Archives for posts with tag: nuclear fission

It would seem phys.org deals in magic now. https://phys.org/news/2019-05-machine-lithium-fusion-earth.html The article deals deceptively with fusion energy production by the D-T reaction. Nothing can protect materials from 14-MeV neutrons, not even magic. I commend the folks at PPPL, but this article, no.

This experiment looks mostly like wasted government money, but the PPPL folks are good at making lemonade from lemons. Perhaps we will advance science in spite of wasteful government grants and bad science writing.

So far, only D-T fusion looks doable. While there is ample deuterium readily available to assert inexhaustibility, there is zero tritium. That is, tritium is already exhausted. We have to make it, and we make it from lithium. Lithium is obviously plentiful now since we use it in so many ways, but it is limited. We likely can use it for several centuries, but it is exhaustible. https://en.wikipedia.org/…/Abundance_of_elements_in_Earth%2… (We make more arsenic than lithium, and lithium is 13 times more abundant. It is unlikely to be limiting.)

Lithium is useful inside the vacuum chamber for the fusion. (Yes, the plasma for fusion is in a vacuum chamber. There is almost nothing inside the volume of a tokamak except a very few atoms of superheated deuterium and tritium, close to zero psi. https://www.iter.org/ ) During D-T fusion, four of the five nucleons fuse to form helium, and the fifth careens off with enough energy to smash through several atoms in a solid lattice. It is a nanocannonball vaporizing a nanosized jet of material in whatever it hits. It damages the material cumulatively. Lithium on the interior surface will take some of the hits, and since it has no mechanical duties, it can take the damage, and it will absorb some of the neutrons and produce tritium, replenishing the supply for further fusion. So, good to go, but maintaining heat and protecting the walls is trivial. Plasma flares and 14-MeV neutrons make the materials problems more wicked than the physics problems. The engineers will get it to work, but these are not yet economically solvable problems. ITER will help, so will LTX-β, but we must do fission first. Our grandchildren are depending on us.

Opposing nuclear fission power production is the gravest sin of our generation. The longer it takes for nuclear power production to dominate our energy needs, the longer we prolong unnecessary human suffering and degradation to our environment and all living things.

Nuclear now, no delay.

I started reading the article here, https://nei.org/news/2019/viewers-guide-to-hbo-miniseries-chernobyl, A Viewer’s Guide to HBO’s Chernobyl Miniseries. A few comments are in order.

I fully support the first few paragraphs. Then the author , Matt Wald, seems to go overboard on simplification. Overall good job, but Wald didn’t take the pains necessary to keep things accurate.

The lead up to the accident includes many tedious details. Authors are justified in oversimplifying the preliminaries. However, “The reactor was designed in classic Soviet fashion: gigantic, cheap and unsophisticated,” is simplistic and inaccurate. It gives the wrong impressions.

In the early days, several reactor designs were put forth. Only one of those early designs was inherently stable. All nuclear reactors put into operation were based on the stable designed except the Chernobyl-type reactors, which only the Soviets built. While I suspect Mr. Wald could defend most every point and simplification in his article, I don’t like dismissing Soviet engineering. Obviously, Soviet priorities depreciated safety, but we err when we discount the professionalism of the engineers. My point in writing here is to object to implying engineers were unsophisticated. Engineers innately understand people’s lives depend on their work. Decent engineers never take that fact lightly.

I’ll be making this post tedious by addressing the NEI post line by line, but that is why I’m writing.

The reactor was in a containment building, but it was hardly like western designs. Mr. Wald is right in pointing out most containment structures are designed to be even airtight. Nuclear power containment structures are typically designed to be impervious and impregnable, even to deliberate attack. The Chernobyl building lacked improvements intended to withstand most any scenario.

Graphite is practically charcoal. Does anyone need me to point out that charcoal is flammable? Graphite bricks, hand stacked, were how the researchers built the first nuclear reactor, well, first manmade sustained fission chain reaction, in a basement at the University of Chicago during the Manhattan Project. It is correct to point out that graphite is good and safe in most conditions. Using graphite inevitably provides fuel for fire. High-temperature power production leaves only oxygen wanting. That is, if the provisions for keeping oxygen from reaching the graphite are compromised, an enduring fire will result. Most of the injuries and deaths at Chernobyl in 1986 were from the fire.

