While I appreciate your forthrightness, asymmetric, and I will attempt to respond in kind I’m afraid your view of the future of fission has a serious flaw… you will not be allowed to choose the final usage parameters or the siting requirements of any new breeder technologies.
asymmetric_implosion wrote: I agree that siting needs to be better but accidents will only tighten regulations leading to stricter siting requirements.
The people who make those decisions have been and will be chosen by the <1%, and that varied assemblage of oligarchs will continue to select the people who will make those decisions and the politicians and officials who will implement those decisions. They will make their selections according to their needs and requirements. And the <1% consider their needs and requirements in a very different light than the rest of us…
Case in point: the NRC and Jaczko. Obviously there will be different sides to that blowup but no amount of “he said/she said” will change the fact that even post-Fukushima BWR reforms are going nowhere slowly… and will continue to go nowhere slowly… and it’s not an accident.
Not an accident. The <1%, through their political tools, feel free to reject even obviously needed reforms of regulations governing decades-old technology… so who now is going to tell them that they can't build the new plants wherever the profits will be greatest? Who now will tell them they aren't allowed to build the new tech as cheaply as humanly possible… or cheaper? Who now will tell them that they must not skimp on safety measures even when those measures entail additional costs? Not the engineers… engineers are not allowed to make those kinds of decisions without "guidance." The sort of "guidance" that got us Fukushima.
Even aneutronic fusion will not be immune to this effect, of course, but the inherent safety advantages that come with aneutronic power will mitigate even the most improbable worst-case event into something the neighbors can live with.
zapkitty wrote: the inherent safety advantages that come with aneutronic power will mitigate even the most improbable worst-case event into something the neighbors can live with.
The other advantage of FF is that is can be done at a very small scale, and thus is likely to feel far less regulation in general. FF devices are more like hospital cyclotrons than fission power plants in scale, and hopefully the regulatory regime they will have will be more similar to the former than latter.
Normal fission can be done at very small scale. There have been plans for something light enough for a man to carry. The core mass can be very low, for example water moderated homogeneous reactors can have fuel inventory in the low kg’s. However i think the only ones fielded where isotope thermal types. There are some pretty small lab reactors IIRC with outputs in the kW range.
Regulation has more to do with perceived safety than anything else. Note that when a FF is on, it is quite a potent source of radiation without proper shielding. So there will be some regulation.
delt0r wrote: Regulation has more to do with perceived safety than anything else. Note that when a FF is on, it is quite a potent source of radiation without proper shielding. So there will be some regulation.
Hospital synchrotrons and cyclotrons used for nuclear medicine also produce significant radiation, and are also regulated, yet these devices are located in standard hospital settings.
Zapkitty: How is the situation you describe any different than it’s been for the entire history of fission reactors, and the demonstrated safety record they’ve already achieved despite using technologies with far less inherent safety than what’s available now?
And LFTR would be superior to today’s technology. The fuel is an inert molten salt. If a pipe leaks, it just drips out and solidifies, nicely containing the radioactive stuff. The whole thing operates at atmospheric pressure, so that fuel will just drip, not spray. There’s no water, so there won’t be any source of the hydrogen that made the Fukushima building explode.
If the fuel starts to overheat, it expands and slows the reaction enough to stay in the proper temperature range. If it somehow gets too hot anyway, or the electricity fails, a frozen plug melts and all the fuel drains into a passive cooling tank. At one of the LFTR experimental reactors, that’s how they turned the reactor off for the weekend…just cut the power and went home.
It’s not as good as FF but in case we don’t achieve fusion, it’s probably our best shot at an energy-rich, carbon-free society. It’s nice to have backup plans.
LFTR salt is not inert and is somewhat corrosive. In fact it reacts with water and gets even more corrosive (Hydrofluoric acid is produced). This can also lead to hydrogen production…. Also LFTR still have the decay heat to contend with as well. So it still not as simple as “it drains and is off”. It needs to drain to somewhere than can still cool the salts and not melt. if you have a 1GW plant, even .1% is a lot of heat to get rid of in a passive configuration.
