Skip to main content

The past two weeks we have been looking about current nuclear technology for power production.  Almost all of the plants currently in commercial production are the so called Generation II and Generation III plants, and the most advanced ones are sometimes called Generation III+.  This evening we shall examine nuclear technologies that are not yet used for commercial production.

These designs are called Generation IV plants, and may either be prototypes or merely designs that have not yet even had a prototype built, but appear to be feasible to come on line commercially by 2030 or so, give or take.  There is also a Generation V set of concepts, but they are much further out as far as construction of even a prototype in concerned, and we shall not consider them here.

Before we get going on that, the situation in Japan has continued to be bad.  Two workers have been found dead, presumably killed by the tsunami and not by radiation exposure.  One of the concrete retaining walls has a huge hole in it, allowing highly radioactive water to escape into the Pacific Ocean, presumably caused by the earthquake itself.  Some recent reports also suggest that localized critical events are occurring, as evidenced by flashed of a bluish light around the containment building.  This is particularly grave, because extremely high fluxes of gamma rays and neutrons that are produced during those events.

I do not mean this to be a comprehensive account of the events in Japan, and there are a couple of blogs already that do a much more complete job of that coverage.  I do mention it because of the impact that this terrible situation may have on the future of nuclear power, most likely delaying the startup of all planned plants, and also the construction of Generation IV plants.  This is unfortunate, because Generation IV plants, at least several designs of them, would have made the situation seen in Japan much less likely.

Generation III plants have three serious problems.  The first is the requirement that a high pressure vessel (a single forging by the way, no welds or rivets except for the access cover) be used to house the core of the reactor due to the extremely high pressure of the steam produced by the water that acts as moderator, coolant, and working fluid.

The second is the problem of highly radioactive actinides (covered last time) in spent fuel rods.  It is, for the most part, these isotopes that are responsible for the high radiation density and long hazardous lifetime of spent fuel.

Third is the requirement that water be pumped continuously through the reactor core to prevent overheating.  Most of the problems in Japan are due to the failure of the circulation system due the the Diesel engines that were supposed to run the backup generators to supply electricity becoming hydrolocked due the the tsunami.

Many Generation IV reactor designs address one of more of these fundamental problems.

The most well established design is the Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR), which is actually a Generation IV derivative of the Generation III High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR).  The concept goes back almost as far as Fermi's very first nuclear reactor.  This is a graphite moderated unit, essentially a requirement because only graphite combines the temperature robustness and moderating capacity required.  In this design, the coolant/working fluid is circulated at near atmospheric pressure through cavities in the moderator.

The coolant/working fluid most often used is helium, but molten inorganic salts can also be used.  The helium cooled ones are designed to operate such that the helium is released at around 1,000 degrees C, whilst the molten salt ones operate at around 1,500 degrees C or so.  One major advantage is that the coolant/working fluid is pretty much at atmospheric pressure, so that an explosion from failure of the coolant containment system is not possible is it is with water cooled reactors.

Another major advantage is that the high temperatures make the production of hydrogen from water, though a rather elaborate stepwise process, possible.  Water cooled reactors do not get the working fluid hot enough to drive this reaction.  This allows the same reactor both to produce electricity and hydrogen for use in internal combustion engines.  If you are a long time reader of this series you will recall that I debunked the hydrogen economy a couple of years ago by pointing out that most commercial hydrogen today is actually produced from fossil fuels, with carbon dioxide the major waste product.  The thermal production of hydrogen from water is more efficient than electrolysis, so could be a real competitive advantage.

The fuel most often mentioned for this type of reactor is either enriched uranium dioxide (or carbide) or MOX (mixed uranium and plutonium oxides) in the form of TRISO pellets, very small beads with fuel in the center, a layer of porous carbon next (to absorb gaseous fission products), then a layer of hard carbon, a layer of silicon carbide, and finally another layer of hard carbon.  These beads are extremely robust and extremely high melting, such that failure of coolant will not cause them to deform and release the actinides and fission products contained therein.  This is huge advancement over the current fuel rod design.

The beads can be used in two different ways.  In one configuration they are loaded into zirconium alloy fuel rods, much as uranium oxide pellets are loaded in Generation III units.  These fuel rods are inserted in a similar manner, and control rods are used much like Generation III reactors.  In the other configuration, the TRISO beads are bonded in hard graphite into spheres a little bigger than a golf ball.  These "pebbles" are simply poured onto a bid of the proper geometry and become critical.  In addition, there is a neutron reflector surrounding the bin that reduces the amount of pebbles needed to maintain criticality, and in most designs the control rods are integrated into the reflector.

This design, called the pebble bed configuration, is very much safer than current Generation III designs.  As a matter of fact, in a prototype model, the core was filled, helium flow started, and the control rods removed until the unit came up to full power.  Then the flow of helium was stopped.  The reactor acutally cooled down, because of Doppler broadening of the neutron flux.  Basically, this results from the thermal energy NOT being removed from the reactor core, causing some of the neutrons to speed up and so be less apt to induce fission in the uranium-235 fuel.  Fast neutrons, however, are apt to be absorbed by uranium-238, which does not result in fission, but rather, ultimately the production of plutonium-239.  This throttles back the heat output of the reactor, making this design much safer than water cooled reactors.  I do not like the term inherently safe, because nothing designed by humans is perfect, but this is a much safer design than Generation III reactors.

The major disadvantage of the VHTR designs is that the nuclear fuel is designed for a single pass, meaning that, like conventional Generation III reactors once the fuel in the TRISO pellets is used, they are no longer useful and must be put into long term storage, a real problem with current reactors.

Another type of thermal neutron reactor is the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), and these have already been prototyped.  In these reactors, the fuel (generally uranium-233 for some important technical reasons) is dissolved as uranium tetrafluoride in lighter inorganic fluorides, such as lithium fluoride.  At startup, the salts have to have outside heating until they melt, but then can be pumped at low pressure into a graphite moderator chamber, where the thermalization of neutrons cause the fuel to go critical, thus producing its own heat.  Since they are under low pressure, they can be made rather small and light as well.  As a matter of fact, the DoD looked at them in the 1950s as a potential power source for aircraft, but that did not pan out very well.

In addition to being under little pressure, MSRs can be used as slow breeder reactors, producing more fuel than they consume.  It turns out thorium-232, the most common isotope of thorium, and be converted to uranium-233 by thermal neutrons.  In contrast, uranium-238 is converted to plutonium-239 by fast neutrons, making fast breeder reactions more problematic, because of the relative difficulty in controlling fast neutrons.  In a MSR, the thorium can be added to the fuel, or used as a "blanket" around the reactor core.  The latter has some advantage, because not only are neutrons that are normally "wasted" used to produce more fuel, the thorium blanket provides significant neutron shielding for personnel and other plant materials.

