Mini Nuclear Power Plants Could Power 20,000 Homes (Update)

Nov 12, 2008 by Lisa Zyga weblog
Hyperion nuclear reactor
Hyperion´s miniature nuclear modules could be easily transported and buried underground, with the ability to power up to 20,000 homes.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Underground nuclear power plants no bigger than a hot tub may soon provide electricity for communities around the world. Measuring about 1.5 meters across, the mini reactors can each power about 20,000 homes. (Please see below for an update)

The small energy modules were originally designed by Otis "Pete" Peterson and other scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Now, the technology is being commercially developed by Hyperion Power Generation, which recently announced that it has taken its first orders and plans to start mass production within five years.

"Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world," said John Deal, CEO of Hyperion. "[The nuclear plants] will cost approximately $25 million each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $2,500 per home."

Because of their small size, the mini power plants can be assembled relatively quickly and transported by truck, rail or ship to remote locations, even places that currently do not have electricity. The power plants provide an alternative to current nuclear plants, which are large, expensive, and take about 10 years to build. Also, large-scale power plants don´t fit the needs of small populations or areas without available land. Hyperion´s modules can be connected together to provide energy for larger populations, as well.

In addition, the Hyperion modules have no moving parts to wear down, and never need to be opened on site. Even if opened, the small amount of enclosed fuel would immediately cool, alleviating safety concerns. "It is impossible for the module to go supercritical, ´melt down,´ or create any type of emergency situation," the company states on its Web site. Because the Hyperion plants would be buried underground and guarded by a security detail, the company explains that they´ll be out of sight and safe from illegitimate uses. Further, the material inside wouldn´t be appropriate for proliferation purposes.

"You would need nation-state resources in order to enrich our uranium," Deal said. "Temperature-wise it´s too hot to handle. It would be like stealing a barbecue with your bare hands."

The reactors need to be refueled about every seven to ten years. After five years of generating power, Hyperion says that the module produces a total waste of about the size of a softball, which could be a candidate for fuel recycling.

Hyperion now has more than 100 orders for its modules, mostly from the oil and electricity industries. The first order came from a Czech infrastructure company called TES, which specializes in water plants and power plants. TES ordered six modules and optioned another 12, with the first planned to be located in Romania.

Hyperion plans to build three manufacturing plants, with the goal of producing 4,000 mini nuclear modules between 2013 and 2023. Next year, the company will submit an application to build the modules to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

While acknowledging that the commercial development of mini nuclear plants is a lofty goal, Hyperion believes that the potential benefits of the technology make the effort well worthwhile. Along with bringing electricity to remote locations, the Hyperion modules could also be used to provide clean water for the 25% of the world´s population that currently does not have access to clean water. The modules can provide power to pump, clean, and process water, which in turn can help decrease disease, poverty, and social unrest.

Update (November 12, 2008): The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) contacted PhysOrg.com to state that the NRC has no plans to review the Hyperion design in the near future, although the NRC and Hyperion have had preliminary talks. Because the Hyperion design is unique, the NRC expects that it will take significant time to ensure safety requirements. In a response to a letter from October 2008, the NRC stated:

“Hyperion Power Generation is in the early stages of development of this design, and very little testing information is available for this design concept. Hyperion Power Generation has indicated that it will submit technical reports to support a pre-application review in late FY 2009. The NRC cannot engage in any meaningful, formal technical interaction with the potential applicant until we receive those reports. Because of the very limited amount of test data and lack of operating experience available for a uranium hydride reactor, the NRC staff anticipates that a licensing review would involve significant technical, safety, and licensing policy issues.”

More information: www.hyperionpowergeneration.com

via: The Guardian

Explore further: Dismantling Germany's nuclear industry, piece by piece

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User comments : 102

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gopher65
4.1 / 5 (15) Nov 10, 2008
Ok, now that is just awesome. Is this kind of thing workable for lunar bases as well? I didn't see them state a total mass for the reactor.
Bob_Kob
3.1 / 5 (10) Nov 10, 2008
I would still imagine it would be heavy, what with the lead needed to shield from radiation.
Star_Gazer
1.7 / 5 (34) Nov 10, 2008
Great! It doesn't take a scientist to figure out that if you open SEVERAL of those reactors, fuel from them could be collected to something that could reach critical mass.. and what about radiation they give out? or how much TNT would it take to open one of those up? how much security would be required?
madrocketscientist
4.7 / 5 (17) Nov 10, 2008
Chill out Star Gazer, opening several reactors would require quite an effort considering the reactors will be sealed in concrete so they could NOT be opened on site (refueling would require lifting out the whole reactor and transporting somewhere where the concrete shell could be broken apart to expose the reactor vessel). So a thief would need a heavy crane, a flatbed truck, and a secure facility and they would have to escape the area after they cut off the power to an area.

Stealing one will not be as easy and just tossing a portable generator into the back of your truck and covering it with a tarp.

The concrete acts as a radiation shield, and I imagine you'd need a LOT of TNT to crack one open, which is bound to attract attention.

Also, they say right in the article that the material is not the kind that goes supercritical easily.
Seto
4.5 / 5 (15) Nov 10, 2008
madrocketscientist is right. Furthermore even if you WOULD manage to open say 5 of them (which would require a lot of traveling, as they obviously wouldn't be close to each other), then what? The reactor grade uranium has 3-4% U-235, natural uranium (which can still be found in nature and until recently was used in orange paints) has .7% - great, you need > 90% for a nuclear weapon. And seriously, how much fuel do you think you'll gonna find in there? It's by definition a very small reactor... The only thing you can do after all the hard work is increase your chances of getting cancer and I can't see how that is an act of terrorism. The biggest concern would be the actual loss of power...

Let's see what the NRC says. Knowing them, they won't like the decentralized nature of it...
NOM
1.1 / 5 (20) Nov 10, 2008
Even if opened, the small amount of enclosed fuel would immediately cool
... um, would that "immediate cooling" be by exploding?
Doug_Huffman
3.7 / 5 (15) Nov 10, 2008
"It is impossible for the module to go supercritical,..." the company states on its Web site.

I wonder how then it increases fission rate?

A glance at the vaporware's web site shows mention of steam turbines that are definitely moving parts.
PinkElephant
3.2 / 5 (17) Nov 10, 2008
I'm sure these won't be useful for building nukes, but I'm equally sure they will be excellent fodder for building dirty bombs.

Heck, the world community has problems controlling nuclear material in Russia and the former Soviet satellites; let's just spread a whole bunch of nuclear material all over the third world, and hope there is no corruption or warfare to bring it back to our shores in the form of a relatively tiny but exceedingly toxic mushroom cloud.
gopher65
4.2 / 5 (19) Nov 10, 2008
The calculations I've seen have shown that Dirty Bombs just don't work properly. They aren't NEARLY as effective at killing people as chemical warheads, even simple ones like Chlorine Bombs.

Chemical warhead: easy to make, more effective. Can be made using common materials.
Dirty bomb: Hard to make effectively, and less effective even if you manage it. Made from extremely rare materials.

