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View Diary: Big Trouble In Arkansas w/Update (246 comments)

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  •  Even the high-dollar very tight (53+ / 0-)

    spec Naval reactors didn't turn out to be entirely foolproof. So now they're buying really expensive disposables, subs designed to last as long as the original core, then thrown away.

    Nothing powered by nuclear fission, fusion or decay is 100% safe. Nobody ever expected it to be. Deal with reactors is that boiling water is automatic if you can keep the reaction under control in the core. If you lose control of the reaction, you're in real trouble. It's difficult-to-impossible to regain control once it goes, and that happens fast. It takes mere seconds for the phase change from solid to liquid (molten) in a concentration of fuel. It takes much, much longer for molten core to solidify. Hell, the biggest corium flow at Chernobyl is still technically molten, and it's been nearly 30 years.

    Which is NOT suggesting in any way that Arkansas One - either unit - is melting or will melt. A lot of gnarl that can happen at a nuke is less drastic than a meltdown. Just another springtime wake-up call, I hope. And an oil pipeline. If God is trying again to make things clear to us, Arkansas is unlucky to be on the receiving end this time.

    •  What's the problem with fusion (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      Other than it's technical difficulty...

      In what was is fusion power 'unsafe'?

      •  It exists nowhere in net energy (6+ / 0-)

        form (more energy out than in). But it's a perennial favorite amongst science groupies, so they'll keep spending money on it.

        "Technical difficulties?" Get back to me when there's a commercial 'tron producer out there using this pipe dream non-technology.

        •  That doesn't sound like (0+ / 0-)

          a safety problem, does it?

          I'm a bit confused, though, is it your opinion that fusion will 'never' work? Do you think that the only technology that has merit is the technology that exists in commercial form today?

          Check out the funding profile for fusion compared to, say, NASA for the last several decades, and then get back to me on how they 'keep spending money' on it. Yeah, they do, at nowhere near the levels needed for success anytime soon.

          Fortunately, places like Korea and China don't share your limited view and are pushing forward with an aggressive program.

          •  It seems to me that there's adequate funding (2+ / 0-)
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            ozsea1, Joieau

            although much of the funding has been diverted to weapons research rather than energy production.

            1. National Ignition Facility at Livermore

            2. Laser Energetics at University of Rochester

            3. Krypton fluoride gas lasers at NRL

            4. Particle beams at Lawrence Berkley

            5. Pulsed magnetic fields at Sandia Labs (Z Machine)

            NIF recently completed a two year program that had a goal of achieving ignition. They failed but no one seems to know why. They estimate another year of study of the test results to find the answers that may explain the difference between theory and reality and the DOE is awaiting a report from the National Research Council on the prospects for future research.

            If someone could add what they know of magnetic confinement efforts I would appreciate it.


            Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

            by Just Bob on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 05:46:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Inertial fusion (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              is not likely to be realized as a power plant technology, it is primarily designed for bomb research.

              We're going to likely have to rely on magnetic confinement, which has been funded at about 1/3 the level predicted in 1976 as necessary to achieve its goals:


              And, since the article, funding has declined even further.

              Now, to be honest, I think even with full funding some of the problems facing the technology would still be outstanding, such as materials required for handling the power exhaust, but my guess is we would be a heck of a lot closer with at least one demonstration reactor already having been built.

              •  I have a couple of problems with that (3+ / 0-)
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                Jim P, Eyesbright, Joieau

                The goal of the NIF is fusion power and the underlying assumption of the book is "Nuclear power now and fusion power within a generation is an absolute requirement."


                Despite scientists' failure to achieve ignition at the massive laser fusion facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, inertial fusion energy (IFE) warrants continued research, concluded a committee of experts convened by the National Research Council. A report released on 20 February said that ignition of a fuel pellet at LLNL's National Ignition Facility (NIF) is "the minimum technical accomplishment that would give confidence that commercial IFE may be feasible." The panel predicted that it will likely be "significantly more than a year before the discrepancies between theory and experiment are fully understood and needed adjustments are made to optimize the performance of the target fuel capsules containing deuterium and tritium."

                Although ignition wasn't achieved at NIF during the two-year-long experimental campaign that ended 30 September 2012, the committee said that doesn't lessen the long-term technical prospects for IFE. It noted that none of the expert reviews of the ignition campaign had ruled out ignition at NIF, and that it would be a modest step from ignition at NIF to ignition on the scale required for IFE.

                Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

                by Just Bob on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 06:14:03 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's 'A' goal (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  goodpractice, Eyesbright

                  not 'the' goal, as the facility is primarily tasked (and funded) for bomb research. Most of the experimental runs are dedicated towards this as well.

                  Unofficially, I think the fusion energy mission was tacked on to sell the program to more people in government who might have balked at the stockpile stewardship mission, but that's just speculation. I think the energy goals have been dramatically oversold.