However, they are not as simple as the pebble bed reactors described earlier.  Molten fluoride salts are rather treacherous, and water and fluorides do not play well together.  In addition, exotic alloys have to be used to resist the corrosive nature of the molten fluoride salts.  There is one significant advantage, though:  the amounts of long half life products is much, much lower than those produced by Generation III reactors and the VHTRs described earlier.  Thus, spent fuel would need special storage only for hundreds of years, in contrast to many thousands of years for conventional spent nuclear fuel.  Besides producing more fuel than they consume, the reduction in long half life products make this a very viable candidate.  In common with VHTRs, it is thought that MSRs can be operated at high enough temperatures to produce hydrogen, another advantage.

Another type of Generation IV is the Supercritical Water Reactor, SWCR.  I am extremely dubious of this technology.  One of the problems with Generation III reactors is the high pressures in the core, and supercritical water is both very hot and under very high pressure.  A supercritical fluid is a fluid that has been subjected to a temperature that is above its boiling point at a pressure that prevents boiling.  For water, those parameters are 374 degrees C (not that extreme), and 218 atmospheres (THAT is pretty extreme, around 3200 psi, much like that in a compressed oxygen cylinder).  These are minimum values, so they can go higher.  The efficiency of SCWRs should be higher than subcritical ones, because of higher temperatures, although not nearly as hot the reactors mentioned above.  Supercritical "boilers" are already being used in the fossil fuel power generation business, but the technology is much easier to apply when heat is the only hazard.

I used to "own" a supercritical water oxidation unit when I worked for the Army, intended to be used to destroy old or off specification smoke chemical compositions.  From experience, I know that it is not easy to keep those conditions under control, and this was not even considering intense neutron bombardment of the high pressure components.  Considering the problems with high pressures in Generation III reactors, I believe that SCWRs are not viable at present.  Supercritical water is a strange beast anyway, with properties quite unlike ordinary water.  For example, where in ordinary water materials like salt is quite soluble and things like oil are insoluble, the reverse is the case with suprcritical water.  Whilst MSRs have their technological challenges, the challenges for SCWRs are much more daunting, in my opinion.

One advantage that they do have over Generation III reactors, at least in concept, is that they are not moderated as much, due to the lower density of supercritical water as opposed to liquid water, producing more fast neutrons.  Those neutrons can convert uranium-238 into plutonium-239, making them breeder reactors.  In addition, those fast neutrons also reduce the amount of long lived products in spent fuel.  Still, I am quite dubious of this concept.

Thus far, we have concerned ourselves with thermal neutron (or predominately thermal) reactors.  The other major kind are fast neutron reactors, where no moderator is used.  I actually saw a prototype of one of them in person, SEFOR in northwest Arkansas.

This was one of the first Sodium Cooled Fast Reactors (SCFRs), and, as its name indicates, uses sodium metal as the coolant.  Right there some warning bells should go off, loudly.  I mentioned before that fluoride salts do not play well with water, and metallic sodium plays even worse with it.  If you saw the episode of Mythbusters where they tried to blow up the toilet with sodium you know what I mean.  The purpose of fast neutron reactors is to produce power and to breed uranium-238 into plutonium-239.  Thus, like other breeder reactors, they produce more fuel than they consume.  There are some technical challenges, but one real advantage is that the coolant is under low pressure, just about atmospheric, because sodium does not need high pressure to keep from boiling like water does, making this design safer from a pressure standpoint.

In common with some of the other reactors previously mentioned, this design destroys much of the long lived products in the fuel after fission, and as I said a minute ago, actually uses them as part of the energy output from the plant.  However, I believe that LSR's are more practical since thorium-232 is more abundant than uranium-238.  With that said, this is known technology, for the most part, and the engineering is in many respects easier than that required for SCWRs.  Another disadvantage is that the output temperature, at least with current designs, is not quite high enough to convert water to hydrogen efficiently.

Another fast neutron design is the Lead Cooled Fast Reactor (LCFR).  In this design, lead (or better, the eutectic mixture of lead and bismuth, for reasons to be made clear later) is the coolant/working fluid.  It is a closed loop, low pressure design and the metallic working fluid boils water in a heat exchanger, just like a sodium cooled one.  This design, or an earlier version of it, has actually been used by the Soviet Union for submarines, so the concept is proven.  In addition, they are smaller and simpler than water cooled reactors.  The fuel is similar to that for other fast breeder reactors, and likewise the long half life products are largely destroyed by the fast neutrons, being used as fuel.  This may be a real candidate for many uses, particularly since being a breeder, the fuel lasts for decades rather than years, and the problem with long term storage of the finally spent fuel is reduced.

Another advantage is that the molten metal circulates by convection, not by pumps, so in case of a power failure, coolant supply is not interrupted.  Yet another one is that the metallic coolant is not water reactive, so no explosion hazard exists should it come into contact with water as is the case with sodium cooled reactors.  Finally, if something happens and a leak develops, control rods can be inserted to slow down the reaction.  Then the coolant solidifies, stopping any leak.  This is a double edged sword, since the reactor is essentially locked up then.  However, the lead/bismuth eutectic melts at about 124 degrees C, so relatively minor outside heat (or careful withdrawal of the control rods) can reliquify the coolant, rendering the reactor operable again.  One disadvantage is that current designs output only temperatures of around 550 degrees C, making hydrogen production unfeasible.  However, it may be possible to increase those temperatures.

The last type of fast neutron reactor that I intend to discuss is the Gas Cooled Fast Reactor (GCFR).  These are quite similar in concept to the VHTR described earlier, except there is no moderator.  This makes using carbon coated fuel beads impractical, since the carbon is the moderator.  New fuel pellet designs are being developed, and this type of reactor shows great promise, but it a little further out in the timeline than the other two fast neutron ones.  Since it is also a low pressure core design, and most designs use helium as the coolant/working fluid, no pumps are necessary since convection supplies the coolant movement.  I believe that this will be the fast neutron reactor of choice in future.  It has all of the advantages of other fast neutron reactors, including long fuel life, shorter half life of fuel that is finally spent, and nothing explosive or water reactive in it.

Those are some of the designs coming up in the near future.  There others, and variations of these themes.  I like the breeders in the long term, but for the short term the pebble bed once through fuel use is likely the most practical for power production in the nearer term.

Well, you have done it again!  You have wasted many einsteins of perfectly good photons reading this "hot" material.  And even though Terry Jones (NOT the Python one) regrets burning that book and all of the blood on his hands when he reads me say it, I always learn much more than I could ever possibly hope to teach by writing this series, so keep those comments, questions, corrections (especially), and other feedback coming.  Remember, no scientific or technical subject is off topic here.  I shall remain as long as comments warrant tonight, and shall return around 9:00 PM tomorrow evening for Review Time.

