Why Technical English

Project ITER in progress

December 16, 2012
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Composed by Galina Vitkova 

The ProjectITER is a large-scale international scientific project intended to prove the practicability of nuclear fusion as an energy source. ITER was originally an acronym for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, but at present it is not considered an official abbreviation, but is connected with the Latin word “Iter” that means “way”, “journey”, “direction”.

English: deuterium-tritium fusion diagram, poi...

The project is expected to collect the data necessary for the design and operation of the first electricity-producing fusion power plant. As known all nuclear power plants (NPPs) currently operating through over the world produce electricity from fission accompanied by high-level and  long-life radioactive waste, which causes great protests of common people against these NPPs.  

The project is based on the Soviet-Russian technology tokamak (toroidal chamber with magnetic coils), which is a device using a magnetic field to confine plasma in the shape of a torus.

ITER is the culmination of decades of fusion research: more than 200 tokamaks (see also Nuclear powertokamaks) built over the world have paved the way to the ITER experiment.

Some History

Just remind the ITER Agreement was officially signed at the Elysée Palace in Paris on 21 November 2006 by Ministers from the seven ITER Members (China, theEuropean Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and theUnited States) in the presence of French President Jacques Chirac and the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso. This Agreement established a legal international entity to be responsible for construction, operation, and decommissioning of ITER. The seven ITER Members have shared in the design of the installation, the creation of the international project structure, and in its funding.

Fusion Power Grid

On 24 October 2007, after ratification by all Members, the ITER Agreement entered into force and officially constituted the ITER Organization. ITER was originally expected to cost approximately €5 billion. However, the rising price of raw materials and changes to the initial design have augmented that the amount more than triple, i.e. to €16 billion. Necessary to add that ITER members make 90% of their contribution in kind, i.e. they contribute by equipment. It means the members produce appropriate devices and fund them into the project. The remaining 10% of the contribution are paid in cash by the members. Russia undertook obligations to manufacture 18 high technology systems for the project ITER.

The program is anticipated to last for 30 years – 10 for construction, and 20 years of operation. The reactor is expected to take 10 years to build with completion in 2018 (according to some sources in 2020). The ITER site in Cadarache, France stands ready: in 2010, construction began on the ITER Tokamak and scientific buildings.

Testing

At the end of October 2012 in the Saint Petersburg Research institute of electrophysical devices named after D.V.Efremov the first tests of the unique equipment within the project ITER were launched.

Tokamak - Creating the Sun on Earth

 

The components of the diverter target prototype of the ITER reactor faced to plasma are being tested (the details about the diverter target can be found in Вольфрамовая облицовка диверторной мишени для ). A proprietary test facility IDTF (ITER Divertor Test Facility) has been built up for testing. The facility enables to expose the ITER components to the same thermal burden as during operation and  maintenance of the experimental reactor. The plasma temperature is supposed to grow up to 100 – 150  mil. degrees and expected heat loading on the diverter surface will rise up to 20 MW/m2.  That is why the components under tests shall comply with the very strict requirements.  

The components to be tested on the Russian facility have been produced in Japan. The testing is held in the presence of the ITER Agencies of Russia and Japan representants as well as with participation of the ITER International Organisation specialists.  

The conclusions about the test results are expected to be made by the end of November 2012. It will be the first of numerous series of tests and trials the results of which will enable to master well-proven technology of manufacturing the ITER components.

Diagram illustrating, in a schematic way, the ...

 

PS: The technical terms on the topic can be found in
TrainTE Vocabulary (Power engineering: English–Russian-Czech vocabulary) and in
 Vocabulary – power engineering (Russian–English–Czech).
PPS: The Russian version of the article titled Проект ИТЭР в реализации is published at the blog Technical English Remarks.

  References

 

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Intermittence of renewables

June 30, 2011
8 Comments

Composed by Galina Vitkova

Everybody knows that renewables are expensive, sometimes very expensive and make electricity price go up. For example, in the Czech Republic the expansion of building solar photovoltaic installations, donated from the state budget, caused increasing electricity price over 12 %. Another example of increasing the costs is given in the table below.

Increase in system operation costs (Euros per MW·h) for 10% and 20% wind share[7]

 

Germany

Denmark

Finland

Norway

Sweden

10%

2.5

0.4

0.3

0.1

0.3

20%

3.2

0.8

1.5

0.3

0.7

Nevertheless, only few people are aware of great intermittence of renewables, which excludes their usage as a main source of electricity generation not only nowadays, but in the future too. Actually no technical and industrial society can exist and develop using unreliable and intermittent power supplies. Nothing in our integrated and automated world works without electricity, this life-blood of technical civilisation. Just imagine what would happen to a society where electricity supply is turned off only for a short time, possibly every week, or if the power is cut for a whole fortnight or more. Life stops, production ceases, chaos sets in. And this is exactly what could arise if we bank on renewables. Thus let us take notice of features specific for wind and solar (photovoltaic) power installations, which are typically built in Europe. 

