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NASA's Basement Nuclear Reactor

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the mr.-fusion dept.

NASA 368

cylonlover writes "If Joseph Zawodny, a senior scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, is correct, the future of energy may lie in a nuclear reactor small enough and safe enough to be installed where the home water heater once sat. Using weak nuclear forces that turn nickel and hydrogen into a new source of atomic energy, the process offers a light, portable means of producing tremendous amounts of energy for the amount of fuel used. It could conceivably power homes, revolutionize transportation and even clean the environment."

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One small problem (5, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year and a half ago | (#42976975)

"But what about the terrorists?"

Government: Approval Denied.

Re:One small problem (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42977007)

What do they mean, "where the water heater once sat"? Why would this device mean no more hot water [imgur.com] ?

Re:One small problem (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977051)

Warning: Tubgirl alert!

Re:One small problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977385)

There's quite a difference between a girl and a boy. You'll find out one day

Re:One small problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977739)

Meh, I was so hoping to see tubgirl this morning too and instead he gives me goatse.

Re:One small problem (1)

Shimbo (100005) | about a year and a half ago | (#42977019)

"But what about the terrorists?"

I'm sure the CIA would love them to be developing bombs that have no net energy release. It makes givng them cupcake recipes [huffingtonpost.com] look positively hazardous.

Re:One small problem (2)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#42977261)

Believe it or not, the CIA has quite an active cupcake special interest group. They're not all trying to find ways to make their microwave mind control ways penetrate your tinfoil helmet. Well, not all the time anyways. Some members of the cupcake SIG might be working on that too.

Re:One small problem (4, Informative)

riverat1 (1048260) | about a year ago | (#42977069)

If you RTFA you find it is not expected to produce objectionable byproducts like regular reactors. It says that unlike fission and fusion reactions that depend on the strong nuclear force for their energy this is drawing energy from the weak nuclear force. Like fusion though it appears to be mostly in the experimental stage and is years away from practical application. One difficulty they have is they need to generate vibrations in the 5-30 THz range which the researcher calls "the valley of inaccessibility".

Re:One small problem (3, Funny)

Knuckles (8964) | about a year ago | (#42977215)

I guess its practical application is 30 years away.

Re:One small problem (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977349)

So in other words, this has not been conclusively proven impossible [xkcd.com] .

huh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42976997)

what the fuck is gizmag?

Cool idea, but never happen... (2, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42977013)

While I think technically this is possible, IMO it will never happen. Imagine the following tagline:

"Have enough electricity for 20 years"

Do you really think any power plant company will want this? Of course maybe somebody will sell for 20 years, and 35K, thus making it not that useful. The only reason why we are not using our own generators right now is because they are too tedious and twiddly factor. If you could produce reliable energy without the twiddle factor we would not be in this mess we are.

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977251)

Years ago, I would have writtent this down to paranoid rantings, but the past few years show that corporations that lobby enough can actually write their own laws, and enforce them not only in the USA, but all over the world.

So far we've only had the RIAA who are small and poor compared to the energy industry giants.

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (5, Insightful)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about a year ago | (#42977521)

I doubt the "all over the world". China for instance is unlikely to bow to US lobby demands.

So if LENR turns out to be real, I expect the following sequence of events to happen:
1) Western energy industry giants badmouth the technology and lobby against it.
2) China, Russia and maybe India will use it anyway.
3) Above countries have considerable economic advantages, get stronger in comparison to USA.
4) US politicians panic. Having LENR is declared a matter of national security, opposition from energy industry giants is overruled ;-)

Re: Cool idea, but never happen... (1)

Rational (1990) | about a year ago | (#42977753)

Quite the turnaround, to pin our hopes for the future on China and Russia.

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (5, Interesting)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42977427)

The only reason why we are not using our own generators right now is because they are too tedious and twiddly factor. If you could produce reliable energy without the twiddle factor we would not be in this mess we are.

Ummm... I recently installed PVes on my roof. Tedious? I don't think so. Expensive? It was 1.5 month worth of my wage. Warranty for 25 years, I guess they'll last at least 12 without degrading in performance too much. Reliable? Well, as reliable as the Sun is... would I be able to invest in an 15K buffer system, I'm sure I could live "off power grid" even in winter time (summer time, I'm pushing on the grid twice as much as I'm consuming).

What point I'm trying to make? I'm less dependent know on the power producers than I was 1 year ago and I didn't need to sell my first born for it.

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (4, Insightful)

Solandri (704621) | about a year ago | (#42977459)

IMO it will never happen. Imagine the following tagline:

"Have enough electricity for 20 years"

Do you really think any power plant company will want this?

