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#1 2019-10-08 15:45:08

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 551

Nuclear power is safe

This thread attempts to present a balanced view of the real risks associated with nuclear power, by comparing it to what it has already partially replaced here on Earth: Fossil fuel energy.

The Chernobyl accident presents a baseline for what might be expected from the worst realistically possible single reactor accident.  I assert this because a large proportion of fission products was released to the atmosphere due to a complete absence of containment of the damaged reauctor.  Whilst very improbable, this outcome could be approached during an accident in a light water reactor if the containment system were to suffer sufficient physical damage.

Scientific estimates of long-term health consequences of Chernobyl vary between 4,000-16,000 early mortalities as a result of radioactive contamination.  The World Health Organisation estimate a total of ~9000.

Whilst this is certainly not a trivial outcome, it is useful to compare it to the effects of air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels.  In the US, the MIT estimate that 200,000 deaths occur every year due to the effects of fossil fuel combustion.
https://news.mit.edu/2013/study-air-pol … he-us-0829

In Europe, the figure is 500,000 per year.
https://phys.org/news/2017-10-air-pollu … -year.html

In Asia and the Pacific Rim countries, the annual casualty rate runs into millions.
https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/re … lution/en/

Air pollution kills 30-120 times more people every single year in Europe than the Chernobyl accident did in its entirety.  To put it another way, in the 33 years since the Chernobyl accident, air pollution has killed 1000-4000 times as many people.  We would need to do very very badly with nuclear safety, for radioactive pollution to come close to the mortality rate that we routinely accept from fossil fuel air pollution.  As incredible as it may sound, we would need dozens of Chernobyl nuclear accidents every year in Europe, for the dangers of radiation to come close to what we routinely accept from air pollution.  Worldwide, we would need several hundred Chernobyl scale accidents each year, before we could approach global air pollution deaths.  Even if every nuclear reactor in the world melted down without containment in the same year, we would actually run out of nuclear reactors before we could get to this level.

Now consider that most nuclear reactors have robust containment systems.  In addition, the core melt frequency of 1970s era reactors was about 1 in 10,000 years.  Newer reactors with passive safety; are orders of magnitude safer still.  Even if humanity relied upon thousands of these passively safe reactors to provide most of its power; decades or centuries are likely to pass before we experience a core melt accident, most of which would result in negligible consequence due to the presence of containment domes.  Even at 1970s standards of safety, a world powered by thousands of reactors would not experience a major accident more often than once every few years.  Even setting the bar this low, nuclear power is thousands of times safer for the public than fossil fuel energy.

I would therefore propose that there is little rationality in restricting the use of nuclear power on safety grounds here on Earth.  The same is true for a Mars mission, fir which the danger of death from nuclear radiation is a negligible proportion of total mission risk.

Last edited by Calliban (2019-10-08 15:55:30)


Interested in space science, engineering and technology.

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#2 2019-10-08 16:08:23

GW Johnson
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From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,103
Website

Re: Nuclear power is safe

The USN nuclear program has a far better track record than the commercial nuclear industry in the US or elsewhere.  Two nuclear submarines sunk far below crush depth over half a century ago,  and nary a leak since (this has been monitored).  Had that safety standard been used in commercial work worldwide,  Chernobyl and Fukushima would never have happened.  And certainly not Three Mile Island,  which released only the equivalent of a chest X-ray or two.

GW


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#3 2019-10-08 16:22:27

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 551

Re: Nuclear power is safe

Another more anecdotal way of looking at the comparison between relative risk presented by nuclear power and fossil fuel power; is to consider the relative quantity and toxicity of release products.  When fossil fuels are burned, they produce particulate matter, partially combusted hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide and sulphur compounds.  These are fossil fuel release products.

Nuclear power generates waste in the form of fission products, which are the highly radioactive fragment atoms that remain after fission.  These fission products are a million times more toxic to human health than fossil fuel release products.  But because of the much greater energy density of fission, they are produced in quantities a million times smaller.

Why is nuclear power so much safer?  Because we do successfully manage to contain the much smaller volume of volatile fission products safely, most of the time.  Only during accidents will nuclear waste be released to the environment.  Large releases occur only during severe accidents, which are correspondingly less frequent.  This contrasts with fossil fuel power sources, for which meaningful containment of effluent is impractical due to its very high volume.  So nuclear power will always be safer.  In fact, if we replaced all coal burning power plants in the world with a fleet of Chernobyl-type RBMK reactors, human safety would be substantially improved.


