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Once again, Fuel For Thought is back, focusing again on nuclear power--but with a twist or two. Pebble bed reactors, nuclear industry smoke-and-mirrors, new power plant emission rules in the works in California, lots of excellent dKos energy diaries, and more--after the bump!


Pebble Bed Reactors: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Since the beginnings of the Atomic Age, there have been two competing designs for harnessing the power of nuclear fission. The one most people know today is based off a design used by the US Navy in their submarines--the fuel rod design. The main advantage of this design, as I see it, is that it is a relatively straightforward design. The disadvantages, however, are huge--namely, if exceptional attention is not paid to safety, a reactor can melt down, exposing a large area to a fantastic amount of radiation. The possibility of meltdown exists because fuel rods are very dense, meaning a reaction can continue even if carbon control rods are in full use.

The second type of reactor design has been getting more press as of late, especially as China gears up to build thousands of these reactors. This type is called a pebble bed reactor, and they solve the meltdown problem in a very ingenious way. Simply put, rather than dense fuel rods, the reactor core uses tiny pellets of uranium encased in a relatively thick shell of graphite. The reactor uses helium rather than water as a coolant, which means you don't have to worry about water contaminating the reactor core and you don't have to worry about expensive pressure containment. But the strongest point of the reactor is that, as the reactor core heats up, the graphite shells expand. At a certain point, the shells will expand so far that the neutrons which sustain the reaction can no longer strike uranium as well, causing the core temperature to drop. In short--and in theory--the reactor core cannot melt down.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, yes, as long as you accept the "in theory" caveat above. However, there are still quite a few problems:

  • Graphite burns. While the shells used in pebble bed reactors are supposed to be rated to temperatures of 1650 degrees Celsius--hotter than the reactor core should ever get--flaws in the shells could conceivably lead to a fire that can spread radiation. So far, manufacturing flawless graphite shells have eluded us. While using helium as the coolant should also help reduce the chances of fire, it is possible for the helium to escape, to be replaced with air--thus increasing the risk.

  • Since the graphite shells are the size of billiard balls, and since you have to dispose of the whole shell along with the encased pellet, you have more volume of waste, although--as a whole--it is less radioactive than use spent fuel rods. Still, unless the transport of both fresh fuel and waste is handled perfectly, accidents--and subsequent disasters--could happen.

  • Pebble bed reactors require constant handling of fuel, both to load fresh fuel and to remove spent pebbles. This introduces another point of failure in which fuel rod reactors actually have an advantage.

  • Finally, one of the pebble bed reactor's strengths can be a weakness here. Fuel rod reactor sites are gigantic and monolithic, which means that the distribution of fuel and removal of wastes is limited to select sites, and also that security concerns can be restricted to a specific site and the fuel/waste routes. In contrast, pebble bed reactors are meant to be small and modular--you could build just one to provide electricity to a large neighborhood or small town, and add more as needed. But the small size and scalability of pebble bed reactors means that there would be much more dispersal of both fuel and waste. In addition, having many more reactors means having many more security headaches.

That covers the Good and the Bad of pebble bed reactors. For the Ugly, read on....


Because a little outrage is good for your soul

From today's, calling BS on the energy industry's attempts at retaining dominance through nuclear power:

Nuclear power advocates are avoiding the transparent and market-friendly "X percent reductions by Y date" formula to hide the weakened position of their industry. The reason is simple. They cannot promise any reductions for at least a decade, perhaps longer. Nuclear power in the United States has been on the verge of collapse since the accident at Three Mile Island killed new construction. With aging reactors needing retirement, in the current regulatory environment the nuclear industry will soon have to shut down its heavily subsidized and privately lucrative power plants. Any new reactors built in the next 10 years would merely replace aging reactors, doing nothing to reduce our oil dependence. In essence, the industry is merely fighting to preserve its 20 percent share of the domestic electricity market.

To do that, the industry is employing a cynical 'bait-and-switch' campaign. Industry advocates are promising the safety, cost and oil-replacing potential of generation-after-next "pebble-bed" reactors, but these designs still need years of research and development. In the meantime, the nuclear industry is working with its congressional allies, like Sen. Domenici, to lift the restrictions on and deliver the subsidies for less-competitive, more expensive 1980s-era nuclear designs to merely replace 30 and 40-year old reactors. These subsidies will cost the taxpayer $8 billion. It's all smoke and mirrors.

