01 November 2010

Front-end Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Front end Nuclear Fuel Cycle talks about the process of how uranium is mined from the very ground of the Earth, and then how it is being processes to make into Uranium Oxide or also known as yellow cake. However, today topic is not on the fuel cycle itself, but rather we are focusing much on the aspect of uranium abundances in the Earth.

As we can see in the picture below, we know that the current consumption is much lesser than the current usage of uranium in the world. Bt the question is how can this happen? This in short is because partly:

1) some country has started digging uranium long before NPP is founded.
2) the megatons to megawatts project which converts HEU (highly enriched uranium) into enriched uranium which can be used as fuel for power plant.

However, as we know, the current global power generated by nuclear power plant is roughly 6-7% of the total world power generated. Fossil fuel takes about around 80% of fossiel fuel consumption. So the question here arises is that are there enough uranium to fuel up for few hundred years before it run dry? This is to ensure that given the possibility of NPP to replace all fossil fuel, hence we can estimated the demand of uranium would increase at least 10 fold!!!. This shows that, if the current usage of uranium is 4.5million tonnes, per year by the time NPP take over all the fossil fuel, the demand will become 45 million tonnes per year. This is a huge number to worry about.

However, there are few reason why our group believe that uranium is not going to be depleted.

1) Nuclear price per tonne is still relatively cheap (less than USD80 per tonne).
Cheap price, means less $ goes into the R&D, which leads into less exploration to discover uranium deposits and also less mining of uranium ore. However, should the price rocketed to USD130 or more per tonne, we believe rigorous R&D will be poured into uranium searching, mining techniques and etc. This is because, its much more worth to mine uranium now as the profit margin obtained is so much higher.

2) Megatons to Megawatts Project.
This is a project whereby the US and the Russian has sign a pact to deplete their HEU into NPP fuels. And as we know HEU are at least 90% concentrated with U-235. Hence assuming perfect conversion of 3% enriched uranium-235, we can see that 1 tonne of HEU can produce 30 tonne of fossil fuel. So do imagine the number of enriched uranium we can get from this project.

3) Based on ecolo.org,

PROVEN Uranium reserves worldwide: about 4 million tons (current consumption rate of U worldwide is 60 000 tons per year => proven reserves at 80-130 $/kgU these proven reserves are enough for 65 years of use at the current consumption rate)

ESTIMATED Uranium reserves worldwide: about 16 million tons (current consumption rate of U worldwide is 60 000 tons per year => proven reserves at 80-130 $/kgU these proven reserves are enough for 265 years of use at the current consumption rate)

NON-CONVENTIONAL Uranium reserves worldwide (i.e. uranium contained in phosphates): an ADDITIONAL 22 million tons (representing an additional 365 years of use)

Uranium dissolved in sea water: about 4 billion tons (but more difficult and costly to retrieve)

Therefore, leaving aside the U in sea water, the total ESTIMATED + NON-CONVENTIONAL uranium reserves are enough for more than 600 years of use at current consumption rate using today's reactors and at a cost less than 80-130$/kg U (about twice today's spot price).

This shows that we have a long enough uranium supply for at least 8 generations. It should buy us enough time to discover other possible green fuels to supply our power plant by then.

4) Thorium as nuclear fuel.

Thorium is 3 times more abundant than uranium. However, according to world-nuclear.org, thorium can work pretty well in CANDU reactors ( Canada NPP which operates using normal uranium). Although currently thorium is not able to fissile on its own, if we can convert in into uranium 233 from thorium, we would also obtain a substantial amount of nuclear fuel. Do note that U-233 is as good as U-235 for nuclear power plants fuels.

Group Members of Nuclear Energy Information


Radioactive waste

“Radioactive waste will last billions of years and it is unfair to gain benefit from nuclear
today and leave the next generation to deal with the nuclear waste.”

As in our past posts about spent fuel, Spent or Irradiated fuel contains 96% uranium, 1% plutonium and 3% radioactive wastes.Long-lived radioactive waste from the back end of the fuel cycle, the actinides have a significant influence due to their characteristically long half-lives. For example, nuclear fuels with thorium(Th-232) this fertile material that can undergo a neutron capture reaction and two beta minus decays, resulting in the production of fissile U-233. The spent fuel cycle with thorium will contain U-233, an isotope with a half-life of 160,000 years.  While, the burnt fuels are Thorium with Reactor-Grade Plutonium (RGPu), Thorium with Weapons-Grade Plutonium (WGPu) and Mixed Oxide fuel (MOX).

