Re: That warm, glowy feeling

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Just imagine the homegrown tomatoes!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:32 AM
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"petit four"
French for little oven.


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:33 AM
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I couldn't possibly know what you're talking about.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:36 AM
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Just like the Mr. Fusion in "Back to the Future". I think it was about the size of a Cuisinart.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:36 AM
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From link: This article was amended on Monday November 11 2008. $25m divided by 10,000 is $2,500 not $250. This has been changed.

I, for one, read it and had to recheck the math. Fool me once...you can't get fooled again.


Posted by: disaggregated | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:40 AM
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The article says that the nuclear reactors are several meters in diameter. If they were truly tiny, say, the size of a tiny monkey or a baby pygmy hippo, I bet even a nuclear reactor could be adorable. Especially if you covered it with spray-on flocking, so that it would be soft, and so snuggly.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:52 AM
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Studies show that baby rhesus monkeys prefer nuclear reactors covered with spray-on flocking, even when the other nuclear reactor gave the baby monkeys milk.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:53 AM
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The design is based on the TRIGA design, which is passively safe and has a 50 year track record of safe operation. As nukes go, it looks like a fairly safe bet from the standpoint of really scary accidents like Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. There are probably some failure modes that would result in the release of radiation, but I bet those can be handled in a way that minimizes the danger. I'd be interested to know more about the design details, but Hyperion's website is a little sparse in that area.

Trivia: TRIGA was Freeman Dyson's only major hardware design to be built, which is sad because his other major piece of hardware design was Orion.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:58 AM
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This problem strikes me as nothing that a tasteful floral print couldn't solve.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:59 AM
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I just don't get, on a very basic level, how you can contain nuclear energy. I feel like whatever you do, on a certain level you're still those scientists from the 50's sweeping the ions off themselves with dustbrooms, because they were conscientious about safety.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 11:00 AM
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Reed has a little bitty research reactor, even less powerful than the Hyperion design. Anybody can do the training to get licensed, even philosophy majors.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 11:05 AM
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YOU'VE LOST || THAT GLOWY FEELING
WHOA THAT GLOWY FEELING


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 11:10 AM
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During the Sixties plans were afoot to nuke the draft board, but nothing came of them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 11:10 AM
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From Wikipedia:

The TRIGA reactor uses uranium-zirconium-hydride (UZrH) fuel, which has a large, prompt negative thermal coefficient of reactivity, meaning that as the temperature of the core increases, the reactivity rapidly decreases -- so it is highly unlikely, though not impossible for a meltdown to occur.

Reactor design plays a huge part in the safety of nuclear power. Part of what made Chernobyl so lethal was that the Soviet reactor designs were designed to create weapons materiel in addition to power. If that's not your intent, there are better reactor designs to use, CANDU and Pebble Bed being the two with which I'm most familiar.

I'm a bit surprised that TRIGA is cost-competitive with coal (absent a carbon tax), but it seems reasonable to believe it's safer; no mercury or carbon released into the atmosphere.


Posted by: dob | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 11:12 AM
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But baby nuclear reactors in your own backyard give me the willies.

Since they power ~20,000 homes, surely some less fortunate person's backyard could be found, heebie. No worries for you!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 11:16 AM
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Coal plant mercury has made fish from a high proportion of Minnesota's lakes toxic.

Mercury collects in the tissues, so the older, larger fish are the worst. (Also, the fish at the top of the food chain are most toxic, but IIRC that's most of the food fish here except carp and suckers). The state of Minnesota recommends no more than one fish meal a week, and no fish over about five pounds should be eaten.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 11:37 AM
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I want one. Now.

Let me check my mail for a brand spanking new credit card.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 12:09 PM
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So the techno-geek side of the unfoggetariat is comfortable with this technology? Hm.

The article makes it sound like it is basically maintenance free save for being refueled every 7-10 years. The company just buries one in a concrete bunker near your village, and comes back in about a decade to fix things up. Can that be right?

Also, what about the waste? Whenever people get optimistic about nuclear power, they talk about avoiding meltdowns, but never was a disaster projects like Yucca Mountain are.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 12:10 PM
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Coal plant mercury has made fish from a high proportion of Minnesota's lakes toxic.