About 20 years ago a friend and I were discussing hard disks. My first PC had a 300 MB hard drive, and he had just gotten one with a 1 GB drive. I noted how capacity was growing, and some day we would have 1 TB drives. He said no, the hard drive manufacturers would never allow it. According to him, 1 TB was so much storage you could buy one and never have to buy another drive for the rest of your life. No way the hard drive manufacturers would ever sell something which put themselves out of business.

Well, we all know how that turned out. If you build it, people will find a use for it. For energy, off the top of my head I can think of a few tremendously high-power applications which will probably become feasible with the advent of cheap power. You can desalinate all the drinking and irrigation water the entire planet needs. You can atomize toxic compounds like dioxins, decomposing them into their constituent elements. You can convert CO2 back into O2 gas and carbon (soot), reversing a century of greenhouse gas emissions. You can power railguns to launch large quantities of fuel and other supplies into orbit to construct spacecraft for manned interplanetary missions (currently the energy cost is $5k-$10k per kg put into low earth orbit).

So the power companies may not be making as much money selling household power. But they'll certainly be making money selling power for other uses. Probably a lot more money than they're making now.

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#42977535)

1 TB was so much storage you could buy one and never have to buy another drive for the rest of your life

So hard drives were presumably a bit more reliable back then? I've heard people saying that they have older drives that have kept going, but modern ones fail a lot faster. So maybe he was right?

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (3, Interesting)

tbird81 (946205) | about a year ago | (#42977583)

Actually, newer HDD drives tend to be much more reliable.

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (1)

NalosLayor (958307) | about a year ago | (#42977539)

Electric Utilites were quite happy to make their regulated profits selling more, ever cheaper power. It was really only a combination of the oil crises of the 70's, de-nuclearisation and government incentives to cut energy use that turned that tide. People today like to make fun of the old idea of electricity "too cheap to meter" but remember, your local phone bill is that way (wasn't in the past), and your internet access and water used to be that way too, until certain forces reversed the tide of history.

No such as 'man made global warming' (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977681)

Please stop repeating that stupid meme.

" You can convert CO2 back into O2 gas and carbon (soot), reversing a century of greenhouse gas emissions"

Why would you want to?

www.climatedepot.com

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about a year ago | (#42977823)

Your friend was also correct: how many of those drive manufacturers are out of business now?

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#42977843)

You can power railguns to launch large quantities of fuel and other supplies into orbit to construct spacecraft for manned interplanetary missions (currently the energy cost is $5k-$10k per kg put into low earth orbit).

Energy costs aren't the hurdle there. [maglaunch.com]

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (1)

Nyh (55741) | about a year ago | (#42977567)

If the US companies are stalling this development I bet soon enough some Japanese or Chinese companies think is is a great idea and start selling it all over the world. Just like electric cars, pv solar cells. US companies may even try to block import of those great power supplies and make the US into some backward country where they are still burning fossil fuels for energy while the rest of the world moves on.

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977733)

"The only reason why we are not using our own generators right now is because they are too tedious and twiddly factor."

But nailing cables to wooden posts on millions of miles is not tedious? And doing it again and again after each storm, tornado, blizzard, termite attack and whatnot? That comes out of your pocket.

Re:Cool idea, but never happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977745)

In Australia, at current electricity rates of 24cent KwH, many would be interested in an old fashioned alpha decay emitter - uranium dioxide reactor. I'm sure the chinese can make on cheap enough. the downside: These must not go in normal scrap metal collections.

Legitimate science, there are not alone (4, Interesting)

Moabz (1480009) | about a year and a half ago | (#42977033)

There have been quite a few news reports about LENR lately. There seems to be a revival in legitimate scientific research into this area. University of Missouri is running a 5.5 million USD research project, and scientists at other institutes like Purdue, Illinois-UIUC, NASA, MIT, SRI, NRL are all looking into it.

A couple of days ago the Nuclear Energy Institute was talking about it on their facebook page and the American Nuclear Society posted a similar story on their "nuclear cafe".

The University of Missouri will host a cold fusion conference in July this year and George Miley from Illinois (UIUC) will discuss his research results in a talk at the upcoming "Nuclear & Emerging Technologies for Space (NETS-2013) organized by the ANS starting coming Monday. (http://iccf18.research.missouri.edu/)

On a ANS meeting in November 2012 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries reported about their transmutation experiment and successful replications of the experiment at Toyota lab.