Warmest regards,

Doc

Originally posted to Nuclear dkos on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 06:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tips and recs for (24+ / 0-)

    the last installment in this series?

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

    by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 05:55:32 PM PDT

    •  I don't care "how likely" the next one will be... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      palantir, matador

                NO NUKES.  Using nukes is INSANE!

      Iodine & caesium are both readily absorbed by the body.
      These two isotopes caused & to this day are still causing the majority of cancers in the Chernobyl explosion.

      Iodine 131 causes Thyroid cancer which is treated by removing the thyroid gland and putting the patient on thyroid replacing hormone treatment for the rest of their life. The scar from the thyroid removal surgery is called the Chernobyl Necklace in the regions surrounding Chernobyl.

      Caesium is not able to be distinguished from potassium by the body & is readily absorbed. Strontium is also absorbed by the body which confuses it for calcium.

      Cesium's Genetic Assault: the 300 Years War
      Cesium-137 contamination
      is probably Chernobyl's most devastating and ominous consequence.

      The body can't distinguish cesium from potassium, so it's taken up by our cells and becomes an internal source of radiation.

      Cesium-137 is a gamma emitter and its half-life of 30 years means that it stays in the soil, to concentrate in the food chain, for over 300 years.

      While iodine-131 remains radioactive for six weeks, cesium-137 stays in the body for decades, concentrating in muscle where it irradiates muscle cells and nearby organs.[16]

      Strontium-90 is also long-lived and, because it resembles calcium, is permanently incorporated into bone tissue where it may lead to leukemia.

      The Soviets acknowledged in 1986 that the influence of cesium-137 on cancer death rates would be nine times that of iodine-131.

      They said that the effects of strontium-90 would "perhaps have, along with cesium-137, the most important meaning."[17]
      From http://www.ratical.org/...

      •  I did not really advocate the use of (9+ / 0-)

        nuclear energy in any installment of this series, but I am enough of a realist to recognize that it is just about essential to utilize it as a stopgap until truly sustainable energy sources are developed.  The only alternative is to lower standard of living significantly.

        In my scientific opinion, I believe that sensible utilization of Generation IV devices, in particular the ones that are inherently less hazardous than the current Generation II and III designs now in use.  Does that mean that nuclear energy is "perfectly safe"?  Of course not!  Look at the alternatives, however.  Over 50% of electricity in the United States is generated by burning coal, one of the most damaging materials from and environmental standpoint that exists.  I would be willing to bet that coal has caused many more deaths, directly and indirectly, than has nuclear energy.

        Please keep an open mind.  Once again, I do not think that fission is a permanent solution, but what do we do in the interim?

        Warmest regards,

        Doc

        Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

        by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 06:51:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am in strong agreement. (7+ / 0-)

          I have long been an advocate of renewable energy and feel that we must move our energy economy to renewable sources as quickly as we can.  Unfortunately I'm convinced that we can't do that fast enough to reverse or even slow global climate change.  

          If the first priority is to stop the use of fossil fuels, then nuclear needs to be part of the plan.  If nuclear is part of the plan, then the question is how do we implement nuclear to avoid some of the terrible consequences we have seen arise from it?  

          This diary offers some options that I feel we need to seriously investigate if we are to effectively deal with global climate change.

          •  I focused on the technical aspects (8+ / 0-)

            of Generation IV reactors mostly, but there are significant economic advantages to the better designs.  First, many of them are scalable, so little reactors can be built for specific purposes, or large ones for heavy duty power generation.  Generation III reactors are not that scalable, mostly due to the requirement of the forged containment vessel.  Second, and this is not at all trivial, a cheap way to produce hydrogen to replace fossil fuels in internal combustion engines is a really big deal.  Third, because of the much larger safety factors, it is quite possible that Generation IV reactors could be constructed with much less cost and insurance requirements.  No insurer will touch a Generation III plant, so at least in the United States the federal government is the insurer of last resort.

            Warmest regards,

            Doc

            Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

            by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:06:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The economics of small reactors... (5+ / 0-)

              ...appears to be much better than the large Gen III or Gen III+ reactors we're used to.  Unfortunately the economic hurdle of licensing them is just as large as for the big Gen III/III+ reactors.  This seems to be recognized by DOE as they have added a line to their budget for licensing assistance for an undetermined small reactor design according to NEI Nuclear Notes.

              There had been a bill under consideration in the US Senate to instruct the DOE to design and demonstrate two small, modular reactor designs.  Given the present crisis in Japan I don't know how this bill stands.

              •  The situation in Japan (5+ / 0-)

                has really thrown a sabot into the gears.  While we should be learning, at a minimum, that Generation III reactors are not that safe and better designs should be constructed, the reality is that, I fear, better designs will not be pursued and that existing, relative safely run Generation III units will be shut down for no good reason.  That is the worst of both worlds.

                One thing that needs to happen in the United States is the revamp the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and make sure that former company executives are not allowed any decision making functions, unless it can be established that there is absolutely no financial benefit to them or their families.  Another is impost a strict moratorium for previous NRC members from taking corporate positions with any connexion with nuclear power for at LEAST a decade.   That includes consulting as a free lance person, under threat of life in prison.

                We have to be confident about the oversight.  Money has a way of corrupting even the best of folks.

                Warmest regards,

                Doc

                Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

                by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:43:38 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I wish those sorts of restrictions... (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  JeffW, Translator, polecat

                  ...were already in place for all types of industry.

                  Given the destabilizing impact that Gen IV reactors could have on the utility industry I am not surprised they are not moving forward with them.  They have as much to lose from Gen IV as they have to gain, perhaps more.

                  One ironic thing about the Gen III and Gen III+ designs that you mention is that they have the economic burden of requiring large, expensive reactor vessels.  Japan Steel Works has a virtual monopoly on the forging of those reactor vessels which is one of the main reasons for their high cost.  For this reason alone I can't see much Gen IV development happening in Japan, though they really need it to get their old Gen II and Gen III plants decommissioned.

                  •  Well, both of us being realists (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    OtherDoug, polecat

                    know that big money speaks loudly.

                    We need an economic revolution, just like one of our best Presidents ever Theodore Roosevelt, advocated.  Throw out the bums!

                    Warmest regards,

                    Doc

                    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

                    by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 08:29:47 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower... (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Translator, polecat

                      ...are the three Republicans I have the greatest respect for.  And all three of them warned against or fought against the power and influence that corporations gain in a democratic system.

                      There have been quite a few comments in the last three weeks saying that nuclear has no business being run by private corporations.  Given the poor track record those companies involved in nuclear have I tend to agree.  The trouble is that if the government is in charge there is no regulatory body that can really police those running the plants unless that regulation is very carefully crafted.  And craft is not a word that comes to mind when I think of the US Congress.

                      •  That is in interesting concept, and I (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        OtherDoug, polecat

                        wrestled with it whilst writing this series.

