Even If Lockheed Has Made a Breakthrough in Fusion Power, the Hard Part Will Be the Economics http://www.forbes.com/sites/amorylovins/2015/01/16/even-if-lockheed-has-made-a-breakthrough-in-fusion-power-the-hard-part-will-be-the-economics/ Lockheed-Martin has just confirmed that it is among the private firms—the rest generally much smaller—that are pursuing various innovative designs for nuclear fusion reactors. Some of these innovations may prove technically feasible. All will be very challenging: if we can do controlled fusion, it will be arguably the most difficult engineering humans have ever done.
British robot maps radiation at Fukushima, Ft.com Tanya Powley, Manufacturing Correspondent , 18 Jan 15 A robot developed by a UK start-up is helping to locate hazardous radiation sources at the scene of the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
Createc, a small imaging company based in Cumbria, has developed camera technology called N-Visage for robots that can detect and draw a 3D map of high radiation locations that are too contaminated for human workers……..
Nuclear companies are turning to robotics as they look to deliver safer, faster and more cost-effective solutions for the £250bn worth of global nuclear decommissioning that is forecast to take place by 2030.
Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, which is leading the clean-up at Fukushima, deployed Createc’s N-Visage camera technology in stair-climbing robots to reach inaccessible areas deep inside the nuclear site. Fukushima was badly damaged by a tsunami in March 2011.
N-Visage is the only technology that has the right weight, speediness and capability for high radiation, said a spokesman for International Nuclear Services Japan. “N-Visage is very likely to be deployed not necessarily only at Fukushima but also at other nuclear facilities in Japan,” he said.
The N-Visage technology was first used at Britain’s Sellafield, western Europe’s largest nuclear waste site.
Operators at Fukushima are now using the N-Visage technology to understand where radioactive material is coming from inside damaged reactors and help plan clean-up strategies…….
Sylvain Du Tremblay, chief technical and engineering officer at Sellafield, believes the adoption of N-Visage at Fukushima shows the UK can lead in robotics technology for the nuclear industry. “We are using Sellafield facilities that are waiting to be dismantled to test and validate new technologies,” he said. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d2ca4690-85d9-11e4-a105-00144feabdc0.html#slide0
January 16, 2015, Jortiz3
Contrary to popular belief, the reason light-enriched-uranium reactors are used, and not thorium or breeder reactors, is due to simple economics. To run breeder reactors and thorium reactors, the neutron density and heat density must be so great that high-temperature coolants must be used throughout the core.
The systems used to manage these coolants are as exotic as the coolants are. This leads to increased costs, on the order of 20%. This 20% is enough that utilities simply choose light-enriched-uranium so that the reactor core can be cool enough that cooling with water is possible and savings can offset the cost of mining the ridiculous quantities of natural uranium required.
Savannah River Site Becoming World’s Nuclear Dumping Ground, despite Safety Risks By: GLORIA TATUM Atlanta Progressive News 6-9-2014
“……..We are wasting money and increasing the risk of a terrorist accident if we build that MOX plant at SRS. Plutonium fuel cost more than uranium fuel and there’s plenty of uranium on the planet. So we are taking other people’s plutonium to keep a MOX plant running and no one wants to buy the output from it,” Gundersen told APN.
Plutonium is a man made element derived from the transformation of uranium through fission. Plutonium, Pu-239, has a half life of 24,100 hundred years; that’s the time it will take for half of the plutonium to radioactively decay. Radioactive contaminants are dangerous for ten to twenty times the length of their half-lives, meaning that if plutonium gets into the environment, it will be dangerous essentially forever. If ingested into the body, it causes DNA damage in tissue, and cancer.
The use of MOX fuel does not get rid of plutonium; instead it becomes part of the lethal soup of ingredients termed “high level nuclear waste.” There are no safe long-term storage for nuclear waste, only interim storage solutions for waste that will remain hazardous for thousands of years.
“When I hear plutonium in the environment, it becomes a problem not only for the next generation – we were not even a [human] species a quarter of a million years ago – we might be a new species before this stuff completely disintegrates from the environment,” Gundersen said. http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/nuclear-dumping-ground-despite-safety-risks.html
Citizens living downstream from the site have complained for years of high levels of cancer and death in their community, which they attribute to the SRS and Plant Vogtle’s nuclear reactors across the river on the Georgia side.
