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NPR Story on the Future of Nuclear Power

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the whither-goes-the-world dept.

353

deeptrace writes "The Living on Earth show on NPR recently had a segment on the future of Nuclear Energy. The nearly hour long show is available as an mp3 and in transcript form. It talks about hot fusion, cold fusion, and Pebble Bed Reactors. It provides a well balanced and informative overview of progress towards their use for future nuclear power generation. Most interestingly, they talk with Dr. Pamela Boss and Dr. Stanislaw Szpak at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego. Dr. Szpak says of their cold fusion experiments: 'We have 100 percent reproducible results'."

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100%? (4, Insightful)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857224)

We have 100 percent reproducible

100% success or 100% failure?

Re:100%? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857241)

we don't care of this, asshole

Re:100%? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857255)

Just from the sounds of it, success. Guess we should LTTFA?

Re:100%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857356)

100% reproducible maybe

Re:100%? (3, Insightful)

larkost (79011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857672)

I would guess that this means 100% success. The much more important question is if they are getting anywhere near brea-even energy production (if you get as much energy out as you expend getting it). My guess is that they are still orders-of-magnitudes away from that.

In other words: they are getting fusion, but their means of getting it is (currently) worthless for energy production.

You gnurds need to get some priorities! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857703)

Natatalie Protman was on SNL yesterday and there were no hot grits involved at all! [boingboing.net]

Face it bitches, she doesn't really love you.

NPR (-1, Troll)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857245)

"It provides a well balanced and informative overview of progress"

NPR is about as balanced as fox news. If I want info on Nuclear reactors the last place I'm going is NPR well maybe Air America if its still around.

Re:NPR (3, Insightful)

Politburo (640618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857537)

NPR may not be the best source, but to compare it to Fox News is an insult and simply wrong.

Re:NPR (-1, Flamebait)

gb506 (738638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857623)

NPR may not be the best source, but to compare it to Fox News is an insult and simply wrong.

Yeah, it's an insult alright - an insult that our tax dollars prop up the blatantly leftist NPR. You can hate Fox News all day long, but at least you have the luxury of not having to pay for it...

Re:NPR (1)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857693)

But but... what about the children? And the arts! Art is a family value!

At least it's only 10% of their budget.

Re:NPR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857758)

An insult to Fox News, you mean. Fox News actually has to compete for its market share, it doesn't get government handouts for producing content that no one listens to.

Fox News has also never had a scandal relating to people being hired and fired based on their political affiliations - which NPR has had. NPR managers were deciding on who to hire based on whether or not they were Republicans. Great way to get balanced news, huh?

Then there was the funding scandal, where it was discovered that NPR was misusing the funds it got from the government...

I agree, though, comparing NPR to Fox News is an insult and simply wrong - an insult to Fox News, and simply wrong to compare a public company to a government-controlled media source.

Re:NPR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857599)

Which it is:

Air America [airamericaradio.com]

Google reports that they are "Progressive talk radio network"

Re:NPR (2, Insightful)

malex23 (645752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857723)

NPR is about as balanced as fox news. If I want info on Nuclear reactors the last place I'm going is NPR well maybe Air America if its still around.

I'm asking this next question in the utmost sincerity:

Are you saying this because of specific misinformation in the piece, or is this a knee-jerk reaction you had without even hearing it?

Prove it (1)

snowwrestler (896305) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857836)

Please point to one study that shows the left bias of NPR News. Every rigorous study I've seen, including the reviews instigated by the noted conservative Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Kenneth Tomlinson, have concluded that NPR provides coverage that is very balanced and fair.

Perhaps you're confusing fair and balanced with "Fair and Balanced"(c).

Of Astronauts and rods (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857251)

NASA's done some great things. They've given us Tang and Velcro. They've popped water balloons on the Shuttle. And they've put a big old American flag on the Moon. It's a shame that they have gotten to be the butt of so many jokes in recent years due to their continuing mismanagement and crappy safety record.

But look at it from the perspective of the astronauts. You know that there is a non-zero risk of exploding in a bright flash and becoming a spectacle on the evening news. You know that NASA really hasn't fixed anything relevant to the problems of the previous Shuttle disasters. And you know that you'll be just as forgotten as the other astronauts once NASA blows up the next Shuttle flight after yours.

But it's space! Only a handful of people have ever gone up there. It's something that you train hard for and long for, because despite the risks and odds, the payoff is just too great to ignore.

Does nuclear power also have that same ability to pay off in spades? The risks are well known. It's like putting a revolver to your head, but you know what? 5 out of 6 times, that hammer's just going to click and nothing's going to happen.