Which would any logical person chose to use? Dirty bombs are a fiction. Chemical warfare... now that scares me. And it's actually, you know, real.
tkjtkj
3.2 / 5 (9) Nov 10, 2008
"and plans to start mass production within five years. "
.
sigh... thiS one is over TWO years
old.. so i expect there are many such
units in place by now .. Oh.. ya..
not a single one. .. Oh well, keep the
article but dont fail to update the
expected 'installation ' date!
WolfAtTheDoor
2.2 / 5 (14) Nov 10, 2008
This sounds like a bad idea. Have you ever seen the security that goes around a nuclear power plant? Imagine trying to lock down thousands of these little shacks. I'm not saying this technology might not have some practical uses down the road, but I don't want to see little miniature nuclear reactors all over the place.
evan1138
3.6 / 5 (10) Nov 10, 2008
Sez gopher65:

The calculations I've seen have shown that Dirty Bombs just don't work properly. They aren't NEARLY as effective at killing people as chemical warheads, even simple ones like Chlorine Bombs...


Dirty bombs are not about killing people in the short term, which is maybe why they're not very good at it. DB's are for poisoning high-value property like important streets in important cities. For a suicide bumbler, what could be more fun than walking through town with a hand-cranked fertilizer spreader loaded with bad stuff. Now in New York city there might be detectors all over so perhaps the bumbler wouldn't get far. But in less well-equipped cities he'd be able to make a dozen trips between refuelings before having to stop and puke his life out on the asphalt. And as for the bad stuff being hard to get out of the ground, the scenario is not "thief in the night", it's bad guy takes control of the territory, and digs up the little power plants to sell to other bad guys. That kind of stuff happens all the time.
mjporter
4.4 / 5 (19) Nov 11, 2008
Sounds cool. Now if we can just get people to get over their ignorant fears regarding nuclear power...
Bob_Kob
3.9 / 5 (9) Nov 11, 2008
I dont understand though the point of building smaller ones. Don't costs come down when you build something on a big scale, like a large nuclear power station rather than many small ones?
Soylent
4.5 / 5 (11) Nov 11, 2008
I dont understand though the point of building smaller ones. Don't costs come down when you build something on a big scale, like a large nuclear power station rather than many small ones?


LWRs have many layers of defense in depth, active safety systems and you wouldn't really reduce complexity, personnel or licensing fees by making them smaller.

A big part of the cost of building a nuclear power plant is the cost of financing and the extent to which unforseeable delays like endless hearings and litigation by environmentalists(or people who claim to be) can stall construction(you still have people employed but they're not doing much, you're still paying interest on loans but you're not earning any money on your investment). If you can simply purchase your nuclear plant and have it delivered off an assembly line after you pass the licensing review process you crop off all that overhead.

The licensing review process would have to be a lot less rigorous than a fully custom designed LWR or small plants are dead in the water. (Why shouldn't it be? What sense does it make to pretend that a radically simpler design needs to be reviewed exhaustively for each unit rolling off the assembly line when they are all identical, redoing the simulations and reviewing the same accident scenarios, each time as rigorously as the first unit?).

Small plants can easily go wherever rail, truck or boat can take them. You could use them to power a ship, you could use them as a portable steam source for the tar sands(which now use natural gas), you could use them for district heating and power in remote areas where you currently have to ship expensive oil.
Soylent
5 / 5 (4) Nov 11, 2008
Ok, now that is just awesome. Is this kind of thing workable for lunar bases as well? I didn't see them state a total mass for the reactor.


Why don't you look at the concept designs nasa is working on?

Cooling the reactor is probably the limiting constaint; they're not planning to get more than a few tens of kilowatts out of it. The core of the reactor need not be bigger than a waste paper basket with the appropriate fuel(most likely candidate is enriched to 20%; higher enrichment is considered a proliferation hazzard because it would be technically possible, if difficult, to use it in a bomb).
atomicrod
4.5 / 5 (16) Nov 11, 2008
Soylent has it right - small, simple plants manufactured in a factory under stringent quality control standards can achieve economy of scale through mass production instead of through massive unit size. That concept was introduced by Eli Whitney when he developed the cotton gin and has been proven countless times over the history of industrialization.
For those who are worried about what happens when a reactor is opened, don't. In order to meet safety requirements, reactors have to be encased in several thick layers of steel, concrete, lead, and/or water. These layers can and will be designed to serve as a vault that does not need any doors because even the people who own the vault will never need to go inside after it is sealed up.
Take that vault and bury it in a controlled industrial location or put it inside a secure building. Put a fence around the facility with a few cameras and motion sensors with a guard. That sounds like it costs some money, but a facility that can generate 27 MWe at 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (I think that Mr. Deal either misspoke or was misquoted, generating electricity at "10 cents per watt" is a meaningless statement.) Run the numbers and assume a 50% capacity factor (possibly more) and you get an annual revenue stream of nearly 12 million dollars. That is worth some protection.
Oh yeah - if someone did manage to break through the security, get into the building or dig underground, break through the vault, they would - DIE. The reason for the vault is that even if the plant is not operating, there is enough radioactive material to cause a fairly rapid, definitely painful death.
There is not really any need for a sophisticated alarm system - there would be 20,000 customers who can figure out that something is wrong when their power goes out. Under any attack scenario, that would have to occur a fair amount of time before the vault is breached.
I like the idea of small nukes. I am just jealous that Hyperion seems to be moving a lot faster than my company has been able to move. The world just was not as ready to listen back in 1993 when Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. was founded. Of course, it could also be because I am just not a very likable guy and I get kind of stubborn about facts.
Rod Adams
Founder Adams Atomic Engines, Inc.
Publisher, Atomic Insights (http://atomicinsi...pot.com)
Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast
matelot
1.5 / 5 (11) Nov 11, 2008
@ atomicrod 2 hours ago

Amusingly enough - your link is broken - you put a paren in it.

Oh yeah. Nuclear power is safe 'cus we big brains never make mistakes.

Oh, and nuclear power is cheap. I mean, theoritically.

===

Reality check on reality (facts that are true for the US)

1
Nuclear power is expensive. The cost of building a plant always seems to spiral out of control. And all costs associated with nuclear power seem to rise.

2
Nuclear power generates lots of nasty waste - the cost of which to "house" mushrooms. See #1.

3
Repeat loop.

==

As for dirty bombs...

The goal of a dirty bomb is not to create maximum damage. The goal is to create terror and anger.

A dirty bomb irradiating a few square blocks of a major America city would be a new 911.

Anybody who thinks that dirty bombs aren't dangerous should copy and paste my comment and send it in an email to themselves. That way - you'll always have it. I mean, links break. Webpages change.

Once an attack happens years from now - you can reread my email and maybe you'll learn something.

Oh, but it's not the radiation that kills you. It's the boundlessness of human stupidity.

If only we could solve that problem.
atomicrod
4.5 / 5 (11) Nov 11, 2008
@matelot - actually, I did not put a paren in my link. I enclosed the link in parentheses as I have done on countless other sites. Unfortunately, the big brains in the IT world see fit to have multiple standards for posting comments; some accept HTML, some do not. Some accept text links, others assume and insert a hyperlink that includes extraneous characters.

The cost to store and monitor used nuclear fuel is already included in the cost that we pay for electricity from nuclear power plants, since we are already storing it and have been for more than 50 years. That cost is rather modest - the total operating and maintenance cost of the average nuclear plant in the US was just 1.76 cents per kilowatt hour in 2007. That number includes uranium, conversion, enrichment, fabrication services, storage, shipment, inventory (including interest), labor, material & supplies, contractor services, licensing fees, and miscellaneous costs such as employee expenses and regulatory fees.

The production cost from nuclear power compares very favorably to the production cost from coal at 2.47 cents per kilowatt hour or from gas at 6.78 cents per kilowatt hour. (In other words, I disagree with your assertion that nuclear power is expensive, and so does the actual data.)

