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Welcome to my Conservative Blog, Solomon's Conservative Wisdom. The name comes from my middle name and the historical & biblical figure King Solomon, now I make no claim to have Solomon's Wisdom, but I do have Common Sense. I welcome anyone to join in and comment about anything I may have written, posted or one of my Articles / Columns. This blog is dedicated to conservatism and freedom. I invite all conservatives to join in, I don’t mind non-conservatives joining in (after all the only way to change liberals and fence-sitters is to debate them and change their minds, some are just too hard headed to admit they are wrong) . All I expect is a respectful debate.

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General George S. Patton

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Welcome to my blog, Solomon's Conservative Wisdom. The name of this blog comes from my middle name and the historical & biblical figure King Solomon. This group is dedicated to conservatism, and I invite all conservatives to join, I really don’t mind non-conservatives joining. All I expect is a respectful debate. So tell everyone you know.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nuclear Power & a Secret You Don't Know About

There is a dirty secret when it comes to Nuclear Power that the political class and environmentalists are hiding from the people, they have been suppressing superior technology and nuclear power plant designs.

First I want to cover some basics for the general public, first a nuclear power plant produces power from steam, basically it’s a high-tech steam engine, the standard reactor produces power by converting water to steam to run the power generators. There are two types of these reactors the Pressurized Water Reactor and the Boiling Water Reactor the two methods run on a similar principle of steam power except the Pressurized Reactor keeps water under pressure so that it heats, but does not boil, water from the reactor and the water in the steam generator that is turned into steam never mix, and the Boiling Reactor actually boils the water, and is converted to steam, and then recycled back into water by a part called the condenser, to be used again (I have included diagrams of both reactor courtesy of the federal government), this is where the dirty secret comes in to play the approximated fuel efficiency of a water cooled reactor is less than 1%, yes that’’s right less then 1%, if this was a car, truck, or SUV they would be demanding they improve that rating. But they don’’t, first they have no love for any kind nuclear technology, especially the left.

Pressurized Water Reactor

Boiling Water Reactor

Now I am going to tell you about the greatest nuclear reactor technology, in my opinion, that we might have today, if the left hadn’’t killed it. It’’s called the Integral Fast Reactor, IFR for short, and it has a fuel efficiency of 99%, the secret to this efficiency it used liquid sodium as a coolant. Why is that important? If you were to think of the fuel of a nuclear reactor as made up of sugar and run water through it you get the idea, the water depletes the fuel at an accelerated rate, while liquid sodium doesn’t. Now any one who’s taken highschool chemistry knows what happens when sodium comes in contact with water, an explosive reaction, I will go into more detail about that later in this article. Now there are several benefits of cooling a reactor with liquid sodium, the traditional water-cooled reactors the core must be maintained at a high pressure to keep the water liquid at high temperatures, while in contrast, the IFR has a liquid metal cooled reactor, the core could operate at close to ambient pressure, dramatically reducing the danger of a loss of coolant accident. The entire reactor core, heat exchanges and primary cooling pumps are immersed in a pool of liquid sodium, making a loss of primary coolant extremely unlikely, and the coolant loops are also designed to allow for cooling through natural convection, meaning that in the case of a power loss or unexpected reactor shutdown, the heat from the reactor core would be sufficient to keep the coolant circulating even if the primary cooling pumps were to fail, this is what caused the Chernobyl disaster.

Now the primary safety disadvantage of using liquid sodium as coolant comes from sodium's chemical reactivity, liquid sodium is extremely flammable and ignites spontaneously on contact with air or water. Leaking sodium pipes could give rise to sodium fires, or explosions if the leaked sodium comes into contact with water, in order to reduce the risk of explosions following a leak of water from the steam turbines, the IFR, had an extra intermediate coolant loop between the reactor and the turbines. The purpose of this loop was to ensure that any explosion following accidental mixing of sodium and turbine water would be limited to the secondary heat exchanger and not pose a risk to the reactor. The requirement of such an extra loop significantly adds to the cost of the reactor, but the cost can be made up in other ways, for example the current controversy you may have heard of is the storing of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, well the IFR reactor produces much less waste than current water cooled reactors, and can even consume the waste of water cooled reactors as fuel. Now the waste products of IFR reactors either have a short half-life, this means that it quickly "burns out" and ends up relatively safe, or a long half-life, which means that they are unlikely to emit a significant amount of protons except from very large quantities. The volume of highly-radioactive waste is 1/20th the volume as compared to a water cooled plant of the same size. The high level waste from reprocessing is highly radioactive for only 400 years instead of 10,000 years. One more by product of this kind of reactor is sodium-24, it is highly radioactive and decays to form magnesium-24, now it’’s half- life is only 15 hours, so its not a long term hazard, indeed it has medical applications, either way it requires the use of the in termediat coolant loop between the reactor and the turbines.

To further anger you I want to give you some additional data, first a rod from a water cooled nuclear power plant stops producing energy after eighteen months or one year and six months, now if that is what one percent produces, what would a more efficient system produce? Just look at it from a basic math problem, if 1% = 18 months, then in theory if you multiply that by 100% you get 1,800 months or 150 years of possible energy that is lost due to the use of an inefficient system. Now is this 100% accurate, I don’t know but my point is important enough to ask the question if we switched the technology just how much more power could we get out of a rod. Also a depleted rod has to be cooled on site, in a cooling pool inside the plant, for several years until it can be safely moved to be stored else where. Also according to the inventor Charles Till of the IFR, no radioactivity will be released under any circumstance, under even very, very unlikely circumstances which would lead to a mess in other reactors, the IFR will not even incur damage.

Now this is the story of how the politicians stopped this technology, the original research on the IFR began in 1984 with the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II, or EBR-II for short, after the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 and the appointment of Hazel O'Leary as the Secretary of Energy, there was pressure from the top to cancel the IFR. Sen. John Kerry (D, MA) and O'Leary led the opposition to the reactor, arguing that it would be a threat to non-proliferation efforts, this isn't true the IFR fuel cycle has some design features that make proliferation more difficult. Eventualy funding for the reactor was slashed, and it was ultimately canceled in 1994 by S.Amdt. 2127 to H.R. 4506. Link to the vote here.

I know this article has been a bit on the technical side but I hope you understand it and will spread the word on our Nuclear Power System.

By Solomon the Wise.

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