Re:Of Astronauts and rods (1, Insightful)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857282)

The risks are well known. It's like putting a revolver to your head, but you know what? 5 out of 6 times, that hammer's just going to click and nothing's going to happen.

But how many times are you going to put the gun to your head and pull the trigger? It seems we've already hit that live round a couple of times. TMI and Chernobyl certianly come to mind.

Re:Of Astronauts and rods (3, Insightful)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857333)

Chernobyl, definitely. TMI could more accurately be equated to a mis-fire (probably a dud round), not an actual shot.

Re:Of Astronauts and rods (5, Interesting)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857375)

But how many times are you going to put the gun to your head and pull the trigger? It seems we've already hit that live round a couple of times. TMI and Chernobyl certianly come to mind.
Well, right now we are sitting in a car with the engine running and the garage door closed. I think we are better off with the revolver.

Re:Of Astronauts and rods (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857436)

No, no, everything's fine. Go about you business citizen..[cough]. The lightheadedness is perfectly normal.

-Eric

Re:Of Astronauts and rods (2, Insightful)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857458)

Chernoble was more like putting a fully automatic weapon to your head and firing a full clip. The Soviets MADE that accident happen, even though they did not intend for it to explode, they set the conditions up for it to occure on purpose by removing all fail safes. Chernoble is not a statement on the saftty and efficasy of nuclea power, it is a statement of the stupidity of people.

Not merely good (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857295)

Amazingly appropriate nickname
I bow to your impressively bad analogies, and their accompanying bad reasoning.

Re:Of Astronauts and rods (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857297)

Ah I almost fell for that one. Good one. IHBT, IWHAND.

Someday we shall evolve beyond urban myths (3, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857371)

Well, General Foods gave us Tang in 1957, and Swiss engineer by Georges de Mestral gave us Velcro in *1948*.

"Cold Fusion" isn't really an accurate name (4, Funny)

Jesrad (716567) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857267)

Considering all the various physical constraints and obstacles to sustained fusion reactions (like: current density must be over 2.6 A / squared cm, surface status must be as crack-free as possible, hydrogen-metal ratio inside electrode must be over 0.84, there must be some but not too much "light" water in the heavy water, etc...) I prefer calling it "Difficult Fusion" :D

Re:"Cold Fusion" isn't really an accurate name (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857433)

The most difficult part to getting cold fusion is building yourself a flux capacitor and constructing the time machine around it.

Once you get over those simple issues getting your hands on a Mr Fusion device is childsplay.

Re:"Cold Fusion" isn't really an accurate name (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857831)

I prefer calling it "Difficult Fusion" :D

Couldn't that be applied to all fusion tech other than solar energy that we currently aware of?

You may not realize the half of it... (1)

abb3w (696381) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857853)

FTA:
GELLERMAN: But the most dramatic experimental evidence Boss and Szpak have that cold fusion is a nuclear reaction is a medieval alchemist's dream come true. But instead of turning lead into gold, they say they have images of minute nuclear explosions turning parts of their palladium electrodes into aluminum, magnesium and zinc. (Emphasis added)
Excuse me, heavy elements going to lighter ones is fission [wikipedia.org] , not fusion [wikipedia.org] , which would make more sense at room temperature. Admittedly, not a lot more here, since Pd is a lot lighter than the usual "fissionables". However, that mainly implies that a self sustaining chain reaction is implausible, not that it can't be done. It might be proton moderated fission, instead of neutron moderated, or it might be a subcritical chain reaction from ambient neutrons.., or maybe something else entirely. It's still weird — not "too good to be true" weird, but still "possible Nobel Prize" weird.

Crystal or Sonic? (4, Informative)

Zediker (885207) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857276)

Were these the guys who did the Crystal or Sonic based fusion? As I recal, while they are repeatable, neither of them were particularly usefull for creating large scale fusion reactions.

Great! (5, Funny)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857303)

Now that NPR is on board, when can we start to build new reactors?

Re:Great! (3, Insightful)

MrFlibbs (945469) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857444)

It will truly be an amazing day when NPR advocates nuclear energy. However, this article doesn't exactly constitute a ringing endorsement. The three articles essentially say this:

1) "Hot" fusion works, but a practical solution is always 20 years away. (However, they then go on to say that the current target date for a workable solution is 2050 -- 44 years from now.)

2) "Cold" fusion is not quite dead yet. A small group of researchers claims fusion is taking place with a mechanism requiring "new physics", but the vast majority of physicists don't take them seriously.

3) Pebble bed reactor technology is progressing in South Africa, but the economics are vastly overstated and there's no disposal solution.

NPR is still a long way from advocating nuclear power.

Re:Great! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857602)

NPR is still a long way from advocating nuclear power.