In reality, we won't see pebble-bed reactors replacing oil for 20 years--which may be the Bush administration's goal. Oil companies are making record profits from high oil prices right now--profits that are possible only so long as America sees oil as a commodity worth fighting for. That requires continued dependence. Yet those companies also recognize that Asian economic growth will, within 20 years, drive oil prices through the roof, making alternatives unavoidable. It all adds up to a well orchestrated hand off from one powerful industry to another. Markets be damned.

There are better answers. Technology and design advances have opened up a new way to organize our energy grid that encourages high-quality energy and healthy markets. Right now, small natural gas turbines combined with better grid design can capture much of the wasted energy by distributing clean generating capacity closer to consumers. Instead of putting one massive power plant tens of miles from the customers and taking five years to build, 'distributed' micro-turbine power plants of any size can drop in incremental capacity onto the grid where it's needed when it's needed. Since they're affordable, they eliminate the need for market-corrupting and deficit-worsening subsidies.

The resulting vision is quite elegant. Build a new building or housing development, and you can put a clean new power source with it. And it's not only dependent on natural gas. Wind turbines already allow rural communities to buy a town-sized wind farm and make money when they sell excess power back to the grid. As solar cells become more efficient, middle-class homes and urban rooftops could be generating--and selling--their own electricity. If that were to happen, big centralized plants couldn't compete with a network of distributed power generators. David will have killed Goliath.

The nuclear industry wants to abort that vision of a clean, efficient and distributed energy future before it is born. With the help of George Bush and Pete Domenici, they might just succeed.


If you missed it the first time, look again

California Mulls New Rules For Power Plant Emissions:
Why little? Because I haven't seen anything about this in the mainstream. Why big? Because California is the largest state economy in the United States, and because they remain pioneers in environmental concern. So when the California Public Utilities Commission is looking into the best way to implement environmental regulations on the state's energy producers, while it's not the best the US can do, it's a step in the right direction--regardless of what Bush's oil buddies might think.


Other Kossacks speak up

Check them out:

2020 Vision (Part 1) by Devilstower: With currently available technology, we could cut our oil consumption by 75%. How? Plug-in hybrid cars. And your Prius can be converted to a plug-in model easy.

Budget Plan Will Raise Energy Costs in Northwest
by mtfriend: Bush's budget calls for Bonneville Power Administration to sell electricity at market rates, rather than wholesale. Gee, just what the economy needs--more bills.

Research and development budget near a 50 year low.
by Boppy: Bush cuts funding for scientific research--including energy research. Gee, thanks.

The Nuclear Option by dancecommander: Gee, that subject looks familiar. There's some great discussion in the comments, too.

A real energy plan for the future
by byoungbl: Tax breaks for those who consume renewable energy and more research for alternate energy sources could save the day.

Eurokos - not in US news... Headlines/Hostages/China&Energy
by Jerome a Paris: Great International news, with a regular feature on China's growing energy needs. This week: China embraces pebble bed reactors!

Eurokos - Special energy edition (w/poll)
also by Jerome a Paris: Apparently the Financial Times is discussing energy a lot lately. A lot.

Corporate Crime Update: ENRON (poll)
by skrymir: We know how slimy Enron was. Now it's starting to become mainstream, and many, including my own Senator Maria Cantwell, are demanding something be done. Why, what's wrong with letting an energy trader bilk consumers out of money while denying them power? Isn't that what capitalism is all about?

Global warming effects: comprehensive timetable revealed ...

...and 'How Mankind is Sleepwalking to the End of the Earth'
by Plutonium Page: Excellent articles on global warming, just in case you aren't convinced that global warming isn't a problem. (Plutonium Page has just regained the Wonkiest Diary Ever title, and then earned it again. That's just the way she is, bless her data-crazed heart!)

And, for the hell of it:

Webster's Dictionary adopts "Nucular" pronounciation
by sinistral: I can beat that--many wingnuts pronounce "global warming" as "hoax".

While this isn't technically an energy diary, SeattleLiberal's Nerd Network News includes an energy section. Your brain will feel three hat sizes bigger after reading it, guaranteed.


