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Rover Fuel Came From Russian Nuke Factory, But Supplies Running Low

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the bombs-into-probes dept.

Mars 139

gbrumfiel writes "The Curiosity rover will soon start rolling, and when it does, it will be running on gas from a Russian weapons plant. Slate has the story of how the plutonium-238 that powers the rover came from Mayak, a Soviet-era bomb factory. Mayak made the fuel through reprocessing, a chemical process used to make nuclear warheads that also polluted the surrounding environment. After the cold war ended, the Russians sold the spare Pu-238 to NASA, which put some of it into Curiosity. Now, the Russian supply is running low and NASA hopes to restart Pu-238 production on U.S. soil (They're planning on making less of a mess this time)." One interesting way of dealing with nuclear waste: reprocess fuel a few times, extracting Pu-238 and friends (those pesky "have to keep waste sealed forever to prevent hyper-squirrels in the year 3,001,000 from being irradiated" elements) and launching an army of deep space probes. But then there's the waste stream from reprocessing...

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Good (5, Insightful)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062013)

Good. Nice to see plutonium used for more worthwhile endeavours than nuclear weapons.

What!? (-1, Offtopic)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062077)

You want to nuke Russian factories? Just because of something to do with PU238 Riot?

Re:What!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062383)

Wasn't it PU551?

Re:What!? (2)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 2 years ago | (#41065531)

It's the same thing, but in hex.

Re:What!? (5, Funny)

macshome (818789) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062711)

No, no... It's because we've now given the Martians what they need to make PU-238 space modulators.

Re:What!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41065033)

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

Re:Good (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062479)

Good. Nice to see plutonium used for more worthwhile endeavours than nuclear weapons.

In other news, /. anti-nuke nuts discover MOX fuel [wikipedia.org] and that reactors like CANDU [wikipedia.org] can use it as a fuel source.

Re:Good (2)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063749)

there's a big difference between the 238 and 239...

BIGGGGGGG difference (3, Funny)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064103)

there's a big difference between the 238 and 239

 
1 ?

Re:BIGGGGGGG difference (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064369)

1 can be a HUGE difference, especially when dealing with elements.

I suspect that you were making a joke, but there are too many people reading these posts that don't know.

Re:BIGGGGGGG difference (2)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064823)

220, 221 whatever it takes...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX3kxAA2L4Q

Re:BIGGGGGGG difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41066215)

That one little neutron can ruin your whole day.

Re:Good (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062581)

Read the entire PDF
"...and other national security concerns."

This doesn't directly imply they would use it to make nuclear weapons, or something else (nuclear powered drones?) But the reason they want to make the Pu238 in the US is so that they aren't relying on Russia.

Re:Good (4, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#41065573)

or something else (nuclear powered drones?)

Pretty much not. PU238 puts otu a lot of heat and a lot of alpha particles. It's neither fissile nor fissionable. It does produce about 500W/kG of power, in the form of heat, which is not all that much for an aircraft.

Regular old Uranium or Plutonium is what you want for a nuclear powered drone [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Good (4, Informative)

nojayuk (567177) | more than 2 years ago | (#41066027)

The US DoD uses Pu238 "batteries" in stealthy spacecraft, spysats without large solar panels that would otherwise be easily tracked using ground-based telescopes and radars. Another use for such power sources is seabed listening stations used to monitor submarine and surface-ship movements in "areas of interest".

Pu-238 is made in specialised isotope-producing reactors. It's not extracted by reprocessing regular spent nuclear fuel from power-station reactors as it would be impossible to separate the Pu-238 out from the large quantities of other Pu isotopes bred from U-238 during regular operation. Those isotope-production reactors have been getting shut down in the US, Canada and elsewhere over the past couple of decades due to age, more restrictive licencing regulations and occasionally by celebrity-powered publicity campaigns. The ex-Soviet isotope reactor fleet is about the only regular source of such material operational today hence the national-security aspect -- the Russians are not that keen to make it easier for the DoD to spy on them by supplying them with lots of Pu-238.

And Idaho National Laboratory followed up... (5, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062699)

Idaho National Laboratory actually commented on the Slate piece, saying:

It was disappointing to read Mr. Brumfiel's article. The Curiosity mission represents everything that is great about American ingenuity and engineering. For months, we've hosted a public website that explains via a virtual tour and factsheets how the nuclear battery was developed, fueled, tested and delivered. The website is available at http://www.inl.gov/marsrover [inl.gov] .

Re:Good (4, Funny)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062861)

We should have declared Mars a nuclear free zone when we had the chance!

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41063099)

We should have declared Mars a nuclear free zone when we had the chance!

We could do the same on earth, but as far as I know, only one country in the world has done that.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41063313)

Oh come on! Nobody is going to give their nuclears away for free.

Re:Good (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064901)

Oh come on! Nobody is going to give their nuclears away for free.