Seems to me, this is NPR doing its job of presenting an issue in a balanced manner. No, they're not advocating anything here. They're just informing.

Re:Great! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857731)

No, they're not advocating anything here. They're just informing.

For once

Re:Great! (0, Flamebait)

Art Tatum (6890) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857451)

Don't kid yourself. NPR is really a reactionary extremist right-wing mouthpiece run from a bunker underneath the White House. In fact, Dick Cheney probably wrote the script for that program to help his cronies at Halliburton. The liberal media bias is made up. It's actually a right-wing media bias. They want to destroy the environment and we can't let them.

Check you satire-detectors, mods (1)

Art Tatum (6890) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857769)

I think they're broken.

Re:Great! (1)

thewiz (24994) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857645)

Nuclear Public Reactors?

Nucular. It's pronounced Nucular. (4, Funny)

Stele (9443) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857310)

You can never put TOO much water in the reactor.

Re:Nucular. It's pronounced Nucular. (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857391)

You can never put TOO much water in the reactor.

Once again, demonstrating the brilliant reasoning behind my "A Proposal for the Construction of the 'New Orleans Nuclear Power Facility'"

-Eric

Re:Nucular. It's pronounced Nucular. (1)

TedCheshireAcad (311748) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857421)

And you can never put too much Uranium-235 in the ocean.

Check the Source (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857323)

Living on Earth comments on nuclear energy and it gets posted on slashdot why? This is the leftest of the left-leaning radio programs on NPR. I heard a story they ran a few months ago where they interviewed a pet psychic who claimed they could understand the secret language of dogs ("ooh, now fluffy is saying that she gets lonely when you leave her home and go to work"); the interview was not presented in an ironic fashion. If they source their scientists as carefully here, I'm sure it is worth an hour of time to listen to.

Re:Check the Source (4, Insightful)

famebait (450028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857483)

And what precisely did you find left-leaning about the article? You did read the article, didn't you?

As it turns out, you guessed right that the article was not very balanced, but not he way you thing. The imbalance here stemmed from the way informed criticism of the technology (not of local economic issues) were awarded about one sentence in an great big sales-brochure-like presentation of the proponents' view.

Yes, valid criticisms do exist, and from solid sources too. Google it. Not necessarlily saying they're wnough to tip the scales in the "no-go" direction, but pretending there are none, or that this article was anything close to balanced, is just ridiculous.

And what's "left" about believing in pshychic phenomena, anyway?

Re:Check the Source (1)

Bazzalisk (869812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857639)

And talking to dogs is left-wing how?

Pebble Bed reactors (5, Insightful)

joshsnow (551754) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857330)

...seem like an interesting concept.

I was especially interested to read the following (apart from the funny connotations of the scientists name!)

Sue Ion is the technology director for British Nuclear Fuels. She thinks nuclear energy is becoming more attractive because of the growing concern over greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Ms. Ion also says pebble beds have an added benefit that can move them beyond the electricity business. The reactors will operate at extremely high temperatures -- not hot enough to melt the fuel, but hot enough to efficiently desalinate ocean water for drinking. And actually so hot they could crack open molecules of water. That would make it possible to manufacture hydrogen.

It would seem that this could kill several birds with one stone - "cleaner" electricity production, a source of hydrogen for motor vehicles and the possibility to make sea water domestically usable. Those seem like massive upsides, what are the downsides?

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857357)

Cost, and Nuclear is scary!

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857398)

Thats the best part of PBRs; they're not scary. They're totally stable because the reaction is self modulating. If you remove every single cooling system from a PBR it can't explode, melt down or otherwise get out of hand; the physics make it impossible.

I'd love to see PBRs being built here in the UK. Using them to desalinate sea water would also be an amazing boon; large parts of the UK are already facing drought-like conditions this summer. We're surrounded by water, we should take advantage of that. Hell, it could even be an export oppurtunity in the coming century!

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (1)

Skye16 (685048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857482)

Naw, they're still scary. Mostly because we have no idea what the fuck to do with the waste that we can ensure won't fuck us over in the future.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (3, Insightful)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857616)

Mostly because we have no idea what the fuck to do with the waste that we can ensure won't fuck us over in the future.

What? There are plenty of ideas. Encase it in ceramic and concrete and embed it deep in the Earth's crust. Plant it in a subduction zone. Eject it from the planet. Deposit it in an extremely deep oceanic trench. Just because you may not like these ideas doesn't mean they don't exist.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (3, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857646)

Encase it in ceramic and concrete and embed it deep in the Earth's crust. Plant it in a subduction zone. Eject it from the planet. Deposit it in an extremely deep oceanic trench. Just because you may not like these ideas doesn't mean they don't exist.