Re:Legitimate science, they are not alone (5, Informative)

Moabz (1480009) | about a year ago | (#42977371)

There was a colloquium at CERN last year, see http://indico.cern.ch/conferenceDisplay.py?confId=177379 [indico.cern.ch]

you will find the presentation about the Widom-Larsen-Srivastava that TFA talks about.

you will also find the slides about the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries transmutation experiment (and the Toyota replication of it) http://indico.cern.ch/getFile.py/access?resId=5&materialId=slides&confId=177379 [indico.cern.ch]

As mentioned above it was also presented at the American Nuclear Society's winter meeting in Nov 2012:

"Replication experiments have been performed in some universities or institutes mainly in Japan. T.Higashiyama et al. of Osaka University observed transmutation of Cs into Pr in 2003[7]. H.Yamada et al. performed similar experiments using Cs and detected increase of mass number 137 by TOF-SIMS. They used a couple of nano-structured Pd multilayer thin film and observed the increase of mass number 141 (corresponding to Pr) only when 133Cs was given on the Pd sample [8]. N. Takhashi et al., the researchers of Toyota Central R&D Labs, presented that they detected Pr from the permeated Pd sample using SOR x-ray at Spring-8 and the detected Pr was confirmed by ICP-MS and TOF-SIMS [8]." http://newenergytimes.com/v2/conferences/2012/ANS2012W/2012Iwamura-ANS-LENR-Paper.pdf [newenergytimes.com]

Re:Legitimate science, there are not alone (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977629)

Wait, just a few months ago you sages on /. were ridiculing pons and fleishman (sp). Now you are saying it may be the next big thing. I wish you scientists would stick to something. I mean those crazy religious nuts at least stick to a story to the bitter end. You guys change your story every week.

-Remember kids you don't have to think and use your OWN brains. Just believe in science. It can't possibly be wrong because it is all scientific and shit. If you don't believe me you are a religious faggot.

Show me one (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977075)

just one single instance in which cold fu- i mean, low-energy nuclear reactions have EVER been publicly and transparently demonstrated to work.

Tamper-proof? (0)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#42977085)

It may be "safe" but is it secure against tampering? Once someone has physical access it is pretty difficult to secure anything.

Re:Tamper-proof? (5, Funny)

Issarlk (1429361) | about a year ago | (#42977151)

Absolutely, there will be copper inside that thing. Your fusion central heater will be stolen in no time.

Re:Tamper-proof? (4, Funny)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42977449)

What? Stolen with a copper inside? Can you imagine the thieves surprise when opening the box and getting arrested on the spot?

Re:Tamper-proof? (1)

Issarlk (1429361) | about a year ago | (#42977485)

Arrested because it's a "fusion" thing? What's the matter if it produces the same level of energy as a petrol generator? It's not like they can turn it into a H-bomb.

Re:Tamper-proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977511)

Arrested because it's a "fusion" thing? What's the matter if it produces the same level of energy as a petrol generator? It's not like they can turn it into a H-bomb.

A copper, two coppers - they usually don't fuse.

Doesn' ring a bell yet? Spoiler [wikipedia.org]

Like fusion. . . (0)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year ago | (#42977111)

Like fusion power, it sounds like this technology is 50 years away.

Re:Like fusion. . . (1)

azalin (67640) | about a year ago | (#42977299)

The "future" from "Back to the future" had a Mr Fusion in less than 50 years from now. And flying cars! Where is my flying car dammit?

Re:Like fusion. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977357)

The "future" from "Back to the future" had a Mr Fusion in less than 50 years from now. And flying cars! Where is my flying car dammit?

Your robot maid probably stole it.

This is stupid. (0)

Barnett (550375) | about a year ago | (#42977131)

If something can be done on a small scale, it can be done better on a large scale This is why we have power stations.

Re:This is stupid. (4, Insightful)

mdenham (747985) | about a year ago | (#42977169)

Three comments:
1) Not everything scales up at linear-or-better rates;
2) Better distribution of anything reduces the impact of failures; and
3) Who the hell said anything about no more power stations anyway?

Re:This is stupid. (1)

Chatsubo (807023) | about a year ago | (#42977491)

Honest question: If it works on a small scale couldn't we just build lots of them all in one location? We already have the distribution network.

That would give you economies of scale in maintenance on production, but you'd still sit with the maintenance of the distribution network, which you could perhaps eliminate if you rather sell individual units. I can also imagine that companies would not mind shifting the burden of maintenance cost onto the individual, even if it is more expensive overall. In fact maybe _because_ it's more expensive overall.

Re:This is stupid. (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about a year ago | (#42977713)

I guess it would depend on the cost of maintenance. If those things are rather fiddly and need lots of maintenance, concentrating them in one place with maintenance staff on site might be most economical.

If they are low-maintenance, individual units win economically.

Re:This is stupid. (1)

terjeber (856226) | about a year ago | (#42977507)

4) Producing electricity far away from where it is used is inefficient since transporting electricity is quite inefficient.

