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And I would submit that it's far easier to make a wind turbine with a 60 year lifetime than it is a nuclear plant. The turbine just needs to have oversized bearings and gears, but the materials in the reactor are fundamentally damaged by the radiation. Also there is the question of how much of the original plant is still in use at the end of the cycle--compared to how much has been replaced during use.

Also the claim that nuclear plant re-fueling can be timed to coincide with a low period of power demand is questionable, given that the refueling takes months. It takes, what, a day to replace a blade on a turbine?

by asdf on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 09:02:34 AM EST
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In France, there are enough reactors so that they can be rotated out of service one by one without making a huge hole in production (and the pauperized maintenance staff tour around France as their jobs move, sleeping in caravans etc.) The homogeneity of the plant makes this fairly easy to plan. Until you get the same systemic problem everywhere at the same time, of course...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 09:17:01 AM EST
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Even the reactor tanks themselves can be replaced by newer ones when the old ones become brittle. It has been done already in the US, IIRC.

Nuclear plant refuelling is always done during summer, in Sweden at least. At that time, demand is so low anyways that the slack can be picked up by our hydroplants without a hitch. And not all nukes need to be refueled at the same time. A standard refueling operation takes a few weeks.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 11:53:37 AM EST
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Here's an interesting comparison. When hybrid cars came out, one of the techniques used to reduce fuel consumption was "auto stop" of the engine. When you stop the car, the engine stops.

Then when you need to go again, the engine needs to start back up. (Obviously it's more complicated than that!) So the immediate reaction of the hybrid-car-denier community was "that's going to wear out your starter motor really fast!"

But obviously it doesn't wear out your "starter motor" because there is no starter motor. It's some combination of traction motor or motors, depending on the system, but the old-fashioned starter motor with Bendix drive engaging the flywheel is not in the picture at all.

Similarly with wind turbines, what you have today is a pretty complicated system with high-load gearing between the hub and the generator, plus what amounts to a helicoptor rotor blade management system to deal with varying wind strengths. The gearing can be replaced by direct drive connections, and one would think that over time the blade management system could also be simplified. So there's lots of space for technical improvements that go in the direction of simplification of the mechanical system--potentially down to something with very few moving parts.

Meanwhile, despite 60+ years of investment in engineering, nuclear reactors are fundamentally complicated, dangerous, and expensive.

by asdf on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 02:16:33 PM EST
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That's probably because you don't use much air conditioning in Sweden. In the mediterranean latitudes it would probably be best in winter. After the hydroelectric dams get full if possible.

res humą m'és alič
by Antoni Jaume on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 03:57:05 PM EST
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