I do agree with you that the only real goal of a dirty bomb is to create terror. However, if you are not terrified of radiation, especially at low dose levels, then it is impossible for the dirty bomber to succeed. I know enough to not be afraid, but am cautious enough to believe that taking appropriate steps to prevent access is worth the effort. Did you read my comment at all?

If you really believe that "all of the costs associated with nuclear power seem to rise" I assume that you have never seen the cost trend graph that can be obtained at http://tinyurl.com/6pup5v

See, I can learn from my mistakes. No broken link because of extra characters. That is one characteristic that is pretty common among nukes - we spend a lot of time trying to learn and improve.
Roach
4.8 / 5 (9) Nov 11, 2008
can you imagine the business use for these? power a plant completely off the grid, a large process or production plant could easily reclaim the cost on one of these over the life of the fuel, and then ten years in they are only paying for the fuel. lowere electrc rates, cleaner electricity(I'm not talking Green cleen rather phase and noise clean) or Hospitals never having to worry about blackouts, or placing popup towns hundreds of miles from the nearest city with ease, or deep arctic research stations, or deep sea research stations. this is great, I want one.
Roach
2 / 5 (5) Nov 11, 2008
Atomic rod, I think you're wrong on your numbers, Rather than

"the total operating and maintenance cost of the average nuclear plant in the US was just 1.76 cents per kilowatt hour in 2007"

you meant to say the cost of used power is 1.76 cents per KW. So basically nuclear power is cheaper than it currently cost, but supply outweighs demand keeping the price artificially high to pay for unused power. Now quit bad mouthing nuclear power. :)
Doug_Huffman
2.7 / 5 (3) Nov 11, 2008
Woohoo! Rod! Welcome old friend!
Doug_Huffman
3.8 / 5 (4) Nov 11, 2008
I'm miles out in Lake Michigan, five miles across Death's Door in a community of 700 souls. Do you think that we'll just be given one?

The community regularly discusses Adams' Atomic Engines. Their greatest promoter here is a watermelon that would throw away the existing infrastructure of 10,000 gallon fuel tanks and a building full of diesel engines dating back to the Thirties.
Doug_Huffman
2.5 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2008
In re 'security; it would be required only until the fuel is fluxed. After that the fluxed-fuel might be offered 'all you can carry gratis'.
ShadowRam
4 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2008
This was Toshiba's idea.

http://www.nexten...17b.html

And the tech's been around for YEARS!!!
http://en.wikiped...enerator
Mayday
4.5 / 5 (8) Nov 11, 2008
This is a good solution for certain extreme applications(like Doug's). But in the real world(apologies to Doug), there are significant considerations that affect the final equation.

First, in any larger scale use(10,000 homes, a remote community, a hospital, etc.) you'd better buy two. All due respects to the QC masterminds of modern American manufacturing, but things do break down when you might least expect it. And if one of these has a hiccup, it'll take more than a spanner and a new fan belt. So you'd better be ready with a long-term back up.

Second, these will take land, and more of it than the little shed someone mentioned. And the final costs should consider the local drop in real estate values and the flight of most residents(especially those with children) who might currently be living within a few miles of your site for the dingus.

Third, the public at large is mostly completely ignorant about all things nuclear. And in fifty years the industry has done nothing to help the situation. Today, our culture has become nearly obsessed with paralyzing fear of nearly everything. Note how many people around you have started to become germ freaks for example. So politically, these little nukes would be the hottest of hot potatoes(no pun intended). So, any supporters better start a fund right now just to cover the hefty PR costs, legal/regulatory battles and obstructionist law suits.

But I love the technology. Too bad this concept wasn't adopted back in the fifties, before the big manufacturers sold the power industry on the idea of the giant, hard to build(from a political/regulatory standpoint) current PWR design. We'd be a lot better off today.
Pedro16
1.6 / 5 (9) Nov 11, 2008
Looks like a scam
Roach
4.6 / 5 (5) Nov 11, 2008
Looks like a scam

yeah that's what Los Alamos is all about, scams.
gopher65
4 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2008
Oh, but it's not the radiation that kills you. It's the boundlessness of human stupidity.

Yes, exactly. The radiation from even the best design dirty bomb is below the danger threshold. It isn't dangerous. There is NO danger to a city from a dirty bomb. They simply do not work.

But of course there is danger from the security response of the city and country in question. It's like people with a metal allergy. It isn't the copper that kills them, it is their own immune system. An overly aggressive reaction to a minor problem can kill you.

Same thing here. The dirty bomb is (close to) harmless, but the trillions that would undoubtedly be spent on security would bankrupt them... and the freedoms that would be taken away from the people would destroy the country.
Mayday
3.2 / 5 (5) Nov 11, 2008
Maybe this is just too obvious, but if the costs are really as advertised, why not build a power farm of hundreds of these things. They could be fairly close to each other, or even stacked, to maximize the space, security and cooling efficiencies. All the necessary maintenance equipment and people would be right there. They could even be manufactured on site. A cyclic process could be instituted where they're built, run, refueled, run and decommissioned/rebuilt/modified over and over. Reprocessing could happen right there as well. They could even have a low profile so as not to be an eye-sore. It seems a lot smarter than the current PWR monstrosities.
teledyn
2 / 5 (3) Nov 11, 2008
I notice there is no mention of INSURANCE.
yogidave
5 / 5 (3) Nov 11, 2008
One interesting consideration with these local mini-reactors is the reduced power loss due to transmission. I started to look into this after reading this article and all your comments. I found some info saying that transmission losses where in the neighborhood of 7%. Reducing that could be a HUGE improvement for our planet.
atomicrod
4 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2008
@Mayday - you are generally correct about the need for back-up and some dedicated land, but the economics still work for many markets.

There were some pioneers in the late 50s and early 60s that proposed and even built small, distributed power plants, but a dedicated sales and political effort convinced many customers that bigger was better. That is okay; some things never change, but others do. Our energy situation, our technical competence and our economic situation offer a market opportunity.

Do I believe that small nuclear plants will take over the energy market? Not any more than mini-computers replaced main frames or Wawa's (convenience stores) replaced Safeways (supermarkets).

There are various energy needs out there and small nuclear plants offer an option that is not currently available.

@Doug - unfortunately, sizing a plant for just 700 people is a bit of a stretch, but it can be done. The key is finding enough places that need a small plant to make the initial capital investment in the licensing and the factories supportable. I think that will happen after the mid-sized plants succeed.
Bob_Wallace
2.2 / 5 (6) Nov 11, 2008
Simply by reading the above comments one can tell that there is a lot of public resistance to new nuclear facilities. That will make it hard for these to be adopted wide scale.

Then there are financial realities....

These people are talking about $0.10 per kWh. Let's assume that the actual cost will be a bit higher, as most things turn out to be.

Wind-generated electricity is being produced for $0.07 per kWh or less. With a few hours of storage and a widely connected wind grid we could get most of our electricity from wind. Storage ranges from cheap (pump-up hydro) to fairly cheap (CAES ~ $0.04 kWh).

PV solar prices are falling rapidly. Thermal solar with storage is approximately in the same price range as "mini nuke" and the price of thermal is likely to fall.

Drill down geothermal is showing great promise and expected to come to market at approximately the same price as mini-nuke.