Believe it or not, you are not allowed to give away your smoke for free in smokefree zone
 

Re:Good (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064407)

Yeah, that'll definitely deflect the nukes when someone decides to turn them into a parking lot.

Besides, those materials have a lot of uses in medicine and aerospace, but the supplies are critically low. Similar issue with Helium, and that's also due to a shutdown of certain portions of the nuclear industry. You don't like the weapons and the wastes, but you do like the rest of the package. Guess you've got some choices to make, after you do the actual research over what will be affected, rather than just listening to anti-nuke propaganda. (Or pro-nuke propaganda. Pretty much all propaganda is garbage.)

Re:not so Good (Pu238 vs. Pu239) (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062889)

Look like someone failed in physics/chemistry:
[Pu238] is a heat source in radioisotope thermoelectric generators, which are used to power some spacecraft.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium [wikipedia.org]

[Pu239] can sustain a nuclear chain reaction, leading to applications in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors.

Re:Good (4, Interesting)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063771)

Considering nuclear weapons gave us MAD which gave us a period of relative calm that didn't involve something called WW3 I'm inclined to call your comment hyperbole.

Re:Good (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063825)

Good. Nice to see plutonium used for more worthwhile endeavours than nuclear weapons.

That's like saying "Good. Nice to see aluminum used for more worthwhile endeavours than nuclear weapons". It's not insightful, it's ludicrous - the isotope of Plutonium used in RTG's is useless for bombs, and the isotope used in bombs is useless for RTG's.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41064411)

Having gone 50+ years without a nuclear weapon being used, I cannot say I agree.

Re:Good (1)

iiiears (987462) | more than 2 years ago | (#41066235)

"Atoms for Peace" /um, never mind.

Long-lived isotopes won't work (5, Informative)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062019)

As part of the pseudo-environmentalist lead scare campaign against nuclear power you always hear about things that will supposedly be radioactive for ONE MILLION years (thank you Dr. Evil).

Well, those ONE MILLION year radioactive elements won't power an RTG because they decay so slowly that the rate of heat production would hardly be measurable even with sensitive test equipment. You could use a lump of that stuff as a paper weight and as long as you didn't eat/drink/breath it then you would never have any negative health effects from it.

The real issue with radioactive material is from materials like cesium and strontium that are pretty radioactive and have mid-range half-lives of ~30 years or so. Not a real issue for long-term storage since they will be pretty much gone in 1000 years, but not something you want spread around the environment ala Chernobyl, which, BTW, is coming up on its first half-life anniversary for the nastier elements.

Re:Long-lived isotopes won't work (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062053)

What if I used it as a butt-plug?

Re:Long-lived isotopes won't work (1, Informative)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062081)

What if I used it as a butt-plug?

You would have a red-hot glowing asshole.

Re:Long-lived isotopes won't work (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062149)

What if I used it as a butt-plug?

Mucus membranes. In short, the walls of your rectum are very thin; this to pull the last few drops of water from your shit. Unfortunately, they can absorb heavy metals from your new toy with equal ease.

Re:Long-lived isotopes won't work (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064687)

What if I used [RTG pellet] as a butt-plug?

Google "Goatse" to find out. (Make sure no children around.)
     

Re:Long-lived isotopes won't work (0, Offtopic)

BlearyTruth (2692231) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062311)

"Slashdot: Where tyrrany, repression and genocide are cool as long as the perpertrators suck up to Assange in public."

Indeed.

And no geek here seems to want to address actual real news, such as

Maximum Leader Obama's Economy: Tech layoffs hit 3-year high of 51,529 in first [cnet.com]

No, the real news today is naked Republicans and "legitimate rape".

Priorities anyone?

Re:Long-lived isotopes won't work (-1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063561)

"Slashdot: Where tyrrany, repression and genocide are cool as long as the perpertrators suck up to Assange in public."

Indeed.

And no geek here seems to want to address actual real news, such as

Maximum Leader Obama's Economy: Tech layoffs hit 3-year high of 51,529 in first [cnet.com]

No, the real news today is naked Republicans and "legitimate rape".

Priorities anyone?

Did you read the whole article you linked or just see the headline and take an opportunity to make a political jab?

The article goes on to mention that the biggest contributors to the layoffs are HP, Followed by Sony and Nokia. HP Has been having trouble for years, stemming from problems at the top. Right now, Meg Whitman is at the helm trying to recover from the same disaster CEO that put SAP in the drink. So far, she's not doing too great with more of the wishy-washy press releases (ahem, webos). No surprise they are shedding jobs, the company has been mismanaged for years.

Not the US government's fault.
Sony has been working hard to develop a reputation for screwing over customers at every turn (rootkit, ps3 feature removal, extreme DRM etc), in addition to getting hit by a major tsunami in case you missed the news.

Not the US government's fault.

