Exploring Hydrocarbon Depletion
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deMolay wrote:Any comments on the Canadian Slow Poke Reactor. http://www.cna.ca/curriculum/cna_can_nu ... d=Slowpoke
Scientists at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) announce the development of a new computer algorithm that allows for them to visualize the reactions that go on inside a nuclear reactor in finer detail than ever before. The neutron transport code UNIC, which is still under development at ANL, will provide researchers in the end with the most detailed view of a reactor's core possible, without them actually jumping inside a reactor.
Engineers and nuclear physicists could use the UNIC algorithm to create safer, more environmentally friendly nuclear reactors, which could benefit a large number of countries in the world. As carbon dioxide becomes an increasing threat, oil and natural gas will be shunned from the market more and more, and renewable energies will take their place. Nuclear fission is one of the safest bets, but new nuclear reactors have not been built in a while. A video of a more detailed simulation of the Zero Power Reactor experiment is available online here.
but there are problems caused by the fact that the Lead and Lead-Bisimuth alloys are very dense, which can cause erosion of the piping as they are pumped from the core to the heat exchangers and back.
Explosions. Radiation. Evacuations. More than 30 years after Three Mile Island, the unfolding crisis in Japan has brought back some of the worst nightmares surrounding nuclear power — and restarted a major debate about the merits and the drawbacks of this energy source. Does nuclear energy offer a path away from carbon-based fuels? Or are nuclear power plants too big a threat? It’s time to separate myth from reality.
1. The biggest problem with nuclear energy is safety.
Safety is certainly a critical issue, as the tragedy in Japan is making clear. But for years, the the biggest challenge to sustainable nuclear energy hasn’t been safety, but cost.
In the United States, new nuclear construction was already slowing down even before the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979; the disaster merely sealed its fate. The last nuclear power plant to come online started delivering power in 1996 — but its construction began in 1972. Today, nuclear power remains considerably more expensive than coal- or gas-fired electricity, mainly because nuclear plants are so expensive to build. Estimates are slippery, but a plant can cost well north of $5 billion. A 2009 MIT study estimated that the cost of producing nuclear energy (including construction, maintenance and fuel) was about 30 percent higher than that of coal or gas.
Of course, cost and safety aren’t unrelated. Concerns about safety lead to extensive regulatory approval processes and add uncertainty to plant developers’ calculations — both of which boost the price of financing new nuclear plants. It’s not clear how much these construction costs would fall if safety fears subsided and the financing became cheaper — and after the Fukushima catastrophe, we’re unlikely to find out.
2. Nuclear power plants are sitting ducks for terrorists.
It’s easy to get scared about terrorist attacks on nuclear plants. After the Sept. 11 attacks, a cottage industry sprung up around the threat, with analysts imagining ever-more horrific and creative ways that terrorists could strike nuclear facilities and unleash massive consequences.
There are certainly real risks: Nuclear expert Matthew Bunn of Harvard University has pointed out that well-planned terrorist attacks probably would produce the sort of simultaneous failures in multiple backup systems that Japan’s reactors are experiencing. But it’s much harder to target a nuclear power plant than one might think, and terrorists would have great difficulty replicating the physical impact that last week’s earthquake had on the Japanese plants. It also would be tough for them to breach the concrete domes and other barriers that surround U.S. reactors. And although attacks have been attempted in the past — most notoriously by Basque separatists in Spain in 1977 — none has resulted in widespread damage.
To be sure, the water pools in which reactors store used fuel, which reside outside the containment domes, are more vulnerable than the reactors and could cause real damage if attacked; there is a debate between analysts and industry about whether terrorists could effectively target them.
3. Democrats oppose nuclear energy; Republicans favor it.
4. Nuclear power is the key to energy independence.
5. Better technology can make nuclear power safe.
Most energy sources entail risks. In the past year, we’ve seen an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, fatal explosions at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia and now the crisis in Japan. The American public will need to decide whether the risks of nuclear power — compared with those of other energy sources — are too high.
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