Personally, I think these are all bloody awful ideas. In fifty-odd years we'll be running short of the uranium fuel that our current reactors use - and which pebble-bed reactors will also burn. Unless nuclear fusion has really come on by then, at that point we'll begin building breeder reactors - which will burn the waste from the previous generation of plants.

That nuclear waste will suddenly represent an enormous fuel resource. You could probably run the UK for centuries just off the amount of fissile junk stacked up at Sellafield already. And we'll really be kicking ourselves if we've thrown it all into a subduction zone.

Bury it deep, sure - but bury it somewhere it can be dug up if we realise we actually want the stuff someday.

Thorium (1)

Kobun (668169) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857783)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle#Th e_Thorium_fuel_cycle [wikipedia.org]

For the moment, I don't think we should let the lack of an absolutely permanent solution stop us from migrating away from coal. Vitrification or Synroc for now. There is plenty of fuel in the world. And (hot)fusion produces a significant amount of waste on its own.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fusion [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneutronic_fusion [wikipedia.org]

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (1)

Y2 (733949) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857877)

That nuclear waste will suddenly represent an enormous fuel resource. You could probably run the UK for centuries just off the amount of fissile junk stacked up at Sellafield already. And we'll really be kicking ourselves if we've thrown it all into a subduction zone.

Sure, if it takes you ten million years to realize you wanted the waste after all, then you will have a problem.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (0, Troll)

wolff000 (447340) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857382)

"It would seem that this could kill several birds with one stone - "cleaner" electricity production, a source of hydrogen for motor vehicles and the possibility to make sea water domestically usable. Those seem like massive upsides, what are the downsides?"

I guess you haven't been to Chernobyl lately. The down sides to any nuclear power is its nuclear. It could blow and take a whole lot with it. Not too mention no matter how clean the process you are still going to end up with some nuclear waste that has to be disposed of. I think nuclear is the way of the future we just have to get the kinks worked out. I can see it now Chernobyl 2: When Earthworms Attack. Hopefully that won't happen but it would make a great B movie.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (5, Informative)

alohatiger (313873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857389)

The whole concept of pebble bed reactors is that they can't blow. Even a catestophic coolant lose doesn't result in a meltdown because the fuel is "diluted" in pebble form.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857589)

What difference does this make to the general public. We were all assurred that the older, control rod style, reactors would never, ever blow. And yet Chernobyl went sky high. Extreme example yes, but the older model reactor which was riddled with flaws was sold over and over as a "failsafe" and "foolproof" system. They said it was "impossible" for them to explode

Now the public has Pebble-Bed reactors being sold as a "failsafe, foolproof and risk free" reactor. Do you think Joe average is really going to look into the physics behind what makes the reactor safe? Or is he simply going to make the connection between nukes, Chernobyl and reactors and assume the thing will blow up anyway.

Scientists do not have a good record on selling nuclear safety. They would do everyone a favour if they put some disclaimers on "failsafe, foolproof and risk free", like; Unless the events X,Y,Z occur. And if X,Y,Z are unlikely enough, then Joe average might swallow it. But just telling him the same old thing you said about the failed reactors is not likely to inspire confidence.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (3, Informative)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857681)

We were all assurred that the older, control rod style, reactors would never, ever blow.

"We" never made that claim about Soviet reactors. Cherbobyl didn't "blow sky high" anyways. It simply burned.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857527)

we just have to get the kinks worked out

We have got the kinks worked out. They're called Pebble Bed Reactors (PBRs) and Breeder Reactors.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (1)

wolff000 (447340) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857534)

Ok I erred on that one pebble bed reactors can't blow, I know that now. I learned my one new thing today.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (2, Informative)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857560)

I guess you haven't been to Chernobyl lately. The down sides to any nuclear power is its nuclear. It could blow and take a whole lot with it.

When was the last nuclear power plant accident that happened while its operators were following all prescribed safety procedures? Nuclear power is extremely safe, even more so than traditional coal plants. As long as the operators are trained properly, they perform maintenance as required, etc. there isn't much of a problem.

Name me one nuclear power plant accident and I guarantee it was caused by plant operators not doing what they were supposed to. Sure, this is part of the overall risk. However, it is no different than any other method of producing power. A negligent coal plant operator could cause an explosion or a really big, dirty fire.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857690)

3 Mile Island, I think. The problem there was that their instruments were lying to them due to several failures interacting. Also, if a coal plant blows sky high, you have a mess to clean up, rather than generations of cancer and a large swath of uninhabitable land, so I don't think any claim of greater safety is supportable with the stakes so much higher.

