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Nuclear Fission Improved

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jrs
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The December 2005 issue of "Scientific American" has an interesting article on page 84 -- "Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste" by William H. Hannum, Gerald E. Marsh, and George S. Stanford.

Fast-neutron reactors could extract much more energy from recycled nuclear fuel, minimize the risks of weapons proliferation, and markedly reduce the time nuclear waste must be isolated.

This article shows how we can increase the amount of energy obtained from nuclear fuel by a factor of 20 while virtually eliminating the need to store waste during the period from 300 years to 10,000 years in the future. A new technique is used to burn up the plutonium and other actinides (transuranic elements) and eliminate depleted uranium waste.

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Here in New Zealand, we are "proudly" anti-nuclear. This is a legacy of one of our former Prime Ministers whom freed us from a particularly bad bit of economic strife caused by the then Prime Minister Muldoon. He decided that we would be forever better off without nuclear technology. The average New Zealander is today still as far as I can tell left with the image of anything nuclear as "bad".

This is despite the fact that we are facing serious threats of energy crises in the next decade or so (give it at most 20 years and there will be BIG trouble unless major steps are taken). Wind power is OK as a partial solution in windy areas like our capital. Solar energy is really expensive, while worth it if you can afford the initial investment. Hydro-electric stations present a few problems (one of these is the fact that a promiment political party, the Greens think that they should not be built as they "damage the beauty of the rivers". And of course this outweighs the benefits to man ..) such as the fact that they are expensive and eventually will not cut it.

Eventually it will reach the point that if we do not drop the nuclear policy there might be problems, big ones. Nuclear power according to countless experts, and case studies throughout the world, is one of the cleanest, by far the most efficent, one of the cheapest ways to power NZ (we would not need many power stations to provide power to a large proportion of the country). But unless we ditch the Anti-Nuclear policy, it will be too late when the truth finally hits the fan.

This at least is good news for me, as one whom intends to champion the dropping of that policy. Maybe this will help convince the government that "nuclear" is not the goblin, but quite a good thing.

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The problem with so called "renewable" energy sources like wind and solar energy is that their economic value is negative. The reason they aren't built is because no one makes money on them.

shameless capitalist profiteering, a socialist might say, but there is a reason for that. a Wind turbine or a sheet of solar power costs more in terms of oil energy than it will ever produce in it's lifetime. Our technology just isn't at a point where we can harness that type of energy efficiently.

Not to mention that it would take over a thousand acres to power a city the size of Anchorage. I dare not contemplate a city the size of New York or Los Angelas.

Nuclear power is our best hope for the future, though don't be looking for it to replace the number 1 energy producer, which is coal. Coal reserves are expected to last far longer than oil reserves.

This is wonderful news, if we can discover a type of nuclear energy that doesn't produce toxic waste, it would be a huge blow to the anti-nuclear lobby.

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The December 2005 issue of "Scientific American" has an interesting article on page 84 -- "Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste" by William H. Hannum, Gerald E. Marsh, and George S. Stanford.

This article shows how we can increase the amount of energy obtained from nuclear fuel by a factor of 20 while virtually eliminating the need to store waste during the period from 300 years to 10,000 years in the future. A new technique is used to burn up the plutonium and other actinides (transuranic elements) and eliminate depleted uranium waste.

This is so exciting! I hope this will speed up the world's realization about the wonderfulness of Nuclear energy. Maybe start rolling out some new reactors in the next decade...

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  • 3 weeks later...
The problem with so called "renewable" energy sources like wind and solar energy is that their economic value is negative. The reason they aren't built is because no one makes money on them.

shameless capitalist profiteering, a socialist might say, but there is a reason for that. a Wind turbine or a sheet of solar power costs more in terms of oil energy than it will ever produce in it's lifetime. Our technology just isn't at a point where we can harness that type of energy efficiently.

I agree with the sentiment of your post (that economics should determine the source of energy) but you've got some of the details wrong. It is not true that making wind turbines or solar cells requires more oil energy than they will ever produce. In windy areas it is actually cheaper to generate electricity from those large wind turbines than from burning oil.

(I live in New England, a pretty liberal area in general. All of these lefties give lip service to alternative energy.. until someone proposes building a wind turbine farm off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, "ruining" the view from their vacation homes. You gotta love liberalism!)

Both wind and solar, on small scales, are sometimes more economical than oil / coal generated electricity from the grid. It depends on the specifics of the situation. Many people who move to backwoods areas are shocked to discover that the local utility will charge $100,000 or more for an unreliable connection to the nearest electrical grid (the cost depending on how far they are from the grid). For these people it is worthwhile to invest $30,000 or so and get solar panels, wind turbines, and the supporting infrastructure to generate all the power they will ever need. So renewable energy definitely has its uses.

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  • 1 year later...
The December 2005 issue of "Scientific American" has an interesting article on page 84 -- "Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste" by William H. Hannum, Gerald E. Marsh, and George S. Stanford.

This article shows how we can increase the amount of energy obtained from nuclear fuel by a factor of 20 while virtually eliminating the need to store waste during the period from 300 years to 10,000 years in the future. A new technique is used to burn up the plutonium and other actinides (transuranic elements) and eliminate depleted uranium waste.

If this is indeed the case, then the best argument for this process' implementation is it's application towards the dissolution of our current nuclear waste stores before it is applied to any current/future nuclear waste production...if it is demonstrated as a viable method of actual nuclear waste disposal, and not merely a way of reducing the wastes' longevity/potency (as even low-rated nuclear waste still poses a problem of lethality over long-term exposure), then it's implementation in future nuclear material production would prove worthwhile, otherwise, it's just another meaningless band-aid in the war of nuclear waste proliferation and I'm long tired of having smoke blown up my arse, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for the opportunity to conduct a more thorough review of this article.
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