Somebody needs to get Nate Silver to work out the correlation between Coleman voting and fish consumption.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 12:26 PM
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I'm not about to buy a mini nuclear reactor when I could build one myself.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 12:35 PM
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I'm still waiting on my nuclear powered car.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 12:39 PM
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Want.

Scratch that. No, really, I just want a wind turbine.

I'm kind of shocked that Freeman Dyson designed something that was actually built.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 12:42 PM
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LOST || THAT

I love you, benjamin.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 12:45 PM
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I totally want one!

My favorite nuclear reactor is the one in Cambridge, just because, hey, Cambridge.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 12:56 PM
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The design is based on the TRIGA design, which is passively safe and has a 50 year track record of safe operation.

What do you mean by "safe operation"? All nuclear plants produce nuclear waste; nuclear waste becomes "safe" not in a matter of decades, but in a matter of centuries or millennia. As for other safety concerns, the reactors we're talking about have lots of trained staff and security and things, whereas the hypothetical backyard mini-nukes would be presumably staffed and monitored by some schmuck in his backyard.

I'm a bit surprised that TRIGA is cost-competitive with coal (absent a carbon tax)

I'm pretty sure it's not. Nuclear power isn't even cost-competitive with solar and wind without huge government subsidies. But then again if I were a major news organization I wouldn't go to freaking Los Alamos for an objective assessment on the future of nuclear power, any more than I'd ask Exxon-Mobil about global warming.

I'm really not sure where the push for nuclear power is coming from, other than from the nuclear industry. It's not a solution to America's energy dependence, since most uranium and plutonium is still buried in those "countries who don't like us very much" that John McCain always talks about. It certainly isn't a solution to our environmental problems, since you're ultimately producing tons of poisonous, cancerous material nobody knows what to do with and wasting tons of water in the process.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 1:01 PM
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What do you mean by "safe operation"?

No significant release of radiation into the environment in the normal course of operation or in the event of plausible accidents. Waste disposal is still an issue, but it is possible to handle it safely as long as it's done with attention to the engineering issues and not swayed by hysteria the way Yucca Mountain has been. Nuclear power isn't my first choice for carbon neutral energy production, but it's a good option to have on the table.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 1:15 PM
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t's not a solution to America's energy dependence

Interestingly, these reactors are not being marketed to the US. They are being marketed to countries on the cusp of development & full fledged industrialization as a "leapfrog technology." All the buyers they mention are in the old Warsaw pact.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 1:21 PM
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Further: the safety and efficiency of nuclear power seems to have as much to do with the social and bureaucratic elements of the system as the physical elements. The French seem to make it work, but in the US, reactors hemorrhage cash.

I also don't think it is fair to pin the blame for Yucca Mountain simply on public hysteria. "Those environmentalists making everyone think a nuclear waste dump is a dangerous thing to have in your backyard." There were serious design flaws and bad decisions in the siting process.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 1:25 PM
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The French seem to make it work

Seem being the operative word here. After Chernobyl, western European governments tracked the spread of radiation clouds, and discovered a pristine, precisely France-shaped, hole in them.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 1:29 PM
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discovered a pristine, precisely France-shaped, hole in them.

Wow! Sounds like the French really are good at controlling radiation.

Or are you suggesting another explanation?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 1:51 PM
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28: Clarification - I don't think it's hysterical to criticize Yucca Mountain, which was chosen as a burial site for reasons that were mostly political. I think that failing to reprocess the waste, which is what drives the urgency and scale of Yucca Mountain is driven by hysteria in large part because reprocessing produces weapons grade fissionables.

There are layers of issues here, many of them having to do with the military use of nuclear materials. Hanford is a great example - it's horribly contaminated because of sloppy materials handling practices that came out of a combination of inexperience and the urgency of the Cold War. A reprocessing site doesn't have to produce huge streams of toxic waste along with groundwater contamination, but that's the standard that's been set by Hanford, and that's what people expect when they talk about reprocessing.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 1:51 PM
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30: Just that their heavy investment in nuclear power as a sort of national prestige issue made it politically convenient to fudge the data over the course of a couple of decades.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:18 PM
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Nuclear power isn't my first choice for carbon neutral energy production, but it's a good option to have on the table.

