Fused silica has a pretty high softening point (around 1600C if you can get really pure stuff) and a relatively low nuclear cross section (being made of silicon and oxygen only).
Wouldn't it be wild to use it for the core manifold, reactor containment, and coolant jacket? Not only would any Cherenkov radiation be beautifully visible, but you'd be able to visually inspect the reactor during operation.
Obviously, the reactor's thorium blanket would have to be thick enough to capture all of the neutrons for visual inspection to be safe, and then you'd still have to be several feet away to get away from the heat ^_^.
Now that's what I'm talking about! Making the actual reactor beautiful would really change public perception of nuclear!!!
I would love to create colorful public artworks/ murals on the outside of nuclear plants to give a sense of connectedness to the surrounding community. When I look at a power plant I see a giant canvas begging to be painted!
Oh that's hot! I'd definitely be all for making a reactor a canvas and a power-plant beautiful.
Of course, there are all kinds of different styles and ways if doing it. I really like the industrial art deco designs from the 1930's that expressed the lofty ideal of power as a means of serving man. They had all kinds of symbolism like hands clutching lightning bolts and such…
Today some might see that as being ominous or too grandiose, but I always liked it.
I think it would be terrific if instead of just making the reactor a blank canvas, there were a way to make it both functional and aesthetically pleasing by combining function and presentation – like make the condenser discharge come out as a waterfall or have the clouds of vapor from cooling towers come out like a fountain.
Actually, one thing I've always wanted to see built onto a power plant is a big steam organ, like this one:
Suzy, I would be very interested in talking with you about how "artistic" touches could be applied to LFTR designs, fairly early in the design process. I think these plants are going to look so very different than existing reactors that a little style and art might fit in very well. They are like laptops compared to mainframes.
Kirk, I would love to contribute an artistic touch! I think the LFTR is a great opportunity to build a stronger relationship between the energy world and the public at large and incorporating public art is a sure fire way to get people's attention.
I'll play with the artist's rendition of the reactor on your fan page and shoot you an email.
Jim, LFTRs could be built down to at least the 5 to 10 mWe size. Oak Ridge built theirs at 7 mWt. The limiting size would be when the overhead and initial cost makes diesel cheaper. For overhead you need to know that our government bills each reactor about $4 million a year for license maintenance. Add to this many years and tens of millions to get a site approved, and you can see that bureaucracy makes small reactors non viable in the U.S even if they were free.
Jim – do you mean any reactor or the LFTR reactor in particular? if you use highly enriched uranium and high effeciency moderators then they can be built very very small.
The smallest power reactor I'm aware of proving the potential to operate for any period of time is SNAP-10A. The reactor and thermal radiators were about eight feet tall, but the reactor alone was only about the size of a large bucket.
However, I have heard some suggestions that using a combination of americium and plutonium with a neutron reflector, you could possibly have critical mass in something the size of a few aspirin tablets.