Research could improve nuclear power plant safety – and stop your kettle furring up

Research could improve nuclear power plant safety – and stop your kettle furring up
The National Nuclear Laboratory. Credit: NNL

Taking inspiration from nature, researchers have created a versatile model to predict how stalagmite-like structures form in nuclear processing plants – as well as how lime scale builds up in kettles.

"It's a wonderful example of how complex mathematical models can have everyday applications," said Dr Duncan Borman, from the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Leeds, a co-author of the study.  

The main aim of the research, which is published in print today in the journal Computers & Chemical Engineering, is to reduce the number of potentially harmful manual inspections of nuclear waste containers.

"We were approached by the National Nuclear Laboratory and Sellafield Ltd to solve the problem of predicting the shapes that precipitates from nuclear process solutions can form in containment chambers," said Dr Borman.

Study co-author Professor Daniel Lesnic from the School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds, added: "Our first thought was to find a suitable analogy in nature. At first we looked at how lava flows from a volcano to the ocean, but the formation of stalagmites in caves mimics the process much more closely.

"Geologists have well-established models for the formation of stalagmites. So we are taking models from one field of science and applying them to a completely different discipline."

Within the nuclear industry, hazardous salt solutions can arise within industrial containment vessels. The salt solution precipitates out, forming structures with strange morphologies that bear a resemblance to stalagmites. If left unchecked, they could build up and cause a problem in the nuclear containment chamber. Currently, these containment chambers are checked regularly to prevent this from happening.

In the study, the researchers used an existing for predicting stalagmite growth over millions of years as a starting platform. To take into account the full complexity of the mechanism by which the solid is formed, the model was then adapted to include the chemical and physical properties of the particular salt solution of interest to the nuclear industry, a more realistic fluid flow, and to consider the sensitivity of results to varying temperature.

Lead author of the study, Dr Mike Dawson from the School of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Leeds, who started the research during his PhD studies, said: "It took many months of intensive research to develop the model. The big test came when we tested the model against real data from the National Nuclear Laboratory.

"Our model stood up to the test. For the first time it was possible to predict the morphology of these complex crystallising flows reliably."

Dr Borman said: "This breakthrough provides a new tool for the National Nuclear Laboratory and Sellafield Ltd, with the potential to save both money and continue to ensure they are at the forefront of world-leading safety technology."

The new model also has wider application to other industrial and domestic situations where a salt solution precipitates out and causes problems, such as forecasting the precise shape and location of build-up in pipes or heat exchangers – or how lime scale will collect within a kettle.

Dr Borman said: "The processes underlying the build up of lime scale in a kettle are remarkably similar: the flow of a liquid containing a dissolved mineral – in this case calcium carbonate from hard water – over a surface of changing temperature, can result in solids precipitating out and leaving the build up of solid material behind.

"Using the model we have developed, manufacturers could improve the design of kettles such that these unwanted build-ups are minimised by repositioning filaments or designing them so that deposits form in locations that are easy to clean."


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More information: "Moving boundary models for the growth of crystalline deposits from undetected leakages of industrial process liquors," Computers & Chemical Engineering, 4 December 2014: www.sciencedirect.com/science/ … ii/S0098135414002701
Citation: Research could improve nuclear power plant safety – and stop your kettle furring up (2014, December 4) retrieved 20 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2014-12-nuclear-power-safety-kettle-furring.html
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Dec 04, 2014
Why do we continue to play with this deadly stuff? We simply do not need nuclear power, and are just leaving Humanity with the most toxic stuff on Earth, stuff we made and cannot even store safely.

Dec 04, 2014
Why do we continue to play with this deadly stuff? We simply do not need nuclear power, and are just leaving Humanity with the most toxic stuff on Earth, stuff we made and cannot even store safely.


If people like you would educate themselves and thus dispel opinions based entirely in fear we wouldn't have to store fuel. Actually depending on which "stuff" you're talking about it's not dangerous at all unless you eat it, snort it, or use it for an enema. The most toxic substance to humans known is actually Clostridium Botulinum...and the refinement process of rare earth's associated with producing wind power produce waste much more toxic than the actinides we currently classify as waste simply because LWRs can't burn them up but it's been DEMONSTRATED that molten salt reactors burn up ALL the actinides with only 2% of the material left over; and that material is necessary for nuclear medicine and space probes.

Lies, and ignorance.

Dec 04, 2014
Now as to the article itself, it's a moot point. This is like saying "we know how to make gas burning cars a little cleaner" when we already have electric ones. It's a perfect analogy, the problem is that a large percentage of the population is so emotional over nuclear power we can't build the equivalent "electric cars" and then get blamed because the other ones are more dirty. Makes perfect sense in some world I suppose, but not this one.

Dec 04, 2014
Or you could say something to the effect that burning coals kills half a million people per year just in china, and how many have ever died from nuclear?

I remember as a kid they tried to sway everyone by showing ads like the one where kids hop a gate, play in green foam (green = nukalur!), then get super sick. I remember one where people were eating, and when they cleared their plate there was a nuclear trefoil on it. Also a really fucking scary one about skulls and radiation.

Safety improvements are the kind of press nuclear needs. But ultimately, if we don't adopt it, we will have our politicians, advertisers, and enviro-psychos to thank as we choke to death on coal smoke. Why don't they fucking fight coal instead??

