Sunday, January 12, 2014

Climate Talk #13 - IPCC Quietly and only Implicitly Admits Models are Flawed, but the 'consensus' goes on

My last Climate Talk post (#12) was over a year ago from Dec 2012.[1]

That post was about the important note made by Anthony Watts on his blog that in the final draft of the IPCC AR5 report there was an important graph that showed directly how the academic / IPCC computer models were not in agreement with the global temperature anomaly data of the last 15 years.  But nothing in the report really commented on the obvious conclusion from the graph that they themselves had made.

Now that AR5 is public a very important needs to be made that the IPCC at the last moment changed the report in critical points such that without saying it explicitly, the IPCC has for all intents and purposes admitted that their computer models need to be adjusted to account for the last 15 years of data.

In summary, in 1988 James Hansen proclaimed and projected that the world average temperatures would warm 0.5 deg C per decade through 2050, implying 6 deg C warming by the end of the 21st century, if drastic action was not taken to change course.   That would be a significant change.  It is the goal to enact such drastic change to avoid the proposed disaster which launched the current global warming alarmism movement and encouraged it to take on such political / legal characteristics.

Over time the IPCC projections have continued to moderate this original projection.  In the next to the last version of the latest IPCC report, their projection had reduced to 0.13 to 0.33 deg C / decade.  This is consistent with their overall current models.  It should be noted this is only 26% to 66% of the warming originally projected by Hansen in 1988, which started the movement.  This

The big news is that in the final published report, the IPCC significantly lowered their projected warming to 0.10 to 0.23 deg C per decade out to 2050, implying  a warming of only 0.9 to 2.1 deg C by the year 2100 and only 20% to 46% of the original Hansen projection.

What is more important is that by giving such guidance they are not only lowering their guidance but they are implicitly saying that there is a major problem with their computer models in that the range currently given by them is wrong.  This can be seen in Figure 1 by noting that originally the last draft placed the projections basically in the middle of the range of model projections (the thick green arrow).  But now the official projection is at the very low end of the computer model projections.  This can be seen by comparing the length of the thick blue and thick purple lines on the far right of the graph.[2]



FIGURE 1: IPCC model variations  (range of red to green shading) and the IPCC formal projection in the next to last draft (the thick green arrow) versus their final projection (the red / black arrow).


The momentum of declining projections over time is shown by Christopher Monckton in a summary graph as follows:



This is objective fact of just noting projections by the IPCC itself.  Any self-critical scientific thinker would have to take a major pause when viewing that and ask what truly is the basis of the attempted political and legal activism of this movement when their own provided scientific data (the computer models) have been moving so significantly against their original thesis.

The answer is, IMO, this is a fundamental human individual behavior that one sees in all kinds of human activities.  It is group think.  The original idea was proposed, which is fine.  Data was provided to support the idea.  Research has been done to validate or invalidate, which is fine.  But in the meantime, as the original scientific thesis weakened, the political and social aspects of the movement have strengthened.  And at this time the movement is fueled primarily by the political and social aspects, not the scientific.

The scientific basis of the movement, their "95% accurate computer models" were just abandoned with minimum fanfare.  The scientific basis of the global warming movement took a major step backwards and without any explicit notice by the leadership.  In spite of the ever-claimed "consensus" the movement is now left with not much more than professional and political group think.  

But this is how these things happen among us humans.  The dynamic and polished leaders of a movement, who gather a following and then proclaim and enforce the orthodoxy, are the first to disbelieve and quietly intellectually abandon what they have created while letting the 'little people' go on believing the original crude version of the faith.  The institution must go on (surely for the greater good), even if its original justification has vanished.

Finally, the topic of global temperature variation and climate change is and will continue to be a valid one for scientific investigation.  It is still possible, even probable, that there is some climate sensitivity to CO2 produced by human fossil fuel activity.  But all indications are now, even by the IPCC's own implicit admission, that this sensitivity is significantly lower than has been assumed by various modelers over the last 2 decades.  In fact the very idea of a single numeric "sensitivity" could very well be a major over simplification as the global climate system is so complex with many great and small feedback systems, that the reduction of the matter to a computer program written by a grad student or two appears more and more on the face of it to be a very bold intellectual hubris.

