Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Fusion-Fission System Burns Hot Radioactive Waste

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the super-x-divertor dept.

Power 432

An anonymous reader writes "A hybrid fission-fusion process has been developed that can be used in some traditional fission reactors to process radioactive waste and reduce the amount of waste produced by 99%. This process uses magnetic bottle techniques developed from fusion research. This seems like the first viable solution to the radioactive waste problem of traditional nuclear reactors. This could be a big breakthrough in the search for environmentally friendly energy sources. Lots of work remains to take the concept to an engineering prototype and then to a production reactor."

cancel ×

432 comments

first post bitches!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26666593)

asdfasdfasdfwea

this has been around for years (2)

quickOnTheUptake (1450889) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667135)

This is hardly worthy of main page.

"To burn this really hard to burn sludge, you really need to hit it with a sledgehammer, and that's what we have invented here," says Kotschenreuther.

I've been using a sledgehammer for years.

Mr. Fusion (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26666607)

I want my Mr. Fusion!

Re:Mr. Fusion (2, Funny)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666647)

What? You don't have one yet? Oh right, forgot, not everyone has a time traveling car. Guess it sucks to be you.

Re:Mr. Fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26666663)

I'm too slow! Boo...thunder stolen. If only I had a delorean...

Does it run under Ninnle? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26666621)

What is this Ninnle everybody's talking about, anyway? I can't find any links.

Missing link.. (1, Flamebait)

conureman (748753) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666643)

from fantasy to reality. Perhaps there could be a technological solution to the coming extinction epoch.

Re:Missing link.. (4, Funny)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666795)

Thanks for sharing, Nostradumas. While you're pulling prophecies out of your ass, can you tell me when my 401k is going to rebound?

Re:Missing link.. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666937)

can you tell me when my 401k is going to rebound?

Sometime between next week and the end of your life.

Should I e-mail the bill for my financial consulting services to 'Satanicpuppy@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]' or do you have an alternate address you would like me to use?

Re:Missing link.. (5, Funny)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667077)

I'm sure with your amazing powers, you know where to put the bill.

Re:Missing link.. (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667445)

So you believe that the system we are running will be viable in 50 years? I don't seem to have any psychic abilities, yet I recognize imminent failure in several key systems, (aside from any climate-change issues) which appear to have irreversible consequences for an unacceptably large number of our higher species, not to mention the possibility of making the biosphere unviable for our species as well. Since most of YOU are unsuited to agrarian or hunter-gatherer life, I'd suggest keeping up the good work. Just mind the contraindications and try to mitigate the harmful side effects of your existence.

Re:Missing link.. (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667643)

Yea, there are a lot of things on the horizon right now, lot of things that could cause problems for thousands of years to come, but only one of us (apparently) knows the form all those things will take.

On top of that astounding hubris, you walk around throwing out cryptic pronouncements over pieces of tech which, while interesting, will do absolutely zero to change the next 50 years. This ain't cold fusion buddy, this is just a way to reduce the waste output of a fission reactor. If we really gave a damn about that, we'd have been building fast neutron reactors for decades, and that hasn't happened.

So in my opinion, your pronouncements are on the level of the crazy hobo with a sandwich board walking around the streets proclaiming the end of the world.

Weapons Grade Production? (5, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666649)

If at any point in this process (say you stop it at 50%) the 'waste' is now weapons grade this will never be allowed in the US.

If it's still 'radioactive' you can still get energy from it. You can refine it, clean it up and shove it back through again.

Generations ago we were masters of waste not want not. If you burned candles for light, you collected your drippings, remelted them into new candles. Imagine if the 13 Colonies outlawed this because you could also remelt them into canon wicks... absolute stupidity.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (4, Informative)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666727)

I RTFA, but I'm still a bit snowjobbed because it's pretty light on detail.

It seems like their touting the solution primarily as a way to reduce transuranic waste (sludge). There were no numbers based on how much more or less energy this process would produce.

It's my understanding that re-enrichment is more about separating undepleted U-235 from depleted U-238, so I have no idea what reducing transuranic sludge would have to do with this. It might increase the (relative) percentage of U-235 enough to keep the fission reaction going, or it might just make the reaction slightly cleaner.
 

Transmutation of waste (5, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667173)

I'm also guess here. A decade ago, Los Alamos pioneered Accelerator Transmutation of Waste. There the idea was you bombard high level waste with a particle beam to, ironically, make it even higher level waste. The clever thing was this. The higher the radioactivity the shorter the half life.

The plan was to convert things with halflifes of 50,000 years to half lifes of hours. An insanely clever idea. But it never got much funding.

I'm guessing that this Fission/fussion system is probably playing the same game. Fusion makes for heavier nuclii, which if they are not stable, tend to be even short lived as a general trend.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (1, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666973)

Generations ago we were masters of waste not want not.

Generations ago a single bomb couldn't eviscerate millions of people.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (5, Informative)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667169)

Eviscerate? I think you mean incinerate.

There are risks to all methods of energy production. There are plenty of other countries who routinely reprocess their waste already, so that scary bomb-grade material you're scared of is already available.

Our disinclination to do reprocessing, coupled with the irrational nuclear paranoia of a subset of our population saddles us with a massive waste problem, outdated power plants, and a dependence on foreign fossil fuels.