Interested in space science, engineering and technology.

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#4 2019-10-08 16:32:05

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,223
Website

Re: Nuclear power is safe

GW Johnson wrote:

Had that safety standard been used in commercial work worldwide,  Chernobyl and Fukushima would never have happened.

Japan realized Fukushima had a problem. It could withstand either an earthquake or tsunami, but not both at the same time. But Japan is an island; a major earthquake is likely to cause a tsunami. Oops! So they started construction of a new class of reactor, built further inland and able to withstand both. The accident occurred just 3 months before Fukushima was scheduled to be shut down and decommissioned. Again, oops! Bad timing.

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#5 2019-10-08 16:39:06

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,923

Re: Nuclear power is safe

The many classes of submarines https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_s … tates_Navy

Current flight vehicles are
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_L … submarines
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio-class_submarine
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia-class_submarine

Nuclear core life estimated at 33 years and are refueled with the reactor outputs around 150 megawatts (MW)

They come into port for modifications, ugrades, repairs all the time even to coming completely out of the water for major engineering overhauls. These are done even with fuel still onboard but the reactor is in shut down condition.

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#6 2019-10-08 19:08:59

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 3,772

Re: Nuclear power is safe

The quantity of nuclear waste produced by the US since we started using nuclear energy for commercial electric power would fit on the field of a single sports stadium and rise to a height of 50 feet above the ground.  For a power source that's been in use for more than half a century, producing 20% of our CO2-free electricity, that is a tiny quantity of waste for so much energy produced.  Nearly all of the "waste products" are actually unused fuel with 95%+ of its original energy content remaining.  We're such cheapskates that we won't spend the money to recycle perfectly good fuel contained in cracked rods into new fuel rods.  The waste products produced by every other form of power we know how to use at scale, be it solar or wind or hydrocarbons, is many orders of magnitude greater.

Apart from fuels for fusion and anti-matter, there's no contest whatsoever between the energy density of Uranium or Thorium and any other power technology in current use- and there never will be...  because physics has dictated that to us, not because of any personal belief.  The moment that the use of fusion or anti-matter fuels becomes practical, we should switch to using those fuels wherever practical.  For humanity to thrive for the next hundred years, math and logic must triumph over ignorance and fear.  There is no virtue in ignorance and fear.  There is virtue in ensuring that humanity can continue to advance for generations to come, with improvements to every aspect of our lives with each successive generation.  For that to happen, we need massive amounts of energy.  All of that energy has to come from somewhere.  As of right now, our best available option is nuclear power.  Nuclear power is by far the cleanest and least damaging energy source we know of.  If we had fully exploited this energy source before I was even born, there's a better than average chance that the all-electric future that so many people claim to want would already be here.

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#7 2019-10-08 19:41:27

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,103
Website

Re: Nuclear power is safe

Spacenut:

You have to look a lot further back to understand what I said about the two nuclear subs the US lost.  Thresher SSN-593 sank on sea trials in 1963.  She was the class ship for Thresher class,  since renamed as Permit class,  after USS Permit SSN-594,  which I have personally been aboard. 

Scorpion SSN-589 was a Skipjack class submarine (older than Thresher class),  that sank in 1968.  The Skipjacks were our very first atomic submarines with the teardrop shape hull form. 

Every single nuclear submarine the USN has ever had as had a pressurized-water reactor system,  save one.  The old Seawolf SSN-575 of 1955 was launched with a sodium-cooled reactor.  There were so many problems with sodium leaks and the associated radioactive sodium fires,  that Seawolf had her reactor replaced with a pressurized water reactor.  She served for many,  many years after that,  flawlessly, before retirement. 

Our first nuclear sub was the Nautilus,  SSN-571,  dates to a 1954 launch.  She served flawlessly,  and is now a museum ship in Groton CT.  I've been aboard her,  too. 

In contrast,  the Russian nuclear submarine program has been an utter safety failure.  There are many obsolete boats stored at Novaya Zemlya,  which have sunk in shallow water at their moorings due to neglect,  and which are leaking copious radiation. 

Hyman Rickover was a real bastard of a person,  but he did good,  in that he insisted our US nuclear navy effort was safe and reliable,  above all else.  ALL else,  including dollars. 

Kbd512:

I second your motion about nuclear power done the US way, and ESPECIALLY the US Navy way.  Hear,  hear!!!