See another summary of this topic by Barry Brill here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/01/09/the-ipcc-discards-its-models/

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1. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/01/01/ipcc-silently-slashes-its-global-warming-predictions-in-the-ar5-final-draft/

2.Monckton, Christopher. "IPCC Silently Slashes Its Global Warming Predictions in the AR5 Final Draft | Watts Up With That?" Watts Up With That. January 1, 2014. Accessed January 12, 2014. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/01/01/ipcc-silently-slashes-its-global-warming-predictions-in-the-ar5-final-draft/.  The graph has been slightly modified by me with new colors to make it easier to discuss.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Defkalion LENR / "Cold Fusion" Update - Jan 2014

In July 2013 I provided an update on Defkalion, a company formerly associated with Rossi.  See it here: http://pane-of-science.blogspot.com/2013/07/defkalion-lenr-demonstration-at-iccf-18.html  Defkalion had just done a live video cast of a demonstration of their LENR product under development at ICCF-18 at the University of Missouri.

They claimed their device would produce around 7 - 10 KW of power with a COP between 6 and 12 at a temperature around 600 deg C.  Their claim to fame over Rossi is that they control their reaction with a spark / plasma generation control system.  Thus they can start and stop their reaction instantly by flipping a switch.

After that time, as with most of the LENR / "Cold Fusion" related companies there was little news.

Now with the new year, Defkalion has announced the following items on their website [1]

They have completed the first phase of R&D for the basic reactor.
They are starting the final stage to prepare the pre-industrial Hyperion product
They have moved their Vancouver offices to another location in the same building

mdn

UPDATE: I updated this post by removing some content that was conflated with content intended for a different post updating activity with yet another LENR company: Brillouin Energy.  This was completely my fault but should be corrected above.  Thanks for the reader comment / feedback.

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1. http://defkalion-energy.com


ECAT #12: Jan 2014 E-Cat Update

Other than incidental related matters there has been little material news regarding the Rossi's E-Cat / HotCat device since the May of 2013 when the 3rd party report on the ECAT was published.  Other LENR related companies have had a few developments, some of which have been recounted here, but Rossi has been quiet for the most part.  And this continues to be the case, as least for official news items.  However, there have been a couple of important items that have developed right at the end of 2013 and into the early part of 2014 that are worthy of recounting.

1. CONTINUED 3RD PARTY AND INTERNAL E-CAT TESTING IN 2013

On the technical front Rossi maintained all the second half of 2013 that testing was continuing.  This related first to a new long 3rd party testing regiment that was kicked off late summer after the report that was published in May 2013.  This testing apparently continues, or perhaps, is recently completed.  Rossi has stated that the report from this testing may be published as soon as March 2014, but possibly later. [1]

2. CONTINUED TECHNICAL IMPROVEMENTS WITH THE HOT-CAT

The Hot-Cat is a 2nd generation of e-cat so to speak.  It's architecture includes a small internal "mouse" also called the "activator" which is a LENR device residing inside a larger "cat" LENR chamber also called the "energy catalyzer" by Rossi.  The mouse is controlled via an unidentified control system which requires external energy, probably electricity.  It generates more or less heat as desired which in turn is used to control the larger LENR cat device.

Rossi continues to work on the validation and improvement of the control of the Hot Cat.  He recently made the comment that at this time they are running extended tests of a Hot Cat running at 1000 degrees C.  The improvements they are testing include trying to raise the stable operational point of the Hot Cat as high as possible.[2]  Rossi indicates that they are running stably at this temperature.  These higher operating temperatures will enable the e-cat to operate much more efficiently in and of itself, that is, generate more and more energy out for a given amount of energy in.  But even more importantly, it will enable the use of the hot-cat to efficiently generate electricity either via super-heated steam or via other methods.  The use of a LENR device to usefully generate electricity is a very important long term goal.