                  To give a sense of scale, to achieve economic energy the targets, now priced in the several thousand dollars each, need to be less than 50 cents, and fired 15 times a second instead of one every few days.

                  This means that when one target explodes, the laser beams have to track and shoot the next one before all the debris has cleared the reaction chamber.

                  Magnetic fusion has lots of technical issues, but they are a cakewalk compared to some of the issues facing inertial fusion energy production.

                  •  I'll concede "A" goal (1+ / 0-)
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                    but there was fusion energy research at Livermore long before the NIF so it wasn't just tacked on. They had a high level of expertise in the field.

                    Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

                    by Just Bob on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 06:51:57 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Of course (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Just Bob, Eyesbright

                      LLNL still has groups that are still involved in the magnetic fusion program, primarily spectroscopic diagnostics. Most of the large machines have been defunded and mothballed in the US but there is an active machine in San Diego, and one currently being upgraded in Princeton. There was a fairly significant facility at MIT that was just recently shut down because, once again, the domestic fusion budget was cut.

                  •  What about Polywell fusion. From what I heard (0+ / 0-)

                    it showed considerable promise, possibly even more than conventional Tokamak reactors.

                    You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

                    by Throw The Bums Out on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 07:16:01 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Generally considered (4+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Just Bob, Eyesbright, patbahn, orlbucfan

                      to be in the 'out there' category as in the physics just doesn't work out. Lots of supporters on the internet though.

                      In most of these alternate schemes, the Polywell and electrostatic confinement fusion, the losses just are too great to maintain the proper power balance needed for fusion energy production. It's not a technical/materials problem, nor a lack of understanding of the physics, it's that the the basic physics just don't support energy production.

                      Basically, in these devices, the accelerated tritium particles interact and fuse primarily with the background deuterium instead of the other accelerated particles. Thus, producing fusion in this way is no better than using an accelerator to fire tritium particles into a fixed target of deuterium. You can get fusion, just not net energy.

          •  Still, there's no such thing. Cold fusion, which (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is widely regarded as pure fantasy, has a better track record of producing "extra" than hot fusion. Just not reproducibly.

            But the fusion you are so passionate about... you could take all the research money that's already been spent, and which might possibly be spent in possible futures, on fusion and have an aggressive program for the Intrinsic Energies in place in, likely, a much shorter time, and with money left over. Obviating the hopeful imaginary future of fusion.

            Of course the problem with that is how would you guarantee a central utility controls, and profits, from the every bit of energy thus generated?

            If Republicans said every 3rd person named "Smith" should hang, we'd bargain them to every 7th. Then we'll see apologia written praising this most pragmatic compromise. There's our losing formula.

            by Jim P on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 07:33:32 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  It's fission. Its toxic waste is spent fuel rods. (12+ / 0-)

        There's nowhere safe to put it. We have megatons of it.
        I wish there were such a thing as cold fusion, some painless solution to energy needs. I think the sun's heat/light is thermonuclear fusion.

        "He went to Harvard, not Hogwarts." ~Wanda Sykes
        No representation without taxation. Rich and don't pay? Shut up.
        Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly.

        by OleHippieChick on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 04:23:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Depends on what reaction you're using, IIRC (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The easiest reaction to start & sustain (i.e., the one that ignites at the lowest "temperature" or speed of the plasma nuclei) is D-T, or deuterium-tritium--heavy hydrogen (1 proton + 1 neutron) and superheavy hydrogen (1 proton + 2 neutrons).

        Problem is, when they fuse into a helium nucleus, there's a neutron left over with a lot of kinetic energy. It takes a lot to stop a neutron, & whatever stops it (including power plant materials & human bodies) has probably absorbed it into a nucleus which then becomes radioactive.

        D-D or (best of all) p-Boron11 are much less neutron-intensive but also a lot harder to get going--& since we haven't even been able to sustain a controlled D-T reaction in well over half a century of trying...

        It is true though that (at least for electromagnetic confinement fusion) you're not looking at meltdowns or hydrogen explosions or the like--lose confinement or plasma heat & everything just shuts off.


        by Uncle Cosmo on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 04:33:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We haven't been able (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Uncle Cosmo, DavidMS

          to do a lot of things yet. Sustainable fusion actually could be achieved today, just not economically. It's already been accomplished at lower power density for hours at a time. However, scaling up to the levels required for power generation will require more work and likely some advancements in materials research.

          D-T fusion will likely be the initial fuel cycle, but activated materials are 'low level' radioactive waste, and quite easy to deal with. You pour concrete over the reactor when you're done, and in a couple of decades you don't have anything to worry about. Dealing with neutrons isn't hard, it's dealing with high level waste that is headache-inducing.

          People should be appropriately concerned about radiation, but they should also realize that radioactivity is used everywhere in our society. Heck, you have a radioactive source in your smoke alarms. The radioactivity used for medical procedures and biological research is often fairly 'active'.

      •  too many radio-isotopes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and too many good ways to have a transient

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