Given the public resistance to nuclear and the apparent availability of other generation methods at the same or less cost I won't be investing money in companies that develop nuclear electricity.

atomicrod
3.9 / 5 (7) Nov 11, 2008
@Bob Wallace - please point me to places were wind is being produced and sold for less than $0.07 per kWh where there is no direct government subsidy (currently running at $0.02 per kWh) and no renewable portfolio standard that mandates that utilities purchase that power.

Also show me the system where that cost includes transmission system improvements and not just direct connections to already existing infrastructure.

Your comments about storage are also a bit optimistic, especially since both pumped hydro and CAES require a very specific kind of geology that is not always available in the places where the Hyperion Power Module would be useful.

Solar PV prices stopped falling in about 2004 or 2005. Solar thermal is also limited in utility because of the need for lots of cloudless, sunny days and vast quantities of open land that becomes uninhabitable for many existing species once the arrays are developed.

Drilling for geothermal is far less energy efficient than drilling for oil. Many "close" hot rock reservoirs are 2 miles underground and require the expenditure of about $15-20 million just to drill the hole needed for pipes that MIGHT be able to carry enough water down and steam up for a 20 MWe plant.

Public resistance definitely exists, but most of it is due to a long time FUD campaign. Quite frankly, that FUD campaign was aided by the industry because every time they finished a new nuclear plant in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s they went to the Public Utility Commissions and asked for a rate increase. That cemented the equation in the public mind that nuclear power=expensive electricity. That is an equation that sounded the death knell of the first Atomic Age.

The public will change its mind if companies like Hyperion can execute their strategy and produce systems that work well at reasonable costs. Just remember, Hyperion is not working Capitol Hill looking for subsidies like the wind and solar industry have been doing for decades; it is out signing contracts with people that like the capabilities that their power source offers.
NeilFarbstein
1.4 / 5 (7) Nov 11, 2008
NASA plans to do the same thing to power moonbases. Dont put it in my backyard, put it in their "backyard". They ought to use solar power on the moon like everyone on Earth.
Bob_Wallace
1.7 / 5 (3) Nov 11, 2008
Look down the page a bit. By 2002 the average price of producing electricity from wind was $0.05 per kWh. It has probably fallen lower since then. Seven cents should be enough to pay for the needed grid improvements.

http://www.earthp...m#graph4

--

Storage...

CAES sites exist over much of the US. Here's one being created in Iowa....

http://www.busine...3092.htm

And check this out. Any place with some water can create pump-up by drilling down.

http://blogs.tnr....ery.aspx

gopher65
not rated yet Nov 11, 2008
NeilFarbstein... nights on the moon are 2 fraking weeks long. That's a heck of a long time to be without power generation.
Bob_Wallace
2.5 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2008
Solar ...

PV prices did increase in price a few years ago due to a shortage of adequate supplies of processed silicon. Prior to now PV manufacturers had to rely on surplus supply from chip makers and increased demand for PV ate up that surplus.

Now additional (perhaps too much) production has been created and prices are once again falling.

And that's only PV panels. Thin film solar is being cranked out at a small fraction of the cost of PV.

--

You're $15-20 million for a geothermal drilling is quite a bit higher than what the industry is stating, something more in the range of $5 million.

http://www.latime...rack=rss

--

These mini-nuke plants may get used in some extreme situations, but they aren't likely to get a toe-hold in most places.

Just like large scale nuclear, there is no demonstrated economic return and adding that to significant public resistance probably means that we will see no new nuclear in places where the market operates freely and the public has a voice.

Truth
2.3 / 5 (7) Nov 11, 2008
Right. Another "gee whiz" prediction...like flying cars, Mars bases, intelligent robots, glass skyscrapers, etc. etc. By the time any of these "wonders" come about, we'll all be pushing up daisies the good old fashioned way, decomposing.
matelot
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 11, 2008
@ atomicrod

I poked around your blog. And it lead me to your site where you gush about - and I'm not making this up - an atomic powered boat. And there are your plans for some sort of atomic powered "motor" that looks like you designed it out of used auto parts. Best of luck on that project. Indeed, best of luck.

>> Posted by Roach 11 hours ago
>>>> Looks like a scam
>> yeah that's what Los Alamos is all about, scams.

Google this
"los alamos national Laboratory" | lanl "security breach"

You'll learn of one security breach after another. Like LANL documents on a USB drive in somebody's trailer. And Wen Ho Lee.

Check wikipedia for
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Wen Ho Lee

And - Los Alamos is a multi-billion dollar factory of death, not science.

>> gopher65 11 hours ago
>> The radiation from even the best design dirty bomb is
>> below the danger threshold. It isn't dangerous.

Did you think that jets could be flown into giant buildings *before* 911?

>> The dirty bomb is (close to) harmless,

Oh, I see! It's like the radiation from lead in a pencil!

---

It's always the same - in theory nuclear power is:

- cheap
- safe

I won't argue "theory". Who gives s "f" about theory? Nuclear power plants can't be made out of "theory" - politicians, governments, and businesses are necessary.

And along the way - there are cost over-runs and budgetary problems - and then there's that darn waste. Nobody can post a link or quote something about how the waste has been handled intelligently. It hasn't - and you all know it.

And, gopher65, go google. You'll learn a dirty bomb isn't "(close to) harmless" - yeah - it might be only able to kill a few hundred or whatever - and the radiation *might* *only* *be* dangerous for months or years. But do this thought exercise - imagine it going off in a city where you, or parents, your brother or somebody you love lives. And imagine what it would do to the nation. You have no imagination. Work on that.

And now there are these "theoretical" hot-tub nukes. And in theory they are:

- cheap
- safe

Oh, wait. Haven't I heard that before? And if you think that one of those hot-tub nukes couldn't be stolen - stolen in transit or simply stolen on site - you don't understand crime, politics, greed and terror.

And, if you think that a hot-tub nuke isn't potentially an ideal terror weapon - you need to re-evaluate the thoughts you had on terror on September 10th - you know the year.

All a terrorist might need is a big truck - put the hot-tub nuke in a truck along with explosives - drive the truck to the downtown of a big American city - detonate.

Maybe it's true that the damage and the deaths would be - from a mathematical and scientific stand point: negligible.

Darn human beings - why dont' they listen to reason!

Yet - it surely isn't necessary for me to prove or explain that the event would be worse than 911 (by several levels of magnititude?).

I remember this "expert" on tv explaining that anthrax couldn't be mailed in a letter. It wasn't possible. And guess what - he was wrong.

I'm leaving this thread now.
WeAreGods
2.2 / 5 (10) Nov 12, 2008
Don't you people get it? Obama's the President now. There isn't going to be a world left to need electricity by 2012.
atomicrod
5 / 5 (5) Nov 12, 2008
@matlot - The Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. web site that you mentioned talks about ships, not "boats"; there is a difference, even though land lubbers might not know it. (As an aside, I did serve on two nuclear powered "boats", but they were called boats out of tradition. They were really 9,000 ton ships.)

Why would you dismiss the idea of atomic powered ships when such technology has been in constant operation since January 17, 1955? Do you not realize that there are about 75 US ships powered by nuclear engines along with several dozen in other nations including Russia, the UK, France and China. (That list may soon include India and Brazil.) One very interesting little boat called NR-1, which was a 400 ton deep submersible vessel, was also powered with a nuclear engine. It operated for more than 35 years and was just recently decommissioned.

The drawing on the AAE web site is what is known as an "artist's conception". It is not intended to illustrate an actual plant, just the general layout for one model.

