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PostPosted: Jun 21, 2016 3:37 pm 
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Russia has launched a new nuclear-powered icebreaker, the most powerful icebreaker in the world (from NPR):

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/ ... icebreaker

Good to see that nuclear power is still going strong at sea.


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PostPosted: Jun 21, 2016 10:36 pm 
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Even though Russia as something like ten nuclear powered icebreakers, and many more diesel powered ones it was the US Coast Guard that had to break a Russian ship from the Antarctic ice a couple years ago. You may ask why that was. The answer just floored me.

The reason that Russia did not send any icebreaker to rescue a ship from their own country that was trapped in Antarctic ice was because none of their icebreakers are capable of crossing the equator under their own power. Why would that be? Because the cooling systems of these ships require the ice cold water of the arctic to keep the engines from overheating.

While I find it upsetting that Russia is capable of building such a large fleet of icebreakers and the USA is not, I also feel a bit of national pride in that even mighty Russia has to come to the USA and ask real nice if we'd free one of their ships from the Antarctic ice for them.

I have to wonder how Russia would have solved this problem if the USA was unwilling or unable to come to their rescue. How does one tow a nuclear powered heavy icebreaker to Antarctic waters? I have this rather humorous image in my mind of a fleet of dozens of towboats chugging along furiously trying to get a huge icebreaker to Antarctica. It's either that or getting something equally large, but capable of traveling in tropical waters, like an aircraft carrier to tow the icebreaker. Using an aircraft carrier as a towboat is another humorous image to consider.

I have great confidence that the US Coast Guard will never find itself lacking a heavy icebreaker. What concerns me is that the US government might end up having to buy one instead of building one to our own high standards. The US government should not have to go shopping the world for icebreakers, it should be able to have enough funding and foresight to build them before they are needed in service.

What may happen if the Coast Guard cannot find funds for an icebreaker is that the Navy may have to step in and spend some of their own limited funds on an icebreaker or two. While that is an option the mission of the US Navy is not to open ice lanes for shipping.

Private industry might have to step up and build their own icebreakers if they wish to use arctic waters for a shipping shortcut. I suspect though that Russia is willing to hire out their icebreakers just as easily as they've sold seats in their spacecraft.

Another upsetting notion is that Russia is able to find a way to have nuclear powered civilian ships but the USA is not. We've experimented with commercial nuclear powered ships in the past but the one ship that was completed was doomed to fail.

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PostPosted: Jul 03, 2016 1:06 am 
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There was never any rescue. The two ships freed themselves.

Quote "The Coast Guard Pacific Area command center received confirmation from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at 2 p.m. Pacific Standard Time that both ships broke through the heavy ice, rendering assistance from the Polar Star no longer necessary. "
http://www.uscgnews.com/go/doc/4007/2063981/


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PostPosted: Jul 03, 2016 7:20 pm 
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They still had to ask.

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PostPosted: Jul 04, 2016 2:18 am 
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KitemanSA wrote:
They still had to ask.

That is entirely my point. Of the two or three dozen icebreakers operating in the world there was only one capable of completing the task, and that vessel is owned by the US government. While I have some national pride in knowing the USA has the most capable icebreakers in existence today it is sad that the ones we have are as old as they are, in poor condition as they are, and still powered by diesel engines.

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PostPosted: Jul 04, 2016 4:36 am 
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I am sure the nuclear powered engines could cross the warm equatorial waters at slow speed using the warmer sea water. The Russians may not have felt any degradation in asking just in case.


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PostPosted: Jul 04, 2016 1:38 pm 
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jagdish wrote:
I am sure the nuclear powered engines could cross the warm equatorial waters at slow speed using the warmer sea water.

Assuming that is true, how long would it take for the ships to make that journey? Would the ships still be in need of rescue at that point? There's a few possible outcomes, the ships were crushed by the ice, a favorable wind freed them in short order, or summer came and the ice melts again. As we see it was a favorable wind that freed them, but we did not know that at the time.

I do not share your belief that the ships can merely run the engines at low enough power to keep from over heating in tropical waters. I liken that claim to something like running an internal combustion engine at lower and lower RPM, at some point there will not be enough inertia in the mechanism to power the next compression stroke. Or like a commercial airliner trying to take off in exceedingly hot weather, if only we gave it a long enough runway it would eventually take off. If we did that, would we even bother trying to get it airborne? Perhaps we should just have a "runway" from Phoenix to San Antonio? I believe that "runway" exists, it's called Interstate 10.