If we could build fast neutron plants, even, it would reduce our waste output by 99%, with no increase in likelihood of meltdowns.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667691)

Eviscerate? I think you mean incinerate.

LOL, yeah - I think I let the spell checker out-smart me.

so that scary bomb-grade material you're scared of is already available.

Yes, but why should we add the US portion to the stockpile? Every bit makes it harder to keep track of. You don't want to just keep stockpiling plutonium.

You can use it as fuel, but combined with the cost of reprocessing you end up with a very expensive process - as if nuclear power isn't already expensive. This would add at least a few cents to each kW-h.

And then there's the environmental cost... reprocessing can cause a godawful mess, and in return you still have a bunch of nuclear waste that you have to bury somewhere.

If we could build fast neutron plants, even, it would reduce our waste output by 99%, with no increase in likelihood of meltdowns.

Yeah, I have high hopes for some of these newer reactor designs... I just feel like reprocessing is part of the "old" technology that needs to be put to bed. Too messy and too expensive. If the fast neutron plants produce enough extra neutrons, they might even take care of our existing nuclear waste problem - or at least make reprocessing safer.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (2, Informative)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667405)

"Generations ago a single bomb couldn't incinerate millions of people."

To eviscerate means, literally, to remove the viscera. That's innards in the colloqial.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667633)

And he's right, generations ago there weren't single bombs that could remove the innards of millions of people.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667519)

Actually, it's been multiple generations now...

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26666977)

Interesting analogy. But if the candle drippings combined in a mathematically extremely complicated way (known by some in detail, known by many in concept) could potentially blow up a city, they would probably outlaw them. Conversely, if weapons grade uranium was only as powerful as gunpowder, it would probably be legal.

Not that I completely disagree though. But people won't know how much nuclear explosions in capital cities suck until one is detonated in their home country, or a crazy ideologue/religionist fires off a few dozen missiles that he inherited from his less crazy predecessor. (Exception: Japan)

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667005)

Thinking about it further, weapons grade waste is almost all transuranic (e.g. plutonium), so if the purpose of this is to reduce that, then there should be less weapons grade waste, not more.

If it's actually using that plutonium to sustain it's reaction, and produce more energy, it would seem like a good solution.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667019)

If at any point in this process (say you stop it at 50%) the 'waste' is now weapons grade this will never be allowed in the US.

That's the dumbest fucking policy we've ever come up with and yet another reason that Jimmy Carter ranks up there with worst Presidents we've ever had. How does preventing our own country from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel do a damn thing to prevent nuclear proliferation? Other countries can (and indeed do) pursue reprocessing. We've handicapped ourselves for zero gain as far as I can see. Thanks a lot Mr. Carter.

<sarcasm>But at least we've stopped GE and Westinghouse from going rouge and building their own nuclear arsenals</sarcasm>

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (5, Funny)

sukotto (122876) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667473)

<sarcasm>But at least we've stopped GE and Westinghouse from going rouge and building their own nuclear arsenals</sarcasm>

Well, you know what they used to say... "Better dead than red"

Presidential Directives: Ford and Carter (4, Informative)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667597)

President Gerald Ford issued a Presidential directive (October 1976) to indefinitely suspend the commercial reprocessing and recycling of plutonium in the U.S. This was confirmed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. Link [wikipedia.org] .

Rogue, rogue, rogue!!! (1)

Pvt_Waldo (459439) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667657)

ROGUE dammit!

Rouge = Red

R - O - G - U - E

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (0, Flamebait)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667059)

This is different. Cannons are not nuclear weapons. As a former nuclear engineer, I am well aware of the immense energy in nuclear material. We do NOT want to encourage the establishment of a nuclear infrastructure in commercial hands. It will make us all very unsafe. I am therefore not in favor of the use of nuclear energy for commercial energy production. I am only in favor of it as a possible means of future space propulsion, but only under extremely strict control and oversight. For commercial energy production, we do not NEED nuclear energy. There are safer alternatives. It is a needless risk.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (1)

Weeksauce (1410753) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667307)

Are you sure you don't work in PR for a solar company...

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667611)

I lol'd

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667387)

Except that there are not any safer viable alternatives. More radioactivity has been released into the atmosphere through burning coal than has ever been released by Nuclear means. More deaths have occurred due to Fossil fuels than nuclear energy. Now lets take the hippy route and suggest we go to alternative energy. No more than 20% of a countries supply can be powered by wind and have a stable grid (frequency fluctuations). That leaves 80% to be made up by Solar, Water and Geothermal. This is a significant shortfall. That is of course ignoring the energy and materiel required to produce these alternative extraction technologies (ever seen the mess a chip fab can leave?)

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667459)

"There are safer alternatives"

Name one.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (5, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667489)

For commercial energy production, we do not NEED nuclear energy. There are safer alternatives. It is a needless risk.

What a bunch of mealy-mouthed dreck!

I challenge you to define 'need', 'safer', and 'needless' in a way that excludes nuclear energy production in the face of its competitors for base load generation. Your statement must account for all the safety and environmental issues (including wars) associated with fossil-fuel extraction.

And your definitions must hold for those regions that are not blessed with geothermal, tidal, and wind resources. Nor can you handwave away solar power's problems with efficiency, transmission, overcast sky, and battery problems.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (2, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667183)

If at any point in this process (say you stop it at 50%) the 'waste' is now weapons grade this will never be allowed in the US.

