Nuclear reactors.

France gets almost 80% or more of electricity from nuclear power stations and most of its reactors are of US design altough vastly improved over the years.
From what I hear their nuclear industry works and operate very very well.
My question; how come here in North America /Canada we have such a problems with our reactors, all the time thre is something f**** up ,when they did major overhaul of pickering nuclear reactors after finishing the were in huge black hole billions upon billions of cash.And still there are problems with those reactors.
Are Europeans smarter ,more ambitious and less greedy for a short term profit,or something else?

France, as I understand the Nuclear Power Industry has every aspect of reactor design and construction under tight control to see that it is done right from the start. Every Tom, Dick & Harry cannot design their own personal thing design wise. Everything is consistent. The US can’t get its nuclear head together and if they should the green parties come along to get it all upset again. That plus questionable criticisms of each and every aspect of nuclear power.
France has no gas, no oil, no coal, and therefore no choice but nuclear!

France’s nuclear option


There’s nothing wrong with our reactors.

They’ve been powering naval ships since the U.S.S. Nautilus in 1954, including every attack submarine since the Skipjack in 1958, every ballistic missile submarine, every guided missile submarine, every aircraft carrier since U.S.S. Nimitz, and five classes of cruisers.

That’s well over 200 ships over the years. At any given time a third or so of them have been out to sea and hard at work 24/7. And in all of that time, none has ever had a failure.

As to the question of why the U.S. gets such a low percentage of its power from nuclear energy, I’d say part of the reason is pricey reactors, but the main reason is political. Whenever someone broaches the subject of building a reactor, elected officials start to get a lot of insistent phone calls. Squeaky wheel, meet grease.

Military nuclear power is under the authority of the Dept. of Energy.
Civilian nuclear power is under the authority of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The record of one doesn’t apply to the record of the other.

A better question: what are the differences between the US civil nuclear power program vs. the US naval nuclear power program and/or the French civil nuclear power program?

Other than Three Mile Island, which was, what, twenty? thirty years ago?, can you name one instance of something being “f****” up at a nuclear power plant?

The two greatest problems have been metal fatigue and organizational behaviour.

Our reactors in Ontario have not lasted as long as originally anticipated because the radiation has fatigued the metal more severely and rapidly than expected. This has forced early retirement/retrofitting, leaving us with a higher cost over time. It has also led to delays and cost increased when retrofitting, for it is extremely difficult to know what needs to be done until one gets in and starts overhauling.

The nuclear division of Ontario Hydro became a massive bureaucracy, which had tremendous difficulty functioning, and which tended to attempt to solve its organizational problems by throwing money about. The sale of Ontario Hydro has to some degree addressed this problem, but the underlying organizational behavior still lurks about.

I would not be too harsh, though, for despite these problems, our nukes in Ontario produce electricity quite efficiently when compared with the rest of the world. Yes, nukes are hugely expensive (e.g. Darlington, which in its day was the world’s largest construction project), but they also produce equally huge amounts of electricity, so the cost per kWh is competitive.

For example, France places more dependency on nukes because of the very high cost of fossil fuels in France, and because of the dearth of hydro. In Ontario we have cheap fossil fuels and a great deal of hydro. Thus even although our nukes are a fair bit more cost effective than the French nukes, our nukes are not significantly more cost effective than our fossil and hydro. Have a look at the chart titled “Some comparative electricity generating cost projections for year 2005-2010” found about halfway down the page: (the chart is from the 1998 report by the OECD/NEA on projected costs of generating electricity, which can be obtained here and which is presently being updated:

Well, Chernobyl was in 1986 and I would say that was a pretty big problem.

Since 3 Mile Island I don’t think there have been any new US reactors planned. Some opened after that , but they were already in the planning or construction stages. I suppose that means that with plants being shutdown over time and if no new plants are built then eventually the US will be down to 0% of power coming from nuclear. (of course it might take 50 years for it to happen)

The reactors are indeed all run by EDF, the fuel (from mining to retreatment) is entirely under the control of another company, the COGEMA, the building of reactors is entirely realized by a third one, FRAMATOME, whose main shareholder is the state-run CEA (atomic energy commission) (the other share-holder being the german SIEMENS), which is in charge of research and development, and finally all the wastes are dealt with by the ANDRA.

