Teaching Nuclear Science to bright, open-minded, questioning teenagers

Some of you might have been missing irregular, but frequent, updates here on Atomic Insights for the past few weeks. You may have wondered why most comment threads have been closed. You may have even noticed that the Twitter tool in the right hand column didn’t include any new tweets for days on end.

I have a good excuse for my nearly complete silence in the virtual world; since the beginning of July I have been teaching a course in Nuclear Science as part of the Duke TIP summer program. Here is the course description as listed on the organization’s web site.

Nuclear Science
Nuclear science plays a vital role in the lives of Americans, providing approximately one-fifth of our energy and diagnosing and healing millions of patients with nuclear medical procedures. Nuclear science is used to enhance the food we eat, control pests, track materials flow in industry, date archeological artifacts, and identify chemical compositions. Through hands-on activities, computer simulations, and discussions, learn the science within the atom, study the history of key discoveries in the field, and debate the ethics of nuclear weaponry. Apply Einstein’s famous formula E=mc2, and learn about atomic structure, isotopes, half-life, radioactivity, nuclear reactions, fission, and fusion.

Even with a good level of knowledge, teaching 17 really smart young people for six hours per day, 5 days a week plus 3 more hours on Saturday is a time consuming challenge, especially the first time through. I’m sure I’m not saying anything new to the admirable people who teach others full time, but preps and follow ups add a considerable effort to the 33 hours of face time. I’m glad there is no grading requirement for this kind of summer program.

The term is coming to an end. I’ll have some interesting stories, new ideas, and thoughts to share with you about the experience. For example, have you ever heard of a neutristor? Before beginning my TIP experience, I had no idea that it was possible to hold a neutron generator in the palm of your hand.

I will, of course, be eventually getting back to a more regular publishing schedule, but it might take a few weeks before that happens. It is, after all, still the heat of the summer and everything moves a little more slowly in the southern US during late July and early August.

Will North Anna 3 be lead ESBWR?

There is a growing perception that the Nuclear Renaissance in the U.S. is dead, killed off forever by low natural gas prices. Some members of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) are not so sure. At the June 7 President’s Reception for the 2015 ANS annual meeting, there were several intriguing discussions about new projects that […]

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Moving nuclear energy discussions forward

On Wednesday, June 24 Bloomberg BNA (Bureau of National Affairs) conducted a morning meeting titled A Chain Reaction: The Role of Nuclear Energy in New England’s Energy Mix at the Westin Copley Place in Boston, MA. The timing was fortuitous for me, my wife and I were visiting family in Maine the weekend before the […]

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Integrating six decades of learning about fast reactors

I learned some important new concepts yesterday from two of the leaders of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) project – John Sackett and Yoon Chang. Among other things, they informed me — as a member of a group of about 35 other attendees at a workshop titled Sustainable Nuclear Energy for the Future: Improving Safety, […]

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Tale of two Chinas – One surging forward, one retreating

Two stories caught my attention this morning. One came from the Taipei Times, one from the Beijing Review. The first one focused on a future energy supply prognostication from an American “expert” who has a light educational and professional background in energy technology, manufacturing, engineering, economics and market dynamics. The second one documents recent progress […]

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Atomic Show #238 – StarCore Nuclear co-founders

StarCore Nuclear is a Canadian company whose co-founders, David Dabney and David Poole, are experienced engineers and businessmen. They have spent most of the past six years developing a technology and a business model aimed at providing reliable, emission-free electrical power and heat to remote locations. The basis of their technology is a high-temperature helium […]

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SMR advocates and interested parties gathering in Charlotte – April 14-15

In about 10 days, I’ll be arriving in Charlotte, NC for the 5th Annual Nuclear Energy Insider SMR Summit. the planned agenda indicates that there are people who are moving beyond talk and presentations. Participants are clearly preparing to discuss and create initial action plans addressing difficult challenges associated with establishing a new industry that […]

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SMRs – lots of noise but DOE budget that’s 1% of annual wind tax credit

I’ve been spending some time watching, rewatching and clipping interesting excerpts from the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water subcommittee hearings on the FY2016 Department of Energy budget. It’s not everyone’s idea of entertainment, but it’s fascinating to me to watch publicly accessible discussions about how our government makes decisions, sets priorities and spends the money […]

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NRC issues SER for Westinghouse Small Break LOCA PIRT

I apologize for the acronym soup in the title. Here is what I really wanted to say, but couldn’t fit into the title field. On February 27, 2015, nearly three years after it was submitted, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a letter reporting that the NRC staff had prepared a final Topical Report Safety […]

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Today Show cheers nuclear power by chanting “Go Nuke!”

Before readers get too excited, I need to acknowledge that the Today Show in the below video is broadcast from Sydney, Australia, not New York City. However, it is still kind of exciting to have a TV newscaster chanting “Go Nuke!” The broadcaster’s excitement is based on an announcement by Liberal Party Senator Sean Edwards […]

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Diseconomy of scale – world’s largest canned-motor reactor coolant pump

On February 16, 2015, an AP article by Ray Henry titled Nuclear plants delayed in China, watched closely by US firms contained a short paragraph that has contributed to a number of sleepless nights. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of other people affected in the same manner who have far more at stake than […]

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Atomic Show #234 – Update from South Australia

Ben Heard of Think Climate Consulting and DecarboniseSA.com joined me for a discussion about the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia. In early February, the South Australian government announced the formation of a royal commission to investigate the state’s future role in the nuclear fuel cycle. As Ben explained, royal commissions are fairly rare and only […]

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