Producing weapons-grade enrichment (as in "can be used to build nuke") is _frikkin'_ expensive. You don't do that unless you _want_ to build a nuke, since it's a waste of money for any other purpose.

If it's still 'radioactive' you can still get energy from it. You can refine it, clean it up and shove it back through again.

Radioactivity is not a criterion for a nuclear fuel used in fusion or fission processes (but due to the mass of the atoms used in the latter, fission fuels are usually also radioactive). Maybe if you want to build a RTG (which isn't fusion or fission), but those are used only in space since they're beaten by pretty much any other power source in terrestrial applications.

In fact, nuclear waste is way more radioactive than nuclear fuel.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (1)

santiagodraco (1254708) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667335)

Why not just say "if at any point in the process the system produces complete ready to use nuclear weapons this won't be allowed..."

All I see is pure speculation, hype if you will. If you have facts that this is the case state them rather than speculating without facts for shock value.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (5, Interesting)

inviolet (797804) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667385)

Generations ago we were masters of waste not want not. If you burned candles for light, you collected your drippings, remelted them into new candles.

That was the consequence of materials costing more than manhours. Now thanks to industrialization and automation, manhours are vastly more expensive than material, simply because one manhour produces 1000x more material than it did before. (In the grand scheme of things, the cost of either is a function of its exchange rate with the other.)

Our allegedly wasteful modern society is wasteful of the visible component (material) because it is so careful to conserve the invisible component (manhours). Unfortunately most people are concrete-bound and so do not understand what's going on.

Imagine if the 13 Colonies outlawed this because you could also remelt them into canon wicks... absolute stupidity.

Indeed.

Re:Weapons Grade Production? (1)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667583)

If at any point in this process (say you stop it at 50%) the 'waste' is now weapons grade this will never be allowed in the US.

This is where you are wrong...the US will allow it...but ONLY in the US.

Developed in Texas. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26666651)

The oil industry there will shut them down in a heartbeat.

Re:Developed in Texas. (3, Insightful)

conureman (748753) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666845)

Most corporations diversify, and the smart ones don't waste money maintaining their infrastructure. (Federal bailouts FTW.) If I had oil production revenues, I'd be plowing all my profits into tying up all the alternative energy IP and buying legislation to benefit from the coming switch.

One small hitch... (4, Interesting)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666669)

First, they have to get sustainable fusion working, then they can installed the Super-X Divertor to bleed off neutrons to burn fission waste.

Why not use safe, proven technology [nationalcenter.org] available TODAY to burn 99% of current fuel AND WASTE?

Re:One small hitch... (2, Insightful)

robot_love (1089921) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666853)

I've read that article several times before, and it always makes me depressed. How come I can't shake the feeling we'll doom ourselves slowly with petroleum usage rather than attempt a reactor like the article outlines?

Re:One small hitch... (5, Insightful)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667323)

Because the eco lobby does not like it and will scare monger anything to do with it. Grandma thinks that a reactor failing will look like Hiroshima.

Unfortunately people can not get it through there heads that fission/fusion is the only sustainable method of energy generation that can deal the increasing demand. Demand will not decrease, this would mean your children will have a lower standard of living than you.

Re:One small hitch... (4, Interesting)

Knightman (142928) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666941)

You know there is no problem sustaining a fusion reaction with todays tech, the problem is sustaining a fusion reaction that has a net surplus of energy.

There are even tabletop fusionreactors that are used as a source of neutrons.

The point of this tech is to scale the fusionreactor up so you get alot of neutrons to bombard the sludge, the fusion doesn't need to generate any energy.

Re:One small hitch... (2, Interesting)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667141)

A couple of questions.

1) Are current fusion reactors able to provide the necessary neutron flux to assist a fission reactor in burning this waste?

2) Is the energy generated by the boosted fission enough to power the fusion reactor if you don't have the luxury of a self-sustaining fusion reactor?

If either answer is no, I'd rather see IFR technology put into place starting now than wait for this to become feasible.

Re:One small hitch... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667083)

First, they have to get sustainable fusion working, then they can installed the Super-X Divertor to bleed off neutrons to burn fission waste.

My understanding (which might be incorrect) is the only reason modern fusion reactors are unsustainable is that they don't produce more power than required for operation. That wouldn't be a problem if the fission half of this hybrid reactor has enough output, since the fusion reactor is really there to hit the spent nuclear fuel with neutrons to start secondary reactions that will produce the actual heat. It would be somewhat analogous to an electric ignition on a gas stove, or a pilot light on a central heater.

Re:One small hitch... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667299)

Fusion power will become widely available when physicists with incredibly huge egos figure out how
 
1 + 1 = 4?? AND give off a bunch of energy

(Hydrogen) + (Hydrogen) = (Helium) + Energy

The answer is in the Periodic Table.

Nobody wants to listen. What science teachers have been teaching in science class is wrong. It doesn't make sense, at least to me.
Tell people that you have small scale fusion happening and you get laughed at. Show them how 1 + 1 does actually equal four and you get ignored.
 
Ego's and 100 year old theories that are wrong, are what is preventing Fusion power from happening.