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2019-10-08 19:43:54)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#8 2019-10-08 20:16:24

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,923

Re: Nuclear power is safe

I know of Thresher since it sank of the coast after leaving portsmouth after being overhauled with several of the crew onboard that were civilians testing it out to certify it for all uses. It still is a reminder in April of the 109 deaths that occurred. The cause indicated for thresher was an ingress of presurized water and system electrical failure, blow system that iced and other things. They removed all but 1 brazed silver solder piping joint making them welds and many more things to ensure safety.

Rickovers is still being labeled for things that he did do and others that he did not but in all it changed the submarine business in a way to garantee work being done on the boundary of water and the people tank as the inside is called. Such that the equipment is recoverable hopefully with its personnel intact. Born was the subsafe program of record keeping for any work that creates a hole to the sea which if disturbed to ensure it meetsthe standard needed to keep water out.

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#9 2019-10-08 21:30:48

Oldfart1939
Member
Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 1,912

Re: Nuclear power is safe

GW-
Rickover may have been a Bastard of a person, but---he was OUR Bastard!

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#10 2019-10-09 01:35:38

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,876

Re: Nuclear power is safe

This BBC report shows that the Chernobyl impact was likely more severe than official figures (a lot of them deriving from the untrustworthy Soviet bureaucracy).  The early-death toll could be in the hundreds of thousands across Europe. No one knows, and it's unlikely anyone ever will.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/2019072 … death-toll

The effects were very widespread. Here in the UK, a couple of thousand of miles away, no one was allowed to eat home grown lamb in the immediate aftermath.  Controls lasted for 26 years after Chernobyl!:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-17472698

Whether fossil fuel is more or less dangerous is beside the point. I'd say: move to clean(ish) green energy asap. One thing about nuclear power though is that an accident can render huge swathes of land as uninhabitable/unproductive for decades - which makes it unique I would say within the energy industry. The nuclear industry has been lucky in a major incident never having occurred somewhere like the UK or France, where there is a higher population density.  The UK is not a huge country. Imagine the effect on the UK if something like Chernobyl had happened here.

This is the reason why nuclear power facilities are never sited in major urban centres. If it was safe, that would be the obvious thing to do. It can only survive by governments effectively covering its insurance premiums - because no insurance company would ever insure a nuclear power facility.

Anyway, leaving aside safety, nuclear power is so expensive now, it will never compete with solar and wind again. It's already twice the price of onshore wind. It's a dead industry in my view. No one will ever invest in it in 20 years' time, once the storage issue for green energy has been fully resolved.

Fantasies about small automated reactors sited in your neighbourhood will also never come about...that would be like giving terrorists a dirty bomb to play with.

We keep hearing about thorium reactors as well but nothing ever seems to happen. I am sceptical about those as well.

Ironically, nuclear power is much more suited for Mars than Earth in terms of safety. Assuming no life on Mars, it wouldn't much matter if a reactor laid waste to 200 sq. miles of Mars landscape. However, it isn't well suited either to (a) transportation and deployment to Mars in the early stages, when it is most needed and (b) it isn't well suited to being manufactured in situ on Mars by a small colony (whereas PV panel production on Mars could begin at an early stage).


Calliban wrote:

This thread attempts to present a balanced view of the real risks associated with nuclear power, by comparing it to what it has already partially replaced here on Earth: Fossil fuel energy.

The Chernobyl accident presents a baseline for what might be expected from the worst realistically possible single reactor accident.  I assert this because a large proportion of fission products was released to the atmosphere due to a complete absence of containment of the damaged reauctor.  Whilst very improbable, this outcome could be approached during an accident in a light water reactor if the containment system were to suffer sufficient physical damage.

Scientific estimates of long-term health consequences of Chernobyl vary between 4,000-16,000 early mortalities as a result of radioactive contamination.  The World Health Organisation estimate a total of ~9000.

Whilst this is certainly not a trivial outcome, it is useful to compare it to the effects of air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels.  In the US, the MIT estimate that 200,000 deaths occur every year due to the effects of fossil fuel combustion.
https://news.mit.edu/2013/study-air-pol … he-us-0829

In Europe, the figure is 500,000 per year.
https://phys.org/news/2017-10-air-pollu … -year.html

In Asia and the Pacific Rim countries, the annual casualty rate runs into millions.
https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/re … lution/en/

Air pollution kills 30-120 times more people every single year in Europe than the Chernobyl accident did in its entirety.  To put it another way, in the 33 years since the Chernobyl accident, air pollution has killed 1000-4000 times as many people.  We would need to do very very badly with nuclear safety, for radioactive pollution to come close to the mortality rate that we routinely accept from fossil fuel air pollution.  As incredible as it may sound, we would need dozens of Chernobyl nuclear accidents every year in Europe, for the dangers of radiation to come close to what we routinely accept from air pollution.  Worldwide, we would need several hundred Chernobyl scale accidents each year, before we could approach global air pollution deaths.  Even if every nuclear reactor in the world melted down without containment in the same year, we would actually run out of nuclear reactors before we could get to this level.

