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Not quite a two-seater hybrid electric, but ORNL's new nuclear fuel promises to boost efficiency by as much as 900%.

U.S. Nuclear reactors are not known for their fuel efficiency. At a mere three to four percent burn-up, much of the uranium fuel is wasted and current reactors produce large amounts of unsightly nuclear waste. Advanced gas reactors may offer a better choice for the aging U.S. nuclear power posse.

Working together with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the Babcock & Wilcox Company, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), with funding from the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Science, has produced a new fuel for the high temperatures of advanced gas reactors. In tests conducted at the Advanced Test Reactor at INL, the fuel reached a nine percent burn-up, a near three-fold efficiency gain from traditional water-cooled nuclear plant fuel and halfway to the targeted 16 to 18 percent.

The fuel, produced in the ORNL Materials Science and Technology Division, is made up of thousands of tiny carbon and silicon carbide coated spheres of uranium, which are compressed into fuel sticks and loaded into a graphite form.

With growing concerns about nuclear reactor waste products, skeptical outlooks for the future of nuclear power and foreign companies selling mini-plants to U.S. customers, a new, more efficient fuel made in America is a ray of hope for U.S. nuclear power advocates. Though it will possibly never be without its own pollution problems, further refinement and research into fission reactors may yield a very efficient and comparatively clean energy generation model.



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By kjboughton on 4/15/2008 11:29:43 AM , Rating: 3
Nuclear power has been the future of energy production for a while now. Environmentalists are just too stupid to realize it. I suppose they'd rather has coal or "natural" gas plants spew waste directly into the surrounding air. The let the word 'nuclear' scare them into thinking they should be afraid. I swear, it's almost like watching those movies were the caveman is terrified of fire because he doesn't know what it is...




By kjboughton on 4/15/2008 2:19:29 PM , Rating: 5
I've spent over six years in nuclear power overseeing the operation of a multitude of different plants. Trust me when I tell you they are no more dangerous than any other heavily industrialized area.

The fact that you show fear for the sirens located near your home just goes to prove my point. I bet there's a fire alarm in every public building you enter but I doubt you get all fearful of the constant threat of a fire whenever you enter one of these places. If you're smart then there's a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, too - am I to believe my life would be in grave danger if I came over for dinner for one evening? Point being, safety systems are intended to provide protection in the case of an accident, not to forshadow any increased sense of threat.

Could it be that the “ominous threat” is just a byproduct of your conditioning? It’s important to understand that nuclear power can be just as safe as any other industry. The first step in all of this is to help people realize that they may have an unfounded bias against this wonderful source of power.


By mindless1 on 4/16/2008 5:20:12 AM , Rating: 1
Apples and oranges. If my neighbor across town has a fire in their kitchen while I'm asleep, it's not likely I'd have any problems as a result the next day. Not only the scope but the controllablilty of a disaster is far better with most types of accident.

I'm not saying the odds are higher, as I don't think they are, but the same basic greed and human error scenarios can effect everything. Odds are it'll never be a problem. Odds catch up to some people eventually.


By FITCamaro on 4/15/2008 2:28:58 PM , Rating: 2
The only thing bad about that plant is that its decommissioned.

So instead of the one in several thousand, or tens of thousand, chance of the nuclear plant blowing up, you'd rather have a coal plant spewing black smoke.

You base nuclear safety off the few incidents of disaster from poorly funded plants. And even if it was 100% guaranteed that a nuclear plant would never have problems, they'd still have speakers outside to warn of a problem. It's called "just in case".


By Durrr on 4/15/2008 9:44:56 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention the radioisotopes a coal plant churns out on a daily basis is astounding.


By kjboughton on 4/15/2008 2:33:06 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Once the chain reaction gets out of control it's bend over and kiss your bottom goodbye.


What???? Are you speaking from experience or are you just spurting out nonsense? Do you have any idea how a nuclear chain reaction works or are you trying to dazzle us with your BS? I call shenanigans. I know what could happen should multiple levels of automatic and manual safeties were to fail and it wouldn’t involve any bending or kissing.

Way to feed the fire. Its statements like these that will keep us forever tied to energy sources controlled by some of the most evil regimes in history.


By Chernobyl68 on 4/16/2008 12:18:28 PM , Rating: 2
LOL I read that bit and started laughing as well. Ignorant hyterics can be quite amusing.


By Fenixgoon on 4/15/2008 9:22:30 PM , Rating: 2
I lived near Calvert Cliffs Nuclear power plant in MD and I was glad to hear that they were a site considered for an additional reactor expansion. Nuclear power = win.

Nuke plants != nuke bombs. I think many people have that misconception.


By Alexstarfire on 4/16/2008 1:06:46 AM , Rating: 2
That is so true. While you may be able to turn a nuclear plant into a nuclear bomb, it'd be a monumental waste of time. A nuclear meltdown is far different from a nuclear explosion.


By Chudilo on 4/15/2008 1:27:44 PM , Rating: 1
You people sound ridiculous.
Quit listening to what the media is trying to feed you and think for yourself.
If you think nuclear is so great, ask yourself this: Would you live within a line of sight of a nuclear plant?
Would you let your children play near the plant?
Well why not, if you think that it's so darn safe.

I am originally from and area within 130 kilometers of the Chernobyl plant. There are 3500 sq miles of beautiful and pristine farmland with rivers and lakes that now lies in waste. and will do so for the next 500 years. This is not your average ash pollution or an elevated level carbon dioxide in the direct surrounding area.