Finally, I will tell you and the rest of the readers that Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. is once again in the sleep mode. We were actively pursuing capital investors until early this year, when the bottom began falling out of the world's financial system. We have matched our burn rate to our available capital and have the patience and endurance to work for better times.
atomicrod
5 / 5 (2) Nov 12, 2008
@Bob Wallace - thank you for the link to the LA Times article. It provides a lot of good information that encourages discussion and further research. However, I have to disagree with your characterization of what the article says about the cost:

"Still, these reservoirs can be tricky to pinpoint. They're also expensive to reach. A geothermal well can cost $5 million or more. The result: The U.S. currently derives less than 0.5% of its electricity from geothermal."

If I visit a used car lot that has a great big sign out front that says "reliable vehicles $2,000 and up" a very key part of that sign is the "and up", even if it is actually printed in very small letters.

The same can be said about the "or more" in the above quote from the article you mentioned, but did not quote. The existing geothermal plants in the US do produce electricity reliably and at a relatively low operating cost, but they were also built in very carefully selected locations where there were special geologic conditions that keep the cost of the necessary wells as low as possible. All of the rest of the interest in geothermal power production is being driven by legislation that mandates that utilities provide a certain amount of power from "approved" renewable sources.
MikeB
3.3 / 5 (4) Nov 12, 2008
This could be the beginning of a much freer and richer world. Cities can now be built anywhere, literally anywhere there is air to breathe and a stable foundation. Poor countries will be rich with cheap clean power. The abundant resources of Siberia will be easily accessed. Everyone will enjoy a better life than is available now. The most pressing problem of man has now been addressed. Are we smart enough to open the floodgates of wealth, or are we doomed to crawl backwards into the dark ages? Time will tell.
derricka
4 / 5 (3) Nov 12, 2008
Questions no one here seems to be asking:

What happens when these reactors are spent? Who will decommission them? Does the factory take them back?
What happens if the company that makes them goes belly up?
Will a private contractor get rich selling power, and then we the taxpayer, get left with the cleanup bill? Is the cost of decommissioning (or return), factored into the quoted cost for power?
Avitar
3.4 / 5 (5) Nov 12, 2008
I seriously doubt the vision that is presented by Hyperion will translate into reality. I do not doubt that their technology will perform exactly as advertised. What I doubt is that the newly elected BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone) administration in Washington will let such a technology be produced because it will solve too many problems. The current Senate and House majorities live for problems.

As an old engineer, I am all too aware that most of our problems from education to medical costs to energy are caused by superstitious politicians, usually graduates of the Ivey League Universities.
Doug_Huffman
2.5 / 5 (2) Nov 12, 2008
I didn't know that NR-1 was gone (and at a glance, neither does Wikipedia). That's too bad. But presaged by its publicity production of geewhiz TV stuff.

IIRC its Rx was characterized as comparable to a 55 gallon drum.

Re Solar Power, the Solar Constant is 1350 Watt meter^-2 equivalent to 4 - 6 kWh m^-2 day^-1

Re windmills; payback is $0.06 kWh^-1 the cost of buying the power absent the windmill. I will soon be asked to help write the Town zoning ordinance regulating them. We shouldn't stop them but a fool and his money are soon parted and we have better things to buy than green-herrings.
Pedro16
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2008
I don't think its a scam, that thought was put in my head by the low ratio of real information to marketing fluff in their website.
Reactors operating on the same basic principle have been around for 50 years - http://en.wikiped...ki/TRIGA
The innovation seems to be in the packaging.
Oil shale extraction would seem a valid use.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2008
I hope that everyone notices the update to the HPG story. Rod and I are a bit acquainted with a branch of the NRC.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2008
'Same basic principle' as a TRIGA is meaningless to power production. The same basic principle applies to all PWR.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2008
Following the mention of uranium hydride I wound up at Upshot-Knothole. Not an auspicious marketing note.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2008
"The hydrogen in the hydride compound (UH3) moderates the fast neutrons somewhat, which moves the energy spectrum down into a region where the average fission cross section of uranium is substantially higher giving a smaller effective critical mass." http://www.radioc...dex.html

And I imagine a shorter time constant. Unfortunately my recollection of neutron multiplication physics is too feeble to get much beyond that unsupported assertion. Where is my Glasstone...
hudres
1.5 / 5 (2) Nov 12, 2008
1. Don't hold your breath waiting for one of these reactors. The NRC will take no less than 5 years if they (Hyperion) are very lucky and more like 10 as a realistic estimate. The reason for this is that regulations (NUREGs) do not allow for this class of reactor. This means that they will have to study the design and then, after endless meetings. litigations, public hearings, etc., come out with a set of regulations to address this class. Then it will take a couple of years beyond that to get a license passed. This assumes that the NRC will take this up before they get to the 30 some odd licenses for conventional reactors currently sitting on their plate.

2. 10 cents per KWh is not that great. Con Ed (the NY utility) who is one of the highest price utilities sells electricity to residential customers for about 18 cents per KWh. 8 cents in not a sufficient margin for operation unless it is a giveaway. It would take a very long time to recoup the investment and make any money on this design

3. The TRIGA reactor, while similar in design does not produce anywhere near 25MWh. The TRIGA reactor is a training device and very low power source for isotope generation.

Bottom line: Fusion will be here before this reactor gets any widespread usage. Sorry
barakn
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 12, 2008
Wouldn't UH3 burn in oxygen, releasing water vapor and U3O8 (which I'd bet has a larger volume then the UH3 it replaces)? Hopefully no one uses an explosive to breach the core.
NeilFarbstein
1 / 5 (5) Nov 12, 2008
NeilFarbstein... nights on the moon are 2 fraking weeks long. That's a heck of a long time to be without power generation.
NeilFarbstein... nights on the moon are 2 fraking weeks long. That's a heck of a long time to be without power generation.
NeilFarbstein... nights on the moon are 2 fraking weeks long. That's a heck of a long time to be without power generation.


STORE THE POWER IN BATTERIES. They will keep everything working for two weeks at a time.
As far as powering things on earth with nuclear reactors everywhere. Terrorists will be steal uranium and plutonium from the nuclear reactors to breed plutonium for dirty bombs and atomic bombs. They ought to limit reactors to the military for nuclear submarines etc. and slowly replace utiltiy reactors as they come off line.
brant
3.5 / 5 (4) Nov 12, 2008
Hey, where is that FUSION reactor that I ordered?

Oh, on back order until 2100!!!

Ok, I'll take the fission model....
NeilFarbstein
1 / 5 (5) Nov 12, 2008
These greedheads dont care who they threaten with stupid schemes! A guy named David hahn was able to breed his own nucler fuel in his backyard. That's a true story in "The atomic boy scout" abook I read.
Terrorists can do that everywhere, Arab teroroists and others, even lone nutcases that want to get even with the high school football team or the cheerleaders.
wawadave
1 / 5 (9) Nov 12, 2008
4,000 Chrynobles all our dieing world needs more of...
Soylent
3 / 5 (2) Nov 12, 2008
NASA plans to do the same thing to power moonbases. Dont put it in my backyard, put it in their "backyard". They ought to use solar power on the moon like everyone on Earth.


Solar power on the moon is asinine. Lunar days are 29 Earth days long, which means you must have 14.5 days worth of energy storage to get through a lunar night.

If you could get by with a mere 10 kW of power during the night it would take 22 metric tonnes of lithium ion batteries capable of operating at hideous temperatures.