Re:One small hitch... (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667371)

What science teachers have been teaching in science class is wrong.

Yes, and the sun isn't shining outside, since it can't make helium out of hydrogen and give off a whole bunch of energy. Duh.

Since you didn't understand what your science teacher tried to convey back then, why don't you look it up on wikipedia how the fusion reactions work? Hint: It's easier to make helium from deuterium and trition then from plain hydrogen.

Re:One small hitch... (1)

NathanWoodruff (966362) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667589)

Not only is it possible to create Helium from plain run of the mill hydrogen, it's probable.
I'm telling you, it is a timing process, not a heat or pressure. Heat and pressure only increase the odds of fusion. Heavier deuterium and or trition only make it easier. You still come up with the same results... helium.
Do you get a better kind of helium from trition than you would deuterium???
Can you explain 1 + 1 = 4?

Re:One small hitch... (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667581)

As to sustainable fusion - Sustainable fusion for the purposes of directly generating energy, where the energy output of the process is more than the energy in, is difficult and years away from being achieved.

Sustainable fusion for the purposes of generating neutrons (albeit at a net energy loss) is already here - look up the Farnsworth Fusor. Can't create energy but is routinely used as a neutron source.

I've always wondered if you couldn't solve the breakeven problem with a hybrid approach like this - a controllable neutron source (fusion) could potentially be used to make a more controllable (safe) or efficient fission system.

Here they're using it to burn waste (and do not appear to be generating power in the waste-burning phase?), but could it also be used to keep a power-generating fission reactor going long after fuel would normally be considered expended?

Fast Neutron reactors also do this (4, Informative)

SpuriousLogic (1183411) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666687)

Scientific American just had an article on fast neutron reactors that get around the waste issue and don't create any weapons grade material: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=smarter-use-of-nuclear-waste&page=1 [sciam.com]

Re:Fast Neutron reactors also do this (4, Insightful)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667025)

Amen. That article was a reprint from Dec. 2005, IIRC.

Here a link [nationalcenter.org] to a QA session regarding AFR/IFR technology. It irks me to no end that ignorant, short-sighted politicians quashed this technology 15 YEARS AGO, and the greenies have taken that long to get over the "my god, it's nucular!" fearmongering and actually start to embrace it as an environmentally-safe alternative to our current mess.

Unfortunately not too easy (4, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667277)

Fast breeder reactors turn out not to be as easy to make safe and reliable as their proponents think. Google for more recent literature. It's a pity, I personally like the idea, but both fast reactors and fuel reprocessing have turned out to be very difficult.

What a waste... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26666705)

So instead of reusing the waste in further fission, thereby prolonging our fissible materials supply & making energy cheaper, we're just going to be removing the ability for it to perform useful work.

Great.

This should only be used on radioactive waste that has absolutely no more useful applications (so that you don't have to store it).

assumes facts not in evidence (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26666717)

This assumes they have a magnetic confinement
fusion system already working. Then they add in
a surrounding layer of fission waste. ...What could go wrong?

The Chrysler Patriot Lemans car planned to use
a turbine engine, a flywheel energy storage capacitor, and regnerative braking for a racecar.
Three technologies that had not succeeded on the racetrack... together. It was as successful as you might expect.

Re:assumes facts not in evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667105)

Lemans? Le Mans.

Keep wishing... (2, Insightful)

sac13 (870194) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666721)

There's never going to be an energy source that will be environmentally friendly enough for the people that think nuclear is too dirty now. Should coal and nuclear be replaced with solar, wind and/or wave generation, these same people will begin complaining about the negative effects of removing energy from the environment with those methods, wildlife being killed in wind/wave farms or whatever other impact can be identified.

The fact will always remain that life, regardless of humanity or other life, impacts its environment. If we want to have zero impact for our energy needs, we have to get to zero energy need. The only way to have that is for the entire of humanity to become extinct.

Of course, that won't stop other species from also becoming extinct. It also won't stop the climate from changing. That's all been going on before us and will be long after we're gone.

If it keeps you feeling morally superior, though, keep fighting the fight. We, our planet, our solar system and our little galaxy are pretty insignificant in the whole grand scheme of things. There's nothing to save. It's all going to be destroyed anyway. You're not even going to be able to delay the inevitable.

Have a nice day! :)

Re:Keep wishing... (0, Offtopic)

conureman (748753) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667191)

The Christians try (?) to emulate The Christ. Anarchists strive (?!) for perfect morality. IMHO the Technological Man should look to the impact that neolithic humans had, and strive to preserve a viable portion of our planet suitable for the (soon-to-be) former flora and fauna of this planet.

The man works fast (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26666759)

I gotta hand it to Obama... I was skeptical that electing him would really solve our energy problems -- but he's been in office only ten days, and already you can see the practical results!

Neat technology (4, Insightful)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666787)

This is neat technology, and may some day be practical. But, i don't think that day is coming for 50-100 years.

Here's why : solar is getting cheap very rapidly. Today, you can pick up panels at $2.85 a watt off the shelf. Below $1 a watt, and it will be cheaper to put panels up than it will be to burn coal.