Nokia can't seem to make products that aren't complete crap. Mobile analysts have been predicting Nokia's downfall for several years now. Bad products, bad investments, and obviously short sighted exclusive partnerships were the nail in Nokia's coffin.
Oh yeah, also two of the three biggest contributors to the situation you reference are NOT AMERICAN COMPANIES. I suppose you'd be happier if the POTUS gave a few hundred million to these foreign companies and the chronically mismanaged HP?

Re:Long-lived isotopes won't work (0)

BlearyTruth (2692231) | more than 2 years ago | (#41065977)

Not relevant. Obama 2010: "One in 10 Americans still can't find work. That's why creating jobs has to be our number one priority in 2010."

Unemployment.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/us-unemployment-rate-rises-8-130044686.html [yahoo.com]

"Still, the unemployment rate has been above 8 percent since his first month in office — the longest stretch on record."

Bears repeating: "the longest stretch on record.", now that's saying something. Obama, lots of talk and no delivery. Do. You. Get. It?

I am pointing to this particular statistic because it is related to tech workers and this is a tech oriented site. That is all.

Besides, in a vibrant, healthy economy job loss in one or a handful of businesses would be absorbed by all the other successful businesses, which, seemingly, we DO NOT HAVE.

I don't care for one second that this is "Not the US government's fault.", it is not the job of the state to create jobs.

Obama's policies however do result in an economy where businesses cannot succeed, focusing I might add on small businesses where most all people are employed. If you do not see this then you are a moron. Not my fault.

Re:Long-lived isotopes won't work (1)

Ruie (30480) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063155)

As part of the pseudo-environmentalist lead scare campaign against nuclear power you always hear about things that will supposedly be radioactive for ONE MILLION years (thank you Dr. Evil).

Well, those ONE MILLION year radioactive elements won't power an RTG because they decay so slowly that the rate of heat production would hardly be measurable even with sensitive test equipment. You could use a lump of that stuff as a paper weight and as long as you didn't eat/drink/breath it then you would never have any negative health effects from it.

The real issue with radioactive material is from materials like cesium and strontium that are pretty radioactive and have mid-range half-lives of ~30 years or so. Not a real issue for long-term storage since they will be pretty much gone in 1000 years, but not something you want spread around the environment ala Chernobyl, which, BTW, is coming up on its first half-life anniversary for the nastier elements.

This not quite right. A half life of 1 million years is only ~10000 times longer than Pu-238, which glows red hot in air. So to measure heat production you could simply use a large quantity of long lived isotope, (say 100x as much) and insulate it better, such as by enclosing in Dewar flask.

Of course, for a space mission you'd want to minimize the weight.

Re:Long-lived isotopes won't work (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41063999)

You could use a lump of that stuff as a paper weight and as long as you didn't eat/drink/breath it then you would never have any negative health effects from it.

Yes, it's perfectly safe as long as it doesn't leak into the water supply. Welcome to the nuclear power debate.

Who killed Alexander Litvinenko? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062041)

Did NASA have any reasons to not to like him? I'm just curious...

Re:Who killed Alexander Litvinenko? (3, Informative)

jeffasselin (566598) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062127)

Pu238 is not Po210

Although Polonium 210 has also been used in rovers (lunar ones), it's definitely not the same thing as Plutonium 238.

Not a perfect way to dispose of waste (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062085)

One interesting way of dealing with nuclear waste: reprocess fuel a few times, extracting Pu-238 and friends (those pesky "have to keep waste sealed forever to prevent hyper-squirrels in the year 3,001,000 from being irradiated" elements) and launching an army of deep space probes. But then there's the waste stream from reprocessing...

Of course, the problem with that proposal is that spacecraft don't always end up where you want them, and sometimes crash back to earth and leave a widespread flaming pile of debris that can spread the plutonium over large areas.

Re:Not a perfect way to dispose of waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062125)

Can you name even one time where plutonium has been spread over large areas in such a fashion?

Re:Not a perfect way to dispose of waste (4, Informative)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062193)

RORSAT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosmos_954 [wikipedia.org]

Although it was a Uranium reactor and not plutonium.
Moral of the story: The radioactivity caused mutant Canadians to have one hockey-stick shaped arm and another arm perfectly shaped to hold a beer. It was considered the greatest even in Canadian history.

Re:Not a perfect way to dispose of waste (4, Informative)

tragedy (27079) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063383)

As you mentioned, that was Uranium, not Plutonium. It was also a reactor and not an RTG, which means that it's much harder to lock the fuel up in a safe, shielded container. RTGs use pellets of radioactive material inside a casing that will almost always survive a disastrous re-entry intact. Add to that the fact that Plutonium 238 is very safe relative to Uranium 235. There's no gamma radiation or neutrons and it can be effectively shielded with very thin shielding. The biggest danger it presents is probably that the capsule containing the Plutonium will hit someone on re-entry.