It Dares You To Make Sense Of It All

Solar Power Demand to Soar in Coming Years Thailand is expecting an increase in solar energy from 1% of the energy supply to 8% by 2011. And I'd be tickled if the US got to 1%.

CO2 gases may be buried at sea: Oil companies want tax credits from the British government to pump carbon dioxide into nearly spent oil and gas wells, thereby driving more oil and gas out of the well to be turned into... carbon dioxide. Wait a moment....

3rd World urged to act on environmentalism: A Nobel Peace Prize winner says that developing nations should not wait for the industrial nations to save the environment. I don't think I should have to wait, for that matter.

Many nations far from meeting Kyoto goals: Hard data in a rather hard-to-parse format, but it still remains rather grim reading.

Global warming: a threat to world security?
Look--the Christian Science Monitor cites the Daily Kos' own gfactor in pointing out Dr. Rajendra Pachauri's statement that the world's CO2 levels were already dangerously high. YOU GO G! Read more here.

Rural Communities Switching to Renewable Energy

'Clean Coal' A Myth Say Greens: A New Zealand article that points out that the US has spent $4 billion (US or NZ not clear) researching environmentally friendly ways to burn coal, and has yet to find anything useful.

Cleaner Fuel, Less Terrorism More talk on the neo-cons geo-greens embracing environmentalism as a way to get back at those filthy towelheads terrorists. I guess someone should've told their daddies not to give money to despotic regimes--oh, silly me! Someone had!

Originally posted to lilithvf1998 on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 04:44 PM PST.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Recommendations highly welcome (4.00)
    There's no doubt that Gannongate, Social Security, and Iraq are major issues. I fear, however, that if we do not drastically change energy policy soon, global warming will trump all these in a literally devastating way. If you agree, please hit "Recommend" and join the discussion. Thanks!

    DKOS user in Christian Science Monitor! Check it out!

    by lilithvf1998 on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 04:46:02 PM PST

  •  Tipped and recommended... (none)
    ... and I haven't even finished reading.

    Back shortly...

    Thinking dangerous thoughts in the birthplace of democracy

    by Athenian on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 05:12:44 PM PST

  •  Recommended and I have (4.00)
    commented and subscribed.

    Lil- I understood it.  I didn't think I would, and I did.  So I subscribed to you (and I don't subscribe to a whole lot).  Usually, science is over my head, but you have a great way of making complicated matters simple enough for those of us who kind of slid through high school science!


    We do not rent rooms to Republicans.

    by Mary Julia on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 05:23:11 PM PST

    •  I'm quite heartened by that! (none)
      I worry about oversimplifying vs. not simplifying enough, so I'm glad I got it just right!

      Besides, I'm sure that one or more people here would  jump in to correct me if I simplified too much.

      New Fuel For Thought: Pebble Bed Reactors--The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Read and discuss today!

      by lilithvf1998 on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 05:27:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This week's or next? (none)
      And are these really diaries or...?

      New Fuel For Thought: Pebble Bed Reactors--The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Read and discuss today!

      by lilithvf1998 on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 06:43:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, they were front page ... (none)
        ...pieces on Daily Kos in late 2003.
        •  How about this.... (none)
          Since I need a weekend to digest these pieces, I'll include them in next week's FFT, with a "blast from the past" caveat if/where needed. Sound good?

          BTW, since I know you write for Liberal Street Fighter--I haven't seen any new energy/environment pieces there since January. Is this an area where I might be able to help out?

          New Fuel For Thought: Pebble Bed Reactors--The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Read and discuss today!

          by lilithvf1998 on Fri Feb 11, 2005 at 11:20:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  My blogging has been constrained ... (none)
   family crises and trying to put my business back together, which is why you haven't seen anything of mine at LSF lately. But Joel Makeover has been doing some good stuff on environment there.

            As for including my pieces, add them if you like, whenever you like. I just thought that they offered a slightly different take than the good stuff you've already put into your Diary.

  •  Fourth generation nuclear power (none)
    Pebble bed reactors are the first fourth generation reactors that are beginning to spread their wings. IRIS reactors, closed cycle reactors and fast-spectrum reactors which should increase efficiencies are in the not too distant future.

    Venusforming (global warming/global climate change, call it what you will) is the greatest threat to life on earth, as we know it. Nuclear power has already kept megatons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. If the next generation can be safer and more efficient and we can solve the nasty security and storage issues (imagination required), then nuclear power deserves consideration.