A fusion-fission hybrid system will cost a LOT. According to the wall street journal, nuclear fission plants are already deal-breaker expensive. It would be cheaper per watt to build more wind farms than new fission reactors. http://blogs.wsj.com/environmentalcapital/2008/05/12/its-the-economics-stupid-nuclear-powers-bogeyman/ [wsj.com]

Another way to look at it :

                To operate a fusion-fission hybrid system, as well as dozens of large gigawatt fission reactors takes a lot of well trained and educated people working round the clock to make all of the technology work. There are very real dangers, and very expensive regulations that have to be followed.

              To build more solar panels? You print some more off the reel and slap them on to glass. You park the panels in the desert and leave them alone for 25 years. Maybe a simple robot wipes them off occasionally.

              There's no liability, or need for exhaustive quality control. If a panel fails prematurely, you pay a warranty claim.

            Inherently, solar is going to always be cheaper for the foreseeable future.

Re:Neat technology (4, Interesting)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666847)

How much does the battery system cost?

Re:Neat technology (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666875)

The battery tech isn't available today. You'd need a giant bank of flywheels or some other tech that isn't being mass produced as of right now.

Re:Neat technology (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666891)

Also, if we develop the battery tech for powering electric cars, we would solve the night problem as a side benefit.

Re:Neat technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667203)

How much does the battery system cost?

And 120V/240V AC inverters. High-capacity inverters are not cheap, especially the grid-tie units.

Oh, and for batteries, check out the old Edison Nickel-Iron batteries [wikipedia.org] . Cheaper than lead-acid, very robust and relatively environmentally friendly.

Re:Neat technology (1)

Knightman (142928) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667071)

To build more solar panels? You print some more off the reel and slap them on to glass. You park the panels in the desert and leave them alone for 25 years. Maybe a simple robot wipes them off occasionally.

              There's no liability, or need for exhaustive quality control. If a panel fails prematurely, you pay a warranty claim.

            Inherently, solar is going to always be cheaper for the foreseeable future.

You miss one important thing that most people do and that's the powergrid today can't utilize solarpower efficiently. The grid is built for steady generation and steady consumption. To be able to use solar power effeciently you have to build energystorages where the surplus are stored during daytime and then discharged during night. This costs money.

It's basicly the same with any source of energy that has an output that's intermittent.

The good thing about solar/wind/wave etc. is that we can use it to lessen the need for more nuclear/coal energy, but even easier is to use less energy.

Re:Neat technology (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667557)

The good thing about solar/wind/wave etc. is that we can use it to lessen the need for more nuclear/coal energy, but even easier is to use less energy.

Define 'easier' please?

Because right now, the market's actions indicate that it is ea$ier to build more powerplants than it is to use less energy.

Re:Neat technology (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667641)

What you are saying is pretty much what the parent said: no need for new nuclear power because everything else costs less.

When 70% of the coal plants are shut down because solar and wind have put them out of business, will we be looking for something even more expensive than coal? No, we'll just pick up the tab for the loan guarantees for a few new nukes as tax payers and never finish construction, just like in the eighties.

Re:Neat technology (1)

ch33zm0ng3r (1266976) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667171)

I'm just going to throw out some conjecture here. How much of the cost of a nuclear fission plant is in jumping through environmental hoops. I'm sure that proper handling and storage is a huge deal for current generation fission plants. How much of that cost could be saved by a nearly waste free system?

I look at it this way (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667443)

It is an interesting technology, but lets be realistic here.

Building an existing 'off the shelf' LWR design requires roughly 10 years. Turning this technology into a standardized design which can be used by industry will require some amount of time, probably 10-20 years by the time all the safety engineering is complete and a prototype reactor is built, run for several years, and the bugs are worked out of it.

So, we're talking about OPTIMISTICALLY 2028 and possibly 2038-2048 before the first one of these reactors would come on line. By every indication solar PV and solar thermal power systems will be highly mature and widely deployed by that time. Why at that point is there a need for more nuclear reactors?

Nuclear power's time has come and gone. Regardless of any debate about its safety and efficacy as a power generation technology the time frames are just wrong. Had we made these advances 20 or 30 years ago it would maybe be a different story, but at this point nuclear power is irrelevant. The only thing nuclear power can do now is suck up investments which would be better made perfecting solar, wind, and dry geothermal power solutions, as well as the build out of the power grid which they will require.

So, with all due respect to nuclear power enthusiasts, please stop wasting our time and money on a dead technology which has relegated itself to irrelevance long ago.

Re:I look at it this way (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667659)

Except for one thing - the sun DOESN'T SHINE for an average of 12 hrs/day.

You need to find a replacement for baseload power.

Re:Neat technology (1)

EGenius007 (1125395) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667561)

Wind and solar-energy farms are great as long as sufficient real estate with sufficient levels of solar & wind energy are available to make them cost effective. Nuclear power plants can produce more energy per acre at the site of production, and aren't dependent on locally available levels of harness-able energy surpluses.

Magnetic Bottles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26666827)

Ah good old magnetic Bottles... is there anything they can't do?