Re:This is stupid. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977711)

But but but 3D printed superconductors from space?

Re:This is stupid. (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#42977233)

If something can be done on a small scale, it can be done better on a large scale This is why we have power stations.

... and brothels?

Re:This is stupid. (0)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year ago | (#42977337)

Quantum entangle me an apple.

Re:This is stupid. (1)

aliquis (678370) | about a year ago | (#42977399)

There's benefits of small units to.

Imagine a car or ship for instance.

Re:This is stupid. (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about a year ago | (#42977701)

True if you only consider power generation in itself, but there are other factors such as distribution. That's why we have power stations (and an extensive national grid), but we still have small individual power plants in our cars. If this technology scales down well (and works at all...), then large power stations could be a thing of the past. A more efficient setup could mean small, local grids at the town, neighborhood or even street level with a few small plants supplying power, and a few crossovers for redundancy. And for those living out in the sticks, a home power plant may well be the more economical option.

Re:This is stupid. (1)

quenda (644621) | about a year ago | (#42977751)

If something can be done on a small scale, it can be done better on a large scale This is why we have power stations.

Many cities pipe hot water from those power stations to homes for heating and washing.
I suppose you think anyone who has their own home heating furnace or water heater is backward and inefficient?

good luck with recycling/upgrading/replacing! (1, Interesting)

fantomas (94850) | about a year ago | (#42977141)

Good luck with recycling that, where I live it's hard enough to get rid of used auto oil at the local dump (municipal recycling facility).

And if it's like any other "white goods" it's going to be upgraded, have parts replaced, newer model put in.

  Going to love what happens when your old nuclear powerplant goes past its warranty date and you want some new hoses, want to chuck out the old model for a bigger model etc. How does that work for the local recycling facilities? or if you want to knock down an old house and level the ground so you've got to dump an old nuclear reactor somewhere?

I'm sure there's a simple answer, please enlighten me. Apparently some cities have mountains of discarded washing machines/fridges/other white goods, will we have the same of nuclear reactors?

Re:good luck with recycling/upgrading/replacing! (1)

dam.capsule.org (183256) | about a year ago | (#42977195)

From the article:

This sets off a reaction in which one of the neutrons in the nickel atom splits into a proton, an electron and an antineutrino. This changes the nickel into copper, and releases energy without dangerous ionizing radiation.

So l do not really see a recycling/upgrading/replacing process.

Re:good luck with recycling/upgrading/replacing! (0)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#42977291)

In a world with Nuclear Boy Scouts [wikipedia.org] I'm not comfortable with home appliances that create antineutrinos.

Re:good luck with recycling/upgrading/replacing! (2, Interesting)

Phase Shifter (70817) | about a year ago | (#42977487)

From the article:

This sets off a reaction in which one of the neutrons in the nickel atom splits into a proton, an electron and an antineutrino. This changes the nickel into copper, and releases energy without dangerous ionizing radiation.

So l do not really see a recycling/upgrading/replacing process.

Thanks for quoting that particular bit. This illustrates a point about trying to "dumb down" theories for the general public to understand.

I love how they describe beta decay in the same breath as they say "without dangerous ionizing radiation" in that quote.

More from TFA:

Instead of using radioactive elements like uranium or plutonium, LENR uses a lattice or sponge of nickel atoms, which holds ionized hydrogen atoms like a sponge holds water.

A bit misleading there, since there may be no radioactive fuel sitting around, but they supposedly produce a radioactive nickel isotope in the process. (Nickel and copper are naturally slightly radioactive, but it's so weak I'll cut them some slack on that point) Still, I'd like to see some numbers to back up the idea that all slow neutrons would immediately react with the nickel, with none escaping into nearby materials.

At this point, I'm thinking the author is trying too hard to simplify his explanation. Or I might be giving him too much credit since he seems to be whitewashing the subject just a little bit.

Still more from TFA:

In past years, several labs have blown up while studying LENR and windows have melted – showing that if it really works, it can produce an impressive amount of energy.

Or, this could have nothing to do with LENR, and simply indicate that some LENR researchers are ignorant of the fact that nickel (along with palladium and platinum, if the LENR experiment used one of those instead) are commonly used as catalysts for reacting hydrogen with unsaturated molecules like oxygen, and promptly blew up the experiment by not removing/excluding said element from the apparatus.

OK, forget what I said about the author oversimplifying this for the public. He's clearly either trying to share his kool-aid, or hopelessly ignorant. Probably both.

Re:good luck with recycling/upgrading/replacing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977203)

Well if we get one of these in every home it will be a case of "deploy them all now to make immediate returns for the company and please the shareholders". They'll worry about disposing of them when the time comes and them some scheme will come in that will find some way (which might not be cost effective during deployment) that will reclaim resources from them.