3. RUN AWAY FAILURE TESTING

In addition, Rossi and his team are are performing "run away" destructive tests in order to observe various failure modes and check for any dangerous results. [3]  Rossi explains:

If we give too much energy to the reactor the temperature raises above the controllability limits and the reactor explodes. We must maintain the drive below this limit, and it is what we are learning to do, trying to reach a controllability level at the highest temperature possible, because the COP raises exponentially with the operation temperature. ...  If the Mouse excites the cat too much, the cat gets wild and explodes. We must not risk to reach this level. We have seen explode hunderds of reactors now, this way.[4]

This is no different than safety testing that would be done on any energy generation device.  But it is interesting.  In a post on his journal / blog Rossi described the failures quite vividly as follows:

During the destructive tests we arrived to reach temperatures in the range of 2,000 Celsius degrees, when the “mouse” excited too much the E-Cat, and it is gone out of control, in the sense that we have not been able to stop the raise of the temperature ( we arrived on purpose to that level, because we wanted to study this kind of situation). A nuclear Physicist, analysing the registration of the data, has calculated that the increase of temperature ( from 1000 Celsius to 2,000 Celsius in about 10 seconds), considering the surface that has increased of such temperature, has implied a power of 1 MW, while the Mouse had a mean power of 1.3 kW. Look at the photo you have given the link of, and imagine that the cylinder was cherry red, then in 10 seconds all the cylinder became white-blue, starting from the white dot, where is placed the charge, you see in the photo ( after 1 second) becoming totally white-blue in the following 9 seconds, and then an explosion and the ceramic inside ( which is a ceramic that melts at 2,000 Celsius) turned into a red, brilliant powder made of small stones, like rubys. When we opened the reactor, part of the AISI 310 SS steel was not molten, but sublimated and recondensed in form of microscopic drops of steel.

The photo Rossi references was published in this blog earlier here: http://pane-of-science.blogspot.com/2013/05/rossis-hot-cat-in-operation.html.  After such a failure apparently they must still "open" the reactor.  So what "explodes" is not the outer container which you see in the picture, but basically the internals of the container where ceramics and the steel have melted / exploded due to extreme heat generation.  Obviously Rossi and team have to make sure that such a run away condition can not happen on a commercial product.  But even the mere possibility of it is likely the root cause of great difficulty Rossi repeatedly mentions in regard to getting a certification to produce and sell these things for installation into homes.

Additional developments have come about in relation to whom Rossi is working for and with.  It appears that Rossi's funding partner has been identified through clever web investigative efforts.  I will leave that to the next post.

MDN

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1. This was stated by Rossi on his journal page but reported by E-Cat World on Dec 27. Acland, Frank. "Andrea Rossi Gives Year-End Update Reporting Important E-Cat Progress |." E-Cat World. December 27, 2013. Accessed January 04, 2014. http://www.e-catworld.com/2013/12/andrea-rossi-gives-year-end-update-reporting-important-progress/.

2. There are reasons to believe that 1000 deg C. to maybe 1200 deg C. would be as high as a LENR device could be expected to operate.  Nickel melts at 1455 deg C. for example.

3. The 1000 deg C test is mentioned in the article cited above.  Fortunately this should be more than enough to reach the primary goals of this technology.

4. Rossi, Andrea. "Theoretical Feasibility of Cold Fusion According to the BSM-Supergravitation Unified Theory." Journal of Nuclear Physics. December 27, 2013. Accessed January 04, 2014. http://www.journal-of-nuclear-physics.com/?p=833.

5. Rossi, Andrea. "Theoretical Feasibility of Cold Fusion According to the BSM-Supergravitation Unified Theory." Journal of Nuclear Physics RSS. December 28, 2013. Accessed January 04, 2014. http://www.journal-of-nuclear-physics.com/?p=833.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Comments: "Can We Finally Retire Scientific Superstition?"

Donald Devine recently published an article on the Library of Law and Liberty website titled: Can We Finally Retire Scientific Superstition?[1]  The article is not primarily about theories of origins of life, nor about economics and the financial crisis.  But it contains aspects of both of these along the way of making a larger point about a dominant natural philosophy of our day, Materialism, .