It's not clear that storing the energy as hydrogen gas would be any better; current storage tanks only manage a few times better energy density than batteries. On the moon you'd have to store the oxygen gas as well, which would require another large tank. You'd also have to land somewhere with good access to water ice because you can't bring all the water you need for hydrogen fuel cells with you to the moon. If you go the hydrogen fuel cell route you need to roughly triple the amount of solar PV.

It's not clear that the PV panels could be made lightweight as they'll need to be rugged enough to withstand huge temperature swings and specifically need cooling during the lunar day(pressumably a radiative cooler mounted on the back)

None of these storage solutions seem workable at all which is why Nasa is doing the sensible thing and planning a nuclear reactor which can supply baseload power. They may well use solar cells for additional power to do tasks that can be completed during the lunar day, but they're not crazy enough to try and use it for baseload.
Soylent
3.5 / 5 (4) Nov 12, 2008
A guy named David hahn was able to breed his own nucler fuel in his backyard.


No, he wasn't.

That's a true story in "The atomic boy scout" abook I read.


Apparently you didn't read it well enough. He managed to acquire enough thorium from lantern mantles to create a weakly radiactive mess that endangered noone but his own stupid ass.

In no way did it function as a reactor; in no way did it breed fissile material and in no way would preventing the use of nuclear power stop idiots from misusing a bunch of lantern mantels.

Terrorists can do that everywhere, Arab teroroists and others, even lone nutcases that want to get even with the high school football team or the cheerleaders.


So? It was only enough thorium to be ~1000 times background radiation. Don't eat it and you'll be fine.

People in Ramsar Iran live with background radiation in the form of radon gas ~10-100 times worse than normal; that's worse than most of the evacuated areas around Chernobyl and it doesn't appear to have any detectable medical impact.
Soylent
4.2 / 5 (6) Nov 12, 2008
4,000 Chrynobles all our dieing world needs more of...


How is it you are terrified of a disaster that may eventually kill 4 000 people(if the LNT hypothesis is true and you wait long enough), but not Banqiao Dam despite the latter destroying 5 million homes and killing 160 000 people?

How is it you're not terrified of coal power that kills 30 000 people(7 chernobyls) per year in the US? It gets even worse if you look at the studies done on coal power particulate deaths in Germany(higher population density) or China(double whammy of high population density and poor regulations).

How is it you're not afraid of solar panels? In terms of deaths per TWh of energy produced they're no safer than civilian nuclear power(people do occassionally fall off of roofs while installing PV panels, divide that small number with the miniscule amount of energy produced and the result is not insignificant).
Soylent
4 / 5 (4) Nov 12, 2008
10 cents per KWh is not that great.


It certainly is if what you are replacing is natural gas(e.g. in oil production from tar sands) or oil(e.g. in a large container ship, district heating system or oil-fired generation in distant communities as found in hawaii or Alaska).

Bottom line: Fusion will be here before this reactor gets any widespread usage. Sorry


Either of the two likely candidates(ICF or the tokamak approach) are at least a good 50 years from commercialisation and of questionable cost competitiveness; sorry.
Ulg
3 / 5 (2) Nov 13, 2008
2. 10 cents per KWh is not that great. Con Ed (the NY utility) who is one of the highest price utilities sells electricity to residential customers for about 18 cents per KWh. 8 cents in not a sufficient margin for operation unless it is a giveaway. It would take a very long time to recoup the investment and make any money on this design


That is a relativistic statement. True it is not a large initiative for enough public demand to cut the regulations- as most people while using quite a bit more power then just 40 years ago still do not use that much. But when it comes down to the bottom line of heavy industry that makes a huge difference, large scale educational institutes and computer heavy corporate you are routinely talking millions per month in electric bills. Kinda coincidental how refining of metals, and processing, fabrication left the US not so long after three mile. France is doing great though, but they get over 70% of their energy from nuclear. China is doing even better but they could care less how much pollution they put out. Automotive and steel work has also popped up in Mexico- who does not have the best air standards either.

Sure if all you do is watch tv, play x-box, take too long looking in your fridge, leave the lights on and other minor saving a dime or so might not seem like a big deal. Start refining titanium (which in the US is more abundant then iron and accessible) but requires 40% more energy or so then iron and it makes a humongous deal in terms economy.

If you want clean air- and you want a good economy, you want nuclear but may not know it yet.
Alburton
1 / 5 (2) Nov 13, 2008
WTF?
You dig hard,put a giant block of cement which securely (sure!believe me!what would I win from lying to you?Except millions of dollars maybe) contains a fission plant.So far so good...
It looks like its a magic box which produces electricity(20.000 homes!Wow!Thats must be like ...a lot!!W00T!) while being totally separated from the outside world!Nice!
But fission plants only create heat,and you need to refrigerate that somehow.
Wouldnt these things need at leats two pipes conducting water(or something)in and out?
And wouldnt this process make that something radioactive waste?
So...whats the real point with this little nuclear plants stuff?Whats its efficiency compared to the big ones?Do they consume different materials?produce less harmful waste?
The softball sized waste image sounds like theyre trying to convince a bunch of kids.
Where could I get real technical info about this?
Thanks

lengould100
4.7 / 5 (3) Nov 13, 2008
[QUOTE=somebody way up there] And along the way - there are cost over-runs and budgetary problems - and then there's that darn waste. Nobody can post a link or quote something about how the waste has been handled intelligently. It hasn't - and you all know it.[/QUOTE]

Actually France and Japan do handle the waste intelligently. They re-process it and re-fuel it into their reactors. Of course that's been banned in the USA because it would assist the economics of nuclear power, and the lawyers working for the "environmentalists" (what a joke) couldn't have that. It might cut into the gas and coal company profits.
Doug_Huffman
3 / 5 (2) Nov 13, 2008
You can't get 'real technical info' because it's vaporware and arm-waving by marketeers that would be professors to the invincibly ignorant collective masquerading as arbiters of common sense.

As I said above, following the thread on UH3 I arrived at Upshot-Knothole.

A turbine is a heat engine that makes mechanical power (torque * rate) and cool lower pressure fluid from hot high pressure fluid. Further cooling of the working fluid is exactly inefficiency.

'Radioactive' is only waste when YOU don't want it. A proper fuel cycle will pick out the good stuff and concentrate the low grade stuff into waste.

Retreating to the dog-poo analogy (that the NRC hated); the poo on your shoe is 'contamination' and the stink is like the 'radiation'. Exposure to it is avoided by DISTANCE (stay away from poo), SHIELDING (don't go barefoot) and TIME (don't waste time while cleaning the poo from your shoe). AND 'old' poo makes roses by any other name smell as sweet. Poo is a resource.

My community is working on a biodigester to make 'Extra Quality' human-poo compost/fertilizer of marketable quality with much sequestered carbon.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 13, 2008
Please Mr. Green, teach me how solar power, asinine on the Moon, is less so on Earth.

The Solar Constant on the Moon averages to the same as on Earth. FYI the Solar Constant is defined outside the atmosphere.
bmcghie
1 / 5 (1) Nov 13, 2008
And Soylent wins the thread! Thanks very much for your level headed comments. I greatly enjoyed reading them.
thales
1 / 5 (1) Nov 13, 2008
Soylent? I thought atomic rod won. Soylent only responded to crackpot postings (a valuable service, don't get me wrong) but Rod informed and defined the best response to the article.
Stbean
1 / 5 (2) Nov 13, 2008
Ok..sounds good, but whos gonna be the first one to raise a baby around one of these things.
Bob_Wallace
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 13, 2008
@atomicrod--

I've seen multiple sites use the $5 million price as about the right amount needed to drill a big bore hole in the ground to the required depth. I've got nothing else to go on, but I still think your "$15-20 million" number quite a bit too high.