No, it's really not. Nuclear power plants are more expensive to build and maintain than any other option we've got. They require lots of security, they require lots of safeguards, and all of that, too, costs money. All of that makes nuclear power incredibly expensive, and that means that every dollar we put into nuclear can be more efficiently spent on renewables. And aside from that, nuclear power consumes lots and lots of water, which we're also running out of. And the fact remains that right now, in the actually existing world, there's no safe place to put the waste it generates.

The French seem to make it work

France is much smaller country than the United States and consumes much less energy. America already has more nuclear power plants than all of France.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:18 PM
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It was the *nearly* impossible to steal that amused me.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:19 PM
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Look, if one of you science-types would just figure out fusion once and for all, we could end these tiresome debates.

Sheesh.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:33 PM
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the nuclear powerstations in france have giant faces of babies painted on them (well the two i drove past last year did)

i feel that being bitten by a radioactive spider* is only possible if i own (and maintain and dust) my own reactor

*with all this entails


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:35 PM
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35: Sorry -- I'm busy working on a pony replicator.


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:37 PM
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What I want to know is why didn't the spider that bit Peter Parker have the proportional strength and speed of an atom of uranium?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:43 PM
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35 - I'm working on it. No, really. It's my day job, though my true calling is to design lobster costumes for dogs.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:44 PM
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It was the *nearly* impossible to steal that amused me.

Ocean's 14?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:45 PM
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38: if it did we'd never see it anyway, so who's to say it didn't


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:48 PM
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33 - I'm thinking that in the long term it is advantageous to be generating power in a number of ways that are fundamentally different from one another. Even if some of them are marginally competitive, it's worth it because diversity translates into robustness. A major catastrophe taking out switch grass ethanol production for example, would be unlikely to also hurt geothermal.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 2:55 PM
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Sheesh, this is a friggin' press release. They can't even get their math straight, and their CEO seems to be an idiot: "'Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,' said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. "

First the units for pricing electrical power need a time component. Second he better mean 10 cents a kilowatt hour because 10 cents a watt means the electricity for your 100 watt light bulb is ten dollars per what? Minute, second, hour?

I fear we are gonna be seeing a whole lot more of this press release BS crap in the next few years. Shoot, around these parts the newspaper already has ads for Amish-made wood-burning stoves with pictures of what look like Santa's workshop except the elves are Amish Grampas.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 3:35 PM
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Oh yeah, and I forgot to ask - did anyone check to see how much fissionable material there is in the world? Like that is never gonna run out. We are getting whipsawed around by everybody and his uncle trying to make a buck on the next gold rush. Welcome to the post industrial age.

And, yeah, I'm crabby today, gotta deadline, working on a nasty problem, want an hd game machine with blueray but can't afford it. Not this year.

Sorry.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 3:41 PM
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What I want to know is why didn't the spider that bit Peter Parker have the proportional strength and speed of an atom of uranium?

It did.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 3:49 PM
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39 - I was sad to see that my local costume shop did not sell dog costumes for dogs.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 3:55 PM
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Tripp, your crankiness in 43 was needed and welcome.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 4:18 PM
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46: Whereas I was horrified to see how many costumes our local pet shop had for dogs. And cats. No self-respecting cat I know would put up with such nonsense. [OTOH, my ex-husband used to dress up ducks in cowboy hats. But he's an artist, and we all know how insane they are. Except for JM, of course.]


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 4:19 PM
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most of the cats look totally offended (esp.the one dressed like a duck) but not this one


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 4:28 PM
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What I want to know is why didn't the spider that bit Peter Parker have the proportional strength and speed of an atom of uranium?

What kind of comic booksgraphic novels do you think spiders read?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 4:32 PM
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Damn you, forwardslash!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 4:33 PM
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re: 44

I've read articles skeptical of the new nuclear revival which make precisely that point: that cheap fissionable material isn't really that much more plentiful than other extant energy resources and also tends, surprise surprise, to be in some fairly politically unstable/shitty places. How accurate those articles are, I have no idea.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 4:53 PM
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But he's an artist, and we all know how insane they are. Except for JM, of course.