Re:good luck with recycling/upgrading/replacing! (0)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#42977263)

Ah, see, I knew there would be an ignorant enviro here to shit all over this new idea.

Better stick to using coal, then.

Re:good luck with recycling/upgrading/replacing! (2)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about a year ago | (#42977307)

Yes, it's a white good, and it'll be disposed of just like other white goods. Although considering that this is a cold fus... I mean LENR reactor, you may have to drain the snake oil first.

Re:good luck with recycling/upgrading/replacing! (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year ago | (#42977477)

Good luck with recycling that, where I live it's hard enough to get rid of used auto oil at the local dump (municipal recycling facility).

They found a way to dispose of radioactive smoke detectors. [wikipedia.org] If they can get the radiation low enough, they can find a way to easily dispose of these new devices as well.

Cold fusion again? (4, Interesting)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year ago | (#42977159)

"...is called Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions or Lattice Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR). In the late 1980s, it went by the name of “cold fusion.”

This claims you can harness the power of the weak nuclear force while turning nickel to copper without releasing ionizing radiation.

And: "In past years, several labs have blown up while studying LENR and windows have melted".

Seriously?

Re:Cold fusion again? (1)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year ago | (#42977171)

But wait, there's more:

"Zawodny says that the most logical first application of LENR is the home reactor..."

Are we talking about the same type of logic?

Re:Cold fusion again? (4, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#42977231)

This appears to be the same technology Andrea Rossi claimed to have developed, and is trying to sell. Except he isn't using any kind of radiation. He claims to have some kind of "secret ingredient" he adds to the nickel and hydrogen.

But both the Navy and NASA have been saying the basic idea might be workable. Is this Rossi guy just borrowing the buzzwords to put together a scam? Or are these other folks actually making him more believable?

Re:Cold fusion again? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42977673)

It's a reaction and a purported mechanism that have been floating around in cold fusion circles for quite a while. It shouldn't be surprising that scam artists, deluded tinkerers, or serious researchers have all considered it.

Re:Cold fusion again? (1)

oobayly (1056050) | about a year ago | (#42977331)

I would guess that's due to the hydrogen being used. I'd love to see this work and happen as the article describes, but I'm getting a little fatigued by all these "free energy around the corner" publications. Yes, I know, it's not actually free energy.

Unfortunately this sounds a bit like the e-cat, which again would be great if it worked, but Andrea Rossi's demonstrations leave a lot to be desired.

Re:Cold fusion again? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977707)

Fusion isn't free energy, but it's certainly a cut above hydrogen fuel cells. It's the difference between eating a cow's eyelash and getting to feast on the whole animal. You'll run out eventually, but significantly later.

Maybe NASA will let others play with it (2)

Issarlk (1429361) | about a year ago | (#42977163)

Maybe NASA will let other scientists play with it to prove it's not a scam, unlike Rosi's device. We don't even hear about that one anymore, where's the mass produced fusion generator for every home ?

Re:Maybe NASA will let others play with it (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#42977259)

I don't know details, but it seems he's still moving forward with it.

I guess he got an Italian patent on it. Does that mean anything? I wouldn't think that proves a lot.

Science win (3, Funny)

KraxxxZ01 (2445360) | about a year ago | (#42977167)

" In past years, several labs have blown up while studying LENR and windows have melted – showing that if it really works, it can produce an impressive amount of energy." I wanna play too.

We can't handle nuke waste in few central places (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977173)

What makes anyone think we can handle it in everyone's homes? What happens when your house burns down? What happens when Billy Bob drags it behind the tractor and drops a silo on it? Hanford is leaking plutonium from the 1940s into the local river, and we're even talking about portable nuclear power? Did we forget the Russians had radioactive power bricks in their lighthouses and "lost" most of them?

Man isn't capable of handling nuclear power, perhaps not even on a large scale (see Fukushima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Pickering for reference). We sure as heck do not want it in our houses.

Re:We can't handle nuke waste in few central place (4, Insightful)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about a year ago | (#42977219)

If you read the article, the reactions only work if you subject it to THz wave EM energy. So damaging this type of reactor would only ever have one kind of effect... it would stop working and go back to being a big lump of inert metal. Assuming it works in the first place after all.

Re:We can't handle nuke waste in few central place (1)

DKlineburg (1074921) | about a year ago | (#42977243)

RTFA - There is no nuke waste. Oh this is /.

