Nuclear, it’s pronounced New-Clear

This post will be about nuclear power and is complimentary to a recent article by LiberalConservativeThought, of whom I often discuss ideas with (including Academocracy and Lords Scientific).

Nuclear fission works by firing neutrons at an atomic nucleus making it unstable then  decaying. As the nucleus decays it releases energy and more neutrons – which in turn hits other nuclei near them creating a chain reaction. This only works with certain isotopes called fissle isotopes: Plutonium-239, Plutonium-241, Urainium-233 and Uranium-235.

Canada: Avril Lavigne, Wolverine & pressurized heavy water reactors.

U-235 occurs in natural uranium (0.72%) and enriched uranium (2.5-5%), these are the two main fuels used in nuclear power plants. Usually natural isn’t enough on it’s own and it has to be enriched, but in the Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) pressurised heavy water reactor only natural is needed.

The UK and France also developed reactors capable of this (UK: Magnox, AGR | France: UNGG, PWR).

Weapons-grade Plutonium
Weapons-grade plutonium has over 93% of the fissile isotope, Pu-239, and can be used, like reactor-grade Plutonium, in fuel for electricity production via:

  • Fabrication with uranium oxide as a MOX fuel for burning in existing reactors,
  • Fabrication with thorium as a fuel for existing Russian reactors,
  • Fuelling fast-neutron reactors.

Fast neutron reactors produce about 60 times as much energy as the normal reactors, but are very expensive. As of now China (1), India (1), Japan (2) and Russia (1) have the only active ones. The USA and UK have stopped all research and development into fast reactors and the only work being carried out is related to decommissioning them.

Thorium and even safer reactors
At about three times the amount of naturally occuring uranium, thorium is quite abundant. Although thorium isn’t fissle, after absorbing slow neutrons and decaying twice, Th-232 will produce U-233. At the moment CANDU reactors can use thorium as a fuel, but The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) gets the most out of thorium because it uses a molten salt reactors which aren’t pressurised so cannot explode and it cannot have a meltdown because the fuel is already in a molten state. Unbelievably almost all of the thorium is used up in the thorium-cycle and the excess consists of less than 0.1% transuranic elements.

Although nuclear power is portrayed in the media as basically kicking a nuke, it is reasonably safe. Infact given the technological advancements in the industry, it could well be safer than (and definitely greener than) the coal and oil industries. Even so, nuclear scientists are looking for safer more efficient ways to generate power and the LFTR looks like the new clear way of generating nuclear power.

I was delighted to find the House of Lords discussing thorium pros and cons so reasonably and was glad to hear mention of the zero fatalities from Fukushima.


4 thoughts on “Nuclear, it’s pronounced New-Clear

  1. Most interesting – more so for me because in a book I’ve written (not yet published but in process of being so..) I’ve talked about a potential war scenario where Thorium was used in a weaponized form.

  2. Ok, firstly I passionately disagree with nuclear.
    Why would we use nuclear when when we have truly cleaner alternatives that require no mining such as wind, solar, hydro and tidal??? Because there is not as much profit to be made?

    Secondly, they have still found no safe place for the tailings? What do you propose of the waste? Australia as a dumping ground?

    Thirdly, What about what happened at Chernobyl and the deformed babies?

    And finally, no deaths at Fukishima, the devil is the details. Lets have look at cancer rates, baby deformities and other high radiation medical problems. Of course this information will not be broadcast but I’m sure its there and will become more evident in the years to come.

    I look forward to your response.

    • I’m sure there are companies with vested interest in coal, oil and nuclear – much like there are with solar, wind, geothermal, etc – the difference is one side has more developed research and is thus more effective (as of now). For example, solar power is in a state of quantity over quality, you have things like the concentrated solar cells or photovoltaic powerplants that take up fields and fields.

      But me being for nuclear power doesn’t mean I’m against alternative energy – I’m all for it, but it needs development. Taking solar again, there is amazing possibilities with using graphene to create complex efficient pannels:

      I am pro-nuclear because oil and coal are awful and the renewables need more time to mature. They will no doubt take over when the tech gets up to scratch. Also I think plutonium being a man-made element should not be used. Thorium and uranium are found here on Earth.

      About Chenobyl, that was made nearing the end of the Cold War when the Russians had no money but drive to compete, they didn’t cover it properly and that’s why you got Chenobyl babies. Fukashima was an old plant that was unlucky enough to get hit by a tsunami and earthquake, but was lucky enough to kill no one. It was filled properly.

      LFTRs can’t melt down because they are already melted and can’t blow up because there’s no gas pressure, their wastage is <0.1% radioactive.

      You must think that's at least a hell of a lot better than 1970s power plants or coal & oil fuels.

      I'll stop here cus I don't want to write an essay 😛

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