And remember that there are two types of geothermal.

The first, and one now in use, is boring down to find existing underground streams which are producing steam. There's some risk of 'dry holes' with this approach.

The second type is where holes are drilled down to hot fractured rock and water is pumped down to create steam. This is the really promising technology as hot rocks are under all of our feet.

24/365 energy that can be harvested close to point of usage. Zero pollution, free fuel for millions of years. Basic technology that we've been using since Mr. Watt made his steam engine and Mr. Faraday invented the generator.

Lots of money pouring into geothermal at the moment. If it pans out then we can kiss nuclear good-bye. Nuclear would have to produce power at significantly cheaper rates (which it can't) to override public sentiment against it....
thales
1 / 5 (1) Nov 13, 2008
Thought everyone might like to know there is a lot of talk about this story over at the Cosmic Variance blog as well:

http://blogs.disc...comments
dexlau
1.4 / 5 (5) Nov 13, 2008
As awesome as these reactors sound, I don't think I would want to be anywhere near them. I am not sure how good shielding is, but even the smallest bits of radtion for prolonged periods of time probably isn't a good thing.

Scotty: "Excuse me, we are looking for nuclear wessels. Nuclear wessels."
Doug_Huffman
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 13, 2008
Humans evolved in a field of 'the smallest bits of radiation'. Good arguments are made that it was required for evolution and for health. Study up on radiation hormesis and the Linear No Threshold hypothesis.

How good do you want shielding to be? At the forward end of the engineroom at the bulkhead of the reactor compartment of a submarine, we worked within feet, not tens of feet, of the reactor.

The numbers are known precisely for materials, types and energy levels of radiation. I worked twenty-five years around reactors and acquired ~3 REM of exposure. About a 100 REM are required for acute symptoms and L/D 50 is about 500 REM.
Flakk
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 13, 2008
Looks like a scam

yeah that's what Los Alamos is all about, scams.


ROFL!!!
GRLCowan
3 / 5 (2) Nov 13, 2008
As awesome as these reactors sound, I don't think I would want to be anywhere near them. I am not sure how good shielding is, but even the smallest bits of radtion for prolonged periods of time probably isn't a good thing.

Scotty: "Excuse me, we are looking for nuclear wessels. Nuclear wessels."


Doesn't it strike you as odd that Scotty would have that accent and Chekhov would not? They probably swapped bodies in some routine transporter mishap.

The shielding is provided partly by the walls that the drawing shows, but also by the earth the thing is buried in. Earth shielding is *very* effective. You can be sure that if you walk around it with your dog, you'll get more radiation from the dog.

Earth shielding doesn't stop rays from the top few inches of the Earth itself, and the radioisotopes that emit these rays are not uniformly distributed. So you can also be sure that, while everyone has always been getting small bits of radiation for prolonged periods, those small bits are smaller in some neighbourhoods than in others. No-one seems to know or care whether they are in a high-dose or low-dose neighbourhood. That shows how, in our bones, we don't take this stuff seriously. When it comes from artificial sources, we, some of us, pretend to take it seriously if oil and gas money is involved.

--- G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan 'til ~1996
http://www.eagle.ca/~gcowan
atomicrod
not rated yet Nov 14, 2008
@Bob Wallace - LIke you, I have seen the $5 million number per geothermal hole in a number of places. However, most of those were articles by journalists or in sale brochure type material, so I did a little "drilling" of my own.

I found a page on the US Energy Information Agency web site that provides the average drilling costs per foot as reported by oil and gas companies. It turns out that it was about $320 per foot in 2004 http://tinyurl.com/5rrs2q

I then read some literature and articles about the "hot rocks" type of geothermal that you describe that does not require luck in finding an actual steam producer. Those hot plates seem to be found at a depth of about 2 miles - 10560 feet.

For the hot rocks system you need two holes - one for the water supply and one for the steam coming back up. It would not be smart or effective to just drill a bigger hole - apparently diameter of a deep well is quite limited because of the risk of collapse and the cost of the drill bits. In fact, there are some indications that you need more than one hole for the steam - it is less dense than the feed water and needs a bigger pipe.

However, I went with two holes for my computations. I also doubled the cost per foot from the 2004 number I found on the EIA web site based on many reports from oil and gas companies regarding the cost for drilling rigs because of high demand in recent years.

2 x 320 x 10560 x 2 = 13.5 million

The rest of my estimate is a guess for the cost of actually fracturing the rock, an allowance for the fact that the average costs are based on much shallower drilling, and the expectation that an increased demand for drilling rigs and those few people who still know how to operate them safely will put upward pressure on the prices.

I may still be off, but I am pretty sure that the $5 million is an underestimation.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 14, 2008
"No-one seems to know or care whether they are in a high-dose or low-dose neighbourhood."

Please define precisely high-dose/low-dose.
fuchikoma
1 / 5 (1) Nov 14, 2008
They sound like old Soviet lighthouse batteries to me. They would be very safe and low-maintenance if left alone.

On the other hand, they would be very likely to be abandoned when they expire. Also, what happened to the lighthouse batteries is that there were a lot of them, largely unaccounted for, so they don't know how much is missing, but believe it or not, metal thieves salvaged the protective casings from many, often receiving fatal doses of radiation. Still, there are documented cases of radioactive pellets being mixed into asphalt and used to pave roads (not sure if this was Russia though,) and radioactive rebar, made from black/grey market scrap metal (Taiwan) being used in apartment buildings, and so on.

My big concern would simply be that it is probably much more economical in the long to build the infrastructure, and run a large plant, than to build many mini-stations and run them short-term. Places like Venezuela have problems keeping their many aging smaller plants operational enough to serve the populace.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 14, 2008
Like keeping the Space Scuttle operational to serve the demos?
tkjtkj
2 / 5 (4) Nov 15, 2008
The calculations I've seen have shown that Dirty Bombs just don't work properly. They aren't NEARLY as effective at killing people as chemical warheads, even simple ones like Chlorine Bombs.


The goal of a 'dirty bomb' is not
to kill people. Such a weapon
does, however, have ability to
affect property values. In that
sense it approaches being a
'perfect weapon' , as the criminal
has options in choice of nuclear
material. It would have enormous
impact on the attacked society yet
not destroy the area: once enough
half-lives of the chosen material
has passed, the area becomes
theoreticlally habitable again.
Modernmystic
3.7 / 5 (6) Nov 15, 2008
Pfft...if we use geothermal in 100 years we'll have kooks talking about how we're cooling off the Earth's interior too much and are going to shut off the magnetic field or some such. Instead of watching the temperature for every nit of a degree we'll be watching hockey stick charts on the magnetic field strength....
MikeB
5 / 5 (3) Nov 15, 2008
Recently heard in terrorist training camp, somewhere in Pakistan.

"OK, Osama, here's the plan, with the use of these weapons we will be able to reduce property values all over the USA! MUAAAH HAAA HAAA

"Hussein Saddam, you idiot, Barney Frank already did that!!!"
GRLCowan
5 / 5 (2) Nov 15, 2008
"No-one seems to know or care whether they are in a high-dose or low-dose neighbourhood."

Please define precisely high-dose/low-dose.


