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  1. We should build modular power stations on a production-line basis, as US shipyards built Liberty ships in WWII.

    I hope that they’re built better than that! The Liberty Ships had only a five-year design life.

    1. Brian,

      That may be true, but some of those ships remained in service for decades. “Design life” can be extended with conscientious operations, planned maintenance, repairs/replacements and improvements/alterations. It’s not a hard and fast limit.

    2. Liberty ship made it back for the 50th anniversary of DDay 1994. But yes, I agree, they should be well made. Production line construction should not exclude that.

    3. The Liberty ships were a copy of a standard pre-war general cargo
      ship. There was no such thing as “design life” in those days.
      The ships were expected to last indefinitely if they were properly
      maintained. The design was far more conservative than
      ships built today. Pre-WWII ships regularly had 50 year service
      lives, usually end by obsolescence.

      A handful of Liberty ships experienced brittle failure in an unusual
      combination of warm air and cold water. This was eventually
      traced to the notch toughness of the steel and rectified
      by decreasing the sulfur content. This problem had probably
      been going on since steel ships were first built, but
      needed a very large sample of ships to allow it to be identified.

    4. I dunno, a 10 or 20 year design life for things like the NuScale cans might be an advantage.  By specifying them as wear items to be replaced regularly, you don’t have to worry about details like neutron embrittlement and fine corrosion for the full life of the plant.  All you have to do is make them easy to swap out and take away for remanufacture or recycling.  The balance of plant can be treated like any normal industrial asset.

      1. If they can ever get these things built in the first place, they will be first generation. Technology today increases at an exponential pace. After their 20 year lifespan they can be replaced by something much improved. I grew up with vacuum tubes. Two generations later, people hardly know what they are.

  2. Thanks for the essay from Wade Allison. He published “Radation and Reason” a decade ago. He told us then that without nuclear energy, the future for mankind looks bleak.

    Another essay deserving of exposure is: “Only Nuclear Energy Can Save the Planet”. By Joshua S. Goldstein and Staffan A Qvist published in the Wall Street Journal. January 12-13,2019. This essay is adapted from the authors’ new book, “A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest
    Can Follow,” published by Public Affairs.

  3. All fine, but the real reason to go nuclear is to fulfill mankind’s extraterrestrial imperative. Part of that is providing a sufficient quantity and quality of manpower to seriously pursue fusion for power and rocket propulsion. Fusion may begin with fission-assisted fusion microexplosions employing the Nernst effect, as proposed by Friedwardt Winterberg.(http://www.znaturforsch.com/aa/v61a/s61a0559.pdf).

    Forget about climate change. Let’s seize control of the climate, with indoor agriculture and the conquest of space! And let’s not wait for a big asteroid or comet to demolish us, or the Yellowstone Park super-volcano to erupt. The “science” behind the AGW scare is no better than that behind the mass-media estimates of cancers and other illnesses resulting from Chernobyl, and it has the same source: British imperial geopolitics, always obsessed with keeping the human herd under control!

    1. @Richard

      Though I read a lot of SciFi when I was growing up, I never developed any real interest in space travel. Life on Earth is more my speed. If you look through Atomic Insights archives, you will also find that I am not very interested in fusion as a power source. It’s too darned difficult. It also doesn’t have any compelling advantages over fission, especially if you don’t happen to have the massive gravity of a star available.

      I just listened to a series of interviews on Titans of Nuclear where the guests were all fusion scientists. They’re quite excited by their chosen field, but they are also all the kind of people who enjoy working on very difficult problems for years with only dim hopes of success – as long as someone else funds their investigations.

      1. I first started reading about nuclear power sometime around 1973 when my dad was working construction at the McGuire Nuclear plant near Charlotte, NC. I distinctly remember reading the fusion power plants were going to replace fission power plants in about 30 years. And I just read an article over the weekend that speculated that fusion power plants could be providing the bulk of our energy needs in about 30 years. For more that 40 years, fusion power plants have been “just 30 years away.”

        Unfortunately, we can’t wait that long. Fission power plants are a safe, well understood technology and are capable of providing for our current and future energy needs now. Should we keep researching fusion power? Sure. Should we wait for fusion to be practical before we do anything. Absolutely not.

      2. @Rod
        “It also doesn’t have any compelling advantages over fission”

        Well, for one thing, no decay heat. that’s a huge difference, it means you don’t need an emergency cooling system, aux feedwater system, RHR system… Less non-productive equipment to design, procure, build, maintain, operate, and suffer regulatory “help” with.

        Of course there’s all sorts of other systems you need for fusion that dont appear in a fission plant. But they aren’t regulatory compliance only systems. So they could be designed in a rational, economic manner.

      3. Nuclear fission alone will allow us to develop the economy and the minds of the people to the level needed to master fusion and space. That’s not science fiction. And mankind will go extinct billions of years before all life on earth is destroyed if we don’t develop the capabilities to deflect asteroids and comets and survive super-volcanoes. Besides, a future in which people are forever bound to the earth is not politically acceptable. Who is going to enforce birth control?

        For rocket propulsion, fusion offers very compelling advantages over fission because it has no minimum critical mass, allowing truly “micro” microexplosions, and because of the simplicity of the fusion products, especially aneutronic fusion of helium-3. Of course, it is difficult, but we haven’t really tried. We’ve invested a mean pittance in fusion research so far, compared to what we spend on jihadis and nazis to kill or exile competent heads of state, as in Libya and Ukraine, and continue to spend on Ukraine to keep the nazis in power. And our whole economy is still based mostly on fossil fuels, with a large slice of that wasted on “green energy”. Imagine what we could do if we went full throttle with breeder reactors, stopped pretending that the U.K. is our best ally, and Russia and China our enemies.

      4. Forgot to mention that with nuclear fusion far higher temperature industrial process heat is achieved, allowing more efficient production of electricity and the mining of garbage by turning it into plasma. The same technology that enables us to contain the fusion plasma will allow us to handle the plasma made of garbage. While it might be possible to run a fission power plant with similar containment and temperatures, the complexity of the fission products and of maintaining criticality (without going super-critical) at fission fuel plasma temperatures is a needless challenge.

  4. I began my physics student career at Cambridge in 1959. Among other great men of science I was taught by Otto Frisch who wrote this spoof article in 1955 in honour of Niels Bohr. Written as for the year 4955 it reports on a proposal to replace nuclear power plants by coal fired ones. I recall that in the 1950s this was thought very funny. Today it has a more serious side.https://www.mpoweruk.com/coal.htm