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PostPosted: Dec 21, 2011 11:24 am 
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I know this is not directly related to thorium, but since China may prove to be the place where the technology is first implemented I had a question about the current difference in the rate of completion of major construction projects in China versus the West.

As far as I can tell these are the current estimates for three EPR construction projects:

Olkiluoto 3 - First concrete Aug 2005, begin operation in Aug 2014
Flamanville 3 - First concrete in Dec 2007 begin operation in 2016
Taishan 1 - First concrete Oct 2009, begin operation in 2013

This is pretty stark. I know that Olkiluoto is a FOAK project. But, that explanation is a bit strained for Flamanville (Taishan is actually ahead of Flamanville at this point, although started 2 years later).

The question is why. Is it that the Chinese are doing bad things (cutting corners on safety/quality) or good things (not wasting time) or some combination? I don't know if anyone here can really answer this question, but it seems important to understand.


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PostPosted: Dec 21, 2011 11:31 am 
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Haven't both Olkiluoto and Flamanville had trouble with the concrete laying, which I suspect is an early step and expensive and time consuming to rectify. The Chinese may have learnt from this.

I suspect also Olkiluoto needs quite a few changes as things don't quite fit where they were meant to. Then every change needs to be approved by the regulators. Then the contractors blame the regulators who blame Arreva who blame the contractors and they all have to figure out who's to blame.


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PostPosted: Dec 21, 2011 12:28 pm 
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It is very complicated. The Chinese license and inspection system is complicated but much more focused on pragmatism. The focus is to get it done as soon as possible. The Western license and inspection system is focused on the letter of the law, and also has various preset terms for all sorts of bureaucratic oversight, second opinion, etc.

If there are construction flaws on a Chinese nuclear project, they get clever people, who actually know a lot about constructing things, together to solve it as soon as possible. If there are construction flaws in a Western project, first the lawyers are pulled out of the magic box to point the finger of blame and see who's gonna get nailed for this.

The Chinese have superiour attitude. Similar to what the French did; they put the people who know a lot about engineering, construction, and big projects management, in charge. In the West we put the laywers, social and political people in charge, and allow every little shortcoming to delay projects for very long times. The Chinese need and want nuclear powerplants, and understand that they do. We in the West don't want nuclear powerplants, and we don't yet understand that we need them.

What also plays a role is the huge energy demand growth in China. In the West, powerful fossil fuel lobbies work against nuclear growth. In China, that is a luxury they can't afford - they need all the energy they can get, even silly wind turbines.


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PostPosted: Dec 21, 2011 2:14 pm 
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alexterrell wrote:
Haven't both Olkiluoto and Flamanville had trouble with the concrete laying, which I suspect is an early step and expensive and time consuming to rectify. The Chinese may have learnt from this.

I suspect also Olkiluoto needs quite a few changes as things don't quite fit where they were meant to. Then every change needs to be approved by the regulators. Then the contractors blame the regulators who blame Arreva who blame the contractors and they all have to figure out who's to blame.


I've heard all of those things as well. Which is another way of saying option 2) they are not wasting time.


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PostPosted: Dec 21, 2011 2:23 pm 
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Cyril R wrote:
Similar to what the French did; they put the people who know a lot about engineering, construction, and big projects management, in charge.


But, that does point out that it wasn't always this way. What has changed about France? 58 reactors in 20 years versus 20 years for 1 reactor. (I've pointed this out in other places ... it would be interesting to have an inside opinion, i.e. a French engineer whose career spans this period). Have we simply become risk-averse? To to the point of paralysis?

Another idea I've suggested is that simply because so many major construction projects are ongoing in China, that at the moment, they just have a lot more people who know how to pour concrete (or I should say, manage and complete a major construction project). Some friends of mine dismiss this and ascribe all the difference to the regulatory approach, which I think is your main point.

I certainly hope for their and everyone's sake that they are not doing a sloppy job in China, that would lead to a major problem. Although perhaps current designs are actually so over-designed, that they can actually tolerate some degree of sloppiness ... well, I don't like that thought either.

All of this is speculation on my part. I don't have any hard facts or studies to point to. But, the difference right now is simply amazing. A couple of weeks ago they were putting the dome on Taishan 1's containment, while 2 years of construction time later Flamanville is probably 6 months or more away. Areva put out a little video showing the timeline and construction phases of the three projects, and you really notice the difference.


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PostPosted: Dec 21, 2011 7:56 pm 
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After building their big 3 gorges dam, I am sure they have a lot of recent concrete expertise.


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PostPosted: Dec 24, 2011 9:13 am 
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Motivation is kind of unique in China. If you screw up bad, you get killed and fed to chickens.


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PostPosted: Dec 24, 2011 2:22 pm 
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rihoughton wrote:
Motivation is kind of unique in China. If you screw up bad, you get killed and fed to chickens.


I hear that as well. It's funny, but is it really the answer? A constant, never-ending, and fairly effective complaint against nuclear in the West is the cost. If it ends up costing half or a third in China, I think it would be useful to really understand why. Maybe, we will get some more information now that Vogtle is going ahead. They have been out in China conferring with Westinghouse and Shaw and Chinese officials as they build the reactors at Sanmen and Haiyang. I haven't read anything about a lack of attention to safety (although maybe that would not be so public). If they can't do this as fast or faster than the Chinese, who are sharing the issues that have arisen during their construction, it should be possible to understand why and perhaps address the reasons. Maybe it is nothing more interesting than doing things over due to poor regulation or ?? But, it is certainly frustrating if you want to see nuclear take off in America.


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PostPosted: Dec 24, 2011 2:44 pm 
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I don't know about Chinese nuclear power but in high speed rail they have had fatal accidents due to construction problems. In cell phones, they pushed ahead with less engineering and testing than we do in the west and later found lots of problems with their system. While I think we have gone overboard with regulations I hope the Chinese do not under-emphasize quality either in the build or the design.


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PostPosted: Dec 28, 2011 8:51 am 
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I also hope they don't underemphasize quality. I would like to learn if that is the case, but don't know how you would come by that information.

They did have a high-speed rail accident, so they will fix the problem. I don't want to sound too cavalier, but if you decide that no one can ever be injured or killed developing new technology, you won't have any.


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PostPosted: Dec 28, 2011 9:01 am 
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Here is an article that discusses briefly the high-speed train crash in June. The lead of the article though is the development of a carbon-composite train that is designed for travel at 500 km/hr. Apparently the train crash did lead to severe criticism of the government and the article mentions that it was likely a signaling problem...although the official government report has not been issued.

Again, I don't think we want to kill people, but there is such a thing as being too risk-averse.


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PostPosted: Dec 28, 2011 9:02 am 
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Forgot the link:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/12/test-h ... .html#more


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