Now consider that most nuclear reactors have robust containment systems.  In addition, the core melt frequency of 1970s era reactors was about 1 in 10,000 years.  Newer reactors with passive safety; are orders of magnitude safer still.  Even if humanity relied upon thousands of these passively safe reactors to provide most of its power; decades or centuries are likely to pass before we experience a core melt accident, most of which would result in negligible consequence due to the presence of containment domes.  Even at 1970s standards of safety, a world powered by thousands of reactors would not experience a major accident more often than once every few years.  Even setting the bar this low, nuclear power is thousands of times safer for the public than fossil fuel energy.

I would therefore propose that there is little rationality in restricting the use of nuclear power on safety grounds here on Earth.  The same is true for a Mars mission, fir which the danger of death from nuclear radiation is a negligible proportion of total mission risk.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#11 2019-10-09 08:26:27

elderflower
Member
Registered: 2016-06-19
Posts: 1,261

Re: Nuclear power is safe

Louis. Something like Chernobyl did happen here. The early Winsdcale reactor unit one (one of two graphite moderated reactors) caught fire. It leaked a lot of radioactive material. Fortunately the exhaust stack was fitted with dust filters which caught much of it. The fitting of the filters was a major conflict area between the design team and the bean counters. Fortunately the bean counters lost- they don't always!
Thorium reactor development continues in India, which is blessed with enormous reserves of Thorium.

Last edited by elderflower (2019-10-09 08:28:14)

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#12 2019-10-09 10:39:44

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 6,223
Website

Re: Nuclear power is safe

I could argue for Canadian designed reactors. CanDU stands for "Canadian Deuterium-Uranium"; it's a heavy water reactor. American commercial power reactors are modified from reactors designed for navy ships. They have to be shut down for months to refuel. The Canadian reactor is designed to be refuelled while the reactor is in full operation. Obviously this means that when they open the door to the face of the reactor, while in full operation, no one can be in that room. There's a robot. Radiation in that room is so high that even the robot cannot have any electronics, instead wires run from its motors to a control room. The control room is behind a concrete wall several feet thick! Electronics for the robot are in there, with humans, protected from radiation.

Refuelling without shutting down is only one major feature. It also uses uranium with the same isotope ratio as ore dug from the ground. That means a country operating a CanDU does not require any uranium enrichment capability what so ever. Since enrichment is a necessary step to make nuclear weapons, this allows commercial power without weapons capability. It also means it's a lot less expensive. Since the enrichment process is expensive, and a Canadian reactor just doesn't need it.

When the CanDU was developed, it was the safest nuclear reactor in the world. It was design with lessons learned from previous reactor designs around the world. Of course the newest would be the safest. I'm not sure but suspect there are newer reactors that can claim they're safer yet, but the CanDU is extremely safe. Every major model of reactor has had the worst accident possible for that design. The Soviet Union can brag they had the world's first commercial nuclear power plant, but look what happened to Chernobyl. Japan's reactor had Fukushima. US reactor design had Three-Mile-Island. And the Canadian CanDU had an accident at Pickering. Did you hear about the accident at Pickering? No? That says how serious it was. They had a coolant leak, heavy water leaked into Lake Ontario. They had to close the beaches for 2 weeks. That was all. Heavy water coolant becomes contaminated with tritium over time. But the best containment for radioactive isotopes is water; it leaked into the lake. Tritium has a half-life of 12.33 years; it decays by beta emission to become helium-3. Beta radiation is so weak it can be blocked by skin. Intense enough beta radiation can cause skin cancer, but even pure coolant water from the reactor doesn't emit anywhere near that much. Any skin cells affected by low level beta radiation will become dead skin and be washed off before it becomes a medical problem. The issue is just to ensure you don't drink it. Lake Ontario drains through the Saint Lawrence River into the Atlantic ocean. After one half-life, half the tritium will have become helium and escaped into the atmosphere. After 2 half-lives, only 1/4 will remain. After 3 half-lives, only 1/8 will remain, etc. The accident was August 1983, so how much is left now?