                        Retrospectively, the best success in nuclear technology was actually performed by the United States government, at least for the first 20 years.  I am fundamentally a believer in a well regulated capitalist system, so I think that the hand off to private companies was a good thing, and I still believe that they should be the ones to develop the technology, with basic research support from the government.

                        I said earlier that the NRC needs to be much more powerful, independent, and free of monied interests.  I still advocate that position.

                        In the current political and science poor environment, only the federal government can guarantee good research and development in this area.  But I truly believe that the private sector has to take the risk to make Generation IV real.

                        Am I completely misguided?

                        Warmest regards,

                        Doc

                        Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

                        by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:11:30 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Not misguided. (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Translator, polecat

                          I just don't know if the private sector can live up to those expectations.  The Gen IV work that is being done has generally been by public institution IIRC.  GE Hitachi (erk!) is the exception.  They have designed the S-PRISM reactor, a Gen IV design that is the descendant of the EBR-II and Integral Fast Reactor.  (HT to billmosby for pointing me to these reactors.)  So, I can't say that it is impossible for a private corporation to push the advances we need.  I just think that there has been a real lack of leadership on the part of the bulk of the US nuclear industry.  There may be some players who are really threatened by advancements and don't want to push for them.

                          Given the structure of our energy economy it is really doubtful that there will be major changes in the ownership of generating plants, but it is possible to change the regulatory structure and climate.  That will require liberating the regulatory agencies from the kind of capture that is typical of US regulation.  It will probably be necessary for the leadership for the drive for advanced reactors to come from outside the nuclear industry.  That would keep the interests of existing industry players from dominating the efforts.  It might also help in getting the support of those who would criticize any effort spearheaded by the industry.

                          Lots of hedging there.  I'm not really sure how to approach that particular issue, myself.

                          •  I am getting a bit angry. (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            OtherDoug, Tinfoil Hat, polecat

                            Not at you!  Nor at any of the folks who comment.

                            I am sort of aggravated that cute pictures of dogs and cats ALWAYS get onto the Rec List, with perhaps half an hour of plagiarism from the 'net for copyrighted pictures, posted at this site.

                            I spent over six hours researching this topic, and NEVER used a copyright picture nor a copied a single phrase.  Certainly I did research, but did not use words without attribution here.  All of the words used were my original ones.

                            But the copyright violations ones are more recommended!  

                            I am about to quit, and I mean it this now.  You can follow me at TheStarsHollowGazette.com.  You can also send lots of recommends to keep me from saying goodbye to the Kos community.

                            Please let me know.

                            Warmest regards,

                            Doc

                            Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

                            by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:51:33 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  The mystery of the rec list. (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Translator, polecat

                            The rec list sometimes seems like such a complete crap shoot.  I don't understand how diaries shoot up the list with just a few rec's but others with more sink.  That's just an issue of the algorithm used by the site, I guess.

                            The bigger mystery is what people rec.  I flipped through the list and there are a lot of worthy diaries there.  But there are some that I don't get.  Yes, the animal diaries are silly and filled with copyright violations.  Then there are the meta-diaries that extend arguments from other diaries.  I open one of those and the acrimony just reverberates from the screen so I make a quick jab at the "Home" button.  I'm lost in about 30% of what gets on the list.

                            I've found that I look a lot less at the rec list now using DK4.  I use tags, groups and the stream to keep an eye open for what I'm interested in.  That was one of my primary reasons for starting the Nuclear dkos group.  I wanted to there to be a place where the diaries I thought were particularly helpful could be archived.  There are a few good writers about nuclear power who have a lot of diaries that never see the rec list.  I don't want those to slip away.

                            I hope that you won't let your frustration drive you away.  Your writing is very good and can help people understand this very important issue.  It may not win against the meta, the puppies and kittens, or any of the less weighty stuff that gets written.  That's the sad fact of being part of a community this large.  But I hope it will be of help to those who are looking for some understanding.  For those people who do want that understanding your diaries of are great use.  Your time is not lost.

                          •  Another issue might be... (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Translator, polecat

                            ...the weekend timing.  I think that there tends to be more lightweight stuff that gets posted on the weekends.  I can't be certain, just working from my memory and impressions.  I do notice that some of the regulars who I expected would comment here haven't been on the site at all today.  I hope that they will see the diary and add their rec's and comments tomorrow.

            •  Part of the problem with nuclear power, (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              OtherDoug, Translator, Larsstephens

              which you covered some with the scalability of new IV designs, is size and cost. Older designs were designed big. This was necessitated by the cost and the need to recover the cost as quickly as possible by providing as much electricity as possible. Unfortunately, and the primary danger of such designs is that they are too big. Problems and disasters scale just as economies do.

              I hope you'll forgive this, but in case you haven't seen my diary today: It's a Bizarro World

            •  Scalability (4+ / 0-)
              Generation III reactors are not that scalable, mostly due to the requirement of the forged containment vessel.

              And that leads to economic pressure to put way too many of them on the same site in order to achieve economies of scale. Fukushima would probably be well under control by now if there were just two units on site (fortunately, in the US most plants have at most two, and only a few have three. In Canada, some plants have 8 on site (though not all in operation)). Instead, the efforts at each reactor are detracting from the efforts at all the others in a high-speed game of Hot Potato.

              If you Google "headache brain tumor", you will come away convinced that your headache is actually cancer—Seth Mnookin

              by ebohlman on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 08:47:37 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  That is an excellent point. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                OtherDoug

                I am pretty much a fan of the modular approach, and several of the ones that I mentioned are amenable to that.  The fundamental problem, in my conception, is twofold:  the requirement for water to cool the core (and water does not passively by convection serve the purpose because it boils at a relatively low temperature and thus requires pumps), and the problem of dealing with long half life of spent fuel.

                Warmest regards,

                Doc

                Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

                by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:15:55 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  I disagree. Just read this quote from (5+ / 0-)

            a diary posted here earlier today,
            Ed Markey: 'It has Not been Protesters who have brought down the Nuclear Industry, It's Wall Street':

            MARKEY: I am not calling for a moratorium on all nuclear plants. I'm only calling for a moratorium in those areas that are seismically questionable. That's all I am calling for.

            But 10,000 new megawatts of wind were deployed in the United States in 2009. 5,000 new megawatts in 2010. There hasn't been a new 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor that has been ordered successfully since 1974.

            So, wind is large-scale. Solar is large-scale. And we're talking about maybe 100,000 megawatts installed by the year 2020 -- before the first nuclear power plant with 1,000 megawatts come online.

            If nuclear power is not successful right now, it will be because Wall Street decides that it's better to generate electricity with natural gas, with wind, with solar, because the risk premium in terms of investors on Wall Street is now going to be increased, and they just might decide as a marginal financial investment that it's not worth taking the risk.