But the article is really about the nature of science itself.  I would (and have) generalize further and say the argument about the word "science" itself and the ways that its positive connotations in the minds of the population are appropriated and used (dare we say: "abused") by various interest groups who want to declare themselves the pure priesthood of a scientific discipline and ordain themselves to be the true scientific curia, the enlightened defenders of truth against all the ignorant hordes of those barbarians who dare disagree with them.

In 2007, I wrote several posts along these lines.[2]  Although these posts started specifically from the perspective of the topic of origins, the argument I made and based those posts on is very similar to Mr. Devine's article.

Essentially, we find it to be repeated human behavior that a theory is formulated, a group forms around the theory, and some proponents of the theory proceed to cloak the theory in the language of orthodoxy and proceed to use the forces of money, politics, and power to persecute opposing view points including threatening the livelihood of those who will not bow down in acquiescence.

Soon the theory becomes the basis for a new creed required to be cited in order to gain admittance to the holy priesthood of defenders of the latest truth, that is, the current pet theory of the power mongers.  Ultimately this basic human behavior is about power, money, control, and prestige.  Indeed, admitted or not, the mongers essentially want to become the gods of their own domain.

And it is an enormous irony that this very same base human behavior which motivated the power structure of the pope to fear and attempt to repress the emerging ideas of men like Galileo, is now used in precisely the same way in the name of protecting the latest intellectual school of thought which deludes itself into thinking it is as essential as science itself, for example: Darwinism, Climate Change, and the current school of economic thought, frequently labeled Keynesian, which now  appears to be transporting us surely towards a third major market / economic crisis in only the last 15 years.  It is also seen the establishment reaction to and denial of the idea of Cold Fusion or LENR, the persecution of the original scientists who announced the results of an experiment in 1989, and the use of professional ridicule and threats of career destruction to any who would entertain such a "stupid" idea.[3]

If we step back and observe the commonalities of these very disparate areas of intellectual activity we see in each a very dominate school of thought which propagates itself professionally by excluding different viewpoints from its profession.  And the professionals busy themselves with the details of investigating and applying the details of their philosophy all the while assuming its correctness, permitting no room for dissent on any point of any substance.  

This is especially demonstrated in several of these disciplines in a disturbing display of circular self-reference in the development and use of computer models to guide the application of the discipline.  These computer models are built with the all the assumptions of the orthodoxy of interest, and then lots of data is thrown into the machine and processed, and the results are touted as "truth", since after all, a computer produced the results.  And these results end up then "proving" the truth of the original assumptions themselves.  This is basic error is especially evident in the current intellectual regimes of economics and climate change.

Mr. Devine's argument makes mention of these things but primarily works with the idea of complexity and complex systems and the basic mistaken arrogant assumptions made by those who long for power and control that they alone actually especially understand such systems.  And on account of this special knowledge, they alone can wield mighty decisions that will lead to a promised land of desired results.[4]

Behind these common errors of different fields, Devine finds the common assumption of the natural philosophy of Materialism, which is in large part supported and defended from an assumption of the correctness of Darwin's description of origins of life.  Devine argues that the now revealed complexity of life and especially of the human mind defies the now ubiquitous Darwinian creed required by the establishment for issuance of a "Legitimate Scientist" badge.  And this main thrust of his article is sympathetic to and supportive of my earlier articles mentioned above.

In the end, all these instances of pseudo-orthodoxies within science have empowered a few individuals at the expense of lost or at least delayed benefit that these scientific would or could have brought to society if they had not lost themselves in a wild lust for the power and money that uniformity and political activeness brings.  Science, or the public's understanding of science, needs to remember (rediscover?) the fundamental importance of duplication by experiment and that a fundamental beauty of science is that it does not matter what your color or creed or gender or belief system is when you execute well designed experiments.  The result is the result nature itself gives in response to the experiment.  And nature, unlike many of us, is not a bigot.  All her laws and rules pertain to everyone equally.

Matt 5:45:
He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
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1.Devine, Donald. "Can We Finally Retire Scientific Superstition?" Online Library of Law and Liberty RSS. November 4, 2013. Accessed November 14, 2013. http://www.libertylawsite.org/2013/11/04/can-we-finally-retire-scientific-superstition/.