Re:Not a perfect way to dispose of waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062209)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosmos_954

Well, it's uranium, but the closest I could recall off the top of my head.

Re:Not a perfect way to dispose of waste (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062221)

Can you name even one time where plutonium has been spread over large areas in such a fashion?

This is the closest I could find so far:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_96#Fate_of_the_plutonium_fuel [wikipedia.org]

The fate of the plutonium is unknown.

But if you sent up an army of these plutonium powered craft, eventually one will have a plutonium fuel cell rupture after a launch failure and contaminate a large area.

Re:Not a perfect way to dispose of waste (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064847)

But if you sent up an army of these plutonium powered craft, eventually one will have a plutonium fuel cell rupture after a launch failure and contaminate a large area.

Given a long enough time frame anything that is physically possible will happen.

Better Power Supply for Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062093)

Instead of Pu-238, the rover would function much better with an illudium pu-36 explosive space modulator...

Just bring an extension cord (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062131)

and plug it into Elon Musk's Mars condo. Duh.

It's too bad (1)

detritus. (46421) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062175)

It's too bad that Iran will never be given the chance for developing nuclear technology with their thriving scientific endeavors and their new space program.

Re:It's too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41063187)

I can’t tell if you’re sarcastic or trolling.

Pu-36 (1)

JimWise (1804930) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062185)

Maybe future NASA projects should use Pu-36 instead. Marvin could point out the plentiful mines and Curiosity could extract it. Although since Curiosity is a roving lab maybe it could process it into Pu-238.

US should reprocess more (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062203)

The metal is the same no matter where it came from, so the parts about Soviet era bomb factories and pollution are interesting mostly because those days are behind us. We know how to do it right now, no reason not to.

Re:US should reprocess more (1)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062341)

Why not reprocess? People (rightly or wrongly) are concerned with nuclear proliferation...

Re:US should reprocess more (2)

EuNao (1653733) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062917)

One of the things that people don't realize is that plutonium from long running reactors is of an isotopic mix that is very poor for nuclear weapons. Mostly the bad thing that reprocessing has going for it is that the same equipment and process can be used to separate uranium that has been irradiated for a much shorter period of time (and that has a much more favorable isotopic composition.) Reprocessing spent fuel is just good policy. We are quite literally throwing away the baby with the bathwater right now. Another thing people tend for forget is that long half life radioactive elements are mostly harmless. Its the short half life stuff that is nasty. The long half life stuff is just more fuel. Fissionable material has this wonderful property that it makes more fissionable material. We are throwing away the gold that midas has made for us.

In Other News (1)

guttentag (313541) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062259)

Tehran announced that it intends to not only beat India to Mars, but it will top them as well by retrieving "mineral samples" of "intense national interest" and bringing them back to Earth for "study."

Re:In Other News (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062317)

do you know why there are no Muslims in Star Trek?

Because it takes place in the future.

Re:In Other News (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062585)

do you know why there are no Muslims in Star Trek?

Because it takes place in the future.

Better be careful about that, or some cleric'll put out a hit, er I mean fatwa on you.

Re:In Other News (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062753)

There's no Christmas either.

Obviously the War was finally won. By the enemy.

Doesn't that just make you BURN?

Moon: nuclear waste dump! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41062287)

What could possibly go wrong? Aside from triggering a sci-fi show that won't stand the test of time very well...

Homer time (4, Funny)

Zaelath (2588189) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062315)

Homer: [reading screen] "To Start Press Any Key". Where's the ANY key?
                I see Esk ["ESC"], Catarl ["CTRL"], and Pig-Up ["PGUP"]. There
                doesn't seem to be any ANY key. Woo! All this computer hacking
                is making me thirsty. I think I'll order a TAB. [presses TAB
                key] Awp...no time for that now, the computer's starting.
                  [reading screen slowly] "Check core temperature, yes slash no."
                [types] Yes.
                "Core temperature normal." Hmph. Not too shabby.
                "Vent radioactive gas." [types] NO.
                "Venting prevents explosi-on." Heeheee...whoa, this is hard.
                Where's my Tab? Okay, then, [types] YES, vent the stupid gas.
                  [Cut to a farmer tending his corn. The gas release blows away
                part of the crop.]
Farmer: Oh, no! The corn. Paul Newman's gonna have my legs broke.

Waste stream from Reprocessing (5, Insightful)

NReitzel (77941) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062389)

Yes, there is a waste stream from reprocessing.

However, it is informative to look at how and when the mess that is - among others - Hanford, came to be.

At the time, the Military was building bombs to kill a million people at a shot, and the prevailing attitude was that the Soviet Union was only a month away from launching bombers and submarines and missiles, to kill US citizens by the tens or hundreds of millions. The Russians thought the same thing of the US; I think it perplexed them terribly that we didn't attack. After all, their sworn ally, Adolf Hitler, just changed his mind one day and launched a full scale invasion. So the Russians (and Ukranians, and others) were building bombs to kill people in the US by the tens or hundreds of millions.

