Originally Posted by polyglot
Otto: Lobotomy? Isn't that for loonies?
J. Frank Parnell: Not at all. A friend of mine had one. Designer of the neutron bomb. Ever hear of the neutron bomb? Destroys people. Leaves buildings standing. It fits in a suit case. It's so small no one knows it's there until blammo. Eyes melt skin explodes everybody dead. It's so immoral working on the thing can drive you mad. That's what happened to this friend of mine. So he had a lobotomy. Now he's well again.
Last edited by jnanian; 05-15-2012 at 06:35 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Hahaha, what a funny thread :P
As for the neutron bomb, it's more or less a "dirty" hydrogen bomb. AFAIK from the little I've found on the subject, a functional neutron bomb would have a yield of around 1 megaton (40 times Hiroshima), so the theory about leaving the buildings is a bit iffy =)
It will ruin the land for 3000 00000000 + E35 years though, so in relation to the destruction from the blast, it's a radiation bomb for sure
ehhhhhhnyway. My guess is that they were doing coating-uniformity measurements or similar with it. Neutron absorption would correlate nicely with metal density on the film without you needing to carefully expose and develop the film. Could do some experiments into improved coating techniques, keeping in mind that some of the more modern films require many extremely thin coatings with crazy accuracy.
It's not as if research on nuclear power has stopped. It's gone on and resulted in many safer designs, more compact designs, etc. It's just that we haven't built any power plants yet using those new designs.
Originally Posted by Worker 11811
The analogy with cars (yay!) is if we knew how to build a modern car that got 40 mpg, with air bags, crumple zones, and the rest of the safety suite that modern cars have, but the only cars on the road were the ones using 70's technology.
Fortunately, some new plants are finally being built with many advances. At least in this country. At one time a couple years ago, the number planned was in the teens, but that may have changed between then and now. Most of them were in the south.
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This is exactly word-to-word what the industry says. I once believed in it too, as it seems to make sense superficially. However, certain events started a slow process where I started to think deeper, based on easy-to-verify, undisputed technical facts, on which I want to base my technological opinions on.
Originally Posted by Tim Gray
What I understand now, is;
(1) It indeed IS possible to build much much safer nuclear power than in the 60's and 70's, but
(2) it is so expensive that no one wants to build those. More specifically,
(3) Combining better safety and more compact design is simply impossible due to physical facts (residual heat curve, passive cooling requirements to give some headroom in accident situations, controllability). For example, the safety faults in GE Mk I design are mostly due to small size that was a selling point then. OTOH, better passive safety inevitably means large size, and the containment price goes up.
(4) The new, "safe" designs have already been found to have inherent safety problems (for example, AP 1000 chimney effect containment flaw), or they are getting badly out-of-schedule AND much higher cost than planned (EPR). This gets us back to point (2).
(5) The fact nuclear is even remotely economically viable is based on practically complete ignorance of the waste problem.
(3), (4) and (5) lead to the situation where building safe plants and even trying to solve the waste problem is even more expensive than building and maintaining those wind turbines....! The solution has just been very simple; let's ignore the problems and go on, taking the (relatively small, but existent) risk and counting on some future nuclear technology that can reuse the waste.
Given all this, nuclear power is more like a "fun" technological demonstration, or a risky business. If made cheap enough to be viable, it is a conscious risk. If the risk is not to be taken (or if the risk is REALLY minimized, this is by using technological facts, not just PR words), then it would be so costly that the same amount of money is much better used in alternative technologies. The simple fact is that the energy from sunlight is just enormous, and compared to that potential, a very low amount of money has been used on R&D.
The drive for nuclear has always been very political, not based on what would be wise for the world and human kind.
Don't worry, I can assure you that it was not easy for me to have to admit that those green "do-gooders" were absolutely right. They were just ahead of their time. Now it's all becoming reality, or actually, it has already happened to the point that the change is coming.
All the proposed "new" technologies I have seen references to have been completely unviable, or inherently very dangerous, but "marketed" by bloggers etc. who have not taken any look on the underlying technological facts more than very superficially. For example, I have seen argumentation like: "using sodium-cooled reactors is very safe, because there is no water, because the nuclear plants need cooling because the water gets hot, and if there is no water, it does not need cooling." This was in fact from a major Finnish media. But if you have been awake in the chemistry lessons, you know about sodium... If you have followed any news regarding nuclear, you know what happened at Monju reactor in Japan in the 90's with sodium. And, lastly, if you have been awake at the physics lessons, you probably know that in order to create 1000 MW of energy, you will be generating around 2000 MW of waste heat, regardless of whether there is water or sodium. This kind of practical approach is necessary.
IF some of those breeder/thorium dreams happen to become reality in the form of safe, reliable, environment-friendly and economical design as hyped, that will of course change the direction of my comments. However, it is a harsh error to decide anything else based on that hope alone. Enormous amounts of money have been used on those projects for 50 or more years, with no single practical result yet. The date "when they will work" have been postponed for decades. If it happens, it will be a completely new discussion from a completely new viewpoint then. What doesn't exist now, cannot "just be built".
Hope it didn't get too off-topic. On topic: if I understood it correctly, this news line was just a typical made-up sensational scoop. Sub-critical neutron source is NOT a nuclear reactor at all! About every big hospital have those, most universities have, and any large company doing R&D on chemical/physical fields have those. Of course they are still a security risk but at a completely different level than nuclear reactors.