2. The series starts here: http://pane-of-science.blogspot.com/2012/11/origins-1-natural-philosophy-and-modern.html

3. The rhetoric of "stupid" is an indispensable tool for the those desiring to wield power and control.  The actual practice of such rhetoric is an interesting topic and one I will have to return to at some other time.

4. And of course this knowledge and power makes them especially worthy of ongoing impressive and ever increasing allotments of money, primarily public government money taken from tax payers, to achieve those results.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Goings on in Lightning related to LENR?


The last 10 or 15 years have seen old boring subjects such as the sun and lightning become new areas of intense research as unexpected discoveries revealed these phenomena of everyday existence are more complicated than once thought.

In regard to lighting, it is to be noted that years ago Russian cosmonauts on the MIR space station periodically detected bursts of elevated levels of neutrons as they flew over the equator.  This observation was not explained at the time.

In 2005, B.M. Kuzhevsky, Ph.D., head of the neutron research laboratory, Skobeltsin Scientific Research Institute of Nuclear Physics (Moscow State University) calculated that it was possible for thermonuclear fusion to occur between deuterium molecules contained in raindrops.  This would occur when lightning bolts provided enough energy to cause the reaction.  And this reaction would lead to the emission of high energy neutrons, which could potentially travel one or two kilometers on average before being stopped by interactions with other particles.  In 2005, it was reported that scientists at Moscow State University had actually detected such neutrons coming from thunderstorms.[1]

Just this month, it has been reported that neutron emission from electrical sparks has been duplicated by the Russians in the lab and measured at energies of 10 MeV.[2]

If neutrons were not odd enough, in January 2011, it was reported that the Fermi Gamma Ray Space-Telescope had detected unexpected Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes (TGFs) coming from above active thunderstorms on earth.[3]
"I think this is one of the most exciting discoveries in geoscience in a very long time," Duke University's Steven Cummer, who was not involved in the research, in a press conference. It "seems like something straight out of science fiction."
In response to this discovery a new NASA project named Firestation was created.  The project was to design and create a sensor laden instrument that could be installed on the International Space Station and observe terrestrial thunderstorms below the station simultaneously making observations in many parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.  The intent was to create an instrument that could make many time and position synchronous observations so that scientists could analyze the data and attempt to explain where anti-matter and gamma rays could be coming from.

This instrument was made and was installed on the ISS in August 2013.[4]  Experiments are expected to start in September 2013.  Data should start arriving very quickly thereafter.

The Russians have been holding an annual conference on ball lightning and the transmutation of elements for a couple of decades.  Much of the work is done in Russian, however, and is thus not accessible to most western scientists.  But it seems possible that the new ISS project may lead toward common areas of inquiry.

And it has been noted for some time that the transmutations observed in LENR/cold fusion, could very well be related to this area of work.  The use of electricity or sparks in the Defkalion LENR device for control of the process has been well documented and acknowledged publicly by the company.

The ground is being prepared for a new generation of physicists who are going to have a remarkable fresh new field to work in compared to the last generation or two.

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1. "NEUTRONS BORN IN LIGHTNING." Russian Science News. September 13, 2005. Accessed September 13, 2013. http://www.informnauka.ru/eng/2005/2005-09-13-5_65_e.htm.

2."Observation of Neutron Bursts Produced by Laboratory High-Voltage Atmospheric Discharge." Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 115003 (2013):. Accessed September 13, 2013. doi:http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v111/i11/e115003.

3. Wall, Mike. "Thunderstorms on Earth Hurl Antimatter Into Space." Space.com. January 10, 2011. Accessed September 13, 2013. http://www.space.com/10602-antimatter-beams-thunderstorms-nasa.html.

4. Phillips, Tony. "ISS "Firestation" to Explore the Tops of Thunderstorms - NASA Science." ISS "Firestation" to Explore the Tops of Thunderstorms - NASA Science. September 10, 2013. Accessed September 13, 2013. http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/10sep_firestation/.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dual Fluid Reactor - a new nuclear reactor design from Germany

When one is discussing energy generation or electricity generation, the term "nuclear energy" refers to those existing nuclear facilities which produce about 20% of the total U.S. electrical output[1] and  13.5% of the total worldwide electricity production.[2]

"Nuclear power" in this sense is a term that is overly broad as it refers in actual use to only one type of nuclear reaction, fission and in general one general fuel cycle which is makes use primarily of Uranium as a fuel.