Along with all this paranoia, came a driving requirement to build more and bigger weapons. There was a bomber gap, then a missile gap, and if you watched Dr. Strangelove, a mine shaft gap. No one in the bomb business was worrying about poisoning a few hundred workers, or a few thousand coyotes or fish or prairie dogs. They were building bombs, and it was enough that the waste from their efforts not end up with dead workers before they managed to actually build their bombs.

They temporized, they were careless (careless enough to skewer a reactor operator to a concrete slab with a control rod), but most of all, they were in a tearing hurry. They had to build those bombs before the Rooskies (or the Amerikans) attacked.

It's no wonder they did a crap job.

One would sincerely hope that today, we are a little more rational. We can reprocess fuel - we know the basic processes - and we can do so without making a radioactive dead spot on the prairie, or creating glow-in-the-dark salmon. It's kind of like building airplanes. Mistakes happen, people die. But every time something bad happens, we send in very smart engineers and figure out what happened, and why, and design new and better processes so that the next time, fewer people die.

Chernobyl happened for exactly the same reasons. The Soviets essentially copied the very first Fermi pile (the one under the squash stadium), added cooling and steam pipes, and scaled it up by a factor of a few thousand. This was poor engineering, but it was quick, and they had to get their reactors online quickly so that they could make the materials to make the bombs that they needed to defend themselves. All delusion (well, mostly delusion) but they had a good reason, as did we. The end result was a whopping big accident, but pay close attention here, there was no nuclear explosion.

We can reprocess fuel rods - which to me, sounds a whole lot better than leaving thousands of tons of insanely radioactive stuff cooling its heels in ponds all over the world. By reprocessing the fuel, we can make new fuel, we can take that crazy hot stuff and concentrate it into kilograms instead of tonnes, and incidentally, make it radioactive enough that no terrorist could stay alive long enough to steal it. We can separate needed isotopes for space exporation and cancer treatment and food sterilization.

And what do we have to give up to do this? We have to give up irrational fear. There are lots of things to fear - read Feynman's talk about building Y-12 - but the things to fear are real things, not crazy paranoid fantasies. The Fukushima disaster may have achieved criticality of stored used fuel rods, but there was no nuclear explosion. People died, from the tidal wave. Some people were exposed to low levels of radiation, but as was pointed out earlier in this venue, less exposure than they would have had than had they simply lived in Denver, USA for a year.

We can do this. We have the technology, we have the scientists, we have the engineers. Like any new thing, there will be mistakes, and perhaps those mistakes will cost lives. The comparison isn't to "will bad things happen if we do this" -- the proper comparison is "what bad things will happen if we don't do this."

-- Norm Reitzel

You are in the pockets of Big Uranium (5, Funny)

rve (4436) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063533)

Already, three major cities in Japan have been turned into an uninhabitable
nuclear [telegraph.co.uk] wasteland [wikitravel.org] , where no life can exist for millions of years, and you want to continue this trend? Already, Europeans have done the right thing and are starting to go along in banning radiation and nuclear. Germany is closing all its existing reactors. Do you want to be worse than Germany?

Re:You are in the pockets of Big Uranium (2, Informative)

NReitzel (77941) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063625)

No life can exist for millions of years?

You do realize you are so full of crap your eyes are brown?

Nuclear fuel rod storage ponds have to be treated so that they don't grow algae. The exclusion zone around Chernobyl is full of mink and fox and birds and mice. They're all radioactive, a little, but then we're all a little radioactive. If no life could live around Fukushima, why are crops from there prohibited from being shipped and sold?

At least make a token effort to get the actual facts, mmmkay?

-- Norm

Re:You are in the pockets of Big Uranium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41064421)

Wow, nuclear fuel rod storage ponds sound like a great place to take a hot bath! Lets all go!

Re:You are in the pockets of Big Uranium (2)

rve (4436) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064643)

Wow, nuclear fuel rod storage ponds sound like a great place to take a hot bath! Lets all go!

Maybe not in the storage ponds, but in Russia it is fairly normal to go swimming in the cooling water, because it's nice and warm in the winter.

Re:You are in the pockets of Big Uranium (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064551)

LOL, you didn't click on the pictures, did you? :)

Re:You are in the pockets of Big Uranium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41064723)

You're not so good at sarcasm detection, are you?

Re:You are in the pockets of Big Uranium (0)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064027)

wow, this troll ticks every box! i like it!

Re:You are in the pockets of Big Uranium (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#41065601)

wow, this troll

Try actually reading the posts and clicking on the links.