Claims to Destroy TRU Waste (5, Informative)

Khaloroma (1381853) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666841)

For those of you who probably are not familiar with the nuclear industry, let me make a very simple description of how "Nuclear Waste" is classified.<BR><BR>

Waste falls into three categories:<BR>
Low Level Waste (LLW)<BR>
High Level Waste (HLW)<BR>
Transuranic Waste (TRU)<BR><BR>

LLW is anything that has been exposed to a reasonably low level of radiation. This is typically things like gloves, towels, suits, etc. and their activity level is usually low enough to store in a temporary facility until the activity level in them dies off enough to be disposed of safely.<BR><BR>

HLW is primarily spent nuclear fuel that, in places like France, is usually reprocessed, but here it is typically either sent to be disposed of or onto research facilities, disposal, or weapons.<BR><BR>

TRU waste is what the article has been discussing, which is a big problem. TRU waste comes about as nuclear fuel is fissioned out into various fission products. Obviously these fission products are radioactive and all depend on the type of fuel, but for old LWR/BWRs, there is a significant amount of TRU waste coming out. If what they claim is actually true, then it will be a very big step in the right direction.

Re:Claims to Destroy TRU Waste (5, Funny)

osschar (442236) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667053)

Man, you must be cold.

Re:Claims to Destroy TRU Waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667085)

And BRW, also known as "<BR> Waste", or as "tag waste" results from not previewing your comments. :)

Re:Claims to Destroy TRU Waste (1)

cats-paw (34890) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667117)

LLW is anything that has been exposed to a reasonably low level of radiation

I think it's important to remember in all these discussions that being exposed to electromagnetic _radiation_ does _not_ make something radioactive.

It's exposure to neutrons which makes things radioactive. Alpha and beta exposure would probably make something radioactive as well, but, certainly in terms of fission reactors, it's primarily the neutron flux which is causing radioactive isotopes to form.

Re:Claims to Destroy TRU Waste (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667377)

Agreed re: EM radiation, but neutron activation is not the only source of LLW. Contamination via contact with fuel rods, waste, etc generates large amounts of LLW as well. As the GP stated, suits, gloves, etc are hopefully not radioactive from neutron activation - that would mean that the wearer probably got a fatal dose of neutrons! More likely the contamination came about from handling 'hot' objects.

Note that hospitals generate a fair amount of LLW, too.

Life Cycle Analysis (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666865)

This idea was (in some sense) around in the 1960's, believe it or not.

The high neutron flux produced means that the CFNS would itself become radioactive, and the steel of its construction weakened by neutron irradiation. I would like to see a life-cycle analysis to make sure that the total waste consumed was more than that produced by the CFNS itself.

This general issue is why I would like to see a lot more emphasis places on He3 fusion, and also on linear fusion devices. (He3 fusion, either He3 - Dt or He3-He3, produces much less neutron flux. To me, the end goal would be to have nuclear fusion power that did not produce radioactive waste, which ITER definitely will do. Linear fusion is for spacecraft propulsion, of course - it is thought to be much easier technically than making a tokomak work.)

Re:Life Cycle Analysis (1)

Councilor Hart (673770) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667349)

Linear fusion device? As in a z-pinch device? Such things have been tried before. How are you going to deal with the end losses? You still to need to confine a plasma in a magnetic field. If it is linear, it needs magnetic mirrors at the end. The charged particles need to stop there and return back to the center. How are you going to deal with these energy losses? Why not combine solar cells with a hall thruster for you spacecraft propulsion?

Re:Life Cycle Analysis (2, Insightful)

jonored (862908) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667541)

On the other hand, this machine would then be converting what they are asserting is hard to deal with transuranic waste to mere irradiated metals - this might be a situation where it really would be better to need to dispose of irradiated reactor parts rather than a smaller mass of worse waste. They are wanting to use this to take just the hard to burn fraction of the waste, and burn that to get rid of it - most of the waste is burning in normal breeder reactors like the ones other countries use and the US doesn't build.

Re:Life Cycle Analysis (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667741)

Plausible, but, as I said, I would like to see a life-cycle analysis to see if the numbers really work out.

Re:Life Cycle Analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667551)

He3 requires mining the moon. There isn't enough He3 on earth to make it worth developing. I would love aneutronic fusion as well, but we have tritium, we can make tritium from lithium, so we're stuck with D-T fusion for now.

Also, the reaction cross sections for D-D, D-He3, or p-B11 fusion are all lower. D-T is the near term (50 year) solution.

And thanks to the (0, Troll)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666907)

whaa whaa whaa, nucular is eeeevel, nucular is bad boo hoo people we'll keep tanning our lungs with Coal slugde and the planet will keep getting warmer

thanks guys!!! NOT!

You don't understand (0, Troll)

Necron69 (35644) | more than 4 years ago | (#26666985)

You don't seem to understand the environmentalist movement. Allow me to educate you:

NUCLEAR == BAD/EVIL/YUCKY

Until all of humanity lives like the Amish, we are all evil and destroying the Earth.

Thank you.

- Necron69

I wish the computer hadn't turned off (1)

Microsift (223381) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667037)

I remember when the post-Starbuck crew of BattleStar Galactica made it to Earth and solved this problem, too bad the computer went on the fritz

Somewhat overstates the reduction in waste (1)

userw014 (707413) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667039)

The article talks about reducing "transuranic" waste (plutonium, et. al.) It did say that this would greatly reduce the demand for space at Yucca Mountain (but also says that Yucca Mountain won't open until 2020 - and that the amount of waste produced by this country will fill it by 2010.)

What about other kinds of waste? Is Yucca Mountain only for spent fuel? What about decommissioned reactors, worn out parts, etc. that have been exposed to the nuclear reaction? What happens to that stuff?