If you want to have a mental image that is more comical than dozens of tugs pulling a nuclear icebreaker through the tropical seas then imagine a Southwest Airlines 737 speeding down the interstate on a hot afternoon. Both are feasible, but do they make sense?

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PostPosted: Jul 04, 2016 4:22 pm 
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There is little point building an icebreaker designed for Arctic operations to pass through tropical waters.
There is enough work in the Northern Hemisphere to keep them occupied


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PostPosted: Jul 05, 2016 1:44 am 
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E Ireland wrote:
There is little point building an icebreaker designed for Arctic operations to pass through tropical waters.
There is enough work in the Northern Hemisphere to keep them occupied

Russia also does not have a research base in the Antarctic Circle like the USA. The primary reason the Coast Guard has such large icebreakers is that they were built to clear a path to McMurdo Station. I imagine that if Russia had a similar base then they'd certainly have an icebreaker or three as capable as what the US Coast Guard has. I also imagine that Russia does not have an Antarctic capable icebreaker because they know that the US Coast Guard is always willing to break any ship out of the ice regardless of where that ship is from or where in the world that ship might be.

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PostPosted: Jul 05, 2016 12:37 pm 
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Well assisting those in trouble at sea is a tradition that dates back millenia.
If the USCG has those ships then its reasonable that they should do so.


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PostPosted: Jul 06, 2016 5:16 am 
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Russia has a number of permanent bases in Antarctica. It also had one of its nuclear icebreakers working down there for a few years as a tour ship, but that has now gone back to the northern hemisphere.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapitan_K ... icebreaker)
The vessel '50 Let Pobedy' ( 50 Years of Victory ) used to take punters to the North Pole as well - including one team from Greenpeace :lol:


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PostPosted: Jul 06, 2016 12:23 pm 
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Agreed, Camiel. Nuclear-powered icebreakers and other major ocean-going vessels would do well to go nuclear.

If the Flibe Energy, Inc. (Huntsville, AL) LFTR were an established commercial energy technology, shipmakers may prefer a marine version of the FE LFTR.

But to get to that point, the U.S. needs to provide regulatory certainty to FE's investor's and grants so FE can get the machine built, tested, permitted, and licensed. Since it runs on thorium, the U.S. laws must be changed so that this element is no longer classed as "source material" and fluid-fueled reactor designs are included in 42 U.S.C. and 10 CFR. Then such outfitted ships can operate in U.S. waters. So marine uses of LFTR will further require changes to international nuclear laws.

The terrorists would LOVE nuclear powered "wessles" (Mr. Chekov). A better plan is to use terrestrial secure nuclear energy for synthesizing a marine liquid fuel better than the crud they presently burn!

And while you're at it, comment on the U.S. Navy's invention:
Using an innovative and proprietary NRL electrolytic cation exchange module (E-CEM), both dissolved and bound CO2 are removed from seawater at 92 percent efficiency by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and simultaneously producing H2. The gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system.

Your first post on this forum September 1, 2011, is:
Re: Economics of LFTR, camiel wrote:
Well, this discussion is very US-centric. The NRC has only jurisdiction in the USA. If China, India or Russia decide to go ahead with developing molten salt reactors they don't need to hope and wait for approval from the lethargic NRC.

I think advanced reactor technology (like LFTR) is likely to be developed in non-Western countries. The NRC will only be moving its (misguided) direction if the US is actively challenged by Generation IV reactor technologies from other countries.
Nuclear fission was first developed in the United States. We accept your gratitude. Citizen Dr. Alvin Weinberg (U.S., inventor of the LWR), then chief at ORNL under the U.S. AEC Chair, citizen Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg, Nobel Prize-winning (1951) chemist and discoverer of uranium-233 from thorium, invented the fluid-fueled reactor. ORNL presently has a Cooperative R&D Agreement (CRADA) with China's Academy of Sciences SINAP. What's in that agreement?

Our NRC is established under 42 U.S.C and operates under 10 CFR. It is doing a great job as defined in the U.S. laws. Those laws are for solid-phase light-water nuclear reactor designs first established by Adm Rickover at the Shippingport APS near Pittsburgh. WASH-1097 in June 1969 lead to an end of the ORNL MSBR program and resulted in no good reason to upgrade the U.S. nuclear laws for fluid-fueled reactors and the thorium fuel cycle. To get U.S. nuclear laws changed in our present political environment won't be easy. The effort is underway. Have you read H.R. 4979 and S. 2795?