Dec 04, 2014
Since Rookie brought up coal, I thought I'd post this...

http://climate.na...ews/903/

Now unless someone is going to say that NASA scientists are LYING and don't know what they're doing, I guess nuclear is pretty safe after all...

Dec 04, 2014
Rookie King needs a vacation in Pripyat, followed by some real work at Fukushima.

"Why don't they fucking fight coal instead??"

That is exactly what they are being accused of now, but coal will kill itself when all the hidden costs are made public.

BTW, has anybody noticed how the German utility is trying to dump both coal and nukes onto others, and keeping the renewables for themselves?

Dec 05, 2014
Or you could say something to the effect that burning coals kills half a million people per year just in china, and how many have ever died from nuclear?

People are dieing from increased exposure to radiation all the time.

Fukushima is still dropping metric tonnes of radioactive ash all over North America. It will continue to do so for many years to come.

No exposure to radiation is good for people. So maybe it doesn't kill every person it touches, but increasing it in our environment will make us sicker and the less resilient will die.

Dec 05, 2014
Why do we continue to play with this deadly stuff?


Because it already exists?

Why do you oppose the processing and disposal of our nuclear wastes? What would YOU do with it? Just leave it sitting in pools and barrels until it leaks and poisons everyone?

The main issue here seems to be that if we find an agreeable solution to the nuclear waste issue, it will by proxy solve the main argument against using nuclear power in the first place, so the anti-nuclear crowd has to engage in a bit of double-think.

As long as the nuclear waste exists, it's an argument against nuclear power, so you can never ever ever ever do anything about it. It must stand as a permanent monument against itself.

It's hard to find an analog to such folly because it's so utterly stupid. It's like punching yourself in the face to remind yourself not to punch yourself in the face.

Dec 05, 2014

Fukushima is still dropping metric tonnes of radioactive ash all over North America. It will continue to do so for many years to come.


It isn't. That's a complete fabrication.

No exposure to radiation is good for people. So maybe it doesn't kill every person it touches, but increasing it in our environment will make us sicker and the less resilient will die.


The Linear-No-Treshold model of radiation safety and health effects, or the "no good amount of radiation" argument is scientifically unfounded:
http://www.ncbi.n...2663584/

Of course one cannot talk of any "good" exposure to radiation, because it doesn't really help anyone, but the point is that biology is resilient to radiation and under some treshold amount it simply makes no appreciable difference.

Millions live in places where the natural background radiation is equal or greater to the Fukushima fallout surrouding it, and seem to be perfectly fine.

Dec 05, 2014
increasing it in our environment will make us sicker and the less resilient will die.


That's another example of double-think.

There are far greater risks for people to die overall than exposure to ionizing radiation from the environment. Diesel particulate matter for example, or simple road dust that carries pathogens or toxic chemicals. The probability of dying in a car accident over your lifetime is about 1/50 which is on par with the probability of dying as a resulf of being exposed to the fallout of the nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Presuming you survived them first.

To argue against nuclear power in terms of risk is to ignore a whole host of greater risks that are equally preventable. In terms of people dead per MWh produced, even wind power poses a greater risk simply due to construction engineers and repairmen falling off of their platforms - and that is a fact. You can check it out.


Dec 05, 2014
Here are some actual facts about relative safety of various energy sources;

http://physics.ke...re15.pdf

Dec 05, 2014
For reference:

http://www.forbes...ys-paid/

Nuclear - 90 dead per TWh
Wind - 140 dead per TWh
Solar - 440 dead per TWh
Hydro - 1440 dead per TWh

One should note that the nuclear power death figure includes all of the accidents AND the estimated number of future deaths according to the LNT model, which, as I pointed out above is over-estimating the risks of radiation exposure.

If we're so worried about killing people as we produce energy, we should rather ditch ALL the alternative energy - but of course if we are anti-nuclear then we must ignore all that in our discourse as irrelevant while continuing to demonize nuclear energy for the same thing.

Dec 05, 2014


BTW, has anybody noticed how the German utility is trying to dump both coal and nukes onto others, and keeping the renewables for themselves?


BTW have you noticed this?

http://www.bloomb...mps.html

Dec 05, 2014
US and UK sailors live and sleep next to nuclear reactors for months at a time.

Dec 05, 2014
Gkam lies about the dangers of nukes the same way he lies about his qualifications for doing so.

Lies lies lies.

Dec 05, 2014
Bear in mind that we can see how radiation affects us by Chernobyl.
The birds are now brown, Why? Because the proteins that went into colored feathers is now redirected into protection against radiation.
I theorize that our planet has experienced large blast outs of earth gases, so large that life was terminated in the past, slowly reducing to levels we survive today. Life I believe, is the direct result of surviving deadly radiation. On a one to ten, what would you say we are?

Dec 05, 2014
One should be suspicious of the fact that far left liberals continue to reject nuclear power while at the same time promote a border line hysterical urgency for solutions to climate change.

Suspicious, because nuclear power can't be more of a threat than AGW accordingly to them.

Suspicious, because nuclear power is an obvious resounding solution to climate change that even those who question AGW validity would agree in adopting it on a mass scale.

Suspicious, because the technological challenge for safe nuclear power is certainly not less achievable than controlling the global climate.

Because nuclear power would solve AGW resoundingly and is proven, it conflicts with the political ideology of the far left that promotes government regulation, redistribution of wealth, and social engineering,.... for which AGW-hysteria was invented.

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