That's not to say pebble bed reactors aren't a lot safer than current nuclear plants, but that's also because a traditional PWR reactor is a scaled-up submarine design that's totally inappropriate for large-scale power generation. GE really pooched the future with its design and marketing decisions back in the 50's.

Also, I'm given to understand that one major problem with safer reactor designs (like CANDU and breeder reactors) is that they are able to easily produce weapons-grade fissionables, although I'm not sure if that applies to pebble bed.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (1, Informative)

DarkSarin (651985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857733)

Bah, I won't discount that there was a REAL and appreciable danger at 3 mile Island, but because folks followed procedure, there was not an accident.

As far as a danger to the public, we are closer to death every time we get in a car--especially if some idiot is using a cell-phone. Your chances of dying quadruple every time you use that cell phone. You'd be better off driving drunk (.08).

TMI was a public relations disaster, and not much else.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857846)

True, but when I get in a car, my great-grandchildren are perfectly safe (not counting global warming).

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (1)

Bazzalisk (869812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857565)

Actualy pretty much no nuclear power-plants can actualy explode (even Chernobyl didn't realy explode, it released a huge cloud of radioactive gas) and no modern designs could even melt-down like Chernobyl did unless the water-supply was physicly cut off (pretty unlikely considering that they're almost universaly located near oceans).

To make a modern nuclear planet melt-down you have to know what you're doing and realy want to - and it still wouldn't be anything like as bad as Chernobyl. Fusion plants are likely to be even less dangerous - a hot fusion plant which loses containment will wreck some very expensive equipment and have to be left to "cool-down" before it can be properly decommisioned (likely for several years) - but it won't explode, and it wouldn't release much radiation externaly either.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857697)

hot fusion plant which loses containment will wreck some very expensive equipment and have to be left to "cool-down" before it can be properly decommisioned (likely for several years)

Probably not even that. As soon as you began to lose containment the fusion reaction would shut down completely. The temperature would drop like a stone as the gas expanded (PV = nRT and all that) and by the time it actually touched the walls I doubt it would be capable of doing any damage.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (4, Insightful)

Stormcrow309 (590240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857393)

Depends on how good operational control and maintainance is. Make the operations manager criminally liable for any negligent activities. Considering that I live near a nuclear power plant and a nuclear bomb plant, I am pretty froggy on the concept. The big part would be making sure that the plants are run effectively, efficently (not the same thing as effective, btw), and safely.

Three Mile Island [TMI] happened due to poor operations control layout and bad UI. There was poor disaster planning and insuffecent communications ability in and out of the plant. Better planning and an effective use study could of taking care of that. I do use studies on how people read reports on supply usuage in their departments. They can do that with how people operate a nuclear reactor. In addition, mandated training on disaster scenarios in a functional trainer mock-up mandated every year would also be advisable.

On the Chernobal accident, it came down to a bureaucracy forging ahead because an incompedent manager made a decision to go ahead with a test because he didn't want to tell his bosses he couldn't due to worry excessively over what could happened. He should of worried more.

Errrr... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857422)

Of course it is hot, of course it can vaporize water : this is how it works ! Desalinize sea water with it if you wish, but this is a waste of heat that could be used to produce electricity. You can make hydrogen too, but I doubt that it will be more efficient than making electrolyse...

Re:Errrr... (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857486)

I thought the way they worked was by vapourising water and using the steam to drive turbines. So we're getting fresh water out of the other end anyway.

Re:Errrr... (4, Informative)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857509)

Desalinize sea water with it if you wish, but this is a waste of heat that could be used to produce electricity.

In a nuclear reactor, heat is cheap.

What you're doing with these things is using the heat from the nuclear reaction to boil water, then using the steam to spin turbines and thus turn dynamos to generate electricity. It's a giant steam engine.

Now, if you want to desalinate salt water, one way to do it is to boil the stuff. The salt is left behind, and once the steam condenses you have fresh water. So. Use your nuclear furnace to boil off some salt water from the sea. Direct the hot steam through your turbines. Generate electricity. Then condense the steam in your cooling towers and output fresh water.

There'll be some tricky engineering to be done to make sure you don't get salt deposits clogging up your plumbing, but in principle the idea is pretty sound.

Re:Errrr... (3, Informative)

Silverstrike (170889) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857675)

Not to nitpick, but if we're still talking about Pebble Bed Reactors:

Instead of water, it uses pyrolytic graphite as the neutron moderator, and an inert or semi-inert gas such as helium, nitrogen or carbon dioxide as the coolant, at very high temperature, to drive a turbine directly.