Members of this forum on "energy from thorium" post on unrelated subjects. That's bad manners and unproductive. When I come to this forum, I focus on the concerns of our host, Mr. Kirk Sorensen, Founder, CEO, CTO, of the above-named energy company; the only domestic U.S. molten salt fluid-fueled nuclear reactor developer intent on ONLY a thorium/U233 fuel breeding program. (TAP of Cambridge, MA, is going for the WAMSR and explicitly avoiding the "thorium problem.") Kirk established this forum in 2006. Buried in a mountain of irrelevant troll dung here are a few precious nuggets of crucial information from experienced nuclear engineers who know what they're talking about and willing to teach us students what we need to know on this most vital issue.

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PostPosted: Jul 06, 2016 3:05 pm 
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E Ireland wrote:
Well assisting those in trouble at sea is a tradition that dates back millenia.
If the USCG has those ships then its reasonable that they should do so.
I realize that international law and tradition imposes a requirement that those able to render aid to a ship in need should do so. What I didn't realize when I first mentioned this stranded Russian ship just how many ships came to their aid, and how long they were stuck. It was a much bigger incident than I recall. From what I read the sending of the Polar Star was something of an act of last resort since the other ships sent were not big enough to break the ice. I see that the Aurora Australis from Australia was one of those that were turned back by the heavy ice and it is due for replacement by a much larger vessel. Cite: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_Australis_(icebreaker)

Wikipedia article on the Russian ship that got stuck in the ice:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akademik_Shokalskiy

I have to wonder if that 2014 incident prompted many nations to build more capable icebreakers. They can look up how old the US Coast Guard icebreakers are just as well as I can, it's no secret that the US Coast Guard may not be able to come to the rescue at some point.

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PostPosted: Jul 06, 2016 3:23 pm 
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jon wrote:
Russia has a number of permanent bases in Antarctica. It also had one of its nuclear icebreakers working down there for a few years as a tour ship, but that has now gone back to the northern hemisphere.

My mistake, I was not aware of any Russian presence in the Antarctic Circle. I did spend some time reading up on icebreakers in my spare time in the past few days and I've found it difficult to see which icebreakers are capable of traversing the equator under their own power as well as how thick of ice they can break. It seems that Russia keeps their largest and most capable icebreakers in Arctic waters, which makes sense.

What seems clear is that Russia has proven that nuclear powered icebreakers are a viable ship class. It would be nice to see the USA build some nuclear powered icebreakers of their own. It appears that the US Coast Guard is in dire need of new heavy icebreakers. Given that the US Navy relies on the Coast Guard to open icy waters for them that this has become a matter of national defense, on top of being a matter of international commerce and safety.

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PostPosted: Jul 07, 2016 3:17 pm 
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So, you're talking SMRs ("standard" solid-fueled) for these icebreakers burning standard uranium. Maybe fluid-fueled isn't desired at sea? Dr. Eugene Wigner and Alvin Weinberg invented the LWR that led to Adm. Rickover's Nuclear Navy, Shippingport, and at last the present-day ossified solid-fueled global nuclear power industries with captured regulation.

I don't see how this topic is particularly relevant to energy from thorium that works in the solid phase but not as well as in the fluid phase. So how about the seniority of the thorium MSBR in regards to the Gen IV International Forum with respect to the U.S. DOE's 2016 "vision" for increasing nuclear capacity and their 2030, 2050, and 2070 milestones.
Wikipedia wrote:
After World War II and with the availability of enriched uranium, new concepts of reactor became feasible. In 1946, Eugene Wigner and Alvin Weinberg [my emphasis] proposed and developed the concept of a reactor using enriched uranium as a fuel, and light water as a moderator and coolant. This concept was proposed for a reactor whose purpose was to test the behavior of materials under neutron flux. This reactor, the Material Testing Reactor (MTR), was built in Idaho at INL and reached criticality on March 31, 1952. For the design of this reactor, experiments were necessary, so a mock-up of the MTR was built at ORNL, to assess the hydraulic performances of the primary circuit and then to test its neutronic characteristics. This MTR mock-up, later called the Low Intensity Test Reactor (LITR), reached criticality on February 4, 1950 and was the world's first light-water reactor (LWR).

Image

Wikipedia wrote:
Work at Oak Ridge

In 1945, Wigner accepted a position as the Director of Research at the Clinton Laboratories in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which then had a staff of about 800. He took with him his protégés Gale Young, Katherine Way and Weinberg. Weinberg, who was the first to arrive at Oak Ridge in May 1945, became head of the Physics Division in 1946. But after the Atomic Energy Commission took over responsibility for the laboratory's operations from the Manhattan Project at the start of 1947, Wigner, feeling unsuited to a managerial role in the new environment, left Oak Ridge at the end of summer in 1947 and returned to Princeton University.