A straight line projection from where we are t...

Image via Wikipedia

The entire problem with renewables is that they are perilously intermittent power sources. The electricity produced using them is not harmonized with the electrical demand cycle. Renewable based installations generate electricity when the wind blows or the sun shines. Since the energy produced earlier in the day cannot be stored extra generating capacity will have to be brought on-line to cover the deficiency. This means that for every renewable based system installed, a conventional power station will have to be either built or retained to ensure continuity of energy supply. But this power station will have to be up and running all the time (i.e. to be a ’spinning-reserve’) because it takes up to 12 hours to put a power station on-line from a cold start-up. Thusly if we want to keep up continuity of supply the renewable sources result in twice the cost and save very little of fossil fuels.

Wind power is extremely variable. Building thousands of wind turbines still does not resolve the fundamental problem of the enormous wind variability. When days without significant winds occur, it doesn’t matter how many wind turbines are installed as they all go off-line. So, it is extremely difficult to integrate wind power stations into a normal generating grid.  

Solar energy is not available at night and cloudy days, which makes energy storage the most important issue in providing the continuous availability of energy. Off-grid photovoltaic systems traditionally use rechargeable batteries to store excess electricity. With grid-tied systems excess electricity can be sent to the transmission grid and later be settled.

Renewable energy supporters declare that renewable power can somehow be stored to cope with power outages. The first of these energy storage facilities, which comes to aid the thousands of wind-turbines motionless when winds do not blow and solar installations without generating when the sun does not shine, is the pumped water storage system. However, this claim is not well-founded for the following reasons:

  • In most countries of Europe pumped storage systems are already fully used for overpowering variability in electrical demand, and so as a rule they have no extra capacity for overcoming variability in supply due to the unreliable wind and solar generation systems.
  • Pumped storage systems have limited capacity, which can be used for electricity generating  for just a few hours, while wind or solar generation systems can go off-line for days or weeks at a time.
  • Pumped storage systems are not only hugely expensive to construct, the topography of european countries ensure that very few sites are available.

As for flywheel energy storage, compressed air storage, battery storage and hydrogen storage each of these systems is highly complicated, very expensive, hugely inefficient and limited in capacity. The hydrogen storage is especially popular and hyped among proponents of renewables. The hydrogen, produced and stored when renewables generate more electricity than it could be used, is supposed to propel vehicles and generators. Unfortunately these hydrogen powered vehicles and generators are only about 5% efficient. In addition, hydrogen storage vessels are highly flammable and potentially explosive. Practically nowadays there is no energy system available that can remotely be expected to replace renewable energy resources in a large scale, while they are out of functioning.

In numerous publications about renewables we are chiefly informed about expanding and increasing investments in renewables, multiplying their installed capacity and volumes of produced electricity, everything in absolute values, without comparing these indicators with values of other resources, especially when they speak about volumes of production. In the table below you find comparable values of volumes electricity produced by nuclear power plants and renewable installations. Look it through and have your own opinion of the problem.

Comparison of nuclear and renewable electricity producing by top nuclear electricity producers (TW·h-year/% of total electricity production in the country)

 

Country

Year

Nuclear  2007

Wind Power

Solar Power

1 USA 2009

837/19.4%

70.8/1.64%

0.808/0.019%

2 Japan 2008

264/23.5%

1.754/0.156%

0.002/0.000%

3 Russia 2008

160/15.8%

0.007/0.0007%

 

4 Germany 2010

141/22.3%

36.5/5.499%

12.0/1.898%

5 Canada 2008

93/14.6%

2.5/0.392%

0.017/0.003%

Conclusion: Common people must know and must interest about situation in producing and supplying electricity. Only then they will be able to enforce on the governments to make rightdecisions in order to ensure stable supplying electricity, without which modern civilisation cannot exist and improve.

 References:


Nuclear energy future after Fukushima

March 23, 2011
11 Comments
Composed by Galina Vitkova

What the damage to the Fukushima plant (see picture below) forecasts for Japan—and the world? But first, let us introduce general description of nuclear power stations in order to sense problems caused by the breakdown. 

 

The Fukushima 1 NPP

Image via Wikipedia

 Nuclear fission. Nowadays nuclear power stations generate energy using nuclear fission (Fukushima belongs to this type of nuclear power plants). Atoms of uranium (235) rods in the reactor are split in the process of fission and cause a chain reaction with other nuclei. During this process a large amount of energy is released. The energy heats water to create steam, which rotates a turbine together with a generator, producing electricity.