            It appears that by the time we can get a significant number of megawatts of SAFE reactors up and running, they'll have been made unneeded by solar and wind installations, both of which would be infinitely safer and decidedly less expensive.

            Conservatism is a function of age - Rousseau
            I've been 19 longer'n you've been alive - me

            by watercarrier4diogenes on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:26:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And while you're at it, do have a look at (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JeffW, Tinfoil Hat, Translator

              who's on the hook if anything does go drastically wrong.  Again, from the Markey diary quoted above:

              In 2005, the Nuclear Industry 'Insurance Cap' has risen from 560 Million to 10 to 20 Billion in this new Public-Private Risk Partnership.  Chump Change, I guess in this new era of Billion Dollar Bailouts.  No Problem.  Who's the Public-side of that 10B Risk Taking venture again?

              And what happens if the Fallout Damage of a Hypothetical Nuclear accident -- tops the 20 Billion mark?     What -- we'll Deal with that, when the Time Comes.   How Reassuring -- NOT!

              A closing question:  Why does the U.S. Tax Payer have to be the underwriter of last resort -- and pick up the Industry's "Risk Premium" ?

              -- If Nuclear Power were "such a safe bet" -- shoot, you'd figure Insurance Companies, and Wall Street Investors would be "clamoring all over themselves" to get a piece of the action.

              But they're NOT.

              Hmmmm?  ... I wonder just Why that is?


              What GOOD idea have you seen of late that only becomes good if you've got suckers like taxpayers to cover for you if you fuck up?

              Conservatism is a function of age - Rousseau
              I've been 19 longer'n you've been alive - me

              by watercarrier4diogenes on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:32:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  The economics of nuclear in the US... (5+ / 0-)

              ...are dominated by the large Gen III reactors that were built in the 1970s and 1980s.  There is little doubt at this point that the economics of those types of reactors built by anyone other than a state agency like that in France will be a non-starter.  That's one of the reasons to look at the Gen IV reactors.  Many of the designs are scalable and modular which can improve the economic picture significantly.  The trouble is the licensing hurdle.  The cost of licensing is the same for a small reactor as for a large one, so there is just no incentive for a US utility to bother with advancing a small reactor design.  If that hurdle can be overcome I think there might be a lot more interest in building these reactors in the US.

              Even without development in the US, Gen IV designs are moving forward in other countries, particularly China and India.

            •  Those are pretty much drops in the bucket. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              OtherDoug, dnpvd0111, polecat

              Nuclear power supplies almost 20% of the US consumption.  As of 2010, the latest data, the US generated and consumed 3992 billion kWh of electricity, at at 20%, it comes to 800 billions of kWh, or 800,000 MWh.  Your own figure of  of 100,000 MW (MW is a power measurement, MWh is an energy measurement) means that, if run 24/7 at unity efficiency, that would come to 11.4 MWh.  A drop in the bucket, and very telling.

              That is only a very small fraction of what nuclear power provides.  Your figures sound impressive, but when put the clear eye of the maths, it is obvious that you have been deceived, and believe what you have been told.

              It is not your fault.  There is misinformation everywhere.

              Warmest regards,

              Doc

              Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

              by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 08:11:15 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I think you are searching for a mirage (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Translator
          but I am enough of a realist to recognize that it is just about essential to utilize it as a stopgap until truly sustainable energy sources are developed.
      •  Oh, by the way, your are guilty (0+ / 0-)

        of diary fellatio.

        It is extremely poor form to lock onto the tip jar of the author to assure that your little, useless thoughts are near the top of the comments..  Just click on "Post a Comment" at the bottom of the page.  You have been here longer than I have, and your should know better. I shall also remove my tip, but will not hide rate you. Perhaps you will learn better etiquette for the next time.

        No regards,

        Doc

        Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

        by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 11:21:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for writing this third installment. (5+ / 0-)

      This gives a good introduction to some of the technology that we should be looking at if we are going to continue developing nuclear power.  Many of these designs offer clear advantages over existing reactors in terms of safety and spent fuel management.

      Thanks again for this diary and for the whole series!

      •  Thank you for the kind words. (5+ / 0-)

        As I said in response to the commentator just above, I do not believe that fission is the ultimate solution to our energy needs, but certainly has a place, when good design and management are employed, to take up the slack as we transition from fossil fuels to truly sustainable ones.

        Warmest regards,

        Doc

        Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

        by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 06:53:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The first nuclear reactor I ever visited (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OtherDoug, palantir, JeffW, Translator, polecat

    was at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. At that time it was called the School of Mines.  I was there in the spring of 1962 and the thing had just been fired up in 1961.  It was quite impressive and sits right in the middle of the campus.  Shortly after it was activated, the thing tried to go critical, but the staff got it under control quickly before it either blew up or had a core meltdown.  They got quite a scare, but "officially" they said, "nothing happened."

    The engineer showing me around picked up a large black brick from a shelf and handed it to me reverently.  Examining it, I asked him what it was I had in my hand.  He said, rather proudly, that it was a graphite block from the Chicago Pile I. That was the world's first reactor, built under a stadium at the University of Chicago in 1942. I felt honored he wanted me to see and touch this national treasure.

    Here is an article and story about the Missouri S&T reactor.

    •  WOW! Interestingly, the (5+ / 0-)

      first concept for the VHTR was first posited in 1947, only five years after Fermi's first reactor, the one of which you touched part.

      I visited SEFOR long after it was decommissioned, and it now belongs to the Engineering Department of The University of Arkansas.  They use the containment vessel (or did at the time), to store their high output transuranics because it has excellent shielding.  Looking through a lead glass window a couple of feet thick, I could acutally see a visually observable amount of americium.  I forget which isotope it was.

      I got your personal note, and sent you a reply.  I meant what I said.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

      by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 06:58:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I visited the Missouri reactor (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Translator, OtherDoug, palantir, polecat

        it was running. Absolutely fascinating. You could see the surface of the water moving from the convection caused by the hot core.  In case anyone wonders where the Missouri University for S&T is located, it is at Rolla, MO.

        I did get your note, Doc and appreciate the support. I have been getting some really nice notes from all over. This is a most supportive community.  

        •  Last thing first: (4+ / 0-)

          I agree about the support here.  I still breathe.

          SEFOR was not running, but other than removing the sodium and the fuel, had pretty much been left intact.  We had to wear dosimeters for the visit.  I had a good friend in graduate school from Rolla.  Nice place, pretty country.

          Warmest regards,

          Doc

          Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

          by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:23:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  The only reactor I have ever toured... (4+ / 0-)

      ...was the Ford Nuclear Reactor at the University of Michigan.  To my knowledge it never experienced any excitement over its long career.  It was decommissioned in 2003.  I walked in expecting to see the blue glow of Cherenkov radiation.  Of course the reactor was idle when they gave tours.