The administration of the Clinton Laboratories passed from Monsanto to the University of Chicago in May 1947, and then to Union Carbide in December 1947. The Atomic Energy Commission's influential General Advisory Committee, chaired by J. Robert Oppenheimer, recommended that all work on reactors be concentrated at the Argonne National Laboratory, the successor to the Metallurgical Laboratory, near Chicago. There was also competition for staff and resources from the newly established Brookhaven National Laboratory near New York. Morale was low, and no one could be found to take on the job of Director of Research at the laboratory, renamed the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in January 1948. At least six people turned down the job before Union Carbide's acting Director, Nelson (Bunny) Rucker, asked Weinberg to become Director of Research in March 1948.

Weinberg was subsequently appointed director in 1955. He often sat in the front row at ORNL division information meetings and he would ask the first, often very penetrating, question after each scientific talk. For young scientists giving their first presentation, the experience could be frightening, but it was also exciting and stimulating. When asked how he found the time to attend every meeting, Weinberg replied jokingly, "We didn't have a DOE in those days."
There you go, Mr. Sellner. From the great man himself! And it appears Argonne has had the upper hand over ORNL in DOE program prioritization ever since.
Quote:
Reactor development

The Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion (ANP) project was ORNL's biggest program, using 25% of ORNL's budget. The ANP project's military goal was to produce a nuclear-powered aircraft (a bomber) to overcome the range limitations of jet-fueled aircraft at that time. That the project had little chance of success was not overlooked, but it provided employment and allowed ORNL to stay in the reactor development business. ORNL successfully built and operated a prototype of an aircraft reactor power plant by creating the world's first molten salt fueled and cooled reactor called the Aircraft Reactor Experiment (ARE) in 1954, which set a record high temperature of operation of 1,600 °F (870 °C). Due to the radiation hazard posed to aircrew, and people on the ground in the event of a crash, new developments in ballistic missile technology, aerial refueling, and longer range jet bombers, President Kennedy canceled the program in June 1961.

Weinberg had the Materials Testing Reactor converted into a mock-up of a real reactor called the Low Intensity Test Reactor (LITR) or "Poor Man's Pile". Experiments at the LITR led to the design of both pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and boiling water reactors (BWRs), which have since become the dominant reactor types in commercial nuclear power plants.

Weinberg was attracted to the simplicity and self-controlling features of nuclear reactors that used fluid fuels, such as Harold Urey and Eugene Wigner's proposed Aqueous Homogeneous Reactor. Therefore, to support the Nuclear Aircraft project in the late 1940s, Weinberg asked ORNL's reactor engineers to design a reactor using liquid instead of solid fuel.

This Homogeneous Reactor Experiment (HRE) was affectionately dubbed "Alvin's 3P reactor" because it required a pot, a pipe, and a pump. The HRE went into operation in 1950 and, at the criticality party, Weinberg brought the appropriate spirits: "When piles go critical in Chicago, we celebrate with wine. When piles go critical in Tennessee, we celebrate with Jack Daniel's." The HRE operated for 105 days before it was closed down. Despite its leaks and corrosion, valuable information was gained from its operation and it proved a simple and safe reactor to control. During the time the HRE was online, Senators John F. Kennedy and Albert Gore, Sr. visited ORNL and were hosted by Weinberg.

Molten salt reactors

ORNL shifted its focus to a civilian version of the meltdown-proof Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) away from the military's "daft" idea of nuclear-powered aircraft. The Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) set a record for continuous operation and was the first to use uranium-233 as fuel. It also used plutonium-239 and the standard, naturally-occurring uranium-235. The MSR was known as the "chemist's reactor" . . .
I earned a masters in chemistry, ASU 1987, and did analytical chemistry (GC/MS and LIMS) for the Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha, NE, 1988-1998, so my fellow members here understand my interest in this forum; Dr. Darryl Siemer on this forum was DOE INL chemist for 28 years.
Quote:
. . . because it was proposed mainly by chemists (ORNL's Ray Briant and Ed Bettis (an engineer) and NEPA's Vince Calkins), and because it used a chemical solution of melted salts containing the actinides (uranium, thorium, and/or plutonium) in a carrier salt, most often composed of beryllium (BeF2) and lithium (LiF) (isotopically depleted in Lithium-6 to prevent excessive neutron capture or tritium production) – FLiBe. The MSR also afforded the opportunity to change the chemistry of the molten salt while the reactor was operating to remove fission products and add new fuel or change the fuel, all of which is called "online processing".

Image
Weinberg noting "6000 full-power hours!" of MSRE operation in 1967.


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—James Arthur Baldwin, American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic


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