of the nuclear power plants progressed from 1952 to
1991 (end of my study period for the US programme), the average
nuclear capacity added per year was 2621 MW while the average nuclear
industry demand was 12229 MW! (Figure 2). With so much thermal energy
devoured by the nuclear energy programme over 40 years,
the hype about the nukes being greenhouse gas savers is more fantasy
than truth.The cost overrun was 4.25. It is
estimated(based on assumptions given in the appendix) that the
programme started delivering net energy to society only thirty seven years
after the commencement of the programme. And while it generated
515041 MW-yrs in 38years,it delivered to society only 25867 MW-yrs
or less than five percent! It delivered net energy to society in
a brief period from 1989 to 1991 only in the forty years since
the commencement of the programme(See Figure 1).
At the end of forty years of the US nuclear power programme by 1991,
this energy- 125991 MW-yrs –delivered to society is still a small fraction,1/ 3.88 of the gross cumulative energy invested in nuclear plant construction and maintenance of 489174 MW-yrs! This analysis assumes only a portion of the energy used for waste storage and maintenance.This American civilian nuclear programme cost a total of Rs 45 trillion(See Hawkins,P.,Lovins AB and Lovins,H.,1999.Natural Capitalism,Rocky Mountain Institute,Snowmass,CO). This means Rs 45 Crores per Megawatt! But as we saw above, this programme delivered to society an energy capacity of 3150 MW per year over 40 years , with an installed capacity of 104820 MW achieved over 38 years. As shown above the US programme needed an additional gargantuan amount of thermal power to construct the nuclear facilities.The data for the nuclear capacity
additions were taken from Nuclear Engineering International, April 1991.