Sorry, I can't help it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977205)

FTFA:

"In past years, several labs have blown up while studying LENR and windows have melted"

Must have been ME or something

Re: Sorry, I can't help it (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#42977305)

If you want to see windows melt all you have to do is wait. If you're in a hurry, bypass the firewall.

alchemy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977255)

So this turns nickel into copper. Call back when it turns lead into gold.

when can I order one? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977267)

Sound great - I want at least a couple to power my mainframe in the garage

I can see the marketing slogan right now (5, Funny)

CoolGopher (142933) | about a year ago | (#42977317)

"Brought to you by the knights who say NiH!"

Rossi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977407)

One word: bullshit. One name: Rossi.

This is the exact principle of working of Rossi's device, the E-Cat, which is a hoax out of proportions. Even distinguished scientist here in Sweden have been fooled by that crazy italian. Just google for the evidence, or lack there of. Evidence rebuting the working of the actual device said to implement the theory are many.

As for the therory, you cannot rule it out. Though, my bets are not on that horse. Solar power, not only through PE, simple, readily available, down to earth energy. Keep it simple stupid!

Sidenote: Terahertz frequencies are generated when removing adhesive tape, with a broad peak around 18THz [citation completely missing]. /Oscar Campbell

Chart of the nuclides (5, Informative)

balsy2001 (941953) | about a year ago | (#42977419)

All kinds of information nuclear reactions and decay is available in "Nuclides and Isotopes", a chart of the nuclides published by KAPL (Knowles Atomic Power Laboratory). I recommend the "chart" in book form as it comes with a bunch of nuclear physics discussion. Based on the description in the article Ni+n=Cu+e. There is only one stable isotope of Ni that has a chance of going through this process and resulting in a stable isotope of copper and that is Ni62. Ni62 is only 3.63% of naturally occurring nickle. The most abundant isotope is Ni58 (68.07%) and it will go to Ni59 with addition of a neutron and will beta decay to Co59. Ni59 has a 7600 year half life so you could continue to change it to Ni60 then Ni61 then Ni62, but all of this wouldn't happen instantaneously as stated in the article (I guess you could start an enrichment plant so you are only using Ni62, but that cost a lot of money and energy and would have to be factored into the energy balance of the final "reactor"). These types of reactions don't take place in nature because the stable isotopes are already at the bottom of the "valley of stability" (have a minimum mass or maximum binding energy, see pages 27-28 of the 16th edition of the "Nuclides and Isotopes"). I guess it is possible that the 30THz vibrations change the local laws of physics, but I will remain skeptical until there is more than speculation. The article states, "LENR is a very long way from the day when you can go out and buy a home nuclear reactor. In fact, it still has to be proven that the phenomenon even exists, but hundreds of experiments worldwide indicate that heat and transmutations with minimal radiation and low energy input do take place with yields of 10 to 100 watts." TFA states that they are not even sure if the phenomenon exists and it doesn't provide the total energy input to the system so you can't tell if 10-100W is noise or error in the measuring equipment (this is one of the things that was going on in the cold fusion of years past).

Re:Chart of the nuclides (5, Informative)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about a year ago | (#42977519)

Well, it looks like Dr. Joe Zawodny himself agrees with you that the extraordinary evidence to prove this even works has yet to be demonstrated:

http://joe.zawodny.com/ [zawodny.com] That's his private blog, and an interesting read. Looks like he's into model rocketry too.

Re:Chart of the nuclides (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42977533)

What a wonderful counterpoint to the article. If I had mod points I would give them to you.

Re:Chart of the nuclides (5, Interesting)

seanellis (302682) | about a year ago | (#42977561)

Nickel-64, at a natural abundance of about 1%, would be a better candidate, as neutron capture would result in Nickel-65 which decays to stable Copper-65 with a very short half-life of 2 hours. This is a "clean" beta-emitter with an energy of about 2.1MeV.

The overall reaction seems to be p + Ni-64 -> Cu-65 + ve + anti-ve + 2.1MeV. This is at least physically plausible as a reaction. The electron (removed from both sides above) acts as a sort of catalyst, a way to get the proton through the coloumb barrier by transforming it into a neutron.

Getting the neutrons to collide with Ni-64 nuclei rather than escaping implies a lot of Ni-64, and any escaping neutrons would irradiate everything else nearby, or impurities in the nickel such as the aforementioned Ni-62, or worse Ni-58 which would produce Ni-59, a positron emitter with a half-life of 76000 years.

But to me, the real red flag on this is getting the hydrogen atoms to collapse into neutrons, a process which I've never heard of before. Even if it's possible, can you get a net gain? Does it take more than 2.1MeV? Slashdot - educate me!

Re:Chart of the nuclides (2)

balsy2001 (941953) | about a year ago | (#42977777)

I missed Ni64, thanks. But it isn't obvious that it is a better choice that Ni62. Ni62 has a larger neutron cross section and higher abundance than Ni64. But who knows if cross section means anything in this scenario, especially after you hit this stuff with 30THz.