Re:Waste stream from Reprocessing (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063569)

so, like 3.5 kilograms of plutonium on the rover. If we can reprocess and use the fuel in robots launched into space, then that would be a good thing. The whole problem with reprocessing is what to do with the products, other than making bombs. Because there was not much use, it really makes more sense to just make the product difficult to use.

The only thing to fear is the explosion of the plutonium in atmosphere. The plutonium will be dispersed, humans will breath it, and it will remain in the tissue for a lifetime emitting alpha particles. But how likely is this. If we look at a long life vehicle, the Atlas, it appears that the vehicle failed about 5% in atmosphere. This means that we can expect 1 out 20 failures. When we begin major explorations, we probably can expect a failure every few years. But failure in atmosphere is not necessarily critical because the plutonium is in a explosion proof unbreakable container. It should never fail, but NASA also said the shuttle would never fail and would have a turn around time measured in weeks. So there is really no way to say how dangerous these launches are. If this becomes SOP there will be launch failures, and even if the plutonium failure is 1%, something the shuttle does not achieve, a conservative estimate would put total failure on the order of 1 in 1000. This would indicate we might expect 1 failure in an agressive generation of launches, which would contaminate an uncontrolled area and uncontrolled number of people with potentially lethal doses of Uranium. There is every reason to believe this would never happen, but it is one of those things that could be politically troublesome to the space program. Well first the rocket must fail in the atmosphere. The only problem is that these robots fail, they are not even human spec, so after a while one will fail. For example, the Atlas Centaur had a failure rate of 10%, so we can assume a failure every 10 launches. The plutonium is supposed to be an unbreakable container, but nothing is perfect. The question is what is the real failure rate of the plutonium container, and what portion of the rocket failures would occur in the atmosphere.

Re:Waste stream from Reprocessing (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 2 years ago | (#41065307)

It should never fail, but NASA also said the shuttle would never fail and would have a turn around time measured in weeks.

IIRC, the original estimate for the shuttle was 1% risk of failure at each launch. With 2 failures in 135 shuttle missions, it seems that they nailed it. We should be able to achieve them same rate with plutonium-carrying rockets if we are willing to pay the price, but in most cases, the plutonium containment will not fail, so we are probably looking at one plutonium dispersion event every 1000-10.000 launches.

Furthermore, plutonium and plutonium oxides are heavy. You can breath them for a short time, but they will quickly settle as dust, after which breathing is not possible. Plutonium oxides mostly passes unaffected through the human digestive tract (IIRC, about 1% is taken up), so there is no reason to suspect that the land will be unihabitable. If people were rational, they would just have to move people out for a week or two, and then they could move back. Of course, moving back to land that is contaminated with plutonium, even if everybody says it is OK, is not something most people will enjoy.

Re:Waste stream from Reprocessing (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064899)

they were careless (careless enough to skewer a reactor operator to a concrete slab with a control rod)

What makes that careless?

Mistakes happen, people die. But every time something bad happens, we send in very smart engineers and figure out what happened, and why, and design new and better processes so that the next time, fewer people die.

Which is exactly what happened with the accident above. It was a mistake. They sent in very smart people to figure out what happened. And they designed new and better processes so that next time, fewer people die.

How would you choose the CEOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41064915)

For Nuclear Reprocessing Industries?

Re:Waste stream from Reprocessing (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#41065229)

The worker who was skewered with the control rod was suicidal. There was no reason for the reactor to explode like that. The post-mortem found no cause for the explosion other than "the guy pulled it all the way out quickly". Investigators found the worker had personal problems. Took another worker with him, too.

Re:Waste stream from Reprocessing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41065331)

Yes, there is a waste stream from reprocessing.

However, it is informative to look at how and when the mess that is - among others - Hanford, came to be.

Yeah, Hanford is bad but it does not hold a candle to its Soviet counterpart [damninteresting.com] .

Re:Waste stream from Reprocessing (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#41066021)

One would sincerely hope that today, we are a little more rational.

Hope in one hand, shit in the other, see which fills up first.

We have the technology to build nested pipelines and we don't use that for oil. What makes you think we're going to use the technology we have to make nuclear cleaner to actually make nuclear cleaner?

In Soviet Russia (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062407)

In Soviet Russia Pu-238 reprocess you!

1.21 gigawatts (5, Funny)

kdogg73 (771674) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062509)

[referring to the Curiosity rover]
Reuters [looks through a camcorder] This is heavy-duty, Doc. This is great. Uh, does it run, like, on regular unleaded gasoline?
NASA Scientist: Unfortunately, no. It requires something with a little more kick. Plutonium.
Reuters: Um, plutonium. Wait a minute. Are...
[lowers the camcorder]
Reuters: Are you telling me that this sucker is nuclear?
NASA Scientist: Hey, hey, hey! Keep rolling. Keep rolling there.
[The reporter raises the camcorder]
NASA Scientist: No, no, no, no, no, this sucker's electrical, but I need a nuclear reaction to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity I need.
Reuters: Doc, you don't just walk into a store and-and buy plutonium. Did you rip that off?
NASA Scientist: Of course. From a group of Soviet nationalists. They wanted me to build them a bomb, so I took their plutonium and, in turn, gave them a shoddy bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts. Come on! Let's get you a radiation suit. We must prepare to reload.

