7 results for month: 08/2010


Public Statement before the BRC Fuel Cycle Subcommittee

After two days of meetings for the Fuel Cycle Subcommittee of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, the public had an opportunity to make statements before the commission. These public statements were meant to be less that five minutes and were allotted on a first come, first serve basis. So bright and early this morning, my friend Rod Adams and I were at the committee table signing up for our spot. I went first and delivered the following statement: Commissioners, it is my pleasure to participate in this meeting and to address you today. Yesterday there were a number of discussions on the nuclear fuel cycle. These seemed to ...

Enrichment: Visualizing the Value Function

I’m a math minor, and an equation like that is not a very appealing way to begin a blog post. But I got the unpleasant part out of the way early because the good news that this equation (the value equation) is totally central towards understanding how much separative work we need to separate isotopes from one another, and the even better news is that the value function makes a lot more intuitive sense than we might initially think. Let me show you what the value function looks like when you plot it on a graph. The input value “x” can only range from zero to one. No negative numbers or values greater than one allowed here! You can see that ...

Electrical Generating Capacity Graph

For some time now, I've been working on a simulation of our electrical generation system, and as part of that I've fed in a lot of data about nuclear and coal-fired powerplants into a database. The simulation isn't quite finished yet, but I wanted to share a very interesting observation. How many times have you heard that "Three Mile Island was when we stopped building nuclear reactors..." I've heard it a lot. And it turns out to be very untrue. The incident at Three Mile Island-2 happened in March of 1979. Take a look at this graph: Specifically, look how much capacity was added AFTER 1979, both in PWRs (pressurized-water reactors) and BWRs ...

Enrichment, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the SWU, part 4

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted, but since I got on this topic I've had to "run the numbers" a fair number of times, and each time that I do that, I remember that we have computers that are a lot better at that sort of thing than I am, so after a little while I break down and start writing a code to "run the numbers" for me. And codes, as you probably know, are no smarter than the guy who writes them, so it ends up taking longer than I think it will. Nevertheless, here's a little code I wrote to go along with this series on enrichment. It runs in Java, and most people probably already have the stuff on their computers to make it work. ...

Enrichment, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the SWU, part 3

OK, so in the last post we talked about the feed-to-product ratio and how it depended only on the levels of enrichment you chose for the product and the tails. Tonight we'll begin to get into separative work. When I first heard of separative work, I thought it was a very abstract and obscure concept. You read about it in a nuclear engineering text and they'll talk about how it is the reduction of entropy in a mixture or something like that, and of course it is, but I think it is much more understandable than that. Separative work is all around us. My first experience with separative work probably came about when I was a kid and I talked my mom ...

Enrichment, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the SWU, part 2

Okay, before we get into the techniques of enrichment, let's spend a little time with the fun part—the numbers! How much does it take and how much does it cost? Here's where I've really enjoyed learning more lately. The basic equations that describe enrichment aren't that hard to derive. Even I can do it! So here goes: You know that you're going to start out with some amount of input material—the "feed" as it is called. You know that after you're done you will have split the feed into two: the "product" and the waste, which in this case is called the "tails". Assuming that you didn't mess up and lose lots of material along the way, you ...

Enrichment, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the SWU, part 1

"Enrichment" or more particularly "uranium enrichment" is probably one of those phrases that the average person hears on television or reads on the Internet and has only the vaguest concept of what it means. They likely think "it's bad" and "it has something to do with uranium, which I think is bad, for some reason". Commentators and journalists decry the idea that Iran *gasp* might have access to uranium enrichment. Our leaders both domestic and international, loudly thunder that lesser nations shall not be allowed to develop enrichment. When Paul got to Rome in Acts 28:22, the local Jews came up and asked him about Christianity, saying that ...