      •  I believe that the glow (4+ / 0-)

        around one of the reactors in Japan was exactly that.  For those who are not aware, this radiation is the result of a charged particle moving through a medium faster than light moves through it.  The particle has to be charged, so neutrons are no help, so that pretty much just leaves electrons and positrons.  Alphas are too heavy to accelerate to those velocities in most cases.

        Basically, those particles displace electrons in stable orbitals, and when they fall back to the ground state, light is emitted.  This is a really simple minded description, but is technically sound.

        Warmest regards,

        Doc

        Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

        by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:28:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks Doc. Great Diary! (6+ / 0-)

    Very hot, and nary a wasted einstein at all. :)

  •  I see that OtherDoug is here. (6+ / 0-)

    It looks like I was able to queue AND publish this piece to Nuclear kos!  Cool!

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

    by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 06:37:48 PM PDT

  •  You can say that again, Doc! (7+ / 0-)
    As a matter of fact, the DoD looked at them in the 1950s as a potential power source for aircraft, but that did not pan out very well.

    The test aircraft they tried this out in was a modified B-36 long-range bomber, WW2 technology that had been stretched to it ultimate limit to provide an aircraft that could deliver the huge, heavy nuclear and thermonuclear bombs that were being built in the early 1950's. The B-36 had been conceived as a long-range bomber to allow the United States to continue bombing campaigns even if Great Britain had been overrun by the Nazis.

    The NB-36H had been a bomber that had been damaged in a tornado that had hit Carswell AFB, so a new, heavily shielded cockpit was added. A big tank of water in one of the front 2 bomb bays and a large lead disk between the front and back bomb bays (the B-36 had 4, BTW) gave additional protection from the radiation produced by the small 3MW reactor, which was carried in the aftmost bay. Cooling air was admitted via airscoops fitted to 2 of the aft observation blister opening, and the other two acted as exhaust ports.

    The next step was to have been the X-6, which would have  been a B-36 equipped with 4 additional turbojets that would have the reactor take the place of their combustion chambers, essentially giving the aircraft "Six turnin', 4 burnin', 4 bustin' atoms". The project was cancelled before the X-6 could be built, and the more-radioactive parts of the NB-36H were allowed to sit in an isolated area of Convair's property for some time, before being buried.

    If the B-36 overextended WW2 technology for the beginning of the Cold War, the X-6 may have really stretched it thin!

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:15:56 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for the additional information! (6+ / 0-)

      I always say that the comments are by far the best part of these posts.  If I went into that much detail, my pieces would be 20,000 words instead of around 3,000.  And 3,000 is just about the limit for most people before their eyelids start drooping!

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

      by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:31:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I had a co-worker who was an operator (5+ / 0-)

      of some of the test items that they ran for this program at the Idaho National Lab. I was never quite clear about exactly which items he operated, but they were probably the jet engines that they had hooked up to the "HTRE" systems (heat transfer reactor experiments, I believe that stands for). He told me that he had worked for the railroad before signing onto the nuclear program but he thought railroading was too dangerous.

      Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

      by billmosby on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:15:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not sure I'd like bombs and reactors on the same (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OtherDoug

      plane ...

      Seriously, you'd need SHIELDING between the bombs and the reactor.

      Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
      I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
      -Spike Milligan

      by polecat on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 06:52:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Shielding was the big issue... (0+ / 0-)

        ...that caused the crazy project to get cancelled.  They did test flights of the NB-36H with the reactors producing power, but not to power the aircraft.  They determined that the shielding was inadequate to protect the safety of the crew.  The whole idea is a bit whacked, but there was a lot of whackedness happening with nuclear at that point.  Project Chariot, Project Orion, etc.

  •  As a demonstration that PBRs are not (4+ / 0-)

    "inherently safe", witness that a German utility's reactor crew screwed themselves out of business in 1986 when they accidentally blew radioactive dust out of their cooling system into the environment (by trying to clear a feed jam by boosting the gas pressure behind the jammed pebble, against normal procedure, while part of the system was open to the atmosphere). That was bad enough, but the utility then tried to cover it up, claiming higher-than-normal radiation readings around the plant were due to precipitation of Chernobyl debris.

    The other salient point here is that the failure was caused more by human error than by mechanical failure... while machines will only do what they are designed to do, being totally unimaginative, they are also usually more reliable than human beings.

    "But there's one thing that gives every Marine the willies, and anyone saying otherwise is a liar. Drop pods. That shit is terrifying, son."

    by Shaviv on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:24:10 PM PDT

    •  Please note that I specifically (7+ / 0-)

      provided a disclaimer in that I stated the I very much dislike the term inherently safe.  I believe that a better one would be inherently less hazardous.  Nothing, not even water, a necessary part of our bodies, in inherently safe.

      You make a good point about the human element.  That is why excellent training and very well thought out Standing Operating Procedures are not important, but essential.  Still, there are bound to be occasions that something not anticipated occurs.  This is why no control room should ever be left to only low level personnel.  Someone with intimate familiarity with the design and function of the particular unit HAS to be there at all times.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

      by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:35:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One argument is that the engineers need to live on (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OtherDoug

        site.  That should strongly influence them to see that it is built and run correctly.

        I say this as an engineer. :)

        Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
        I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
        -Spike Milligan

        by polecat on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 06:54:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Slightly off-topic, but still a VERY (4+ / 0-)

    interesting story yesterday in The Economist:

    Japan's nuclear clean-up: Jimmy Carter and Fukushima

    Conservatism is a function of age - Rousseau
    I've been 19 longer'n you've been alive - me

    by watercarrier4diogenes on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 07:37:14 PM PDT

  •  I said to myself earlier today "how Ironic (5+ / 0-)

    if the Reactors that are leaking into the Sea make the Fish and Whales in the Oceans slightly Radioactive and the Japanese stop wanting to eat Fish including Tuna and Sharks for the Fins and also Whales,Dolphins and Porpoises so they stop hunting them".Makes me wonder if a little Radioactive dust on Rhino's and Elephants would stop the Poaching of them for Chinese Boner Elixir and Ivory Trinkets where brief conversations might go like "hi my dear that Ivory Necklace makes your neck Glow,no don't thank me Miss I mean it really is making your neck Glow." and Lady in the Dark:"Wong your Wang is Glowing Blue,you are wearing that Glow-in-the-Dark Rubber aren't you?" (pause) Lady in the Dark:"Your NOT".

    •  Leave it to this community (5+ / 0-)

      to come up with novel solutions!

      Your idea might just work, but only with technologically advanced societies.  I shall tell you why.  Every society has superstitions.  The brilliant psychologist B.F. Skinner (a pseudonym of a friend here, by the way) actually invoked superstition in birds by rewarding them with food randomly.  You will have to look into it.  It is fascinating.