Corrosion depends on what the pipes are made of. There’s an alloy that seems to work pretty well, and worst case. There’s no water to react with. You can make your passive cooling tank however big it needs to be…to get absurd about it, if you had a tank with a perfectly flat and level floor a mile in diameter, you’d probably be ok. If you can’t make it work at a GW, go with smaller reactors. LFTR works fine for small reactors; it was designed for a nuclear airplane.
I know sodium cooled reactors have far less corrosion problems than water cooled reactors. I think they use a variant of stainless steel to clad the uranium fuel. I personally can’t get behind the idea of liquid salt fuel but I do see the benefits vs. oxide fuel. Something about moving liquid fuel bothers me.
I think casting a wide energy net is a good idea.
The huge advantage of homogeneous reactor design, That is designs where the fuel is mixed with the coolant is that it is very easy to avoid hot spots, keep reactivity predicable and even, and maintain a positive void coefficient and a negative temperature coefficient. You also get perfect even burn for free. These things are all hard to achive with solid fuel designs and tyically require a fairly compilcated fueling schedule for even burn at least. These things are all even harder to achieve with fast reactors.
For thermal designs with water and dissolved salts they have the lowest fuel inventory required by a long shot, and for fast reactors they are one of the surest ways to maintain stable reactivities with passive control. Other practical issues is you don’t need to validate fuel element design which is still a very large cost (time as much as money). Then there is a few unvalidated at this point ideas, of continuous in situ processing, which add a lot of other advantages to the complete fuel cycle. Also this can reduce the decay heat quite a bit too since thing don’t accumulate and some wastes can be pulled out when a more favorable isotope is produced. Further you can degauss it and keep out neutron poisons especially Xe which makes the designs capable of load following, or more importantly easier to make load following… ie capable of peek power production.
On planet earth keeping water out is a exercise in futility when the unexpected happens. Say like a giant wave of … Water! Note that the water in air can set liquid Na on fire. The problem is that we either have salts that are not stable with water when molten, or tend to be soluble in water when not (Chlorides). As for liquid metal designs i can’t see what we gain with Na that something like lead/Bismuth doesn’t give us? Add that the later can have enough heat capacity to passively deal with decay heat.
I should also point out that just about every reactor ever built has had problems with corrosion. Its it not just a matter of a material choice, it has to be something that works with the neutron economy as well. Also the corrosion that happens in a high radiation environment is quite different and typically faster and more aggressive than plain corrosion. Even many of the Dry casket storage systems are failing due to radiation driven corrosion and that is much lower activity radiation.
First, a side note: As we type at our keyboards, holes in the basements of three reactor buildings in Fukushima are still quietly spilling radioactive debris nonstop even as the oligarchy flat-out lies about it to the public… with impunity. So all standards, from the TEPCO definition of [em]”It’s not a radiation kill unless it burns you down where you stand!”[/em] to the Greenpeace refrain of [em]”Chernobyl is still killing people to this very day!”[/em], all prior definitions of fission accident costs and casualties are still waiting to be rewritten by Fukushima. So [em]”The record thus far…”[/em] might not be the best place to make a stand on the safety of fission.
dennisp wrote: Zapkitty: How is the situation you describe any different than it’s been for the entire history of fission reactors, and the demonstrated safety record they’ve already achieved despite using technologies with far less inherent safety than what’s available now?
It differs because of the simple fact, the undeniable fact that the <1% have been busy dismantling the regulatory structure that backs up whatever claims one may wish to make about fission safety… and they've made it very clear that they don't intend to stop any time soon… or ever. They gained their power through control of access to power and they do not intend to give that up.
dennisp wrote: And LFTR would be superior to today’s technology…
The technology does not matter, it’s the absolute worst-case damage multiplied by the terminally ingrained indifference of the people running the planet. To swipe from a similar thread on the subject: [em]”An oligarch looking for a way to add a .001% margin to a multi-billion dollar profit on a balance sheet can do more damage and inflict more misery than all the terrorists that ever were… and couldn’t care less.”[/em]
The times they are a’changing and although our rulers may be getting more used to displaying their power openly they certainly aren’t getting any smarter. It doesn’t matter what all an engineer calculates that could go wrong with a given tech… not unless the engineer also calculates the possible results from combining a given tech with a total disregard for rules, laws, regulations, common sense and the existence of other people.
dennisp wrote: It’s not as good as FF but in case we don’t achieve fusion, it’s probably our best shot at an energy-rich, carbon-free society. It’s nice to have backup plans.