“Workers and lower-level managers were afraid to raise objections when they saw something wrong. And, the accident occurred when an electrical engineer was running an unauthorized, unanalyzed and unsupervised experiment on the reactor.” True enough, but it leaves out very important details. Politics and bureaucratic clout were the keys. There were expectations to meet and VIPs to impress. My information isn’t thorough and suffers from passage of years, but the unwise “test” was driven by hubris in the high officials and fear in the operators. Operators had families to feed, and none of them were eager to violate safety or other protocols, but in the old Soviet system, speaking up could result in transfer to the Gulag.

The politics and bureaucratic control were probably as bad as could be imagined, but “denial” had nothing to do with it, and I don’t appreciate the swipe at climate realists. If you fear CO2, you have an obvious and excellent fix, nuclear.

I’m not sure what Ward means when he describes the steam explosion as unprecedented. The unwise “test” of the reactor set several problems in motion that resulted in an extreme increase in power generation within the reactor, and the high pressure water was heated well above the boiling point, even for those pressures, and initial boiling led to increases of power production, and extreme overheat and overpressurization became inevitable. The explosion was just steam, but anyone with boiler experience can vouch for the power potential. Again, the reactor design is unique, and other nuclear reactors cannot set up runaway heating. If unprecedented meant no other steam explosion had been driven by such an energetic heat source, okay, but without checking, I expect there have been worse steam explosions. I do suppose there hasn’t been a steam explosion with more energy, more Btu or J output.

I only just found this, https://chnpp.gov.ua/ua/home. It looks like an excellent source. I notice this https://chnpp.gov.ua/ua/about/labour-glory/heroi-likvidatory I prefer to think of those who sacrificed as heroes.

Regarding the immediate deaths, I reiterate the primary factor was fire. There were survivors of astonishing dose (without burns from the fires). Our regulations are based on overly conservative estimates based on our only actual extreme radiation event, the atomic bombs ending WWII. Since, we have learned better, but our fear of radiation remains irrational and driven by factors other than health and safety.

The Soviets have much blame, even shame, in the handling of the accident, but their medical personnel proved their worth. Many medical reports assumed radiation or other accident factors that were not warranted. Their paperwork and records were lacking, to say the least, but those medical personnel never shirked their duty. The did all they could and then some, and they were trained and ready because nuclear war was still a significant fear there.

I second Mr. Ward’s assertions that nothing like Chernobyl can happen in the US. His explanation is solid.

Overall, Mr. Ward presented a good article, but there are vast amounts of data on the subject, and simplifications are necessary but generally overdone.

In closing, I’ll point out how electrical power has vastly improved living conditions in the world. The biggest factor in remaining poverty is lack of reliable electricity. There is only one “scare” I allow for in electrical power, and that is the potential harm that will result for not having it. The other problems of electrical power generation are trivial compared to having no power at all. Pollution is a significant problem, but even those harmed live better, fuller lives before pollution mattered to them.

One can call me names, and one can pretend my credentials aren’t adequate, but it isn’t my opinion and expertise that matters. Physics matters. Whether this or that result might occur is nothing compared to what does occur, what has occured. Politics driving taxes and coercive programs has always caused harm. Weather has always changed. Review of the data clear shows all aspects of weather and effects resulting from it are stable or improving. None are worsening.

The overarching fact is we must have electricity. All the people of earth need ever increasing electrical power production. The only reasonable means of generating all the power our billions of neighbors need is nuclear. We have done it safely for generations. We must acknowledge its supremacy and build out. We will burn everything we can for fuel until we no longer need to. We will need to until we have more than enough atomic power. That is the fact.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_Nuclear_Power_Plant

First, if it seems to be trying to catch your attention by sensationalizing and instilling fear, be skeptical. I’m astounded how many fake news stories I’ve seen about things getting worse at Fukushima. No, they aint! One can no longer trust news sources. One must find multiple sources and evaluate each one. It is generally difficult. Do the hard work, or be duped. Sadly, fake news seems to be more abundant than actual factual reporting now.

Source: Radiation Levels Not “Soaring” At Fukushima Daiichi | ANS Nuclear Cafe

If you want to save the earth, save the people first. If you want to save the people, get power to them. Affordable fuel and electricity will do more for the environment than anything else anyone can do, and it will save the humans and eliminate needless pain and suffering while doing so.