Depending on the type of fission, presumptions for ensuring supply of the fuel at existing level varies from several decades for the Uranium-235 to thousands of years for uranium-238. At the present rate of use, uranium-235 reserves (as of 2007) will be exhausted in about 70 years. The nuclear industry persuades that the cost of fuel makes a minor cost component for fission power. In future, mining of uranium sources could be more expensive, more difficult. However, increasing the price of uranium would have little brought about the overall cost of nuclear power. For instance, a doubling in the cost of natural uranium would increase the total cost of nuclear power by 5 percent. On the other hand, double increasing of natural gas price results in 60 percent growth of the cost of gas-fired power.

The possibility of nuclear meltdowns and other reactor accidents, such as the Three Mile Island accident and the Chernobyl disaster, have caused much public concern. Nevertheless, coal and hydro- power stations have both accompanied by more deaths per energy unit produced than nuclear power generation.

At present, nuclear energy is in decline, according to a 2007 World Nuclear Industry Status Report presented in the European Parliament. The report outlines that the share of nuclear energy in power production decreased in 21 out of 31 countries, with five fewer functioning nuclear reactors than five years ago. Currently 32 nuclear power plants are under construction or in the pipeline, 20 fewer than at the end of the 1990s.

Fusion. Fusion power could solve many of fission power problems. Nevertheless, despite research started in the 1950s, no commercial fusion reactor is expected before 2050. Many technical problems remain unsolved. Proposed fusion reactors commonly use deuterium and lithium as fuel.  Under assumption that a fusion energy output will be kept in the future, then the known lithium reserves would endure 3000 years, lithium from sea water would endure 60 million years. A more complicated fusion process using only deuterium from sea water would have fuel for 150 billion years.

Due to a joint effort of the European Union (EU), America, China, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea a prototype reactor is being constructed on a site in Cadarache (in France). It is supposed to be put into operation by 2018.

Initial projections in 2006 put its price at €10 billion ($13 billion): €5 billion to build and another €5 billion to run and decommission the thing. Since then construction costs alone have tripled.

As the host, the EU is committed to covering 45% of these, with the other partners contributing about 9% each. In May 2010 the European Commission asked member states to conduce an additional €1.4 billion to cope with the project over to 2013. Member states rejected the request.

Sustainability: The environmental movement emphasizes sustainability of energy use and development. “Sustainability” also refers to the ability of the environment to cope with waste products, especially air pollution.

The long-term radioactive waste storage problems of nuclear power have not been fully solved till now. Several countries use underground repositories. Needless to add nuclear waste takes up little space compared to wastes from the chemical industry which remains toxic indefinitely.

Future of nuclear industry. Let us return to how the damage to the Fukushima plant affects future usage of nuclear power in the future in Japan – and in the world.

Share of nuclear electricity production in total domestic production

Nowadays nuclear plants provide about a third of Japan’s electricity (see chart), Fukushima is not the first to be paralysed by an earthquake. But it is the first to be stricken by the technology dependence on a supply of water for cooling.

The 40-year-old reactors in Fukushima run by the Tokyo Electric Power Company faced a disaster beyond anything their designers were required to imagine.

What of the rest of the world? Nuclear industry supporters had hopes of a nuclear renaissance as countries try to reduce carbon emissions. A boom like that of the 1970s is talked, when 25 or so plants started construction each year in rich countries. Public opinion will surely take a dive. At the least, it will be difficult to find the political will or the money to modernise the West ageing reactors, though without modernisation they will not become safer. The heartless images from Fukushima, and the sense of lurching misfortune, will not be forgotten even if final figures unveil little damage to health. France, which has 58 nuclear reactors, seems to see the disaster in Japan as an opportunity rather than an obstacle for its nuclear industry. On March 14th President Nicolas Sarkozy said that French-built reactors have lost international tenders because they are expensive: “but they are more expensive because they are safer.”

However, the region where nuclear power should grow fastest, and seems to be deterred, is the rest of Asia. Two-thirds of the 62 plants under construction in the world are in Asia. Russia plans another ten. By far the most important arising nuclear power is China, which has 13 working reactors and 27 more on the way. China has announced a pause in nuclear commissioning, and a review. But its leaders know that they must go away from coal: the damage to health from a year of Chinese coal-burning plants is bigger then from nuclear industry. And if anyone can build cheap nuclear plants, it is probably the Chinese.

In case the West turns its back on nuclear power and China holds on, the results could be unfortunate. Nuclear plants need trustworthy and transparent regulation.

  References

  • The risks exposed: What the damage to the Fukushima plant portends for Japan—and the world; The Economist, March 19th 2011
  • Expensive Iteration: A huge international fusion-reactor project faces funding difficulties; The Economist, July 22nd 2010  

 

 


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