“The DOE is more interested in jobs this year and totally forgetting about the environmental costs for the next 300 or a thousand years. It’s unfair to the people of Georgia and South Carolina to make some money now and pollute the Savannah River for a thousand years,” Gundersen said. http://www.fairewinds.org/secretly-dumping-peoples-problems/#sthash.mtEhWriM.dpuf
In April, B&W announced it was restructuring its mPower program. Instead of around $60 million a year, it would only spend $15 million per year.
The company also laid off about 200 people in Virginia and in Tennessee involved with the project. The company said in a statement that it was having trouble lining up investors.
Also on Nov. 5, B&W announced plans to spin off its nuclear operations, including the mPower program, into a separate company called BWX Technologies……” TVA shifts focus on Oak Ridge nuclear reactor, Knoxville News Sentinel 4 Dec 14
Is the “Superfuel” Thorium Riskier Than We Thought? A new study in Nature says that using thorium as a nuclear fuel has a higher risk for proliferation into weapons than scientists had believed. Popular Mechanics, By Phil McKenna December 5, 2012
nuClear News Nov 14
…………..Small Reactor delusion There’s an Alice in Wonderland flavour to the nuclear power debate, writes Jim Green of FoE Australia, in the Ecologist. Lobbyists are promoting all sorts of new reactor types – an implicit admission that existing reactors aren’t up to the job. But the designs they are promoting have two severe problems.
They don’t exist. And they have no customers. (1) On Patterson’s favoured Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) he quotes Thomas W. Overton, associate editor of POWER magazine, who wrote in a recent article: “At the graveyard wherein resides the “nuclear renaissance” of the 2000s, a new occupant appears to be moving in: the small modular reactor (SMR). … Over the past year, the SMR industry has been bumping up against an uncomfortable and not-entirely-unpredictable problem: It appears that no one actually wants to buy one.”(2)
GE Hitachi Receives Federal Funds To Assess New Nuclear Technology, Wilmington Biz BY JENNY CALLISON, NOV 6, 2014 GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) will perform a comprehensive safety assessment of its PRISM sodium-cooled fast nuclear reactor, thanks to a multi-million-dollar federal investment from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the company announced Thursday.
GEH officials are not sure yet of the exact amount of federal funds allocated to the project, company spokesman Jon Allen said Thursday…….The technology on which PRISM is based was developed in the 1980s and, unlike other nuclear reactors, it can use spent nuclear fuel and surplus plutonium to generate electricity. Since the early 1990s, however, no risk assessments have been done on the technology……..
Dennis Matthews 21 Oct 14, The whole containment vessel in which the fusion is carried out – so far very briefly and at no net energy output – becomes radioactive due to neutron bombardment, a process called neutron activation.
In addition it has one of the major problems that you have with nuclear fission. The people you train in Schools of Nuclear Science and Engineering can move effortlessly between fusion power and fusion weapons. There are no Schools of Nuclear Weapons Science and Technology but there are lots of Schools of Nuclear (Power) Science and Technology including one here in Australia that recently got restarted after several decades in the wilderness.
Why We Will Never Make A Nuclear Fusion Reactor As Good As The Sun, Business Insider, JESSICA ORWIG OCT 17 2014 “…………..combine four hydrogen atoms and you get a burst of energy that can destroy entire islands and did on Nov. 1, 1952. That day the US tested the first hydrogen bomb on the now-nonexistent Pacific island, Elugelab.……… Clean, limitless energy is the real holy grail. Combine that desire with the awesome power we first saw with the< H-bomb, and we’ve been dreaming of a way to harness nuclear fusion of the sun as a source of clean, endless energy.
For about the last 70 years, we’ve slowly developed ways of producing the extreme pressure and heat necessary for nuclear fusion. Today, the most promising methods use containment vessels called tokamaks that can sustain hot plasmas that produce nuclear fusion but require lots of energy and space to function. The other way is using powerful lasers to fuse hydrogen atoms together.