Re:Chart of the nuclides (2)

HalfFlat (121672) | about a year ago | (#42977813)

Beryllium-7 decays naturally (to Lithium) by electron capture, but obviously Hydrogen doesn't, without some sort of push.

According to one of the presentations [indico.cern.ch] at the LENR symposium [indico.cern.ch] at CERN last year, the required energy deficit is on the order of 1.28 MeV, which in principle can be supplied by surface plasmons. The author states that observed neutron generation in lightning discharges and piezoelectric rock fracturing can be explained by this process.

Smells like bullshit. (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#42977445)

Looks like a rebranded version of cold fusion, from the same frothing, foaming-at-the-mouth fraudsters, weirdos and cranks.

Slashdot editors and commentors are so credulous.

Re:Smells like bullshit. (3, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42977547)

Yes, NASA Langley Research Centre, those famous cranks. While I really don't think it's true, it's certainly newsworthy that a NASA group of all people are proposing it.

Currently used tech? (2)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about a year ago | (#42977447)

After reading the article, it appears that the magic formula is subjecting a nickel metal hydride to T-waves. Perhaps all the existing NiMH batteries out on the market can be somehow re-purposed to last forever if someone can invent a portable terahertz wave generator.

Re:Currently used tech? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42977597)

Batteries generate current, this reaction generates heat, so you couldn't use them directly. Although it would certainly be convenient to just charge up a bunch of old NiMH cells, then use them as "fuel rods".

(If this were true. I'm sceptical.)

NASA said it so it must be true? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977463)

Isn't this the story we were all laughingin 2011 when Andrrea Rossi announced his e-Cat units were now functioning?

http://tech.slashdot.org/story/11/10/06/1430210/does-italian-demo-show-cold-fusion-or-snake-oil

Not sure if believe... (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | about a year ago | (#42977499)

The electrons in the metal lattice are made to oscillate so that the energy applied to the electrons is concentrated into only a few of them. When they become energetic enough, the electrons are forced into the hydrogen protons to form slow neutrons. These are immediately drawn into the nickel atoms, making them unstable. This sets off a reaction in which one of the neutrons in the nickel atom splits into a proton, an electron and an antineutrino. This changes the nickel into copper, and releases energy without dangerous ionizing radiation.

It does look like the process at least conserves baryon and lepton number, so it's at least prima facie plausible. Unfortunately, e+p is a full 782KeV short of the energy to make a neutron at rest which makes me doubt that this is actually going on.

For nickel-63, not feasible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977523)

A back-of-the-envelope estimate suggests you'd need almost 50,000 lbs of pure nickel-63 to generate 13 kW (assumed peak power consumption of your average home) of electricity. That's something like a 12-foot tall cylinder with a diameter of 3 feet. AND I'm assuming that somehow the inventor has overcome self absorption.

Of course, TFA suggests some method for stimulating beta decay, which would increase the activity, but not the theoretical efficiency. That said, an order of magnitude of increase in activity would mean an order of magnitude decrease in the required mass.

I would invest in this (1)

Bruha (412869) | about a year ago | (#42977531)

For once a scientist has possibly developed a system where were not boiling water. In reality we have never left the steam age as even our most technologically advanced fusion reactors are nothing but steam generators in the end. Here we have something that can finally produce direct electricity in usable currents (Yes there are beta batteries but they're radioactive).

Airlines the the most doomed industry unless this is brought into commercial production, because eventually fuel will become too expensive and this may be the only viable alternative capable of producing enough thrust energy. Cause there's no way they will use nuclear reactors like the military tried in the 60's.

Re:I would invest in this (2)

IRWolfie- (1148617) | about a year ago | (#42977615)

Here we have something that can finally produce direct electricity in usable currents

This cold fusion device has not been shown to produce any electricity.

It will still be radioactive (5, Informative)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about a year ago | (#42977543)

For the purpose of this post, I'll accept that they can convert protons to neutrons as described, although I'm very dubious about this.

Here [wikipedia.org] is a table of nickel isotopes.
Here [llnl.gov] is the first source I found for neutron cross sections of nickel isotopes (pdf). (See figure 12, look at the left hand side of each 'destruction channels for ??Ni' plot for what low energy (thermal) neutrons will do.)