But if one looks a bit into the details there are other types of nuclear reactions capable of being harnessed to generate heat, make steam, and then generate electricity.  I have pointed to LENR / Cold fusion many times on this blog.  But "hot fusion", the type of fusion reaction imagined to be going on in the sun has been under research for decades.  In each of these fields there is plenty of research and events that could be discussed.

Even if we limit the discussion to fission which is what is used in all nuclear reactors in production today, there are still many variations that could be discussed both in terms of operational units and in terms of future potential designs.

As it turns out, the industry has a commonly used naming practice that names advances in reactor design.  They refer to "Generation I", "Generation II", "Generation III", "Generation III+" and now "Generation IV" designs.


Figure 1: A Technology Roadmap for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems[3]

As can be seen, the pace of change in nuclear designs has been very slow and very incremental.  This is because of the enormous regulatory hurdles put in place for all the safety concerns associated with nuclear energy plants.  Unfortunately, this means that many of the plants in operation today go back to designs of the 1970s with all the known weaknesses and long term risks associated with those designs.[4]  These include:


  1. Very inefficient use of fuel leaving behind very dangerous radioactive materials that remain dangerous for thousands of years
  2. Proliferation concerns of technology or material falling into the wrong hands leading to weapons of mass destruction
  3. Susceptibility to terrorist attack, for example through an airplane crash
  4. Safety concerns of the reactor getting out of control and causing major environmental damage
  5. Expense and dangers associated with mining and gathering Uranium for fuel


The entire industry went into a stall mode for a couple of decades due to the expensive nature of the industry and safety concerns.  But in the last 10 years much more interest has been given to the nuclear industry and concern over climate change and price increases in fossil fuels has become more wide spread.  There are now dozens of new nuclear plants planned for construction worldwide.[5]

It turns out that these classic reactor designs, even the newest ones, have major drawbacks that call out for more drastic redesign than the regulatory heavy world of government finds itself capable of doing.  The problem is fundamentally that the entire system of regulation and control "locked in" very early design concepts when nuclear energy was very young.  And this has kept the technology from advancing except in very small slow steps especially in places like the U.S. where the industry originated.[6]  [7]  There are, however, many very new and significantly creative ideas, some originating in the U.S., some elsewhere, for new nuclear designs that have been generated in the last few years.  These alternative ideas go well beyond the current formal Generation IV and potentially offer great benefits.

One of these has been the "back to the future" approach of the Weinberg Foundation which points to an alternate reactor design created and operated in the U.S. in the 1960s.  This design was ultimately shut down and not pursued.[8]  This design offers some advantages over classical  designs in that it uses molten salt mixed with Thorium as the fuel, instead of solid Uranium fuel rods, like classical reactors.  This would address several of the primary concerns listed above.  But this design also has several technical hurdles that would have to be resolved before it could be put into practice.[9]

The promotion of this "alternate reactor" design, along with reference to historical proof of its operability, along with the overall general need for creative thinking seems to have led to new young blood giving a thorough rethinking to nuclear reactors all over the globe.

One result of this kind of rethinking was seen in this recent Ted Talk given by various students, some more serious than others.[10]

But recently another significant step forward may have been made in Germany with the introduction of the Dual Fluid Reactor design by the Institute for Solid State Nuclear Physics.  A formal paper[11] and presentation[12] and video[13] are available discussing this design.

The claims of the advances of this design are very impressive including:

1. The design uses one fuel fluid and one cooling fluid, neither of which are water.   So water is not needed for the primary nuclear core operation at all which has many advantages.


  • Liquid fuel eliminates all the problems associated with solid fuel rods both in the reactor and storage after they are spent
  • There is no danger of radioactive water contamination because no water is used
  • The main reactor could be buried well underground making it safer from attack
  • The design, like all the molten fluid designs, is inherently stable as opposed to inherently unstable, like current designs.  If anything goes wrong, and the temperature of the fuel fluid rises, a control plug at the bottom of the core will melt and the fluid drains via gravity into big containment vessels where the heat is dissipated into the earth via convection.  No water, no active systems, no man made effort at all is required to shut the system down in a controlled way.  So it is much safer.