Sorry, I left off a couple of "relatively"s. I meant almost no-one knows or cares whether the natural background radiation dose rate where he or she lives is higher than most places, or lower than most places. Buying and living with a granite countertop might be considered evidence of a desire for a relatively high dose rate, but the recent fuss about that went away so quickly it is likely most granite counter-top possessors still have no clue of the radiation exposure significance of that interior decoration choice.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2008
Radiation exposure *insignificance*?

Without a standard it is in principle difficult to speak of relative anything.
bmerc
5 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2008
Right. Another "gee whiz" prediction...like flying cars, Mars bases, intelligent robots, glass skyscrapers, etc. etc. By the time any of these "wonders" come about, we'll all be pushing up daisies the good old fashioned way, decomposing.


Not me I hope, I want to be embalmed with a bunch of toxic chemicals that will create a dead zone for miles around and will leach out of my body polluting the ground water for decades.
bmerc
5 / 5 (5) Nov 16, 2008
@ atomicrod It is your type, the hard reality type, that is keeping the world from becoming the true utopia that it could be. If it wasn't for you naysayers we could have our homes heated by mystical dragons breath in the winter and cooled by fairy farts in the summer and we could all be riding to work on the backs of flying unicorns. Yes meanies like you suck.
tigger
1 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2008
That's a very short man in the scale / size comparison.
lengould100
3 / 5 (2) Nov 17, 2008
"No-one seems to know or care whether they are in a high-dose or low-dose neighbourhood."


Please define precisely high-dose/low-dose.



Sorry, I left off a couple of "relatively"s. I meant almost no-one knows or cares whether the natural background radiation dose rate where he or she lives is higher than most places, or lower than most places. Buying and living with a granite countertop might be considered evidence of a desire for a relatively high dose rate, but the recent fuss about that went away so quickly it is likely most granite counter-top possessors still have no clue of the radiation exposure significance of that interior decoration choice.


How about St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.

http://fusioned.g...risk.pdf

Also relavant. Airline pilots are among the highest radiation exposure occupations, spending large parts of their time not protected from cosmic rays by the earths atmosphere, yet no-one I know of considers that risk unacceptable.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2008
A 'standard' for risk comparison is 'that which is accepted in every day life.

As to pilots, I don't think that they are even required to measure their dose.
canuckit
1 / 5 (1) Nov 19, 2008
Totally crazy idea.
Stbean
1 / 5 (1) Nov 21, 2008
That's a very short man in the scale / size comparison.


Too much radiation will stunt your growth.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 21, 2008
Oh wow! Hormesis overturned in a phrase from St. Bean Blossom.
Aviral
not rated yet Nov 23, 2008
Can this be installed on a train so that it carries goods while it is generating power....

http://www.faqs.o...nts_form

Found details of a steam turbine that can be used to produce power: http://www.faqs.o...nts_form

Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2008
Adams Atomic Engines are scalable to the degree necessary to power a locomotive.

To 'carry goods' it must be 'generating power'.

If you mean generating excess power then achieving efficiency becomes a convoluted calculation. Those usually contain hidden lies.
CWFlink
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 24, 2008
This Hydride technology as well as the "pebble bed" reactor technologies being researched world wide WILL work. And if Thorium is used in place of Uranium ( www.thoriumpower.com ) these reactors will be relatively free of waste products and very hard to convert to weapons (with dirty bombs being the only potential option.)
See:
http://www.world-...f33.html
and:
http://thoriumpow...olutions&subnav=thorium101

But more importantly, these small reactors are ideal for the 3rd world and we will NOT be able to stop the rapid deployment of them over the next decades. Cell phones have covered the world in less than two decades, bypassing the need for "wiring" every community and running cables between cities. Likewise the mini-reactor boom bypasses MANY of the infrastructure steps involved in bringing electricity to the 3rd world.

Mass produced, broadly distributed mini-reactors eliminate:
- national electric transmission grid to carry power from massive power plants
- complex switching systems to insure reliability
- railroads to carry coal or pipelines to carry oil/gas to the power plants
- vast cooling ponds required by big power plants
- military style security
- vast capital markets to fund building
- vast bureaucratic agencies to grant approval (in the 3rd world)
- skilled operators
- etc.

If we can't stop Iran from producing weapons grade Uranium, how do we expect to keep these vastly safer and simpler power sources from the 3rd world?

They will be mass produced and widely used... OUR BEST OPTION is to invest seriously in ensuring that the designs chosen are the very best for providing security, safety and non-proliferation, and then to mass produce them so cheaply as to head-off any efforts to home-grow the technology outside of proper international oversight.
GRLCowan
not rated yet Nov 24, 2008
... if Thorium is used in place of Uranium ( www.thoriumpower.com ) these reactors will be relatively free of waste products and very hard to convert to weapons (with dirty bombs being the only potential option.)
"

If they're tough enough to be repeatedly lifted with a crane and dropped on enemies, they could squash lots of them, if they would hold still.

"Relatively free of waste products" is true only in comparison to hydrocarbon burners. Thorium is fissioned by first being converted to 233-U, and 233-U fission products are essentially the same as 235-U fission products (235 being the already-fissionable isotope that is mined for today's nuclear power stations).

--- G.R.L. Cowan ('How fire can be tamed')
http://www.eagle.ca/~gcowan
Velanarris
5 / 5 (1) Nov 26, 2008
And along the way - there are cost over-runs and budgetary problems - and then there's that darn waste. Nobody can post a link or quote something about how the waste has been handled intelligently. It hasn't - and you all know it.

Look up breeder reactors.
dexlau
not rated yet Nov 26, 2008
As awesome as these reactors sound, I don't think I would want to be anywhere near them. I am not sure how good shielding is, but even the smallest bits of radtion for prolonged periods of time probably isn't a good thing.

Scotty: "Excuse me, we are looking for nuclear wessels. Nuclear wessels."


Doesn't it strike you as odd that Scotty would have that accent and Chekhov would not? They probably swapped bodies in some routine transporter mishap.

The shielding is provided partly by the walls that the drawing shows, but also by the earth the thing is buried in. Earth shielding is *very* effective. You can be sure that if you walk around it with your dog, you'll get more radiation from the dog.

Earth shielding doesn't stop rays from the top few inches of the Earth itself, and the radioisotopes that emit these rays are not uniformly distributed. So you can also be sure that, while everyone has always been getting small bits of radiation for prolonged periods, those small bits are smaller in some neighbourhoods than in others. No-one seems to know or care whether they are in a high-dose or low-dose neighbourhood. That shows how, in our bones, we don't take this stuff seriously. When it comes from artificial sources, we, some of us, pretend to take it seriously if oil and gas money is involved.

--- G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan 'til ~1996
http://www.eagle.ca/~gcowan


Oops, typo. Yeah, meant Chekhov. I was looking at a picture of Scotty talking into a mouse at the time. =P
gr0124
not rated yet Dec 04, 2008
Is it a real thing or another hype? When I was a child somewhere in 1960-1965 I read in a popular science magazine about "nuclear fusion" (or fission?) , sorry but it was not in English, so my translation maybe wrong. Anyway, it was talking about the process similar to one that happens on the Sun. And it was talking about how it will be possible to use this in 21st century, so there will be unlimited amout of energy for humankind.
gr0124
not rated yet Dec 04, 2008
Today to start hot dog business
you need licensing. Not sure how much it costs but
I would not be supprised if it is more than $2-3,000.00

Does anybody really knows if at least one of these
units gots licensed to be producing energy in US.
Is it operating in US and producing real energy?
Or it is in Sub Sahara Afrrica only?

Interesting ?