Last edited by hrst; 05-15-2012 at 01:10 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Eh, although lengthy and coherent, a lot of it I cannot agree with. I have always been against nuclear power since I find things like solar to be so simple, etc. But, I also happen to be dating a doctoral student who is working for a national lab on subcritical reactors....the stuff is silly safe, like you can hold it in your hand and won't get anymore radiation than hanging out in the sun for a couple hours or getting your teeth x-rayed. And being far from a critical state, it can't meltdown like some of these larger reactors. There's a sample of a small reactor being built in Corvallis that is about the size of a fridge that does work and is so below the threshold of any real danger I couldn't imagine anyone being spooked by it. Look at France and how they recycle. The old days of making this pure poison are over unless it's highly rudimentary.
I get more radiation and have a better chance of poisoning from hiking in the Utah canyons than I do around any sort of test lab or reactor. That's all natural too.
Maybe I should invite her to explain her subcritical thesis on here. It's quite fascinating stuff.
Well, we have to define more closely what we are pro and against to.
Clearly, the days of the nuclear as we know it will be over. Also, as I pointed out, the conception that the "future" would be, again, large centralized reactors with some sort of "updated safety", or just smaller versions of them running on the same principles, is completely skewed and full of misconceptions, unless something really groundbreaking happens in R&D [that has been going on for decades, using enormous piles of money, with no such results yet. That, however, doesn't prove it's impossible. But I wouldn't hold my breath].
I didn't say there wouldn't still be some fields under the "nuclear" title. I agree subcriticals indeed can be very safe. Nothing's a better "passive safety" than having small enough amount of material that cannot get critical in any conditions. Actually, it's nothing new. It's been used to power up everything from pacemakers to lighthouses. However, there are still problems; that very same material can be used for wrong purposes when collected; or do you think this is not a real concern? Then again, does it produce enough power to be widely practical? -- this is actually not a question of being pro/con or being scared about it, but just wondering how important it is and will it have marketplace on its own, without political funding? I don't know that.
I also understand that all kind of approaches to try to reuse used nuclear fuel are now needed, due to our mistake that went on for decades, being ignored.
Oh, I just find the stuff fascinating because although we may not gain a new reactor from the piles of money thrown at the research, we do find anomalies that help us understand physics and the world around us in other ways. Oh, and medical use...man oh man there is some amazing tumor targeting stuff that I am privy to hear about through the pipelines.
If you can find someone who can enrich uranium or any of the other ***aniums in their basement I then would be concerned. As of now...I think underwear seems to be more frightening.
I wholeheartedly disagree with centralized resources, no matter the source (nuclear, solar, you name it). It's criminal. But, having a friend working on a few pint sized reactors is interesting because one is being beta tested by a large techno-firm and has been running for 3 years without fault powering a server bank that we all use....no water, no input, self sustaining at the moment. It's cool stuff.
I say a solar panel on every roof in New Mexico and get off of coal and nuclear. But that's just not politically possible at the moment because the government won't see any profits. Oh well.
These three points could possibly be true. It's nothing inherent though to nuclear energy that makes the three above points specifically the domain of nuclear energy though. The new designs are expensive, and power companies most definitely want them. They just don't want to be responsible for the bill if the project gets to 95% completion and then the plug is pulled. Because then they've spent $9 billion with no hopes of any profit - who wants to be in that position? They'd much rather build some coal plants using regulations from the 50's and be done with it, if they were allowed to. But I bet if you approached a utility with nuclear operation experience with a brand new power plant, all ready to go, they'd quickly fork over the money, because they know they can run these things for 40+ years at a 95% duty cycle and make the initial investment back.
Originally Posted by hrst
Working backwards, for point #5, one can look towards the coal power industry. It totally externalizes the cost of all of it's waste and air pollutants when looking out the cost/kW hour. It is absolutely true that this is an issue that needs to be taken care of with nuclear, but I would say it's something that needs to be taken care of with coal as well. Coal ash isn't fun.
For #2 and #4, those kinds of things are true with any large scale projects nowadays. Everything large scale gets out of schedule and more expensive than planned today. I personally think it's semi-intentional - big expensive and long projects are hard to get funded, so 'optimistic' plans are come up with that aren't very realistic, but easier to get support for. By the time people realize the 'optimistic' plan is not realistic, too much investment has occurred to pull the plug. But it doesn't matter why I think it happens - it just does. Don't get me wrong - I agree with you. Two of the largest science projects ever are in my field. The one is completed, but was late and 4 times more expensive than originally budgeted. The second is the world's largest scientific collaboration ever. It's budget and science are so complicated that they essentially can't decide how much it costs (you won't read that in the news). But regardless, it's still over budget and behind schedule
We simply aren't undertaking many of the large scale projects today in the US that we used to. In fact, I just read a cool article today about the largest forging press in the US, how it broke and was almost shut down. Fortunately they decided to repair it. It was brought online in 1955 - I can't imagine us having the forethought to invest in our infrastructure like that nowadays. There are plenty of other examples of things that 'could not be built' today that aren't being built for reasons other then technological, or even economical reasons.
Anyway, I'm not trying to be political or a nuclear energy shill (I'm not). Energy demand is going to be a huge issue in the future. It's a huge deal now. Nuclear is one possible way forward and not necessarily the only way forward. Some of the solutions might take 50-70 years (or longer) to make viable, and if we are going to use them, we better hope we continue to fund research on them to make sure they are ready when we need it.
By the way, the article on the forging press is here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...on-giant/8886/