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#13 2019-10-09 13:26:49

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,103
Website

Re: Nuclear power is safe

Actually,  I like the CanDU myself.  The only reason that the US did not adopt that design instead of the boiling water design back in the mid 1950's,  was DOD wanting the potential of bomb grade material production from every nuclear plant.  In hindsight,  quite stupid. 

Update that CanDU with the passive emergency cooling designs,  and add fuel reprocessing,  plus a proper waste storage facility,  and you would have a nuclear industry that only needs to value safety above dollars to achieve never-an-accident-again.  Make it illegal to be that stupid for nothing but greed,  and then enforce the hell out of it!  One example should be enough for the rest to fall into line. 

That would last us for a long time,  as everybody also gets thorium reactors,  with the same safety features engineered-in. Then the whole world has abundant clean energy for millennia,  not just decades.

By the way,  the Three Mile Island accident is just not in the same class as Chernobyl or Fukushima.  The release was equivalent to a chest X-ray or two,  but spread out very thinly. Could have been worse,  but wasn't.  The containment actually worked.  There might not even have been a meltdown,  had the crew not done the wrong things.  Stupidity caused this,  ultimately. At least it was not too bad.

Fukushima happened because (1) historical not geological records were used for earthquake and tsunami resistance design criteria,  and (2) they had nowhere to put the waste but pools in or around the reactor buildings.  So here the ultimate cause really was human stupidity,  from the get-go.

Most of the observed explosions and the radioactive particles released were due to hydrogen explosions from overheated waste pools.  The cores that melted,  just melted.  One (or was it two?),  got through the containment and the building foundation,  into the Earth below the plant.  Between the fallout and the contamination below the plant,  that one will be a real bastard to clean up. Such is the price of stupidity,  particularly doing the stupid thing for no better justification than greed.

Chernobyl happened because (1) it was a horribly obsolete,  known-to-be-unstable graphite reactor,  and (2) it had no containment at all,  just an ordinary building around it.  Here the stupidity was more about political pride than greed,  but both played a role.

That was a "giant block-of-graphite" fire with pockets of uranium and plutonium and harsh waste embedded,  that burnt with it.  And nothing at all to contain it!  It was rather stupid to continue operating a dangerous thing like that.  But they did it anyway. So the ultimate cause was sheer human stupidity. And the price was really high.  Higher than Fukushima,  probably. 

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2019-10-09 13:28:12)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#14 2019-10-09 14:48:13

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 3,804

Re: Nuclear power is safe

A few days ago I wrote to NASA Glenn (using the address provided in a link in another topic).


Here is their reply:

[EXTERNAL] 20191002 Request for Status of kilopower Reactor


I apologize for the delay in responding. Somehow, I overlooked this message in my inbox.
Currently, the Kilopower project is in a pre-formulation phase assessing its feasibility as a candidate for lunar surface power. Through a partnership with Department of Energy, the project is establishing design requirements for embedded heat pipes, heat interface designs, and mission concept requirements for a future technology demonstration mission. Kilopower could be a promising technology for lunar night operations and extended surface missions. In the pre-formulation phase we are also evaluating concepts for a future flight demonstration. Such a demonstration could pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars, including missions that rely on in-situ resource utilization to produce local propellants and other materials. Once the project completes this phase NASA may consider further developing the technology for a flight or lunar surface demonstration, building on the successful 2018 ground demonstration.  We have no plans to license the technology.
I hope this information is helpful.
Best regards,
Jan Wittry, APR
News Chief
NASA’s Glenn Research Center
Desk: 216-433-5466
Mobile: 216-870-0348

I was sorry to see the policy about not licensing the technology, but am not surprised.

It will be up to another nation to develop this design for use on a larger scale.

(th)

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#15 2019-10-09 15:23:32

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,876

Re: Nuclear power is safe

A lot of "coulds" there, eh?  I think my view that the earliest you'll get something that could be used on Mars is 2025 is justified by this response but it seems pretty clear NASA will be restricting it to the Moon in any case on testing missions.

The fact you might require 100 KP Units to power propellant production on Mars is a game changer I think. Once you start to think seriously about the logistical problems involved you have to ask why bother with all those logistical difficulties when you can simply roll out some flexible PV in a few minutes.


tahanson43206 wrote:

A few days ago I wrote to NASA Glenn (using the address provided in a link in another topic).