Re:1.21 gigawatts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41063737)

actually the LASER is "only" 1MW (which is still very high)
It would have been much more fun if they used a 1.21GW laser, which is in existence, and not too big either.
(ignoring the fact that it uses short pulses)

Re:1.21 gigawatts (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063741)

I was wondering if there was going to be a post with that sort of reference after I read the summary. Thank you for reaffirming my faith in nerd-dom.

Re:1.21 gigawatts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41064657)

We are in a conference room on the 33rd floor of a skyscraper with a hazy view of smog filled NYC. It is only a few
minutes until sunset. It is a Friday in the middle of summer and most office workers have left hours ago. Present are
men and women whose names you have never heard of and in all likelihood never will. During the last ten minutes
they have slowly begun to come into the conference room, some walk to their usual seat at the conference table
without the barest acknowledgment of the other arrivals, some will exchange nods and greetings and some will
sit down and in quiet voices startup small-talk with their neighbors. The last seat at the head of the table remains
empty and is not meant for the elderly gentleman who finally enters the room.

The man enters the room and c merely nods to the attendees who on his cue join hands and begin chanting in a low voice over and over
"El sofes sahad, gohu iad belata, ipamis bel ipada,padhim bel ipamis!". Later research shows you that the Enochian
Key given here is not authentic, yet some formula for the evocation of a spirit is indeed chanted in the room, over
time the voices become louder and louder and increasingly insistent. You can see how some of the men and women
have become a bit uncomfortable, not only because the temperature has fallen 4 degrees in the room during the last
minutes, but also because they feel what could be described as the queasiness one feels before the onset of a
strong fever. If you yourself were to witness this, you would at this point bolt from the room. You would find yourself
running down the deserted hallways and tearing through office spaces, often bruising your shoulders as you literally
slam into doors some of which are locked, some not. Months later there will be occasions that remind you of what
you felt in that room, how something brushed against you in that room, reached out to you and wanted you and you
will be reduced to tears of fear every time.

Not so the men and women in the room, from their childhood on they have been educated and trained in knowledge
and arts clearly out of reach of the profane like you. They are now chanting, rather shouting the evocation formula
nearly at the top of their voices and a distinct very cold breeze can be felt in the room. It has fallen dark outside but
you can clearly see a figure sitting at the head in table. You can not see the really see the outlines, it appears more
like a shadow that has solidified but it speaks. It speaks in a quiet and raspy voice with shrill overtones as if metal
is being drawn across a stone floor.

It speaks: "How is our kindness repaid?"

and one after another they stand up and approach the figure to kneel down and bow their heads. They quietly
report their accomplishments, in their hearts prepared for the great punishments that are held over the heads of
those who fail their tasks. The men often come away with an erection and also one often kneels into a puddle
of urine left behind one of the women who came before. Such is the fear.

The gentlemen representing Slashdot is one of the last to approach and kneel. This man lives a lavish lifestyle
you can not conceive of and any dark or light pleasure is his for the taking, he will never stand before a judge
and never enter a prison unless it is for his pleasure. It is saying too much to claim he represents slashdot
but slashdot is just one of the medium to high-profile outlets of nonsense and propaganda this man controls.

"My Lord. This week we have done well. We have run the usual left-right bullshit propaganda, we have carried
every single propaganda piece that came to us from the government, we have spun the usual propaganda for
GMO's and neurological implants and enticed the masses for new gadgets"

The dark shadow remains silent so the man averts his gaze one more time bowing his head down once more
before he lifts himself up. Walking back to his seat he notices that his right knee is wet again.

There. Now start mooing cattle.

A series of nuclear reactors? (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062795)

With the waste produced by nuclear reactors, I have always wondered whether it would be possible to feed the waste of one reactor into another reactor that is designed to use the waste of the first? You could then have a whole chain of reactors each optimised to use the waste of the previous reactor.

The other question is I have is whether Thorium reactors produce less waste?

Re:A series of nuclear reactors? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063293)

don't need a series, the right type of reactor can "burn" the "spent fuel" and leave waste that decays in years rather than tens of thousands of them

Re:A series of nuclear reactors? (2)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064041)

The Nuclear Centipede

LFTR is the way to go (4, Interesting)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062875)

One useful byproduct of the liquid fluoride thorium reactor is PU238 [glerner.com]

Re:LFTR is the way to go (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064057)

another is near 100% pure U233, which works rather well in bombs.

not saying it shouldn't happen. just that there's sensitivity there.