From this Wikipedia Article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor/ [wikipedia.org]

Re:Errrr... (3, Informative)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857847)

You would never actually run the seawater through the reactor core itself; not only would you have the problem of salt deposits that would clog the thing up rather quickly (you can do the calculation yourself -- figure out the grams of dissolved solids per liter of seawater and figure out how many thousand liters you'd run through before you filled whatever the empty volume of the reactor chamber would be), but also you'd have the issue of making the core area, which is assumedly radioactive, not a sealed unit.

What's generally done in nuclear reactors is that the core cooling is done through a sealed loop; the material which flows through the core never actually goes near the steam turbines. It goes out of the core, into a heat exchanger, and then back into the core. That's it. Barring some sort of disaster, it never leaves this closed loop.

This gives you a lot of additional flexibility in terms of what kind of coolant you want to use, too. It doesn't have to be water -- it can be liquid metal (IIRC the French use or used liquid NaK in their breeder reactors) or even some sort of pressurized gas or something more exotic.

Having an open-loop core cooling system just doesn't strike me as a particularly good idea; I do like the concept of using the waste heat from power generation for some actual purpose though, be it desalination or H2 production or whatever, but I think there are lots of ways to do this without opening up the core to the environment.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (2, Funny)

TedCheshireAcad (311748) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857437)

Use a nuclear reactor to make drinking water - what could possibly go wrong?

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (3, Insightful)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857580)

Use a nuclear reactor to make drinking water - what could possibly go wrong?

Given that the pressurized water heated by the reaction is kept in separate pipes from the water that turns to steam, not much. Any leaks or other issues would cause big enough problems that the last thing you'd worry about is clean drinking water.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (4, Interesting)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857592)

Well, it happens every day. Big ass fusion reractor a couple of million miles that direction (points at sun)evaporates sea water. Water vapor rises and is spread around the world until conditions cause it to condense and precipitate out of the atmosphere. We throw a little bit of sodium hypochlorate, or other sanitizing agent in it, at least around where I live, and drink it. Yum.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (-1, Flamebait)

warb (155872) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857480)

Let's just kick this "clean" nuclear energy out the window. Nuclear plants produce some of the most toxic substances
known to man. (Plutonium comes to mind). And the US practice of keeping spent fuel in swimming pools next
to the plants doesn't seem like that great of a plan either.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14857569)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium#Precautions [wikipedia.org]

Plutonium is no more toxic than anything else we expose ourselves to every day.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (3, Informative)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857695)

Plutonium is no more toxic than anything else we expose ourselves to every day.

I cannot describe in words how assine this statement is. Plutonium might not be the worlds most lethal substance, but it's a danm sight more dangerous than everyday toilet bleach. Just ask Harry Daghlian and Louis Slotin. Well, you could have asked them if they hadn't been killed in plutonium accidents.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (2, Interesting)

jejones (115979) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857793)

I cannot describe in words how assine [sic] this statement is..

Let's see... This web page [arizona.edu] lists the LD50 for Clostridium botulinum for mice as 30 picograms per kilogram of body weight, and C. botulinum neurotoxin at 200 picograms/kg. We're so nonchalant about botox that people have parties where they inject themselves with it to get rid of wrinkles. See also this portion of the Wikipedia entry on plutonium. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (5, Interesting)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857606)

Let's just kick this "clean" nuclear energy out the window. Nuclear plants produce some of the most toxic substances known to man. (Plutonium comes to mind).

Nuclear power plants keep their waste in shielded rooms deep inside the plant, which are then sealed up and stored so the waste doesn't get released. Coal plants, however, release more radioactive waste into the atmosphere. Coal contains traces of uranium, and as it burns, we get uranium dust in the air. Nuclear power doesn't have this problem. So, let's just kick this "clean" fossil fuel energy out the window. And unless you have a way to use hydro, solar, or wind power to produce as much energy as either fossil fuel or nuclear, we're left with this choice: store our radioactive waste deep underground, release clean steam; or burn massive quantities of coal, release tons of dirty smoke and radioactive particles in the air.

Re:Pebble Bed reactors (-1, Troll)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857728)

Nuclear power plants keep their waste in shielded rooms deep inside the plant, which are then sealed up and stored so the waste doesn't get released.

Most nuclear plants dump irradiated waste water straight out of the system. No filtering, no decontamination. Nothing.

Coal plants, however, release more radioactive waste into the atmosphere. Coal contains traces of uranium, and as it burns, we get uranium dust in the air.

Coal contains on average 3ppm of uranium. Soil contains on average 1.8-5ppm of uranium. All coal plants also now have industrial grade filters installed which catch almost all of the heavier particles leaving the chimney.

Coal pollutes through its kinematic and chemical properties, which has significant and very damaging effects to both heath and the enviornment. But to say it releases radiation in any significant way is just FUD.

