Brilliant strategies: LTO of KCD-4 and CNT-3 as a bargain to cap the future cost of waste disposal

In 2003, the government decided to close down all nuclear power plants by 2023. That’s about just now.

From 2003 till 2018, we were all fast asleep. Me too. Sorry for that, by the way.

In a KULeuven University Seminar in November 2018 (*), ‘expert’ Prof. R. Belmans, electrical engineer, not nuclear engineer by the way, was sure the lights would not go out. No longer interested in nuclear power plants, arguing he would be long dead before the new plants would be developed, he turned into a strong believer in sun-and-wind, with modern CCGT (aka STEG) gas-fired backup plants, battery parks, and an intelligent grid. And lots of funding mechanisms, such as the CRM mechanism, and market mechanisms forcing dirty Eastern European plants out of the market simply by building modern CCGT plants in Western Europe.

He also revealed why the electricity price is determined by the gas price.

He could not have been more wrong. We were there, and saw the light – or the lack of it. As an immediate reaction, we started Brigid the next day.

That was 5 years ago.

Today the government, ironically with the same political parties as in 2003, is desperately negotiating the extension of the youngest nuclear power plants.

Although ENGIE is clearly no longer interested – or even capable – to extend the operational lifetime of Doel-4 and Tihange-3, they are currently forced by the government to keep the machines up and running for the next 10 years. Technically, this is very well possible, for sure. But it creates a bureaucratic and logistical nightmare. Since this “decision” is taken way, way too late, FANC is forced to lower the requirements to make it possible. This is scary, since the nuclear engineering knowledge actually resides inside Electrabel, not inside ENGIE, which is a gas company. Gas, not nuclear. And Electrabel is retiring in a fast pace.

The bargain leverage is a cap for ENGIE on the cost of the nuclear waste disposal.

The cost will be largely determined by heat-generating cat-C waste, for which burial in deep geological disposal galleries (GDF) are chosen. We state again and again: because this spent nuclear fuel (SNF) is not spent at all, SNF or cat-C waste is not waste, but an asset, and it should NEVER be buried. It should be recycled. To a nuclear engineer, burying SNF makes no sense at all. Not when you’re an independent nuclear engineer, that is.

Besides the fact that the premisse on cat-C nuclear waste is totally wrong, ask yourself this question: what is the cheapest way to finance the unavoidable remaining legacy cat-B waste disposal (mainly debris from old plants and MOX fuel production), during the next 100 years:

1) ask the population to pay it via taxes at the time it’s required
2) or: let ENGIE pay for it after making a profit on the electricity invoices of the next 10 years, charged by ENGIE to the same population, saving it up in the Synatom fund, hoping for a financial build-up over the next century.

In the latter scenario, now chosen to unblock the desperate LTO negotiations, one can only hope that ENGIE is still around 100 years from now, and that Synatom is working out as hoped. Currently, it is not working out as hoped.

This situation is caused by the governments that decided to close down, and at the same time caused the spent fuel waste problem by not allowing to close the fuel cycle through the development of new reactor types.

So now we face:

1) an increasing green-house gas problem
2) a limited and ever faster depleting stock of ever more expensive fossil fuels
3) no nuclear alternative for energy conversion
4) an incredibly complex and expensive nuclear waste problem, not solved by still closing the fuel cycle with new reactors
5) short-term electricity supply problems, both globally by ENGIE but also locally by Fluvius shutting down overproducing PVs
6) an impossible requirement to electrify both cars, houses, aircraft, factories, in short: the lot of it
7) a deficient electrical grid without reserved investment capital, with ELIA and Fluvius waking up rather late in the electrification process
8) the country side and the North Sea polluted with vast amounts of intermittent, unreliable, inefficient and non-recyclable wind turbines and solar panels
9) no long term solution for energy conversion required to support our society
10) exposure to geopolitical blackmail
11) a cash drain to France and later to other countries that do invest in nuclear energy conversion
12) the decision centre on our strategic energy policy abroad for the next decade
13) an non-transparant funding system (CRM is not exactly a dream)
14) a society, illiterate in even the most basic nuclear concepts, with a dogmatic hate for nuclear technology (but does like to sun bathe, and
would like to get prostate cancer treatment)
15) a lack of a proper education system for nuclear physicists and engineers, with the BNEN keeping up appearances by reluctantly teaching legacy technology
16) the myth that Belgium is still world class great in nuclear knowledge, even preventing cooperation with other European countries in fear of dissipating intellectual property rights

OMG. It’s about time to put some educated people in the driving seat.

For our definition of ‘expert’, see below.

(*) November 15, 2018 12h30 Aula L0024: lezing door Prof. R. Belmans: Wat als straks het licht uit gaat? – Alles wat u wil weten over de (mogelijke) energieschaarste in België en het bijhorende afschakelplan.


What is an ‘expert’?

An expert is smart, educated, experienced and independent.

A smart and educated person, however dependent, such as payed by someone, is not an expert. It’s a lobbyist.

A smart person, educated, but yet unexperienced, is a trainee. Should listen, work and not take decisions until experienced.

A smart person, however not educated, but ambitious, is a dangerous person to make decisions. That’s likely a politician. Should listen
to experts. Not to lobbyists or trainees.