Here is their reply:

[EXTERNAL] 20191002 Request for Status of kilopower Reactor


I apologize for the delay in responding. Somehow, I overlooked this message in my inbox.
Currently, the Kilopower project is in a pre-formulation phase assessing its feasibility as a candidate for lunar surface power. Through a partnership with Department of Energy, the project is establishing design requirements for embedded heat pipes, heat interface designs, and mission concept requirements for a future technology demonstration mission. Kilopower could be a promising technology for lunar night operations and extended surface missions. In the pre-formulation phase we are also evaluating concepts for a future flight demonstration. Such a demonstration could pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars, including missions that rely on in-situ resource utilization to produce local propellants and other materials. Once the project completes this phase NASA may consider further developing the technology for a flight or lunar surface demonstration, building on the successful 2018 ground demonstration.  We have no plans to license the technology.
I hope this information is helpful.
Best regards,
Jan Wittry, APR
News Chief
NASA’s Glenn Research Center
Desk: 216-433-5466
Mobile: 216-870-0348

I was sorry to see the policy about not licensing the technology, but am not surprised.

It will be up to another nation to develop this design for use on a larger scale.

(th)

Last edited by louis (2019-10-09 15:24:39)


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#16 2019-10-09 16:25:40

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,923

Re: Nuclear power is safe

The first problem for use off earth is lack of large bodies of water to remove heat with not just used for the power cycle side of a stream plant. The liquid salt and other solid to liquids make sense until we need to deal with corrosion in the cooling system. We know that we can also use liquid Co2, Nitrogen, Argon, ammonia, freon or other such refridgerants so long as you have the means to cool via a radiator.
But even thou we can not buy the unit or technology we can reverse engineer from things that we do know about it as we have pictures and measurements to make clones of what we do see. The remaining is the test and engineering side of the coin after you solve the dimensioning of the build for it.

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#17 2019-10-09 16:37:05

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 551

Re: Nuclear power is safe

louis wrote:

This BBC report shows that the Chernobyl impact was likely more severe than official figures (a lot of them deriving from the untrustworthy Soviet bureaucracy).  The early-death toll could be in the hundreds of thousands across Europe. No one knows, and it's unlikely anyone ever will.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/2019072 … death-toll

That is absolutely absurd.  How do you think these sorts of estimates are arrived at?  Do you think these numbers are just pulled out of the air?  Radiation contamination maps are used to calculate doserates, which are multiplied by weighting factors.  This gives a best estimate of 4000 mortalities.  This has quite a lot of provenance behind it as you might notice.

https://www.un.org/press/en/2005/dev2539.doc.htm

If Chernobyl contamination did result in hundreds of thousands of casualties, then by the same logic people in Cornwall, Brazil, Colorado and other high background radiation areas, would be dropping like flies.  Yet this doesn't happen.

Lets take a look at a quote from your BBC reference:

"In Ukraine, death rates among these brave individuals has soared, rising from 3.5 to 17.5 deaths per 1,000 people between 1988 and 2012. Disability among the liquidators has also soared. In 1988 68% of them were regarded healthy, while 26 years later just 5.5% were still healthy. Most – 63% – were reported to be suffering from cardiovascular and circulatory diseases while 13% had problems with their nervous systems. In Belarus, 40,049 liquidators were registered to have cancers by 2008 along with a further 2,833 from Russia."

People that were adults in 1986 will have been is their 50's and 60's by 2012.  Unsurprisingly, their mortality rate was higher and they weren't in the same good health as they were 26 years previously.  Also, these people lived through the poverty associated with the breakup of the Soviet Union.

40,000 cancer cases amongst a liquidator population of 800,000 after 26 years, isn't very surprising in an ageing population.  Roughly a quarter of us are going to die this way.  In fact, I might have expected it to be higher.

The rest of the nonsense about renewable energy is just that.  North Sea wind power is costing 3-4 times UK base electricity rates.  Crucially, this does not include the costs associated with backup and storage.  As things stand, wind power in Britain is basically gas-turbine power with wind energy used to cut the fuel bill.  Energy storage is so expensive that no country is building it on anything like the scale needed to cover wind power lulls.

There is no hope of maintaining developed world living standards using any mixture of wind and solar energy.  High living standards are bought at the expense of high energy consumption.  This is only affordable so long as energy remains cheap.  And intermittent renewable electricity is not going to be cheap, especially after storage is paid for.