James Conca, writing for Forbes, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2015/04/20/the-ten-biggest-power-plants-in-america-not-what-everyone-claims/, points out some interesting facts about electrical power in the USA.

The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station generates most of the electricity for Phoenix, Arizona, coal makes up the rest. Kinda cool, really.

Mr. Conca provides this table:

Energy Source         average cf         high cf

Coal                              65%                   75%

Natural gas                50%                   85%

Nuclear                       90%                   98%

Wind                           30%                   45%

Solar PV                     20%                   30%

Solar thermal            24%                   40%

Hydro                         40%                    45%

Geothermal               70%                   75%

It should really drive home the pitiful uselessness of all varieties of wind and solar. Read the rest of this entry »

I posted this to Facebook, and as I seem often to do, I decided to record it here:

Nuclear is inevitable. We are going to use uranium. We will eventually use, and probably switch entirely to thorium, but regardless, we are going nuclear. Fission for decades, perhaps centuries, then fusion, but don’t hold your breath. Good points here, and toward the end it discusses Washington (the state) specifically.

“Nuclear energy accounts for 63 percent of carbon-free electricity in the U.S. and people need to know that,” Brown said.

Most of the 37% remaining is hydroelectric. (Look it up for yourself if you wish. Something like 2% is wind and solar. Hard to pin down given various complicating factors, including incentives to be disingenuous in reporting.)

Washington has tremendous hydroelectric resources. Grand Coulee Dam and the system on the Columbia is awesome. It is, however, max’ed. Also, enviros, including Algore, hate the dams. They even brag when they get one of them torn down. So, there is good reason for Washington to not offer incentives for hydro. However, nuclear is another matter. I don’t like incentives, but if they are going to give them for stupid stuff like windmills, they might as well provide them for smart things like SMRs.

Final thought on this article, carbon dioxide is an essential ingredient of life on earth. Carbon dioxide is not detrimental in any way. It is plant food, and plants are animal food. Water and oxygen, the other two essential ingredients, are far more damaging to humans and our infrastructure. Water kills millions, including hundreds of young children, every year. Carbon dioxide ensures we have enough food to feed ourselves. We will burn until we have no need. We will burn everything that will burn until electricity is inexpensive and readily available for all energy needs. We will burn for decades to come. If burning worries you, become an activist for nuclear. Educate yourself and get busy.

I was referring to this Forbes article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2015/03/12/cant-all-nuclear-just-get-on-the-same-page/

 

Brian Wang has a post at NextBigFugure here, http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/09/history-of-nuclear-power-costs.html#more, where he describes a significant factor in the cost of new nuclear (fission) power plants. The comments were mostly good additions. The regulations, as he indicates, have increased and increased, even when we learned some were unnecessary, none were lessened, but always increased. ALARA is the rallying cry of all things nuclear. As low as reasonably achievable. Of course, as achievement is established, the regulators assert that even lower standards are achievable, ever-increasing costs for an ambiguous and impossible objective.

Nuclear fission will be the power our great-grandchildren use. Perhaps their great, great-grandchildren will use fusion. Windmills will be forgotten. Remembered only in lonely remote applications and children’s stories. Solar will probably remain, but in limited, niche applications. And our grandchildren will feel shame for the starvation we caused by burning our food.

I happened upon these comments:

http://johnpreedy.blogspot.com/2013/06/chinas-challenges-in-development-of.html

Thorium molten salt reactors aren’t really ready for prime time. I agree with John-in-the-lot that it is good China is picking up the ball. Hopefully they will run with it safely and prudently.

Overall, in some set of designs, nuclear fission will power our world in the near future (one to four decades, perhaps slightly longer). Windmills will be abandoned, and will still have plenty of fossil fuels of all sorts by the time we just won’t care to use them much any more (longer than 40 years). Still, in a generic sense, only to prove the point, I’d like to see us try to burn it all, efficiently, and efficaciously, but all of it, none the less. Hopefully we won’t, but it sure wouldn’t hurt anything.

The planet will do just fine regardless.

Nuclear fission power generation will be the dominant power source. It needs no government subsidies.

Could This Reactor Convince Utilities to Build Nuclear Power? | MIT Technology Review.

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