      Amongst people, superstition is laid down for generations.  I seriously doubt that the folks in sub Saharan Africa would be scared by a little radioactivity, but I would bet my last dollar for your last donut that the Japanese folks would stop whaling and bluefin fishing if there were that threat.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

      by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 08:24:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ah yes, the random pigeon posture (5+ / 0-)

        training experiment, I call it.

        I had a number of human managers who did basically the same thing; at least it was the only explanation I have ever come up with, lol. Completely random rewards/punishments, just to see what kind of reactions they would get.

        I wish I were kidding.

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:18:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Elaborate, please. (4+ / 0-)

          Warmest regards,

          Doc

          Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

          by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:21:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  On the pigeons, or the managers? n/t (4+ / 0-)

            Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

            by billmosby on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:27:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Both, if you are up to it. (4+ / 0-)

              Warmest regards,

              Doc

              Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

              by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:43:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, briefly, (5+ / 0-)

                (I can use the break from battling with JavaScript and HTML in my quest to achieve variable styles)

                Pigeon behaviors were reinforced by the delivery of food at regular intervals, and the pigeons developed consistent behaviors that seemed to be attempts to influence the delivery of food (turning around multiple times, trying to lift an imaginary bar, making repeated movements, etc.

                During the last decade or so that I was managed before I retired, my management developed the tendency to give rewards for "performance beyond expectations". The way that worked was that I would point out a number of things I had done that I was not asked to do, and the response would be "well, we expected you to go above and beyond because that's just the way you are, and thanks!".

                Other random management behavior would be to run into some other manager in the hall and offer my efforts to the other program in some capacity that I was unqualified in. This was from a manager who always asked me, every time I was in his office, "what is your master's degree in again?".

                I could go on, but I'll just say that a lot of my work experience came pretty much right out of Dilbert.  

                Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

                by billmosby on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:04:04 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Don't tell that to Greenpeace... /nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OtherDoug

        Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
        I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
        -Spike Milligan

        by polecat on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 06:56:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I've heard that point raised. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Translator, ebohlman, defluxion10

      I don't know if it will happen, but the crisis may give some populations not directly affected by the crisis a small respite.  As far as the Glow-in-the-dark-rubber, well, there is Viagra and a whole slew of other chemical assists available.  I really wish the Chinese traditional medicine folks would lay off the poor rhinos!  The drugs are a whole lot cheaper than rhino horn and they actually work!

      The idea that you could save endangered ecosystems by making them sites of "nuclear waste" repositories has been suggested, too.  I think it was Bill McKibben's idea but I could be wrong.  I'll have to try to dig it up.

      •  You might appreciate the following posters (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OtherDoug, Translator, defluxion10

        by Pareidolius, a frequent commenter on Scienceblogs (Respectful Insolence, etc.).

        here and here

        If you Google "headache brain tumor", you will come away convinced that your headache is actually cancer—Seth Mnookin

        by ebohlman on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:00:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Got any about shark's fins? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Translator, ebohlman, defluxion10

          Those posters are great!  I'm tempted to print them and post them around Flushing in Queens, NYC where I live.  I'd probably start a riot, though.

          I've never been much into alternative medicine but at least the bulk of that is non-destructive.  Some of the aspects of Chinese traditional medicine just leave me floored by how much damage they do.  Same thing with shark's fin soup.  It is purely symbolic, a hope for prosperity for the new year or for a newly married couple.  Yet it does such tremendous harm.

          I say these things as someone with deep respect and admiration for Chinese culture.  My wife is Chinese-American and my son is learning Mandarin as well as English as his native languages.  But there are aspects of any culture that can just defy logic.

      •  Man, I AM a Geek! (5+ / 0-)

        Most modern glow-in-the-dark materials depend on electronic transitions, not nuclear ones.  The most common exceptions are watch and clock hands, which are now usually make with tritium and zinc sulfide.  Years ago, it was radium and zinc sulfide.

        For the most part, other than those exceptions, glow in the dark phenomena are provided by electronic transitions and the phenomenon of phosphorescence.

        In this very common case, some material (usually an organic compound, but many inorganic ones serve as well) absorbs a visible (or UV) photon and enters an excited electronic state.  In most cases, this photon is immediately emitted (often with a red shift) on a timescale in femtoseconds. This is fluorescence, like your teeth and eyes under a black light.

        In other systems, intersystem crossing happens, turning the (usually) singlet state into a triplet state.  Triplet states are spin forbidden to release a photon, and often undergo another intersystem crossing to another singlet state, which is spin allowed to emit one.  Sometimes they just emit one anyway.

        The difference betwixt spin allowed and spin forbidden just has to do with probabilities.   Because of those probabilities, a triplet spin state has a mean life from milliseconds to kiloseconds.  Thus, you can "charge up" a phosphorescent material with visible or UV light, and it will glow for hours as the spin forbidden processes occur, or another intersystem crossing event occurs.

        The glowing condoms are an example of this.  This is very much different from "Light Sticks" which utilize chemical processes to form a fluorescent intermediate.

        Warmest regards,

        Doc

        Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

        by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:02:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Let your geek flag fly! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Translator, defluxion10, Larsstephens

          Thanks for that very informative digression.  You may have scared the original commenter away, though.  :)

          •  I do not think so. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            OtherDoug, defluxion10, Larsstephens

            Please notice the finesse that I used with the vehemently NO NUKE commentator.  I am learning how to make my points without becoming angry and responding thusly.  I sort of feel like I am becoming an adult again, with the help from everyone.

            As far as Russgirl is concerned, I actually hope that she (I assume that this person is female, from the name) will come back often and discuss these ideas with us.  It is easy to preach to the quire.  It is much more difficult to make a realistic case to those who are already against one's ideas.  Please do not get me wrong.

            I cherish each and every one who contribute positive comments, and I shall refer to you all as the quire.  Most of us are pretty much in agreement.  But that is not enough.

            We all need to embrace the concerns of folks who are very nervous about nuclear power.  As all of you know, I do not think that it is the best solution, just an interim one.  I respect Russgirl's take on the subject, and know that many, many others believe the same.  It is incumbent for us to respect her, and others with her understanding, and provide education.  Agreed?

            Warmest regards,

            Doc

            Warmest regards,

            Doc

            Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

            by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:06:16 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Agreed. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Translator, defluxion10, Larsstephens

              I think engagement is the best way to handle these discussions and have tried to live up to that as much as possible.  This crisis has changed some of my attitudes about nuclear power, so I can respect the reaction that those who are against nuclear power have to it.

              I was mainly just trying to rib you a little.  That was a great digression, though!

    •  It did occur to me that fish stocks might rebound (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OtherDoug

      because people are too afraid to overfish anymore.

      Speaking of the plutonium lining... :)

      Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
      I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
      -Spike Milligan

      by polecat on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 06:55:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm all for Nuclear Power from new types (5+ / 0-)

    that use a passive cooling and can "burn" the huge amounts of "Waste Rods" in a pellet form instead of rods and the Thorium Reactors.