2. The design simplifies the processing of the liquid used for fuel as compared to the old molten salt reactor design where the fueling function and the cooling function were performed by the same fluid flow

3. It is simpler and thus cheaper.  Most of the materials and technologies for this design already exist.  Some of the primary unsolved complexities of the old molten salt reactors is solved by separating the fuel and the cooling fluids.

4. It can be made much more energy dense than current nuclear reactors - that is much less size and expense for every Kilowatt of electricity produced.

5. The reactor is much more efficient at using its fuel.  In fact it can burn much of the nuclear waste that is piling up around the world from the current generation of reactors.

6. The design is highly scalable from 500 MW to 1500MW design

7. The design operates at very high temperatures around 1000 deg C, which enables it to be very efficient in electricity generation.  It would also be highly efficient at desalination of seawater which would be a huge benefit.

8.  Because it is relatively simple and efficient and safe (cutting down on expensive safety system requirements) the electricity it would generate would make the electricity cheaper.  The current estimate is on the order of 1 cent / KWh, which is 1/10 to 1/20 current rates depending on where you live.

Overall, without being a nuclear scientist, it seems like this design is a big step forward and almost a "duh" moment.  This is when people look at something and say, "Duh, I should have thought of that."

I can not say with certainty that there are no gottcha's hiding in the shadows as I am not an expert.  The idea is only fairly new with a patent filed in 2012.  But it definitely worth watching.  The timeline proposed by the Institute is 3 to 6 years of study before a test facility would be built, which would take more years.  So most likely this is a 2020s type of demonstration.

If this design should turn out to work as envisioned, between the Uranium and Thorium fuel options, it would provide all the electrical needs of the planet for centuries to come at prices considerably cheaper than what they are now, with greatly reduced waste storage issues compared to what exists today and no other pollution effects on the environment.

As an interesting side note, Germany as a country wrote off nuclear energy as a result of the Fukushima disaster and claimed they would not use nuclear.  They have stated they will pursue Green Energy, although at present this has laregely turned into buying electricity from France where it is generated largely by classical nuclear plants.  Anyway, this design was entered as part of green energy idea contest but was disqualified by the contest simply because it was nuclear, even though this was not against the formal rules of the contest.  Popular demand convinced the contest to reinstate the submission into the contest.  Read more here.

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1. According to the World Nuclear Association here.

2. According to the World Nuclear Association here.

3. Taken from A Technology Roadmap for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems created by the U.S. DOE Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee, 2002.

4. Other than Chernobyl and now Fukushima the short term risks of thermal run away and major radioactivity environmental destruction has been successfully managed.  Unfortunately, the long term risks associated with spent fuel and other nuclear waste, which is piling up in short term storage all over the world, has been largely mismanaged.  And eventually the long term risk will lead to one or more major environmental disasters.

5. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Current-and-Future-Generation/Plans-For-New-Reactors-Worldwide/#.UgZRDWR4aN8

6. See as one example this argument made in the report How to Make Nuclear Energy Cheap, Safety, Readiness, and Efficiency.

7. This is why advances in nuclear fission energy generation are not taking place in the U.S. and why someone like Bill Gates is taking his money to China to try and advance nuclear reactor designs.  This is also why LENR / Cold Fusion so far can advance in the U.S. because it has so far escaped being legally labeled "nuclear" and thus falls outside the scope of the nuclear regulatory machine.

8. See my post from March 2011

9. Kirk Sorensen is one of the primary promoters of this idea.  See one of his Ted Talks here.

10. MIT student presentation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAFWeIp8JT0

11. http://dual-fluid-reactor.org/iaea-fr13-proceeding

12. http://admin.triumf.ca/docs/seminars/Sem2100756750-466-1.DFR.pdf

13. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2KzC3LC2AI

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fukushima, the nuclear disaster that just keeps on giving

Fukushima, the Japan's nuclear plant, all but destroyed by the 2011 tsunami, is the nuclear disaster that keeps on giving.  Everyone wanted to believe it was OK, and so we ignored it.  It has hardly made the news in the U.S. at all for a year and a half.  But now it is coming back and we learn that we were served the silence we desired, but it was a false sense of security.  Even Japan admits the place is in a state of emergency at this point.