To sum up, everything is centralized, normalized and state-controled.
By the way, AFAIK, the current reactors use an european design, not an american one.
I would note also there are failures, and there has been a couple of sppectacular one, like the very costly “suregenerator” PHENIX (supposed to produce more fuel than it used, don’t ask me how) and which was non-operating during most of its existence for various reasons until it was eventually closed a couple years ago, and the concept abandonned.

Sounds like a breeder reactor Waste and Breeder Reactors.htm


Phenix and Super Phenix were breeder reactors that used molten sodium, lithium or potassium as the heat exchange fluid.

Everyone seems to have trouble with liquid metals, but the possibilities are intriguing enough that people are still trying to make them work.

If you ever happen to find yourself in Arco or Atomic City, Idaho, I highly recommend a tour of the Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 (EBR-1) complex, the first nuclear reactor in the world to produce useable quantities of electric power. The old sodium handling system is quite impressive. Plus, just outside the main building they have two of the nuclear propulsion units that the US built for its atomic powered bomber program back in the 50’s.

Don’t lump a Soviet-built reactor in with U.S. reactors. Chernobyl was an idiotic design* maintained by a underpaid, poorly-trained workforce that has never been noted for its attention to detail.

As a comparison, BTW, Chernobyl was noted for its complete breach of core containment. The core containment never failed with TMI. On the military end of things, U.S. Naval reactors have never had a failure whatsoever.

*Among other things, the Chernobyl design has a positive temperature coefficient of reactivity, making the reactor inherently unstable.

I thought France used Canadian-designed CANDU models? Yes, no?

Being in Cary, you may be interested in knowing you are within 10 mile of not one, but two funtioning nuclear reactors. Sharon Harris (the one you probably knew about) opened in 1986. They offer an annual open house. It is very educational.

As for the other one, I’ll let you find it.

The French use a PWR design of their own adapted from the Westinghouse design.

The power plant I work at has been running just fine and we even got our operating license extended by 20 years until 2033. The only recent trouble in the industry has been the vessel head degradation at Davis Besse and the most recent steam line rupture that killed 4 workers in Japan.

With regard to the safety records of American reactors and the various ways of assuring safe operation, it might be worthwhile to get some facts on the subject. I’m invoking the name of Ultress, who works with Progress Energy’s Shearon Harris facility about 50 miles from my home, to see what she can share with us. Bluntly, my distinct impression is that quite adequate safeguards are in place in most American facilities to prevent another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, or the disaster scenarios that haunt the dreams of anti-nuke-plant advocates.

As for breeder reactors, the process is quite simple, though the methodology of building them is, I gather, fairly complex.

Most reactors run on uranium enriched in U-235 to the point where they can sustain a stable chain reaction. Weapons grade uranium has to be enriched somewhat beyond reactor grade, in order to cause the runaway chain reaction of a nuclear explosion.

But U-235 is somewhat less than 1% of uranium as it is extracted from the ore – one part in 114, to be precise – the remainder being (mostly) U-238. (Miniscule admixtures of U-234 and the other breakdown products comprise only a tiny fraction of the composition of the refined ore.) U-238 is quite stable and will not produce a chain reaction; this is also true for Thorium, which is effectively totally Th-232.

When the remaining uranium, or thorium, is placed contiguous to a reactor using U-235 as fuel, slow neutrons from the U-235 irradiate the contiguous material, causing U-238 to become U-239, and Th-232 to become Th-233. Both then beta-decay quickly to Pu-239 and U-233, both of which are capable of being used in reactors. (And they can then likewise produce more fuel by irradiating yet more U-238 and Th-232, continuing the process.)

Plutonium has an extremely nasty reputation, only partly earned – like the cyanide in apple seeds, it is dangerous to human beings under certain circumstances not normally encountered when handled properly.