Appendix 1 Nuclear Wastes Unmanageable: An audit of the Energy Required

As of year 2000, 7925 reactor years of operation have been completed
in sixteen countries which have operating nuclear power plants (Data
till 1990 have been taken from Nuclear Engineering International April
1991). Thus the 16 countries of the world generated by end 1990 in
their nuclear power plants 15714.1 TWh or 1793847 MW-yr. The
corresponding capacity was 290898 MW(337 reactors). Average nuclear
capacity was 290898/337= 863.2 MW. All over the world the number of
reactors retired to date is 90 with a total capacity of 77688 MW. Net
capacity on line= 209898-77688=213210 MW. Energy generated by these
reactors from 1991 to 2000 amounts to 213210 MWxlifetime plant load
factor of 0.64 x 10y= 1364545 MW-yr. Therefore the total energy
generated till 2000 from begin of nuclear programmes= 1793847+1364545=
3158392 MW-yr. The number of reactor years of operation till end 1990
was 4500. Taking the number of reactor years of operation to be
proportional to the energy generated yields a total of 7925 reactor
years of operation. For this the power required for waste storage and
maintenance is 4.75 MW(thermal). See Lovins. Technical Bases for
Ethical Concern. In AH Lovins and JH Price. 1975. Non-Nuclear Futures.
Harper-Colophon. p 97. This is at the rate of 1.505 watts per
megawatt-year (of gross energy generated) for waste storage and
maintenance. Now the energy invested in the nuclear power programmes
of the 16 countries till end 1990 was 1793847 x 0.5= 896923.5
MW-yr(See below for derivation). From 1991 to 2000 units were retired
rather than added. Let us assume that the energy invested remained at
this value (1990 end value). Then, net energy available after
accounting for the energy invested which included energy for waste
storage and its maintenance for 31500 years(see below) was
3158932-896924= 2261478(The energy invested 896924, if considered at
the bus bars would be higher). Thus the number of additional years of
waste storage and its maintenance which is obtained by dividing the
net energy available 2261478 MW-yr by the power needed for waste
storage and its maintenance 4.75 MW(thermal) is a maximum of 476101
years because there is a conversion efficiency for electrical to heat
production of 50% to 80%. This is far from enough for storing wastes
for a million years or more. Thus the nuclear energy programmes are
net energy consumers. The latest evaluation of waste storage research
proclaims this loudly(Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.
May 2000. Science for Democratic Action. See also R. Ashok Kumar, op
cit. ).Not only power corrupts,but nuclear power corrupts absolutely.
The story in the USA is a xerox of that happening in India!The New
York Times report of July 28,2001: "Law Firm was Nuclear Industry
Lobbyist While Advising Government on Dump Site" By Matthew L. Wald
brings this out eloquently when he states:"The law firm...was being
paid by the Energy Department and one of its contractors to help
determine if the site was suitable, while also taking money from the
(nuclear) industry to ASSURE THAT THE SITE WAS APPROVED"(emphasis mine). He also states:"Critics call this a conflict and say it casts doubt on years of legal and technical work at Yucca Mountain( near Las Vegas), where the government has spent $ 4.5 billion (Rs 21150 Cr !) so far to determine whether the site is suitable to isolate wastes for
thousands of millenniums to come(emphasis mine)."
In my study,the gross energy output per year at 100 percent plant
load factor(PLF) divided by 1.5 is taken as the energy invested per
year. For a 1000 MW nuclear power plant at 100 % PLF net of process
inputs and zero losses, the energy invested per year is thus 1000
MW-yr/yr/1.5= 667 MW-yr/yr. Now if excluding waste storage ,at 62% PLF and 20% transmission, distribution and conversion losses, the net
energy delivered is 1000x0.62x0.8=496 Mw-yr/yr,the energy invested in
the nuclear power programme is , at 1.8 ratio of output per year to
input per year, 496/1.8=276 MW-yr/yr. Thus the energy investment
debited to waste storage is 667-276=391 MW-yr/yr. The gross energy
generated by the 1000 MW nuclear power plant is 12400
MW-yr(electrical) during the 25 year lifetime of the plant(the
lifetime on the average for the plant has been found to be just 17y).
The power required for its waste storage and its maintenance is
computed as follows: Let us assume 10000 reactor-years of operation.
At this level,following Lovins op cit) we have a power requirement of
1 watt(thermal) per MW-yr of operation. Thus for 12400 Mw-yr of
generation ,the power required is 12400 watts or 0.0124 MW(thermal).
Thus the 391 MW-yr/yr of generation will power the waste storage for
391/0.0124 or 31532 years.

Nuclear Industry Demand 50% of Gross Energy Generated by Nuclear Plants

An estimate of the fraction of energy generated debited to investment
in the nuclear power programmes can be done as follows: Let us take
four countries namely,the USA,France, Japan and Canada. The energy
generated back of the 20% losses is given by the (sum of the total
nuclear industry demand and the net energy delivered to society )/0.8.
This for these four countries for which the energy audit has been
worked out by the author becomes 2354460 MW-yr. Details in a separate
article. The nuclear industry demand works out to 1175742 MW-yr which
is 50% of the gross energy generated.

A number of surprises as the nuclear power programmes progressed over the world.

It must be noted that a number of surprises have caused retrofits and
replacements like the steam generator premature replacements and the
replaced radioactive steam generators enclosed in costly sarcophages
worldwide. These have enormously increased the energy invested in
these white elephants.

Detailed Energy Audit of the Nuclear Energy Programme of the USA: A Realistic Scenario till 1991

The energy audit :Table, Figures 1 and 2, illustrates the adverse audit taking the precise commissioning dates and other technical data on plant performance from the Tables published by Nuclear Engineering
International in its April 1991 issue on annual plant load factors and
life time plant load factors of nuclear power plants worldwide. The
Table shows the pattern of taking up the construction of the nuclear
power plants of various capacities. They are all assumed to finish
construction in 7 years and one year is assumed for putting the unit
into operation. For example in the Table 1, the 185 MW unit
construction was started in the year 1952 and it was commissioned to
operate in the year 1960(Note: 123 MW= 185 MW/1.5 as audited above).

Table 1

Energy Audit of Nuclear Energy Programme for the nuclear fuel cycle of the U.S.A