    •  As I have said a number of times, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OtherDoug, defluxion10

      I am a reluctant supporter.  There are better sources, but as you can see from the numbers that I just presented above, none are ready right now.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

      by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 08:25:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Confused (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Translator, OtherDoug, defluxion10

      You wrote that the Sodium Cooled Fast Reactors (SCFRs),  produce more fuel than they consume.  

      However, the Integral Fast Reactor prototype was sodium cooled, (ran from 1964 to 1994, with its fuel cycle system having run in several of its important parts from that time period and for 10 years afterwards.)  

      GE's S-PRISM is a commercialized design based on the IFR design and operational experience.

      The primary argument for pursuing IFR-style technology today is that it provides the best solution to the existing nuclear waste problem because breeder reactors can be fueled from the waste products of existing reactors as well as from the plutonium used in weapons. Depleted uranium (DU) waste can also be used as fuel in IFR reactors.

      Wiki:  IFR

      Republican marriage is between one man and one woman....plus another woman on the side.

      by Alan Arizona on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:08:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ah. A realist. You won't get any love for that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, OtherDoug, ebohlman

    here, Doc, but you have my respect.  

    I am enough of a realist to recognize that it is just about essential to utilize it as a stopgap until truly sustainable energy sources are developed.  The only alternative is to lower standard of living significantly.

    If you lose your disc or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate de-resolution. That will be all.

    by SpamNunn on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 08:04:47 PM PDT

    •  Hello, my longtime reader! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OtherDoug, ebohlman

      Actually, I have gotten more support than you might have expected.  I suppose that is because I AM a realist, and very much want to mitigate the hazards whilst providing a decent standard of living.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

      by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 08:27:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this readable rundown (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, OtherDoug, Larsstephens

    of reactor types. I was always partial to sodium cooled fast reactors (or lead-cooled versions for the natriphobic). However now that humans allied with nature have been shown to be so adept at circumventing safety systems I have lost confidence that any reactor system could be foolproof enough in the face of the potential consequences of failure.

    There was a lot of talk about the things that you don't know you don't know, and a comprehensive list of phenomena that can screw up the best reactor safety plans seem to include too many unknown unknowns to suit me anymore. And I spent about 15 years working 50 yards from EBR-II during its use as a prototype for the Integral Fast Reactor concept and I really believe its safety characteristics would have prevented what the Japanese are currently going through. But all systems have catastrophic failure modes, IFRs included.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:26:24 PM PDT

    •  Thank you for the insight! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billmosby, OtherDoug, Larsstephens

      I am not a nuclear engineer, but was educated by Paul Kuroda for several years.  He took a liking to me, and spoke with me about his nuclear chemistry ideas, his flight to the United States, and even about how the Imperial Japanese government had trained him and his fellow students to attack the Marines with bamboo sticks.  He also held Harry S for nothing Truman to be the greatest President, since his decision to use the nuclear device actually minimized casualties in Japan.  I am not sure that I understand, but HE was THERE.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

      by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:34:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My father was also grateful (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Translator, OtherDoug, Larsstephens

        to good ol' Harry; he fought in the Pacific. And in my turn I may very well have the bomb to thank for my existence. My father had occasion to travel to Hiroshima once in the 60s, where he got into a "discussion" with a taxi driver who felt quite differently about it. I'm kind of glad I wasn't there to see it as my dad could be quite abrasive at times. Another time, for example, he worked in Scotland for a while and (my mother was there at the time and attested to this) once told a Scotsman that if Scotland hadn't been made entirely of granite the rain and the wind would have blown the whole place away long ago, lol.

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 09:41:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Why aren't these reactors designed so that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, Larsstephens

    water circulates when the electricity is lost.

    They sure do not lack for energy at that point.

    •  Water is not that good of a coolant. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      It is a low boiler, and thus does not play well with convection.  As a matter of fact, water might be one of the worst coolants.

      Helium, or even lead is better.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

      by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:19:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dear Doc - THANKS!!! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, OtherDoug, Larsstephens

    for the superb diary.  I have learned more about this subject in a VERY short amount of time than would have been otherwise possible.  This is the way to get the discussions going in a useful direction.

    We need many more of these discussions to develop an informed opinion and thus perhaps influence the direction needed to get to the "green" solutions.

    Doc, I think you are correct when you posit that this likely must be a part of the energy generation evolution.  This will be a difficult sell because of the emotion involved.  But you are also correct that by facing it and dealing logically with the issues, we can come to a practical and manageable solution.

    We absolutely can do this.  Thanks also to all the highly knowledgeable commenters and diarists who have furthered the understanding, including kbman and Stan.

    Please keep posting.

    Many thanks.

    •  Wow! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OtherDoug, Larsstephens

      I do not exactly know where to start.  I very much appreciate your extremely kind words.  My job here is to get comments started, just read my last couple of paragraphs every time.

      Now you, like many other committed readers, understand why I took the handle "Translator".  I truly believe that I have a gift to translate lots of technical jargon into language that nontechnical folks can understand.  I love doing that, and perhaps some day I can get paid for doing it.

      I very much appreciate you extremely kind words.  With the pay that they give me here (ZERO), I would never post anything if not for you, and other readers and commentators like you.  Thank you very, very much!

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

      by Translator on Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 10:28:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We need no new nuclear power (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator

    We simply cannot desgn the human element out of the equation. And humans are ALWAYS fallable. Recently we were informed that the Diablo Canyon plants backup generators had been disconnected for 18 months! In the Fukushima disaster, the generators were not designed to be seawater proof. Either in operation or design, the human element stands out, time after time, as the weak link.

    Wind power is already 4% in this country and so succesful that the major power companies (as reported in Bloomberg) fear it because, wherever it is adopted, power prices in those areas plummets.

    We have not even scratched the surface of the many areas where wind can be installed.

    Much of our rivers represent a vast untapped area of power generation as is the tides.

    Our ancient power grid wastes nearly half of the power currently being generated.

    And finally, conservation can reduce our consumption even more without seriously affecting our standard of living. I recently replaced 7 downlights in my home with LED's. Though pricey today, the light could not be better and I should expect that I will NEVER have to replace them! iN A SHORT TIME, THE PRICE OF THESE WILL DROP JUST AS WE HAVE SEEN DRAMATIC DROPS IN THE PROCES OF COMPUTERS AND ALL THINGS MADE FROM SILICON (SAND).

    WE DO NOT NEED ADITIONAL NUKES. WE SHOULD BEGIN PHASING OUT THIS IDIOTIC TECHNOLOGY NOW.

    •  I disagree, but I am pleased (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      that you felt comfortable enough to express your opinion.

      Warmest regards,

      Doc

      Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, then either I really love you blindly or I am a Republican.

      by Translator on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 06:29:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site