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  1. When are the Wind and Solar “Exspurts” going to wake up and use some basic common sense?
    In an article today on the Downtown Milwaukee Windturbine. They provide information that the Windturbine saves them $11,000 annually by providing the energy to operate the Port Administration Building. Later in the article they mention that the wind turbine project cost $600,000. My immediate thoughts were how does that save any money? Using the typical online mortgage calculator I determined that with a 5% interest rate the payments would be $30,000 per year to the bond holders. Even with a Zero interest rate, the city would be shelling out $20,000. They would then need to add in the annual maintenance costs for this project. And at the end of these 30 years build another one, if not sooner.
    Please explain to me how this saves money? Think about how much less CO2 would be floating in the air around Milwaukee if Zion I & II and Kewaunee were still operating? Think about how much LESS their taxes would be if that Wind turbine was not there and power was coming from a taxpaying NPP like the now closed Kewaunee Power Station?

    1. When are the Wind and Solar “Exspurts” going to wake up and use some basic common sense?

      About the 43rd of never.  It’s a romantic movement bordering on religion.

      Please explain to me how this saves money?

      It’s OPM, so it doesn’t matter.  Giving the pols a chance to preen about their green-ness is all it’s for.

      Think about how much LESS their taxes would be if that Wind turbine was not there and power was coming from a taxpaying NPP like the now closed Kewaunee Power Station?

      You don’t get to preen while Greenpeace is picketing your office.

  2. An interesting one on nuclear waste is Moltex energy’s proposal. As part of there fuel manufacture from used nuclear fuel, they produce a salt form of concentrated fission products, this is a useable heat source for high temperature applications and remote communities with a power density of roughly 50kW/m^3. Not only are they proposing using current spent fuel as their fuel source, but the true waste from fission (i.e. radioactive fission products) has a significant value as a commodity for heat and power.

    This is truly the best use of a valuable resource I have come across, and is a cost effective compared to other reprocessing technologies.

    1. Yeah, it is possible to use fission products as heat sources like the Soviets did since they had all the fission products available from plutonium separation. Is it a good idea? ABSOLUTELY NOT. It’s a lot of trouble for 50kW/m^3. There are other ways to meet small power requirements in remote places (i.e. solar).

      “There are approximately 1,000 Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) in Russia, most of which are used as power sources for lighthouses and navigation beacons. All Russian RTGs have long exhausted their 10-year engineered life spans and are in dire need of dismantlement. The urgency of this task is underscored by the recent incidents with these potentially dangerous radioactivity sources.”


      Radioactive material must be controlled. Finding casual uses for it like this works against control.

      1. Why does it need such careful control? What is the fundamental basis for the requirements?

        Is that basis valid & permanent or subject to questioning and revision?

      2. 50kW per m^3 is pretty decent power density (roughly the same power density as a car engine).

        The heat is free, you have the fission products anyway so why not make use of it?

        Their technical portfolio is worth a read (http://www.moltexenergy.com/learnmore/An_Introduction_Moltex_Energy_Technology_Portfolio.pdf), my bet is they will be the market leaders in advanced nuclear in 10 years, and leaders generally in energy production in 20 years. There technology will be a rather obscene money maker when built (FOAK plant delivering power in 2025 is their plan)

  3. So now we’re questioning whether or not strontium-90 or cesium-137 in bulk requires careful handling and should be inventoried if separated from spent fuel? 1987 Goiania Brazil: 1400 Ci of 137Cs abandoned at a medical clinic. Four deaths from acute radiation poisoning, one arm amputation and 21 others hospitalized. There aren’t a lot of examples because we do control this material pretty well. My environmental radioactivity textbook documents a few cases. I know that it’s fashionable to question whether or not CO2 emission is a global problem, but we don’t need to start doubting that fission products have the ability to kill when found in the concentrations we see in spent fuel, not to mention 50 kW/m^3 concentrations alluded to above.

    1. @Scaryjello

      There is no doubt that Cs-137 and Sr-90 are hazardous materials for people directly exposed to them. There isn’t much interest in using intense gamma emitters like Cs-137 in isotope batteries, though it does make a rather capable irradiation source in well designed facilities.

      Sr-90 can be a good heat source for RTGs as long as it is properly sealed and protected from being released. You’re an engineer; do you really doubt our ability to create capable containers for potentially dangerous materials that prevent them from being released?

      You brought up Goiana. The details of that event are a pretty good indicator that we can loosen the controls on radioactive materials significantly while tightening up the controls on containers a bit to provide an overall increase in safety with a substantial drop in the cost of beneficially using valuable materials.