Radioactive waste may last billions of years, but in the ways to reducing the waste management problems, reprocessing or common known as recycling can be reduced. Based on the spent fuel, we found out that uranium and plutonium recovered can be use back into the reactor for enhance the energy production. Like mentioned above, Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) are product from the mixture of uranium oxide with the recycled plutonium oxide. Yet not all reactors can be feed by MOX nowadays, because of the problem isotopes in the plutonium recycling processes.
 In fuel cycle recycling process, uranium are converted, re-enriched and fabricated to be use again in the reactors. And plutonium were been diluted with depleted uranium before undergoes fabrication.

Besides, reprocessing spent fuel there are new method discovered which are partitioning-
transmutation and partitioning-conditioning. Why transmutation introduced???It is because, transmutation are able to shorter the long life nuclides into more stable elements. Transmutation of one radionuclide into another is achieved by neutron bombardment in a nuclear reactor or accelerator-driven device. While, the remaining very small amount to be conditioned and place in disposal site.

Nuclear technology are introduced so manys years ago, now is our duty to keep and reduce the amount of Long-term storage and final repository. We must bear in mind about that spent fuel is not a new thing in our world. So now……

 “We are the young generation, we are the young Malaysians, it is our future we are talking about, and we want a sustainable, green, beautiful, secure planet that we can show our own children with our very own eyes instead of just through pictures in history books – We want a future. And let us manage the waste”.

Do what we believe in, and believing what we do…together we work together towards green world.

31 October 2010

Is It Safe To Build a Nuclear Power Plant in Malaysia?

Safety issue has always been the most hotly debated issue when it comes to nuclear talk for Malaysia.

First of all, having a nuclear power plant sited next to ocean is totally safe because the Pressurized Water Reactor(PWR) operates on 2 loops, the possible radioactive loop remains enclosed and will not be mixed with the coolant loop that utilize the ocean water. Hence there is no worry of contaminating ocean water and hence the flora and faunas.

Malaysia is lucky to be off the tectonic plate, the chance that earthquake occurs is very low. In addition, the design of the foundation of the nuclear powerplant has already catered for the possibility of having earthquake and able to withstand it.

The possible site for nuclear powerplant is for sure isolated, in addition exclusion area boundaries of a necessary range of distance.

Furthermore, the nuclear powerplant has in depth defence, passive safety sytems that do not require any power input to function but will function under any condition. One of the example is the use of gravity to drop control rod into the reactor. ECCS, plant control systems and redundancy and diversity also help to secure the safety of a nuclear power plant!

Many were inquiring whether a nuclear power plant explosion will occur. As a matter of fact, explosion of nuclear power plant or more specifically, nuclear reactor is almost impossible because the energy is not sufficient. Compared to nuclear bomb, where the fuel is richly enriched, the fuel of the reactor is only slightly enriched and could not provide such large amount of energy release at one time strong enough to cause explosion.

Airplane crash either man caused or accident, will not be able to threaten the security of nuclear powerplant too, as there is containment building that is set to protect the nuclear powerplant from such accidents.

Finally, I will leave the question for you all to answer. Is it safe to build NPP in Malaysia?

26 October 2010

Are Malaysia Ready For Nuclear Power Plant???

TNB ready for first nuclear plant


TENAGA Nasional Bhd (TNB) is prepared to develop the country's first nuclear plant, but the public should understand the need for the plan to meet electricity demand in the future.

We're ready, "said president and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh.

We already have our own team, comprising seven to eight people. We also have sent them to pursue graduate studies in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan and South Korea to learn about nuclear technology, he told reporters outside the council TNB Hari Raya open house in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He said this when asked to comment on the planned projects under the Economic Transformation Program (ETP), which also describes the use of nuclear energy for power generation.

I think the government is aiming to have the plant by 2021. It is an aggressive target. I hope the people of Pakistan to support its implementation as the first nuclear plant construction will take longer, he said.

Che Khalib said TNB with the Malaysian Nuclear Agency and the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications, has completed the initial proposal for government consideration.

We are just waiting for the right time for the government to decide that we need to solve the problem of how to meet future demand, namely after 2020.
If we are to meet future demand with current solutions, namely coal and gas plants, I do not think it can meet demand by 2021, he said.

In addition, he said, the implementation also requires the direct involvement of the government for a nuclear power plant will involve strategic and security policies and government guarantees.

Meanwhile, TNB is also reported, are interested in bidding for construction projects of the second block Manjung power plant, but results have yet been made about it.

National utility company acquired the first blocks development of power plants using coal to generate 1.000 megawatts (MW) in Perak.

Che Khalib said the company is committed to providing the first block of the power plant project is not yet decided to participate in the tender for the second block.

If we did the first 1.000 MW project involved enough for TNB, we may provide independent power producer (IPP) another chance to bid, he said.

Source: http://www.bharian.com.my/bharian/articles/TNBsediabangunlojinuklearpertama/Article