    Nuclear fission is inherently inelegant and the first two generations (most will skip the third) are really clunky, just like the first steam engines. Just because the internal combustion engine was around the corner, did not mean that engineers should not have improved the steam engine.

    Nuclear fusion is where the future is but in the meantime wind, solar, hydro, wave, geo, bio and fourth generation nuclear energy should have a role in weaning us off of greenhouse gas-producing energy sources.

    BTW, thanks again for this diary. Well done and will subscribe.

    Thinking dangerous thoughts in the birthplace of democracy

    by Athenian on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 06:09:56 PM PST

  •  Hot desperate lesbian (none)
    I can't make heads or tails out of this diary. I'm going to the bar and ordering a Hot Desperate Lesbian drink.

    Wake up, Watson. The game is afoot! -- Sherlock Holmes. (The sig is changed in honor of the great work done by Kossacks in the Gannon-Plame investigation.)

    by Carnacki on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 07:01:33 PM PST

    •  Joke (none)
      That was a joke, by the way. I actually understood some of this. I'm learning, I tell ya.

      Wake up, Watson. The game is afoot! -- Sherlock Holmes. (The sig is changed in honor of the great work done by Kossacks in the Gannon-Plame investigation.)

      by Carnacki on Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 07:12:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  About the Nuclear Power Debate. (none)
    The nuclear power debate is not about oil.  Not yet, anyway.  Only a tiny percentage of electricity is produced with oil, and electricity is the only kind of energy that nuclear power produces.  There may be a day when nuclear power will drive electric cars.  There may be a day when commercial ships (hell, even a majority of military ships) are powered by nuclear power.  Right now, there is not a single nuclear powered commercial ship operating in the entire world and the number of purely electric cars on the road in the world is only marginally greater than there were before the Model T established the dominance of the oil derivative power internal combustion engine.  Nuclear power plants are not going to do a thing to improve U.S. energy independence in the short term.  Indeed, they may reduce U.S. energy independence, because the fuels that power existing power plants come from places like the United States and Canada that are politically stable, while uranium comples from places like Nigeria and the Congo, which are not.

    So, what is nuclear power competing with?  The number one method of producing electricity in the United States is the coal fired power plant.  Nuclear power makes up maybe 20%.  Hydroelectric power makes up maybe 10%.  Other renewables (wind and solar and geothermal and biomass) make 1-2% tops (oil makes up a similar precentage) and natural gas makes up a small percentage.

    This said, the strongest reason to use nuclear power, despite its issues with nuclear waste disposal, is because coal has so many problems.  Coal is overwhelmingly what nuclear power would replace.

    Pollution and industrial accidents from coal kill 37 people for every one person per equivalent amount of power generated who has been killed by the nuclear power industry.  Per the same unit of power generated, natural gas has killed 2 people.  Every year, hundreds of people die in coal mine accidents and railroad collisions, and far more pollution related deaths occur.  A majority of all railroad freight in the United States is coal - a 1,000 megawatt coal fired power plant needs 2,000 cars of coal a year to keep running, a nuclear power plant needds less than 1 train car of nuclear fuel to run a plant of the same size for the same time period.

    A 1,000 Megawatt coal powered power plant generates 500,000 tons a year of waste.  A comparable natural gas power plant generates 200,000 tons a year of waste.  A comparable nuclear power plant generates 800 tons of low level nuclear waste (e.g. gloves that were exposed to radiation) and 30 tons of high level nuclear waste.

    Air pollution from coal kills 3,000,000 people every single year worldwide.  The estimate for the United States is 15,000 deaths per year from coal pollution.  It is estimated that the number of deaths caused by the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine is on the order of several thousand.

    Coal waste is not nice stuff.  A 1,000 Megawatt coal plant waste includes an average of 74 pounds of uranium per year.  Sulfur and nitrogen oxides in coal pollution cause acid rain.  Coal fired plants produce green house gases.  Coal wastes also include toxic levels of arsenic, mercury, cadmium, selenium, lead and boron, as well as other metals.  Most coal in the U.S. is mined with incredibly environmentally destructive strip mining techniques.  And, there is quite little control of the wastes generated by the coal industry.  These wastes will also last thousands of years.