Last edited by Calliban (2019-10-09 16:38:15)


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#18 2019-10-09 16:53:20

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 551

Re: Nuclear power is safe

GW Johnson wrote:

By the way,  the Three Mile Island accident is just not in the same class as Chernobyl or Fukushima.  The release was equivalent to a chest X-ray or two,  but spread out very thinly. Could have been worse,  but wasn't.  The containment actually worked.  There might not even have been a meltdown,  had the crew not done the wrong things.  Stupidity caused this,  ultimately. At least it was not too bad.

Fukushima happened because (1) historical not geological records were used for earthquake and tsunami resistance design criteria,  and (2) they had nowhere to put the waste but pools in or around the reactor buildings.  So here the ultimate cause really was human stupidity,  from the get-go.

GW

The point is that even Chernobyl and Fukushima, were small potatoes compared to the effects of fossil fuel air pollution.  Perhaps several thousand mortalities against several million per year for air pollution.  Our response to both accidents, in terms of large-scale evacuations is disproportionately costly.  If the same risk aversion were to be applied to air pollution, we would to evacuate all of our towns and cities on a daily basis.  There does not seem to be any proportionality in how human beings deal with risks.

I am labouring this point, because the next thirty years will need very large increases in the use of nuclear power to substitute for depletion of fossil fuel energy.  The use of renewable energy is entirely impractical as anything other than a niche solution.  After storage, wind and solar will be several times more expensive than present day electricity rates.  And industrial civilisation depends critically on cheap and abundant energy.

Last edited by Calliban (2019-10-09 16:59:38)


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#19 2019-10-09 17:01:06

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,103
Website

Re: Nuclear power is safe

Well,  in Texas,  wind power is cheaper than coal,  and just as cheap as fracked natural gas.  Maybe our state bureaucracy does things differently over here,  which affects pricing. 

The real problem is intermittency,  which limits wind power to at most 20% of the mix,  using excess capacity to get by when the wind doesn't blow.  Solve that,  and it will displace all the fossil fuels using nothing but the free market,  which is the most powerful engine of creation yet devised by man,  as long as it isn't improperly abused. 

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2019-10-09 17:02:59)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#20 2019-10-09 17:02:08

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,876

Re: Nuclear power is safe

If you're right, Calliban, you should be able to go out and get an insurance policy on the nuclear reactor you just built, somewhere on the free market. But you won't. No insurer will cover your plant. You can get an insurance policy on a fossil fuel energy plant, no problem. Doesn't that tell you something?

Nuclear is a huge, huge impact risk with long term consequences but a low frequency risk. You appear to be focussed on the low frequency nature of the risk, which is essentially irrelevant.

Calliban wrote:
GW Johnson wrote:

By the way,  the Three Mile Island accident is just not in the same class as Chernobyl or Fukushima.  The release was equivalent to a chest X-ray or two,  but spread out very thinly. Could have been worse,  but wasn't.  The containment actually worked.  There might not even have been a meltdown,  had the crew not done the wrong things.  Stupidity caused this,  ultimately. At least it was not too bad.

Fukushima happened because (1) historical not geological records were used for earthquake and tsunami resistance design criteria,  and (2) they had nowhere to put the waste but pools in or around the reactor buildings.  So here the ultimate cause really was human stupidity,  from the get-go.

GW

The point is that even Chernobyl and Fukushima, were small potatoes compared to the effects of fossil fuel air pollution.  Perhaps several thousand mortalities against several million per year for air pollution.  Our response to both accidents, in terms of large-scale evacuations is disproportionately costly.  If the same risk aversion were to be applied to air pollution, we would to evacuate all of our towns and cities on a daily basis.  There does not seem to be any proportionality in how human beings deal with risks.

I am labouring this point, because the next thirty years will need very large increases in the use of nuclear power to substitute for depletion of fossil fuel energy.  The use of renewable energy is entirely impractical as anything other than a niche solution.  After storage, wind and solar will be several times more expensive than present day electricity rates.


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#21 2019-10-09 17:07:37

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,103
Website

Re: Nuclear power is safe

Louis,  our experiences over here in the USA with nuclear (and renewable) power are quite different from what you UK types apparently have seen.  We did this differently than you,  and got different results.  Not surprising,  that.

For our nuclear,  the problem is NOT insurance.  It is costs-to-comply-with-regulations (that might not be as appropriate as they should be),  greatly aggravated by the politics of anti-nuclear disinformation,  such as the scare stuff you chronically spew.  T'ain't true.