As for climate… time is the killer, literally. The methane clathrates are bubbling and we only have years, not decades, to begin averting the deaths of billions.
Deaths that need not even have been risked but for the oligarchic’ insistence on gaming the system. The side-effects of that particular power-play by the <1% have been magnified by their immense wealth into truly dire consequences for the rest of humanity.
Fatal consequences if we’re not very swift, very careful and and very lucky.
delt0r, interesting points. Regarding giant waves, I’ll mention that since LFTRs aren’t water-cooled, you can put them in the high desert if you want to. I think that’s also true of IFRs, but have to check.
Zapkitty, the worst nuclear accident ever still killed less people than coal does every year. If you’re concerned about climate change, I’m curious what your backup plan is, in the event fusion doesn’t work. We’re all agreed that if we get good news from Lerner next year, we can drop fission like yesterday’s news.
OK, I see two very different arguments. The technical arguments I understand but the political argument is pretty grim and in my opinion pretty difficult to find agreement on. If 1% is controlling everything a carbon free energy source isn’t going to change that. If LPP makes a breakthrough, the people financing the project own it, not the people that invented it. FF will get absorbed by the 1% as a tool and things will continue. I can’t argue about the one-percent’s influence on our society or if they are a ruling class. I think political movements around the world are expressing their feelings about this but I don’t know if they represent the majority of people. I know in Oakland, CA (live close by) the people are growing increasingly angry with the ‘Take back’ movement and the police. The Port of Oakland takeover seemed to irritate a number of people as the unions were hurt more than the owners. I like the idea of speaking out and keeping greed in check but I don’t know that camping near city hall is accomplishing that. My opinion is people are not involved in government and they need to get more involved. I think that will spur the change in the US. The problem I see is that people are so polarized right now that the people cannot agree. I wish I had an answer but I don’t.
asymmetric_implosion wrote: If LPP makes a breakthrough, the people financing the project own it, not the people that invented it. FF will get absorbed by the 1% as a tool and things will continue.
I mean this as no reflection on the outstanding job the LPP folks are doing, or the technical difficulties they have faced, but it looks like if FF works, the end product will be relatively simple and straightforward to build. I don’t think it will be possible for the technology, once proven, to be kept under wraps — others will re-create the devices, and the research costs necessary to do so are very modest*. You wouldn’t need a General Electric to be able to do the work, a much smaller company or NGO could potentially follow LPP’s lead, especially given how transparent they have been to this point. If it works, FF will be nearly impossible to suppress.
*That’s what I find so frustrating about the resourcing of LPP’s research program — it is absurd that such a promising technology isn’t getting loads of funding, especially since it seems that only a relatively modest amount of money and time would be necessary to demonstrate whether it is possible or not. The LPP folks are doing tremendous work on what is essentially a shoestring, especially compared to far more complex and less promising alternative fusion technologies (not to mention Big Fusion efforts like ITER).
The plasma focus can and has been reproduced many times. The problem is the LPP has a patent or two on the technology. The patent owners have the rights to the technology so even if it is easy to reproduce no one else can do it and make money or produce products such as reactors. You can hate the patent system but it is the law. The patent owners would surely fight hard to protect this breakthrough for the duration of the patent. These is also the issue of others patent on parts of the technology. Several groups own patents on different aspects of the plasma focus. They worked hard on their pieces and will want some of the pie when the time comes.
When fission was first commercialized the strategy was that electricity would be so cheap they would give it away. That ideal was never realized. FoFu is likely to have the same fate. The technology will be locked down by patents and sold to the highest bidder. If one group or company buys up all the relevant patents and people the energy future is owned by that group.