Finally, it talks about these fusion-fission hybrids being "about room sized", and serving up to 15 LWRs each - and that the US has about 100 LWRs. Does that mean transporting spent nuclear fuel across the country in some form that can be "unpacked" at the fusion-fission site for consumption? People are already freaked out about transporting spent nuclear fuel in heavily armored containers - is the fuel already embedded in some stable substrate by the time it's currently moved?

Finally, can existing spent fuel be used in these hybrid reactors, or has it already been post-processed to make that impossible?

Re:Somewhat overstates the reduction in waste (1)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667107)

My understanding is that Yucca mountain was for everything from spent fuel to incidentally contaminated materials such as reactor parts (which are pretty low grade compared to fuels as far as I know). As for transport, I don't see why you wouldn't just build these systems into existing plants. Right now, since Yucca isn't open, our store of spent fuel is being stored on-site at those plants. Building the new systems on the old sites would eliminate the need to transport fuel until the process is complete (At which point, you'd have bee transporting much larger quantities of the original fuel to Yucca anyway).

Yucca and WIPP (1)

pmarcondes (846921) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667567)

Low and medium level waste is to be disposed of at a site in Carlsbad, NM. It is called Waste Isolation Pilot Plant - WIPP. Site here: http://www.wipp.energy.gov/ [energy.gov]
IIRC, they are open to (scheduled) visits.
Basically, it's a salt mine that doesn't produce any salt.

Yeah right! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667073)

Didn't anyone notice that this press release originated in Austin TEXAS? Someone once asked a Texan what they do for entertainment on Saturday night. The response was "We sit around and make up lies."

Nuclear power is a dead end. No new nuclear plants have been built in 25 years because: no company will insure one; no investors want to take the risk (sometimes the free market IS right); if the company that built one had to pay to dispose of it after its useful life it would cost more that the value of the energy it produced; the toxic waste it produced would have to be kept under armed guard forever; etc.

You seem to be missing (or ignoring) the point (5, Informative)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667455)

"[1st and 2nd generation Thermal] Nuclear power [are] a dead end. No new [1st or 2nd Generation Thermal] nuclear plants have been built in 25 years". . .

There, fixed it for you. Yes, old reactor designs are a dead end. They are prone to a risk of melt-down (though that risk has been, mostly, successfully managed for the past 30 years; yes, Three Mile Island was a problem, but, keep in mind that even with the TMI incident, the safety features of that reactor design prevented an escape of radiation when the melt-down did occur), they only extract a miniscule amount of the potential energy available in the fuel, and they create waste that "would have to be kept under armed guard forever".

Nuclear physicists and engineers have continued to do R&D for the past 30 years, and they are proposing *new* ideas. When new ideas are presented, you can't just assume that the same arguments that were valid criticisms of the previous designs continue to be valid for the new designs.

We have, right now, a Nuclear Waste problem, because of those previous generations of dead-end reactor designs, that must be dealt with. Putting the stuff into storage for 100000 years is not really a solution. The only real solution to the nuclear waste problem is to further process it to make the waste 'safe' and short lived.

Now, I do not really know if the design proposed in this article is "the solution" or not. Maybe it is. There was also a solution proposed in the 1990s, called the Integral Fast Reactor, which was essentially melt-down proof - not because of systems put in place to prevent a possible melt-down, but because it used a different Nuclear Reaction called a Fast Nuclear reaction, instead of the older Thermal Nuclear reaction, and was such that if the reactor increased in temperature beyond the normal operating temperature, the reaction actually choked itself, sort of like a candle sealed in a glass container. They even successfully tested the design, by purposefully cutting off the cooling to a prototype reactor that the DoE built out in the desert somewhere, and it did, in fact, shut itself down as it is designed to do.

The IFR design was also based around the concept of using our existing waste stockpiles as *fuel* for the reactor, producing hundreds of times more energy from that fuel, than older 'conventional' reactors do, which should have made it much more economically feasible.

The reason I mention the Integral Fast Reactor, is that is an example of a new design which I've studied more about than this new fission-fusion hybrid in the article, which demonstrates that the old arguments don't *necessarily* apply to new designs. Every proposal must be studied and evaluated on it's own merits - you can't just make a sweeping statement that Nuclear power is a dead end.

Unfortunately, the IFR project (which was being conducted by the Department of Energy) was canceled by the Clinton administration because of the same knee-jerk reaction to all Nuclear technology, exhibited by the parent, instead of really considering the IFR design on it's own merits or problems.

Also, in regards to this new technology, it sounds like they are not necessarily proposing to build new plants, but to 'upgrade' existing plants. If we can upgrade the already built plants in such a way as to reduce our existing waste stockpiles, where is the downside? True, this new design, as with any new design, needs to be thoroughly evaluated and proven, and also compared to other proposals (for example, we should consider if this proposed design is actually superior to the IFR design - if not, we should be restarting the IFR project instead, perhaps) before we role it out to any large scale.

*Maybe* we should have never gotten into the business of Nuclear Fission, but the fact remains that we have all this waste that we need to do something with. Why not 'burn' it in a new reactor type in such a way that we produce significantly less toxic, shorter lived waste? Environmentalists should be proponents of finding ways to deal with our nuclear waste problem, not object to every single proposal with a blanket statement that nuclear power is a dead end and re-hashing the same old tired arguments regardless of whether or not they apply to the new proposals.