    Coal is heavily subsidized because it doesn't have to pay for the environmental and public health havoc which it causes.  In the nuclear power industry there has been an intense effort to prevent pollution or accidents, and this has been largely successful.  The number of people who have been killed from nuclear power accidents or pollution in the United States number in the dozens.  The number of people killed every year by coal number more than 15,000.  If coal had to meet nuclear power's safety level it would be extremely expensive.  We could have three Chernobyl disasters a year in the United States and it would still kill fewer people than coal does now.

    Yet, while 4th generation pebble generators may be in the distant future for the average person, current industry standards for nuclear power plant design are still significantly improved from what they were when the reactors now in place were built, because the rest of the world has used nuclear power much more heavily than the U.S. in the past two decades and we can benefit from that knowledge.  The question is not, can nuclear power be made absolutely safe, but can nuclear power be made safer than the alternatives.  The answer is that I think I can be made safer than the alternatives, indeed, much safer.

    •  Great essay on coal vs nuclear (none)
      I don't have much to add, but this sentence caught my eye:

      A 1,000 Megawatt coal plant waste includes an average of 74 pounds of uranium per year.

      So you are saying there is actual uranium in the waste? Was it in the coal to start? Is it released into the atmosphere when you burn the coal? And is it extractable now?

      If I am not misunderstanding you, and if you can give answers to some of my questions, then we have a major issue that might well dwarf any worries of meltdown--after all, it's one thing to have radioactive gasses, and another to risk breathing particles of raw uranium.

      Thanks in advance!

      New Fuel For Thought: Pebble Bed Reactors--The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Read and discuss today!

      by lilithvf1998 on Fri Feb 11, 2005 at 11:18:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Depends on the coal (none)
        Western coal, especially from Western Colorado and the Book Cliffs Field edging into Utah, contains some uranium salts.  When the coal is processed and burned, this uranium is released into the environment.  The 74lb number, though frequently cited, is really toward the upper limit, not an average.  

        The uranium was post depositional, from solution deposits.  For the same reason, dinosaur bones from the Morrison Formation in Colorado and Wyoming are often radioactive enough to be found via Geiger counter.

        TwoTaboos -- Politics and Religion.

        by Mark Sumner on Tue Feb 15, 2005 at 10:40:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Mine safety statistics (none)
      Just a quick note:

      MSHA lists the coal mining deaths in the United States during 2002 as 67, and its been going down year over year for some time.  Most of those "hundreds of deaths" come in China and Russia, who seem to have a thing for sending people underground with no safety concerns (or ventilation, for that matter).  There are also many, many more people in the coal industry than in nuclear.  I'm not certain that one would beat out the other on incidents per man hour.  Per man hour worked, the coal industry has been safer than many others for decades.  being a truck driver, or a taxi driver, carries a much higher incidence of mortality than being a coal miner.  So does being a timber worker, policeman, or a cashier at your local 7/11.  

      Even a general construction worker carries a higher chance of mortality than a coal miner.

      TwoTaboos -- Politics and Religion.

      by Mark Sumner on Tue Feb 15, 2005 at 10:48:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

     at NORTH ANNA

    Thursday, February 17, 2005, 6:00 pm
    Louisa County Middle School
    1009 Davis Highway
    Mineral, VA

    This rally precedes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) hearing scheduled for 7:00 pm concerning a site permit for two new reactors at North Anna nuclear power station in Louisa County in Central VA. This is the first new licensing application for a nuclear power plant since the Three MileIsland accident.  The Bush administration wants 50 new nukes on line by

    We need a large turnout on this winter night to send a message that we don't want more nukes when safety and waste issues remain unresolved. Taxpayer dollars should not be wasted on an expensive and dangerous technology which no private insurance company would agree to insure against major accident.
    Renewable energies and conservation continue to be ignored while the nuclear industry pushes to have itself included in so called green credits (another government subsidy) as a nonpolluting energy source.

    The Bush administration and the NRC have streamlined the permitting process for new nukes.  The NRC staff has recommended that the Early Site Permit(ESP) be issued to Dominion to allow it to build two new nuclear reactors at North Anna. The ESP allows Dominion to bank the site for 20 years without further public comment on the environmental suitability of the site. This hearing is one of the few opportunities for public input.  We want to send a resounding "NO" to NRC chair Nils J. Diaz & to Dominion CEO Thomas Capps.

