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Saturday Morning Open Thread: Energy Woes, Alternative Nuclear Edition

  • Posted on: 14 May 2011
  • By: Open Thread

Given the ongoing nuclear disaster known as Fukushima, and despite assurances that US reactors are safe, one might wonder if our current implementation of nuclear energy is the really anything more than a dangerous experiment in an over-complicated steam-powered generator:

The conversion to electrical energy takes place indirectly, as in conventional thermal power plants: The heat is produced by fission in a nuclear reactor (in a coal power plant it would correspond to the boiler) and given to a heat transfer fluid - usually water (for a standard type light water reactor). Directly or indirectly water vapor-steam is produced. The pressurized steam is then usually fed to a multi-stage steam turbine. Steam turbines in Western nuclear power plants are among the largest steam turbines ever. After the steam turbine has expanded and partially condensed the steam, the remaining vapor is condensed in a condenser. The condenser is a heat exchanger which is connected to secondary side such as a river or a cooling tower. The water then pumped back into the nuclear reactor and the cycle begins again. The water-steam cycle corresponds to the Rankine cycle.

One of the alternatives to using nuclear energy as simply a fancier form of steam generation is the possibility of converting the energy created by the reactor directly into electricity - using an aneutronic reactor:

Successful aneutronic fusion would greatly reduce problems associated with neutron radiation such as ionizing damage, neutron activation, and requirements for biological shielding, remote handling, and safety.

Some proponents also see a potential for dramatic cost reductions by converting energy directly to electricity.

The US Navy's sponsored research at EMC2 Fusion is making some headway on this, and appears pleased with the current results.

Do you have any new news of ongoing alternatives to our current energy situation? If so, comments are open below the fold.

Keep in mind: This is an Open Thread.


Hat-tip to Roger Fox of Daily Kos for the reminder and link to the article.



Suppressing the Truth About Nuclear Power - If you think this was bad, just wait

  • Posted on: 28 March 2011
  • By: MichaelCollins

By Joaquin posted by Michael Collins

The truth is, there is a big fat lie that the nuclear power industry and the media are foisting on the public and that has not changed. But first let's take a look at some other lies. For example, here is a picture of an exploding reactor building #3 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant: (Image)

We are supposed to believe that this hydrogen explosion is no biggie; course it isn't; it's just a direct hit. WTF, there is a huge amount of concrete flying hundreds of meters in the air not a tin roof; the nature of the damage done by this explosion has proven to be the subject of one lie after another.

Another, Older Mess: Hanford Nuclear Reservation

  • Posted on: 26 March 2011
  • By: GreyHawk

The ongoing nuclear issues in Japan have sparked renewed domestic concerns about our own nuclear power plants and their relative safety. One site, in particular, recently came back into the spotlight when Der Spiegel posted an article about it entitled America's Atomic Time Bomb: Hanford Nuclear Waste Still Poses Serious Risks, By Marc Pitzke in New York. From the article:

Fifty-two buildings at Hanford are contaminated, and 240 square miles are uninhabitable due to the radioactivity that has seeped into the soil and ground water: uranium, cesium, strontium, plutonium and other deadly radionuclides. Altogether, more than 204,000 cubic meters of highly radioactive waste remain on site -- two-thirds of the total for the entire US.

In one area, discharges of more than 216 million liters of radioactive, liquid waste and cooling water have flowed out of leaky tanks. More than 100,000 spent fuel rods -- 2,300 tons of them -- still sit in leaky basins close to the Columbia River.

The cooling water for the facilities came from that river. Until 1971, it was secretly pumped right back into it after only a minimum amount of treatment. High radiation levels were measured 250 miles (402 kilometers) further west, where the Columbia River flows into the Pacific. It was mostly Native Americans who ate the poisoned fish.

Note the last line: It was mostly Native Americans who ate the poisoned fish. That would make it yet another issue in a potentially long line of issues that Native Americans have with our government's manner of handling important issues. [See also: Klamath fish kill and New Orleans for additional examples of government oversight falling down on the job.]

Anywho...again, from Der Spiegel:

On December 3, 1949, Hanford physicists released a highly radioactive cloud through the smokestack of the so-called T-Plant, the world's largest plutonium factory at the time. The radiation was almost 1,000 times more than what was released during the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, the worst nuclear accident in American history. Fallout from the experiment, which was called "Green Run," drifted all the way to California. People wondered why they suddenly got sick.

Studies would eventually show that some babies at Hanford were radiated twice as much as the children of Chernobyl. Before the "Green Run," Tom Bailie, the 2-year-old son of a farmer loved to play in the fields. But then he suffered an inexplicable paralysis; later, he wouldn't be able to father children. His entire family died of cancer.

But it wasn't until 1986 that Bailie, with the help of a dogged reporter from the Spokesman Review, a regional newspaper, began to figure out why. It was the beginning of what would turn out to be a decades-long fight between the radiation victims and the US government. The victims sued the government and forced it to open its secret files. Some of the lawsuits have been consolidated into class-action suits and are still ongoing today.

[...Read more...]

Lovely, and quite telling about where our nation's priorities are - at least, from the perspective of the power brokers.


New problems emerge in Japan's nuclear power emergency

  • Posted on: 25 March 2011
  • By: Deep Harm


Sampling of ocean water 30 km off Japan's coast found radioactive "iodine concentrations at or above Japanese regulatory limits," as well as amounts of cesium-137 below regulatory limits. Some of the contamination may be due to recycled sea water used to cool down the reactors and spent fuel ponds. Still, the volume of water thus contaminated suggests that the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant complex has already released massive quantities of radionuclides over the past two weeks.

More massive releases are a disturbing possibility, experts say.