Clouds containing radiation from the accident have traveled great distances. Causing all sorts of mutations and cancers in many areas. Humanity still does not have all of the real data on long term effects of this thing.
If you think that US has not had any incidents , you better do some research. It only takes a couple of arrogant idiots or an extremely well executed plan to create destruction that has not seen an equal.
Beware what you are asking for.


By masher2 (blog) on 4/15/2008 2:25:41 PM , Rating: 3
Chernobyl was a design the US (and the rest of the world, except for the Soviets) rejected as being far too dangerous all the way back in the 1950s. The US's equivalent accident was TMI -- which proved the complete safety of the design. Not one single person was harmed by TMI, and no dangerous levels of radiation were released.

Meanwhile, the amount of daily environmental destruction from hundreds of coal-fired power plants continnues constantly. It's not sexy, so it doesn't get as much press...but tens of thousands of people die annually from health problems caused by coal pollution.

I won't even go into your exaggeration of the effects of Chernobyl. It's not relevant, as such runaway reactions are impossible with Western negative-void reactors...and we have far safer design on the books, should environmentalists ever allow us to build them.


By FITCamaro on 4/15/2008 2:31:35 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Would you live within a line of sight of a nuclear plant?


Yup. The high current power lines present more of a danger than the plant itself ever will.


By Haven Bartton on 4/15/2008 2:43:03 PM , Rating: 2
That's not really a great argument. I certainly wouldn't let my kid play near a coal/gas power plant either. Actually, I'd *rather* them play nearer a nuclear plant (if forced to choose). Barring some sort of significant disaster, there are no ill effects of simply breathing air near to the plant.

Chernobyl was an awful, terrible disaster, there is no doubt of that. But all sources of power have their inherent dangers. Just ask all the coal miners who get all sorts of respiratory diseases from their work. Just ask the soldiers dying in the Middle East (and not just Allied soldiers, taking all sides into consideration) to secure oil reserves (though of course there are other factors).

I'm no expert, but from what I do understand nuclear power is still the most efficient, cleanest, and altogether safest option we have. Most importantly, it's available right now, unlike alternatives such as solar panelling which is not yet efficient enough to use en masse.


By FITCamaro on 4/15/2008 3:29:42 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
and not just Allied soldiers, taking all sides into consideration


I really don't give a shit about the "soldiers" dying on the other side. They're murderers who don't even blink an eye at killing women and children.

quote:
to secure oil reserves


Yes thats why we're fighting. Because we're getting so much from Iraq's oil. The first oil contract out of Iraq went to China.


By nofranchise on 4/16/2008 4:33:41 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Yes thats why we're fighting. Because we're getting so much from Iraq's oil. The first oil contract out of Iraq went to China.


So...why ARE you fighting?

Find any WMD's yet?


By mindless1 on 4/16/2008 5:38:50 AM , Rating: 1
Ah, good old stereotypes. ALL of the supposed enemy, every last soldier must be woman and child murderers. Seems pretty impossible their society could exist as it did at all if that were the case rather than the notible exceptions - even if those exceptions were higher than we or they would like.

Basically you are saying it's ok to kill men or boys, just not women or children? Maybe you're just using an excuse to hate? Perhaps in your attempt to find a target for your feelings of anger or powerlessness, you have been too eager to indict nameless faceless strangers?

Individuals do bad deeds, focus on that. If you want to think in terms of groups, in the good ole US of A, groups of people do some pretty terrible things too, then spewing some nonsense about group or herd mentality as if that excuses personal irresponsibility.

If you only mean a select few plural soldiers, not all of them, then a select few of the US soldiers aren't exactly saints either. The military, all volunteer militaries, tend to draw in those who are not just full of anger but want to act on it. Military - another convenient excuse for herd mentality, lack of personal responsiblity. It's just unfortunate the military is also a vital group with an important purose, or really I should write fortunate.

It's not the soldiers that are the problem. It's the leaders and lack of punishment for soldiers that cross the line.


By rcc on 4/15/2008 7:20:48 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If you think nuclear is so great, ask yourself this: Would you live within a line of sight of a nuclear plant?


Yup, I do.
The kids surf near by. They love it. Little buggers don't even glow in the dark. They were hoping.

I'd much rather live here, then downwind of a coal or oil plant, thank you very much.


By mindless1 on 4/16/2008 5:23:19 AM , Rating: 1
Because I had a reasonable expectation that the area was far more heavily monitored, and if I had access to the environmental data to ease my mind, yes I would let my children play near the plant - but they'd also be taught what those sirens mean, as well as taught about what a car horn or many other indicators of potential harm are.


By djc208 on 4/16/2008 7:59:05 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
If you think nuclear is so great, ask yourself this: Would you live within a line of sight of a nuclear plant?


Every parent with a kid in the Navy basically does. If you live within sight of a naval base you most likely do as well. Every sailor on an aircraft carrier or submarine lives, eats, sleeps, works and (for subs) breaths on around and because of that reactor and no one thinks twice, because there's never been a reason for them to do so.

Truth is nuclear power is just like guns or hazerdous materials or even your car. You should be afraid of it, it's extremely dangerous and not to be taken lightly, but that doesn't mean they're bad, or that we shouldn't use them.


"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive














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