    If you cannot attend the hearing, send written comments to Chief, Rules and Directives Branch, Division of Administrative Services, Office of
    Administration, Mailstop T-6D59, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission,Washington, D.C.22055-0001, or email (no later than March 1) to

    One can also sign a letter to the NRC against new nukes at North Anna at

    Directions from Richmond:  Take I64 W to Rte. 522 exit.  Take Rte. 522 to Mineral.  Turn left on Routes 208/22 toward Louisa.  The High School/ Middle School/Library complex will be on the left approx. 2-3 miles from Mineral.

    Directions from Charlottesville:  Take 64 E to Rte. 208. Take Rte. 208 into Louisa where it merges with Rte. 22.  Follow 208/22 toward Mineral. The High School/Middle School/ Library complex will be on the right.

    Carpools are meeting a 5 p.m. at the Albemarle County Office Building rear parking lot -- near the baseball field.

    This message comes from the People's Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE).  For additional information, please call (434) 409-6392 or visit or

    I may be thinking about taking the Bus, but I'm not taking the Omnibus, no sir, thanks, I'll walk.

    by emmasnacker on Fri Feb 11, 2005 at 06:58:10 AM PST

  •  For all the learned discussion (none)
    on how ok nukes are, the handling of the waste question continues to be sooooo BushCo. Until somebody has that contained, disposed of, or otherwise dealt with and solved, I have to continue to ask,
    What are you going to do with the waste?
    What are you going to do with the waste?
    What are you going to do with the waste?

    Perhaps a new breakfast cereal for the kiddies? Only have to have breakfast half the time?

    I may be thinking about taking the Bus, but I'm not taking the Omnibus, no sir, thanks, I'll walk.

    by emmasnacker on Fri Feb 11, 2005 at 07:05:00 AM PST

    •  VERY valid question there! (none)
      Last week I asked for more information from a reader who mentioned containing waste in ceramic but have yet to hear anything more substantial. (If anyone has solid research here, please let us know!)

      Trust me, I am not saying nuclear power is "OK"--I have a lot of concerns and caveats that must be addressed before I'd consent to new nuclear reactors. I do, however, believe that nuclear power can be safe and environmentally friendly, if done right.

      And burying it under Yucca Mountain isn't necessarily doing it right, FWIW.

      New Fuel For Thought: Pebble Bed Reactors--The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Read and discuss today!

      by lilithvf1998 on Fri Feb 11, 2005 at 10:24:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ceramics is interesting (none)
        After all, there have been some pretty ancient pots dug up. But mostly shards. Did they break before or after they were buried? Human action, or force of nature underground? They best be working on super ceramic for that. I will keep google-eye out for
        info.  It would be so fine for the problems to be solved. But I think it's just one of those things that are stronger than Humans at this point. And with the admin so anti science, things may get real bad. Trend seems to be get the long term, open ended license in place, and everything else be damned. Big Oil is the same as Big Nuke. We need not to lose sight of that one.

        I may be thinking about taking the Bus, but I'm not taking the Omnibus, no sir, thanks, I'll walk.

        by emmasnacker on Fri Feb 11, 2005 at 12:37:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Super-ceramics (none)
          Actually, there has been a lot of work into ceramics in the past few decades, to make them extremely strong, resistant to heat, etc. They've been used in applications ranging from the Space Shuttle's heat shield to armor plating. The Wikipedia has a great article on the subject. So I can see worthwhile nuclear waste containers being built from ceramics, perhaps in conjunction with other materials to help prevent leaks--say, maybe ceramic and metal layers alternating, as ceramics are strong under compression but do not handle shear well and vice versa.

          But I agree, it does not serve us well for the status quo to be maintained, even if all they do is swap one type of fuel for another. Alternatives need to be developed--as I pointed out in the first FFT, there is no one ideal energy source, so we need as many alternatives as we can.

          New Fuel For Thought: Pebble Bed Reactors--The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Read and discuss today!

          by lilithvf1998 on Fri Feb 11, 2005 at 01:02:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Very sorry I missed this (none)
    It slipped by me when it was still "recommendable," otherwise I'd have hit the button ten times.  A wealth of information.

    You don't mind if I steal heavily from you in my next post on energy, hmmm?

    Seriously -- good diary.

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