|Revisiting Nukes (again!)
||[May. 14th, 2005|08:19 pm]
I know that I've written in the past about the need to at least consider that value proposition that nuclear power could bring to North America but I'm discussing it again. Apparently my favorite guys in the Senate, McCain and Lieberman, are floating a draft bill around that would assist in the fielding of some modern reactor designs. (Link at nytimes.com)
I know that nuclear power is no panacea but it does improve greenhouse emissions (nukes create 0) and reduce our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. Of the designs out there, one that I prefer is the Gas Turbine design advocated by General Atomics (link at GA). It's designed around air cooling and uses Helium as its thermal transfer agent to spin the turbines. As you'll remember from high school science, Helium is inert (aka noble gas) therefore cannot become radioactive.
Another design that has great potential is pebble reactor. I uses pebbles of reactive material rather than rods and continuously circulates them through the reactor. The benefit of this is that the pebbles spend a relatively small amount of time in the fission process before dropping out and is analyzed before being cycled back into the reactor thus preventing it from remaining in the core in a weakened state. Pebble bed reactors can also be regulated by managing the composition of the pebbles going into the containment vessel. Heat problems? Overreactivity? Use less pebbles or use a blend that contains less fissionable material. Need more power? Use pebbles with more oomph. Of course I'd advocate flowing an intert gas through this design as well. The downside? It's still a nuke. Get the details from MIT (link).
Regardless of what happens it is clear that the current fossil fuel technologies need to go the way of the dinosaur (pun intended.)