      If your real concern is devoted, purposeful efforts to break into containers to steal the material and use it as part of an effort to terrorize a civilian population with something like a dirty bomb, I’ll answer in a different way.


      1. The interesting concept moltex energy has is that their reprocessing process which is very simple compared to PUREX and THORP, is that is turns the fission isotopes into stable salts removing volatility risks.

        Rather than build a traditional RTG where the isotopes are solid and use a thermocouple for power generation, the heat source can be transferred directly to a secondary thermal salt store, this thermal salt store can act as both a radiation shield for Cs 137 and allow power generated from the isotopic heat generator to load follow. This allows peak power to be far higher than average power generated from the isotopes, making an excellent alternative to an SMR for remote communities.

  4. As an engineer I don’t believe we should be reprocessing fuel or using reactors that don’t contain the fuel in cladding. There’s no doubt that unshielded spent-fuel is lethal. There’s no doubt that storing spent fuel in holtec canisters makes it safe indefinitely. Engineering is finding the simplest, cheapest, barely adequate solution to a challenge. For powering a radio beacon in the tundra, the solution would be elegant and efficient electronics hooked up 10 square meters of solar panels and a fat lead acid battery. Send a guy out to squeegee the solar panel every year. Owston is not correct about 50 kilowatts per cubic meter being approximately the same energy density as a car’s engine. Cars typically require 100 kilowatts minimum and the engine probably takes up a third of a cubic meter. Fission products are not worth the effort and the trouble for low grade heat. There is no reason to reprocess fuel if uranium is abundant, as it is, and the spent fuel takes up minimal space in safe storage, as it does. Why open up a can of worms that can be stored indefinitely?

    1. @scaryjello

      That’s a reasonable response.

      In your opinion, does the cladding have to be a separate tube of completely different material, or does the metal alloy fuel envisioned by Lightbridge qualify? What about the multiple layers of graphite and SiC that encase Triso fuel particles?

      Are you familiar with the Moltex fuel design? Unless they’ve changed their basic concept since I spoke with the founders for an Atomic Show, they believe that molten salt can be used instead of UO2 inside a cladding tube with fuel assemblies that resemble traditional LWR fuel. Like you, they’re not fans of having fission products dispersed throughout a coolant loop or pool.

      Instead of fission product batteries, what would you say to beta batteries designed for decidedly low power applications in electronics using isotopes like tritium or C-14?

    2. My mid range VW golf has a 75kW engine (100bhp for those in non metric units) with an engine bay of roughly 1.25m x 0.75m x 0.75m giving s volume of 0.7m^3. Therefore the engine in my car has a power density within the same order of magnitude as the 50kW per m^3 quoted in my post. I fully admit this is not an apples with apples comparison as one is an engine producing motive power and the other is generating high temp heat, however the purpose was to give a sense of scale with regards to power density which as shown is valid.

      1. No, your VW engine has 75kW at the shaft and probably a 20% thermal to mechanical efficiency, so it is actually a 375kW thermal engine if you want to compare apples to apples. Also, your engine bay is not the appropriate envelope for the comparison considering that your car engine displacement is less than 1.5 liters while the engine takes up probably 100 liters. For 375kW out of 1.5 liters, the corresponding power density would be 3.75MW/m^3 for the engine. A dangerous compact of fission products is nowhere this power density. The comparison is apples to orange peels (peels because they are garbage and you throw them away).

  5. Hey Rod,

    my math above could be stated more clearly.

    375kW/1.5L = 250 MW/m^3 (on engine displacement basis)

    375kW/100L = 3.75 MW/m^3 (on engine volume basis)

    Hey, if you guys were onto something, I’d back y’all. Point is that there aren’t a lot of engineering applications for fission product waste heat besides anti-biological uses (i.e. sterilization).

    1. @scaryjello

      I worked on a project where there was a serious, competitive use for Sr-90 RTGs.

      It was for an undersea fiberoptic cable. The light amplifiers needed constant, relatively small amounts of power for many years. The power demand was well within the proven capability of Sr-90 RTGs as demonstrated in the remote lighthouse application. The location was far more secure, being at the bottom of the ocean.

      The only real option without RTGs was to more than double the size and weight of the installed cable to allow for power to be carried alongside the fiber cable. That option works, and is still being used, but it carries a pretty heavy cost burden when you include the extra resupply trips to the cable laying ship, the cost of the copper wire, the costs of protecting the thicker cable, etc.

      If we could have obtained access to the inventory of already separated Sr-90 at Hanford to demonstrate the system, we might have had a shot at a paradigm change with global benefits due to the increased capabilities and lower costs the option offers over existing methods.

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