Both of these methods, however, still have a long way to go despite what you might read from the occasional headlines on the latest breakthroughs in new nuclear fusion technology………http://www.businessinsider.com.au/we-will-never-have-sun-like-nuclear-fusion-2014-10
Contain your excitement
While the rewards of fusion power are substantial, so are the challenges of making it a reality. The deuterium-tritium reaction is the easiest fusion reaction to initiate, yet the optimal temperature needed is 100 million degrees C, which is six to seven times hotter than the core of the Sun.
Don’t get too excited, no one has cracked nuclear fusion yet, The Conversation, Matthew Hole 17 October 2014 Senior Research Fellow, Plasma Research Laboratory at Australian National University Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin’s announcement this week that it could make small-scale nuclear fusion power a reality in the next decade has understandably generated excitement in the media. Physicists, however, aren’t getting their hopes up just yet.
I recently returned from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Fusion Energy Conference in St Petersburg, Russia, the world’s leading conference on the development of fusion power. There was no announcement of research by Lockheed Martin, and the company did not field any scientists to report on their claims. Continue reading
These Are The 6 Concepts For The Future Of Nuclear Power, Business Insider GEERT DE CLERCQ OCT 13 2014 “………..the sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR), developed by France, Russia and China from a concept pioneered in the United States in the 1950s.
The Astrid project was granted a 652 million euro ($823 million) budget in 2010 and a decision on construction is expected around 2019.
The use of sodium, which occurs naturally only as a compound in other minerals, presents huge challenges, however.
Nitrogen-driven turbines are being designed to prevent sodium from mixing with water, while purpose-built electromagnetic pumps are seen as the solution to moving the superheated metal within reactors. Then there’s the headache of not being able to see through the liquid metal should something go wrong in a reactor core.
The other five concepts – including lead and helium-cooled fast neutron reactors and three very-high-temperature reactors – are less mature than the SFR and face similar technological hurdles.
But technology is not the only obstacle. Cost is key, as ever, and abundant U.S. shale gas and a renewables energy boom in Europe have undermined the viability of the nuclear industry, leading some GIF member states, including Japan, Canada and Switzerland, to scale back funding. …..http://www.businessinsider.com.au/r-the-key-to-nuclear-s-future-or-an-element-of-doubt-2014-10
Thorium bred Uranium-233 can be used to make atomic bombs, despite what proponents may claim.
You don’t have to trust me on this, see what the experts at various institutions have to say below:
Appendix A starts on page 181 of the Appendices PDF file. The relevant statement from MIT is:
- Proliferation And Security Groundrules:
Irradiating thorium produces weapons-useable material. Policy decisions on appropriate ground rules are required before devoting significant resources toward such fuel cycles. U-233 can be treated two ways.
- Analogous to U-235. If the U-235 content of uranium is less than 20% U-235 or less than 13% U-233 with the remainder being U-238, the uranium mixture is non-weapons material. However, isotopic dilution in U-238 can significantly compromise many of the benefits.
- Analogous to plutonium. Plutonium can not be degraded thus enhanced safeguards are used. The same strategy can be used with U-233. A complicating factor (see below) is that U-233 is always contaminated with U-232 that has decay products that give off high energy gamma radiation which requires additional measures to protect worker health and safety. There has been no consensus on the safeguards / nonproliferation benefits of this radiation field.
The point being made here is that thorium can be used to make Uranium-233, which in turn can be used to make bombs. The complicating U-232 contamination mentioned above is what many of the thorium proponents refer to as making thorium resistant to proliferation. MIT has more to say about this proliferation protection in their summary:
On one hand, high radiation dose [from U-232 decay] provides self protection to separated fissile material against diversion and misuse. On the other hand, it makes the U-233 recycling more complex and costly.
The point here is that the U-233 is in fact subject to ‘diversion and misuse’ (like atomic bombs) if it can be separated out from the highly radioactive U-232 contaminants. If the U-232 is not somehow processed out, however, there is no way to operate the reactor for peaceful purposes, or otherwise.
Filtering contaminants out of thorium bred U-233 to make weapons grade fissile material is not rocket science. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) created a process to do this. They kindly wrote about it in a history included in the ORNL Review publication (search the long page for the words “THOREX” or “Uranium-233″):………..
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