GW


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#22 2019-10-09 17:09:45

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,876

Re: Nuclear power is safe

Quite right GW.  We had a recent bidding round in the UK which stunned people as to how cheap even offshore wind now is (onshore wind was already beating competitors).

Intermittency is indeed the thing preventing wind and solar quickly taking over baseload. I think there are a lot of promising technological solutions for storage (especially in Texas because one solution is to pump water into disused oil wells and then release it under pressure to drive electricity generators) but it might take 20 years to put in place the right mix of storage solutions.

As you say it's the free market that will resolve this. When I look at the steep downward trends on graphs for price of wind, solar and storage I can only see us ending up with a green solution for our energy needs.  This is great news! Geopolitically it means democracies don't have to be beholden to cheapjack dictatorships in the Middle East and elsewhere and poor people all around the world will have access to cheap energy wherever they are located.

GW Johnson wrote:

Well,  in Texas,  wind power is cheaper than coal,  and just as cheap as fracked natural gas.  Maybe our state bureaucracy does things differently over here.  The problem is intermittency,  which limits wind power to at most 20% of the mix,  using excess capacity to get by when the wind doesn't blow.  Solve that,  and it will displace all the fossil fuels using nothing but the free market. 

GW


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#23 2019-10-09 17:12:01

GW Johnson
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From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,103
Website

Re: Nuclear power is safe

Calliban:

Actually,  I pretty much agree with you about nuclear.  It's just that consequences of a severe accident are drastic enough that you really do want the designs (and how they are operated) to be pretty much foolproof.  They aren't yet,  but they easily could be. We know what to do,  it's just doing it.

That being said,  coal has killed far more people than nuclear.  Politically,  that doesn't count the way it should,  an artifact of 3 or 4 centuries of history burning coal.  Same for petroleum.  Natural gas is cleaner yet,  but still has some deleterious effects associated with fracking. 

That's life,  we just have to deal with it.

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2019-10-09 17:16:26)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#24 2019-10-09 17:26:58

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,103
Website

Re: Nuclear power is safe

Louis:

I'd like the see the grid scale storage problem solved,  so that renewables will displace the fossil stuff.  I also want nuclear made safer and made a big part of that energy mix.  Primarily so that not all our eggs are in one basket.  You never know what challenges and problems are going to present themselves in the future. "Suspenders and belt!"

Both grid scale energy storage and far-safer nuclear are easily possible technologically.  The problems are politics,  and arguing over who pays for it. 

As for safer nuclear,  I've already described what happens when you enforce prioritizing safety over dollars,  as in the US Navy nuclear program,  for pressurized water reactor technology.  RobertDyck has described the far-safer CanDU approach,  which only needs updating with the more modern emergency cooling technologies,  something easily done.  And Kbd512 and Oldfart1939 have been describing the far-safer thorium technology,  being developed big-time in India. 

And for off-Earth,  there are things like Kilopower.  The problem there is NASA dragging their feet. Somebody is going to have to steal this technology and develop it themselves to readiness quickly. 

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2019-10-09 17:27:15)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#25 2019-10-09 18:06:10

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,876

Re: Nuclear power is safe

I honestly can't see fission as part of the future energy mix. Fission =  radiation  =  big risks =  preventative measures = high cost.

Fusion maybe at some future date but fission never.  Fission is going to disappear from the energy agenda I predict. It can't compete with wind and solar in the absence of government grants.


GW Johnson wrote:

Louis:

I'd like the see the grid scale storage problem solved,  so that renewables will displace the fossil stuff.  I also want nuclear made safer and made a big part of that energy mix.  Primarily so that not all our eggs are in one basket.  You never know what challenges and problems are going to present themselves in the future. "Suspenders and belt!"

Both grid scale energy storage and far-safer nuclear are easily possible technologically.  The problems are politics,  and arguing over who pays for it. 

As for safer nuclear,  I've already described what happens when you enforce prioritizing safety over dollars,  as in the US Navy nuclear program,  for pressurized water reactor technology.  RobertDyck has described the far-safer CanDU approach,  which only needs updating with the more modern emergency cooling technologies,  something easily done.  And Kbd512 and Oldfart1939 have been describing the far-safer thorium technology,  being developed big-time in India. 

And for off-Earth,  there are things like Kilopower.  The problem there is NASA dragging their feet. Somebody is going to have to steal this technology and develop it themselves to readiness quickly. 

GW


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