Hey!


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 5:05 PM
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I bet JM knows how insane artists are.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 5:12 PM
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49: Good grief. I really cannot condone this dressing up of cats.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 5:41 PM
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43 and 44 are both great. Seriously, the pro-nuke people are all major creeps - they should be tied to the Wall Street douches and tossed into the ocean.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 5:53 PM
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Speaking of Wall Street douches, is it true that the correct name for my bluetooth earpiece is "douche-nozzle"? How can it not be true?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 6:46 PM
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Speaking of Wall Street douches, is it true that the correct name for my bluetooth earpiece is "douche-nozzle"? How can it not be true?

God, it certainly should be. I hate those things.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 6:48 PM
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Here is a million dollar idea whose time has come:
a small sterling silver or 14K gold chain that attaches your bluetooth or other earpiece to a small hoop through your pierced ear.

Several people I know have had the earpiece drop out. If attached to the chain, it won't get lost.

I see this as a bling type product, to be worn by starlets and rappers. Perhaps Mr. Emerson would be so kind as to introduce the idea to his friend Scarlett.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 6:53 PM
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Why not just make a soft rubber Bluetooth headset coated with adhesive? Then you could just stick it to the side of your head like a starfish.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 7:28 PM
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Scarlett has turned out to be insatiable. I may take you up on that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 7:39 PM
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No, it's really not. Nuclear power plants are more expensive to build and maintain than any other option we've got.

Depends on the reactor design; France and Canada would beg to differ on this point.

Obviously the long-term solution is renewables: wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, fusion if we could ever figure out how. Everyone with half a brain and a functioning conscience recognizes that. But there's a big gulf between here and there, and if better nuclear reactor designs help bridge the gap, I'm all for it. The other option is burning a shit ton of coal, which is demonstrably bad for all sorts of reasons, even if we could solve the sequestration problem.


Posted by: dob | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 7:45 PM
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Yeah I feel like inaccessible is sort of cheerfully sweeping under the rug the ongoing environmental devastation being by wrought by, e.g., coal (especially in, say, China). Not to mention what passive safety really means, scale difficulties currently obtaining with renewables, and the many fundamental useful things that happen on Wall St. in those brief, shining moments when they're properly regulated. That's okay, though, it's totally fun to call people douches!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 7:52 PM
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That's okay, though, it's totally fun to call people douches!

Comity!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 8:08 PM
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Yep!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 8:09 PM
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What a slow unfogged-day. Are you all off signing armistices or something?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 8:09 PM
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It also appears the Hyperion reactor is gas-cooled, which means it would use a lot less water. Not really sure about that. It definitely is a mistake to assume all nuclear power has the same benefits and drawbacks as big, old-school water-cooled carbon-rod designs. I keep waiting to see something happen with pebble bed reactors.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 8:15 PM
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Another factor to consider in this calculation is the environmental impact of uranium mining.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 8:27 PM
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True.

I'd actually be willing to argue that none of us has a particularly solid grasp on the relevant cost/benefit calculations. Gotta be some better solution for China than this whole an-unregulated-coal-fired-power-plant-a-day-keeps-the-doctor's office-caving-into-the-earth-while-his-patients-choke-to-death system they're currently struggling with, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 8:34 PM
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But the CO2 problem was just solved! Burn whatever you want! (I kid. But follow the link; it's interesting, and looks like it might be pretty promising as one of many steps in the right direction.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 8:43 PM
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Mmmm, carbonated mantle.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 8:47 PM
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I'd actually be willing to argue that none of us has a particularly solid grasp on the relevant cost/benefit calculations.

I'd agree with that. I really have no idea what to think about this issue.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 8:53 PM
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68: Another factor to consider in this calculation is the environmental impact of uranium mining.

Must Mt. Taylor die for our sins?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 9:10 PM
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It already has.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 9:20 PM
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28

... The French seem to make it work, but in the US, reactors hemorrhage cash.