And unless you have a way to use hydro, solar, or wind power to produce as much energy as either fossil fuel or nuclear, we're left with this choice:

There is a way. Use these sources to produce hydrogen. Millions of barrels worth. Then ship it about like natural gas to fuel power plants and cars.

Some reading (1, Informative)

Kobun (668169) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857535)

Wikipedia on pebble beds:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor [wikipedia.org]

Other useful stuff:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synroc [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitrification [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_waste [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneutronic_fusion [wikipedia.org]

Suffice to say, these articles cover alot of ground.

What a wasted opportunity (5, Funny)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857699)

What was wrong with Ms. (Dr.?) Ion's parents, naming her Sue of all things.

If my name was Ion, I'd surely name my daughters Anne and Katya (Kat for short).

Converting to fusion later? (0)

nizo (81281) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857367)

I wonder how feasible it would be to convert nuclear plants to fusion plants later? Granted we don't know what all of the requirements for a fusion reactor will be, but it seems like we could at least make some adjustments to reactors currently being designed with the goal of converting them later, or are they so different that this won't be possible?

Re:Converting to fusion later? (4, Informative)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857454)

I wonder how feasible it would be to convert nuclear plants to fusion plants later?

Very impractical. The principles are totally different; all they have in common is the word 'nuclear'.

Think about what it would take to refit a coal-fired power plant into a gas-fired power plant. You'd have to rip out and replace the entire furnace. Same with fission to fusion; you might be able to keep the boiler and turbines and so forth, but the heat source - the actual power core - would have to be totally replaced.

Re:Converting to fusion later? (4, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857467)

. . .are they so different that this won't be possible?

Yes.

KFG

Re:Converting to fusion later? (1)

Politburo (640618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857564)

Reactor != plant. While you could probably keep some elements of the plant (turbines, power distribution, containment buildings, etc.), it's very unlikely that you'd be able to reuse any parts of the reactor.

It would be a bit like (1)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857595)

re-using your diswasher as a television. They're both appliances and run on electricity after all, but they do entirely different things in entirely different ways. You could probably re-use some parts -- but it would cost more than starting over.

Small Scale (4, Interesting)

hhawk (26580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857410)

The 1st NPlant in the US came in ahead of time and ahead of budget. Protests have kept every other plant from being on time and on budget. It also made every plant larger and larger; as they tried to make the economics work.

Each plant being so big and so custom made to the area, also makes them hard to inspect; each one is different to some degree.

The French have been building small scale N-Plants w/ passive cooling; meaning if something goes wrong it shuts itself down without any need (or room for) equipment failure. (an example being using the pressure from the reaction to hold back water. If there is less pressure or more pressure the water enters an shuts down the plant.

It seems to be passive cooling and uniform construction is key to safety. Building them smaller means there are more of them and they are closer to "you." So not sure how I feel about size. Also there is security risks, more plants to watch equate to more risk.

Re:Small Scale (3, Interesting)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857566)

The French have been building small scale N-Plants w/ passive cooling; meaning if something goes wrong it shuts itself down without any need (or room for) equipment failure. (an example being using the pressure from the reaction to hold back water. If there is less pressure or more pressure the water enters an shuts down the plant.

All light water reactors have this system. It is called Safety Injection.

Furthermore, most French reactors are basically identical to most US reactors, they are the same Westinghouse designs.

The major problem is still people. (4, Insightful)

ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857449)

Fission reactors will always produce harmful waste, but we have been able to deal with that in the past quite effectively. The problem that will kill nuclear energy is people. Private citizens are freaked out about both meltdowns and terrorism, so they'll lobby to have new plants built in someone else's backyard. The other people problem is the people running the plants. If you hire an $8/hour rent-a-cop to guard your facility, you're asking for trouble. Also, both the Three Mile Island incident and Chernobyl were caused by inattention and lack of maintenance. I guarantee that turning over contol of nuclear facilities to the private sector will immediately trigger the hiring of low-wage bare minimum staffs to save money. Eventually, someone will screw up, trigger another disaster, and that'll be the end of nuclear power in the US forever once people start demanding a stop to it.

I agree that nuclear energy is probably one of the best choices for the future as coal, natural gas and oil run out, but it's got a lot of obstacles to overcome.

Re:The major problem is still people. (2, Interesting)

Stalyn (662) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857559)

Very true, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have put such a stigma on nuclear power that it will be almost impossible to build new reactors anywhere.

Re:The major problem is still people. (3, Insightful)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857657)

I guarantee that turning over contol of nuclear facilities to the private sector will immediately trigger the hiring of low-wage bare minimum staffs to save money.