Re:LFTR is the way to go (2)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064127)

Here [americanscientist.org] is a better rebuttal than I could ever write.

pu-238 it damn hot! (2)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 2 years ago | (#41062923)

it glows from its own radioactivity
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium-238 [wikipedia.org]

Re:pu-238 it damn hot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41064279)

0.5 Watts per gram. Or, 500 W/kg. Of course it would be prohibitively expensive and highly illegal, but... if I could get my hands on a few hundred kg of this, I'd build a motorhome around a small steam-turbine power plant with this at its core and cruise the country, never paying for gas or electric. The only trouble of course is where to get the Plutonium-238. Oh now... I don't know how they found me, but they did. It's the Libyans. RUN, MARTY, RUN!

Justification via argument from effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41063481)

'It is good/right/moral/whatever that the Soviets came to be since they created the fuel we use to explore mars"

"It is good/right/moral/whatever that the US government steals money because they use some of it to explore mars"

...there's the waste stream from reprocessing... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#41063765)

Which decays to a level of activity less than that of the ore still in the ground is about 600 years (and to a level such that the hazard is negligible long before that).

Mayak (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41063793)

Mayak dumped high level nuclear waste into a little lake [google.com] behind the plant. During the late 60's there was a drought not unlike the one in North America today. The lake dried up and the waste blew around the region.

That's not the best part though. The best part was when a huge, neglected storage tank blew up in 1957. It was full of high level waste that had been left without cooling because the 'engineers' decided it wasn't necessary to fix the broken cooling system. Being reckless fools, but not chemists, they failed to anticipate the concentration of nitrogen. The blast created the East Urals Radioactive Trace, a smear of exotic iotopses spread downwind of the blast/fire/spill/mess.

All this and much, much more were kept quiet, both inside and outside of the Soviet Union till the 80s. The place holds many dirty secrets yet. The Russian won't allow unfettered inspections of the place. They've lost a little of their European reprocessing business as a result.

So thanks for the Pu you fucking ruskies. Should have slagged the lot of you when we had the chance.

Rocky Flats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41064047)

They're still cleaning up the mess from their last attempt [wikipedia.org] to make plutonium here in the US. Are they hoping we've forgotten how much of our land they've ruined and how many people got cancer and other diseases because of the working conditions?

Mayak? (1)

serbanp (139486) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064081)

A soviet-era bomb maker? I also remember it for its quite good reel-to-reel tape recorders (late eighties), so it must have been something like a diversified industry conglomerate, not just a war-related material factory.

Re:Mayak? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064967)

Different Mayak. The one you're talking about is a factory in Kirov; this one is a nuclear facility near Chelyabinsk.

About those hyper-squirrels... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41064101)

those pesky "have to keep waste sealed forever to prevent hyper-squirrels in the year 3,001,000 from being irradiated" elements

Too late. My client, a certain Mr. (starts with 'S', rhymes with 'rat') is already more hyper than you could possibly imagine as a result of encountering your nuclear waste. But he's a reasonable hyper-squirrel. He's willing to settle for only a million .... (sounds of whispering and hurried consultation) ... make that a BILLION ... acorns, delivered to his current residence.

Iran (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 2 years ago | (#41064903)

Of course it would be totally all right if Iran would make the weirdest accusations at this point.

Yes, it's a flame. I'm still waiting for the WMD to be found in Irak...

Return Pu from where it came from... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41065267)

Just return Pu from where it came from...If you have a kg of Pu, Mix it with a 10-ton of mud, put it on a converted pesticide transport plane, sprinkle it all over the world, 1kg-mud per sq/km.

stone coated metal roofing tile (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41065521)

Stone Coated Steel Roof is a world famous, unbelievably light-weight roofing system that can enhance the look of your roof with its elegant design and great color range. http://www.86metalroofing.com
Stone Coated Steel Roof is designed and manufactured to withstand all kinds of severe weather such as extremely hot and cold weather, strong wind, and heavy rain. Stone Coated Steel Roof can protect your home against all the destructive forces of nature because the roofing tiles are designed to overlap and interlock into a horizontal fix system. The fastenings of this horizontal fix system are done at right angles, thus, creating a roof structure of superior strength that is strong enough to resist hurricane force wind, heavy snowfall, and earthquakes. The granulated stone chips on the surface give beauty and additional weather protection to your roof. Stone Coated Steel Roof is a product that can enhance the style of any home or commercial building, and give it a lasting beautiful look.

I'm sure the Brits have some spare (2)

stiggle (649614) | more than 2 years ago | (#41066241)

The British have been reprocessing nuclear fuel since they started nuclear power, so they're bound to have some Pu available.
They used some in some fast breeder reactors, but should still have plenty left, and I'm sure the National Park next to the reprocessing site would be happy to have it leave.

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