E=MC^2 (1)

komische_amerikaner (1365847) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667089)

Sorry,

If this reduces the waste to a stable (somewhat non-radioactive state) then I'm all for it. But where does the energy come from to convert this? Is this going to require as much energy to render the "sludge" safe enough to dispose of? Or is this another 'Flash in the Pan'? (Sorry, couldn't help myself).

Breeder reactors? (3, Insightful)

LSD-OBS (183415) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667133)

Forgive my vast amounts of ignorance on the matter, but I thought breeder reactors [wikipedia.org] were a viable way of burning nuclear waste down to nothing. Or is this the same thing? I'm confused.com.

Either way, it's good to know there are options to hush up them "ZOMGZ NEWKEELER HOLLERCAUST!" crowd that's so vehemently opposed to the cheapest and quickest to implement short- to mid-term solution we have to burning fossil fuels.

Re:Breeder reactors? (2, Informative)

jonored (862908) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667447)

From what I can tell, this is asserting that breeder reactors can't effectively burn some of the elements that get produced, and this can. If you read carefully, they do mention that they want to do most of the reprocessing in less exotic reactors, and then just take the stuff that those can't effectively burn and "hit them with a sledgehammer", i.e. expose them to a much stronger neutron source, to burn /those/.

Re:Breeder reactors? (1)

LSD-OBS (183415) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667621)

Thanks for translating TFA for me :D

One big problem (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667233)

FTA:

There are more than 100 fission reactors, called "light water reactors" (LWRs), producing power in the United States. The nuclear waste from these reactors is stored and not reprocessed. (Some other countries, such as France and Japan, do reprocess the waste.)

The scientists' waste destruction system would work in two major steps.

First, 75 percent of the original reactor waste is destroyed in standard, relatively inexpensive LWRs. This step produces energy, but it does not destroy highly radiotoxic, transuranic, long-lived waste, what the scientists call "sludge."

In the second step, the sludge would be destroyed in a CFNS-based fusion-fission hybrid. The hybrid's potential lies in its ability to burn this hazardous sludge, which cannot be stably burnt in conventional systems.

So, the first step is to reprocess the fuel, which:
a) isn't allowed by an Executive Order
b) would alleviate the need for massive storage areas for spent fuel - the transuranic waste is smaller in volume to spent fuel by an order of magnitude. At that size, there are potentially more disposal options.

Nuclear waste is a political issue, not an engineering issue.

Problems (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667289)

I see a couple of problems to start. First, it sounds like they want to reprocess spent fuel first. This does not fly in the US.

Second they want to have one of these for every dozen or so conventional reactors. This means transporting waste and an inevitable accident. They might be able to build one of these transmuters and take it around to each decommissioned power plant site to help with clean up, but what of the transmuter itself? How soon does it become radioactive waste?

I think I'd like to see something a little more controlled, like an accelerator, if we are going to go with transmutation. It might be costly in terms of energy, but it is more likely to be safe. We should have plenty of extra cheap energy once solar ramps up so the energy cost may not be a big deal. We probably don't have to pay back much more than we've already generated from nuclear power which is not all that much.

There already is an alternative (5, Informative)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667327)

The liquid fluoride thorium reactor [theoildrum.com] can burn existing nuclear waste just fine, and it's been available since the 50's.

Cobalt-60 (1)

wurble (1430179) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667417)

Any system where cobalt is exposed to slow neutrons will yield Cobalt-60. That means any steel exposed to slow neutrons is going to yield Cobalt-60. Seeing as how I have yet to hear of a reactor that isn't built primarily out of steel, you will have Cobalt-60 in a nuclear reactor. Since it's not generally a good idea to nuke your core housing, they won't be disposing of Cobalt-60.

For those unfamiliar with Cobalt-60, it is a radioactive isotope of Cobalt. It decays via beta decay to Nickel-60. It emits 1 electron and 2 gamma rays.

While Cobalt-60 has some uses, the stuff can be quite deadly. It has a halflife of about 5 years so it emits some heavy amounts of radiation but takes decades to become relatively safe.

I'm not sure if Cobalt-60 is created in reactors which use Fast Neutrons though.

Re:Cobalt-60 (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667651)

Seeing as how I have yet to hear of a reactor that isn't built primarily out of steel,

You can use inconel. Most reactors use a lot of that anyway. The only reason it isn't used exclusively is because of cost.

More from the backwards world of global warming (1, Insightful)

finarfinjge (612748) | more than 4 years ago | (#26667425)

The push to go nuclear was nearly dead until Jim Hansen started agitating about global warming. Since then, as this article shows, the nuclear industry has revived. The mercury industry has also revived (thanks to compact fluorescents) and the lead industry has revived (thanks to electric cars). Now if we could only do something to promote asbestos and smoking, the environmental gains from the global warming industry would be complete.

Cheers
JE

Candu reactor, anyone? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26667673)

We've had it for decades. It has such a high burnup that spent fuel can be returned directly to the ground, because it is less radioactive than natural uranium ore. The submitter is uninformed, or a luddite moron shilling for the enviro-freaks.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...