From what I understand, nuclear power plants are owned and operated by the private sector, but are highly regulated. Regulated to the point that they effectively are co-owned by private and public interests. Normally I am all for the free market, but anything involving splitting an atom should have the Energy department heavily involved. Incompetant bureaucracy, money-grubbing business... so far the two seem to cancel each other out.

Re:The major problem is still people. (2, Interesting)

Filik (578890) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857691)

Eventually, someone will screw up, trigger another disaster, and that'll be the end of nuclear power in the US forever once people start demanding a stop to it.

Are you not aware that turning off the powerplants in the US is not an option? Where would you get the energy from? Hurriedly building 1000 water dams or 1000000 windmills? Coalplants? Burning the rapidly dwindling oil? Either way, Electricity prices would multiply by 20 and you'd have an instant major recession.

-Filik

Re:The major problem is still people. (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857776)

When the electricity is off for 10 hours a day, every day, then people will stop complaining about nuclear power and will welcome it with open arms.

Re:The major problem is still people. (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857825)

Fission reactors will always produce harmful waste, but we have been able to deal with that in the past quite effectively.

Ah, yes - beautiful Hanford, WA... once the site of horrendous numbers of leaking tanks of 60 year-old high-level waste, and now a family vacation spot for all [sorts of new strains of bizarre radiation-loving bacteria].

The REAL Solution! (0, Troll)

kibbled_bits (808617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857531)

We should turn off all energy plants, stop burning fossil fuels then find a cave or tree to cling on to and eat bark for the rest of our lives. :-|

Re:The REAL Solution! (0, Troll)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857648)

You don't need to do that, all you need to do is reduce the population of the planet until renewable energy sources can provide enough energy for everyone.

Re:The REAL Solution! (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857801)

Nuclear energy is one of the solutions to that, too. But only in a prompt critical manner.

Something needs to do better than conservation (3, Insightful)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857551)

I believe in conservation as a means to make our society more energy efficient. However, in a world of increasing population and bringing 3rd world economies into a one world modern economy, we cannot expect global energy consumption to decrease. This means either burning fossil fuels at a faster rate, wind and solar, or nuclear. As far as burning fossil fuels go, realize that we will run out and that burning coal releases tremendous radioactivity into the atmosphere. I love wind and solar but I think we need to hedge our bets with a major committment to developing safe nuclear power generation.

The idea of re-using the heat appeals, but worries (4, Interesting)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857570)

At some point you have a heat exchange process somewhere, right? They didn't detail it -- I did listen to the hour long program. Now, isn't that heated coolant considered 'dirty' and if so, what coolant can you use to carry that heat to an exchanger but use a low enough volume of it so that what is exchanged is still hot enough to crack open water to get hydrogen and still have enough energy left open to produce the steam required to run the turbines? Once you're used the steam that way, and its gone through the expansion process, how do you STILL have enough energy to heat even more water to desalinate it?

It seems like you're re-using the same heat from that coolant quite a few times. You can't use the coolant directly without the exchanger, I assume, since it would be contaminated -- and what good would desalinated but otherwise radioactive water be to anyone?

Re:The idea of re-using the heat appeals, but worr (2, Insightful)

famebait (450028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857653)

IIRC, the pebble bed designs usually use helium as primary coolant, and helium simply doesn't get "dirty". The natural isotopes (He3 an He4) are stable, and the others are both hard to create and have half-lives of under one second.

Can Homer operate it? (2)

HotBBQ (714130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857576)

These technologies will only become viable when Homer Simpson gives his approval.

Candu (1)

waterford0069 (580760) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857673)

We've ahd something just as safe (or safer) as PBRs for decades. It's called a Candu reactor.

And do you know what the neatest thing is about them? If you have a catastrophic collant loss, the whole thing shuts down. No boom, no pop - but perhaps a fizzle and sigh.

Actually... (0, Troll)

Frangible (881728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14857822)

The fact the pebble bed reactors are in South Africa also implies the disposal solution: Africa. People would complain if you buried the waste in Antartica, the desert, or even the sun. But Africa? No one would care. It's really the perfect place, politically, to store nuclear waste. New Orleans comes in a close second, as the American public stopped caring about it months ago.

Another good idea that would probably rival cold fusion for efficiency is hamsters, wheels, a turbine, and crystal meth. Animals are 80%+ effecient in converting energy to force, which is far better than the 10-12% of artificial systems. The crystal meth would even be free, since they're still brewing massive quantites of it as Americans need something more powerful than caffeine to keep them awake to work their 2-3 jobs to make ends meet in our spiffy new minimum wage service economy. The only waste here would be hamster shit, but you could probably sell that to hippies at a good food store. Or maybe make a super-coffee out of it from the unexchanged meth. Clearly, great potential regardless.

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