Actually they don't, if they did they would be shut down. They just aren't worth what it would cost to replace them.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 9:35 PM
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But shutting down a reactor can be more expensive than running it. I used to be a licensed operator of Reed's Gulf General Atomic TRIGA Mark III, for which this is definitely true; no reason to assume otherwise for a bigger reactor that does have *something* to sell while operating.

The fuel-handling story I remember from being an operator was that we were originally going to reprocess it all somewhere in the TVA. The least active stuff can be melted into glass and is then safe from chemical leaching until it's not seriously radioactive; and the most active stuff is kept for successively more powerful and sophisticated reactors (and, er, weapons). So far so good.

But! The reprocessing takes a lot of energy -- hence the TVA -- and all the dirty fuel has to cross the country to get to the reprocessing plant... in the 1950s we could believe in perfectly safe `white trains' going through every state, but it's seeming a little doubtful now. And no state wants the risks of the reprocessing plant instead of power generation, and not all the more powerful reactor plans look as good as they used to.

And everything we irradiate is just a messy problem for longer than we know how to plan for. Radioactive toluene is a pain.



Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:24 PM
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Radioactive toluene is a pain.

Yet a joy to huff!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:30 PM
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Does Joe Lieberman have a lot of property somewhere (outside of Nevada)? If so I suggest the following:

(1) the Yucca Mountain stuff will be sent there; (2) permitting Lieberman to continue caucusing with the Democrats; (3) provided Nevada sends us a much better senator than Harry Reid; and, bonus points, (4) Reid can retire, declaring victory on the Yucca Mountain thing.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11-11-08 10:49 PM
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Nuclear power has gotten so politicized that it is hard to discuss it rationally. Shoot, NMRI machines had to be renamed MRI because people were spooked by the Nukular, which they conflated with stupid Presidents talking about radiation.

I'm not kneejerk either way about nuclear power, but there is a lot of ignorance out there.

People forget about Joe the Prospector walking around with his Geiger counter (I built one for a science fair in 7th grade, there isn't much to it) hoping to hit it big on a uranium mine. People forget how many centrifuges it took and how long they had to run to enrich enough uranium to make Fat Man.

Shorter Nuke story: Mr Fusion - fiction, 'Safe' reactors - not much fuel, 'Breeder' reactors - make their own fuel, which is suitable for nuke bombs - a terrorists delight.

For grins last night I pulled out my literature on my local electricity power plant. It toured it earlier this year. More people should do that.

A steam turbine generator capable of providing electricity for 20,000 houses is BIG, maybe 12x12x12 feet or so. This is proven technology, and works great, and will last nearly forever with proper maintenance.

But then you need something to generate the steam. Even with nuke power there is NO WAY you could put that generator and the steam generator all in the backyard.

OK, but what about one made for just one house, Mr Engineer smarty pants?

Geeze. Think things through. Pressurized steam is nothing to play around with. It is dangerous - like it explodes or leaks will cut through you like a knife. How will you make sure it has a constant water supply? How will you regulate the pressure? How will you maintain the bearing surfaces?

Yeah, I know, the concept is great, these are all just engineering challenges with known technology.

Well yeah, but this Engineer isn't going to dismiss them with a wave of a hand. The word 'just' hides an awful lot of real problems.

And then the big question for home nuclear - where do you get the fuel and what do you do with the waste?

Most of these types or press releases are from somebody hoping to cash in on the clean power revolution. Most of them are probably from the same people that made bucks off the internet craze in the 90s. We'll be seeing a zillion of these gee-whiz gimme a million and I'll fly you to the moon hucksters over the new few years.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 11-12-08 9:34 AM
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People forget how many centrifuges it took and how long they had to run to enrich enough uranium to make Fat Man.

None, of course. It's a trick question. Or a sign that Tripp doesn't know what he's talking about.

And, more generally, the "fits on a back of a truck" refers only to the reactor, not the turbine (or the transformers for that matter) and the "backyard" is a figure of speech. They aren't really going to put these things in people's actual backyards. Jeez.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-12-08 9:46 AM
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"Toluene's bad reputation is undeserved, the result of stoner / freak elitism." Discuss.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-12-08 9:57 AM
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