Nuclear Power/Nuclear power in Australia
QUESTION: Hi Mr Mihalovits
I am a student in grade 12 in Australia and am currently trying to answer my question which is 'Should Australia adopt nuclear power?' As I understand, we currently have no nuclear power plants operating in Australia. I was wondering if you could provide me with an insight into the structural and general safety of nuclear power plants. I am currently studying physics and chemistry and have an understanding of how nuclear power plants work, so any scientific input you could add would also be extremely useful.
ANSWER: You are correct, Australia has no nuclear plants; which is ironic because you have some of the biggest uranium mines in the world.
Safety isn't the real reason you don't have any nuclear plants, politics are. But that's not what you asked.
The newest design is the Westinghouse AP1000. This design is safer than older designs for several reasons. It's safety systems are passive, meaning that they will activate when needed with a minimal amount of components changing position (most of the valves are already open and the components are located very close to the core, minimizing the chances of a pipe break, and the containment cooling water tank - which supplies emergency cooling water- is mounted over the reactor where it will gravity-drain into the core. Previous designs had the tank located near the reactor building and pumps had to deliver the water#. Go to the Westinghouse webpage #http://www.ap1000.westinghousenuclear.com/
) and click on the Explore the AP1000 button on the left to learn more.
There are some other designs out there, such as self-contained units that don't need operators but I don't know much about them. The AP1000 is where the commercial power companies are going, including the new ones in China and the U.S.
I've worked in the military and civilian nuclear power fields since 1975 and I have a great deal of confidence in their safety. Accidents like Chernobyl are a fluke and CANNOT happen on any of the designs used in America, France, and most other countries. I haven't checked lately, but I think that the plants with this flawed design have been shutdown. You can read an article that I wrote on Chernobyl back in 1990 at this website: http://mikevanpelt.com/chernobyl.html
You said that you have an understanding of how nuclear plants work, so I'm not sure what else you'd like to know. If you have further questions, please let me know.
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QUESTION: Hi again Mr Mihalovits
You mentioned Australia doesn't have nuclear power due to political reasoning. Do you know what these reasons are?
It was really a fallout from the decision not to mine more uranium in Australia. People were afraid of uranium being shipped across the country (which is silly, natural uranium is rather lower in terms of radiation released. I've held new fuel rods in my hand.) A strong anti-nuclear group grew and included nuclear power plants in their demonstrations. Several politicians seized on this to get elected and then followed through by passing a moratorium on new mines and nuclear power plants. The Three Mile Island accident in the US in 1979 and the Chernobyl accident in 1986 helped create and sustain this anti-nuclear movement.
There are now groups trying to get your government to lift that moratorium on the premise that nuclear power can replace fossil fuel plants and help reduce greenhouse emissions.
for some articles on that.