Cross sections are in barns, and are approximate as I'm eyeballing them off a logarithmic scale.
58Ni [stable, 68% abundant] (0.006 barn) -> 59Ni [-> 59Co, 76000 yr half life]
59Ni [unstable but long lived] (0.02b) -> 59Co [stable] or (0.005b) ->56 Fe [stable] or (0.004b) -> 60Ni [stable]
60Ni [stable, 26%] (0.006b) -> 61Ni [stable]
61Ni [stable, 1%] (0.002b) -> 62Ni [stable]
62Ni [stable, 4%] (0.006b) -> 63Ni [->63Cu, 100yr]
63Ni [unstable] (0.001b)-> 64Ni [stable]
64Ni [stable, 1%] (0.004b) -> 65Ni [->65Cu, 2.5 hr]

None of the cross sections are hugely larger than the others, so all these reactions will occur with reasonable frequency. So irradiating nickel with thermal neutrons, you are going to produce radioactive 59Co (76000yr), 63Ni (100yr) and 65Ni (2.5hr). The 65Ni isn't a problem - turn off the reactor, wait a couple of days, and it will all be gone. The 59Co is only a bit of a problem - with such a long half life, it isn't very radioactive. The 63Ni however is nasty. Like 137Cs (30yr) from the Fukashima reactors, the half life is short enough to be quite radioactive but long enough that you can't just wait it out. Finally, the nickel won't be 100% pure, so you have to worry about what neutron irradiation will do to the impurities.

The 65Ni means when you turn off your reactor, it will continue to produce residual heat for hours.

The article gives the impression that weak nuclear reactions aren't dangerous, but this is not so. If it were, nuclear reactor waste wouldn't be dangerous.

This reactor will be producing ionizing radiation when running (mostly gamma rays, some beta rays mostly from 65Ni decay, and a tiny amount of alpha particles from 59Co(n,a)56Fe.) This will require some pretty heavy shielding to stop it. (A good sized water bath should work, every 7cm of water [xkcd.com] halves the radiation and you want hot water anyhow. But concrete is less prone to leak away.) You'd also need to worry about stray neutrons, although I expect that can be fixed with a thin layer of something that has very high thermal neutron cross section and no dangerous daughter products.

In short, I don't think I want this in my basement.

Re:It will still be radioactive (2)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about a year ago | (#42977565)

Oops, spotted an error. In the paragraph "None of the cross sections are hugely larger than the others..." read 59Ni for 59Co.

And now the science.. (2)

tiniebras (2158384) | about a year ago | (#42977563)

A nice link explaining the science which intrigued NASA: http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Widom-Larsen.php [i-sis.org.uk]

Re:And now the science.. (2)

IRWolfie- (1148617) | about a year ago | (#42977579)

Linking to a pseudo-scientific institute which supports homoeopathy and other nonsense is a good way to kill credibility.

Just try... (4, Funny)

mbstone (457308) | about a year ago | (#42977593)

...getting the landlord to fix the nuclear reactor.

It's hard enough to get him to fix the water heater.

A Fucking SCAM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977625)

This stuff works because of "melted windows" or what ? Not because they can actually find the after-products of their fission/fusion/whatever.

A Fine Example Of Your Taxpayer Money Being Burned.

Quote Zawodny (3, Insightful)

IRWolfie- (1148617) | about a year ago | (#42977679)

The first line of the article "If Joseph Zawodny, a senior scientist at NASAâ(TM)s Langley Research Center, is correct" is misleading. Zawodny hasn't stated that it works or that he thinks it's definitely a real effect.

Let's look at what Zawodny actually has stated before:

Many extraordinary claims have been made in 2010. In my scientific opinion, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I find a distinct absence of the latter. So let me be very clear here. While I personally find sufficient demonstration that LENR effects warrant further investigation, I remain skeptical. Furthermore, I am unaware of any clear and convincing demonstrations of any viable commercial device producing useful amounts of net energy.

http://joe.zawodny.com/index.php/2012/01/14/technology-gateway-video/ [zawodny.com]

That he still holds this opinion is consistent with the quotes in the gizmag article:

I'm interested in understanding whether the phenomenon is real, what it's all about. ... All we really need is that one bit of irrefutable, reproducible proof that we have a system that works.

Terraforming Venus (0)

govt-serpent (600668) | about a year ago | (#42977821)

This could be used for terraforming Venus. If someone can work out the decay chain, we can transform the extra abundant elements into Hydrogen, Nitrogen and O2. But what Venus really needs is a large moon.

Sounds great... UNTIL IT EXPLODES (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977935)

And then, the terrorists come alive. And China hackers.

Don't believe a word (1, Interesting)

physburn (1095481) | about a year ago | (#42977939)

This device is never going to work, converting protons in neutrons in the metal isn't going to happen, the process requires nearly a MeV of energy that isn't there, (and Terahertz waves are no were near a MeV). This is a cold fusion under different name, cold fusion didn't work, and neither does this. Shame on NASA for supporting research so obviously wrong, and previously debunked.
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