First of all, the general state of the place is not good.  The plant consists of 4 reactors. It survived the earthquake fine, but the following tsunami caused great damage. We were treated to TV coverage for a couple of weeks afterwards, and saw a couple of exploding buildings.

A detailed summary of the plant and tsunami damage can be read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daini_Nuclear_Power_Plant

The general vague plan has been to decommission the plant.  However, it is estimated (a wild guess)   that this will take 30, 40, or even 50 YEARS!  And frankly, they do not even know how to do it because the radiation at a couple of the damaged reactors is so high that they have not even now, 2 years later, been able to get close enough to examine the precise situation.  They just keep pouring water on it to try and keep it cooled so it doesn't go into thermal run away.

All this cooling water becomes highly radioactive and so they managed to come up with a bunch of old tanks to store the water.  No one knows how long the tanks will survive.  There are corrosion concerns.  In addition, there is no end of pumping in sight, so no one knows where to find an infinite number of tanks or where to actually put them even if you could find them.

Now, it has now been confirmed that they are only recovering a portion of the water they pump into the reactors and that the reactors are leaking water into the ground.  And as fate would have it, the plants are on top of an underground aquifer where water flows from uphill to downhill, that is to the ocean.  And so they estimate now that up to 300 or 400 tonnes of highly radioactive water are leaking underground into the ocean every day.[1]

So how do you stop this?  They have tried to stop the groundwater from flowing to the ocean.  But of course that makes no sense because if you stop the flow it just starts piling up until overflows whatever obstruction or tank you have created to stop it.

So now, incredibly, they want to divert the underground flow of water on the uphill side of the plant to get it to go around the plants in order to try and stop it from going into the ocean.  How do you do that?  Even more incredibly they are talking about trying to FREEZE 1.4KM (yes, .9 miles!) of ground all the way down to the depth of the aquifer in order to change the flow of the water.[2]  And how long would you have to maintain such a freeze?  Only 40 or 50 years of course!
And mind you, none of this has to do with actually decommissioning the reactors themselves.  So quite obviously, the situation is completely out of control.

And further, the leaking of the water and other factors, pretty much proves that the main containment vessels have been breached, the fuel has melted to the floors, melted through, and is probably slowly melting its way into the ground and to the water table.

And just one more thing, there is a "used fuel" storage tank for old nuclear fuel rods that resides on the upper floors of one of the blown up reactors.  This tank holds enormous amounts of radioactive materials.  If this building were to collapse from its weakened state due to another earthquake or say, attempts to mess with the groundwater below the building, then the disaster is taken to the next level.  World nuclear experts have been warning about this for quite some time[3].  There is no technological way at present to get to the spent fuel and remove it to store it safely.  So they just keep water on it to keep it cool.

So what's the best plan?  Some are just suggesting BOMBING the place in order to spread out all the nuclear material, which makes for a bigger mess, but at least stops the chain fissioning process (the heat and continuing ultra high radiation) which occurs when too much material is concentrated together.  And then you could just wash it all out into the ocean in one giant wave of nuclear material to slowly disperse into the ocean.  So there you have it.  The choices: Pump and Pray or BOMBS AWAY.[4]

These are simply the scary facts.  And it is a true disaster, almost certainly the biggest man made disaster of all time.

However, I have not created the above summary in order to scaremonger.  Some have used this and other such disasters to promote a knee-jerk reaction of complete rejection of all nuclear power.  Instead, I suggest this disaster shows why we must reject current nuclear reactor technology and move on to something better and safer.

There are recent exciting developments in this area of technology.  I will continue on with that in the next post.

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1. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/08/us-japan-fukushima-pm-idUSBRE97601K20130808

2. http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/07/world/asia/japan-fukushima

3. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/27/world/asia/concerns-grow-about-spent-fuel-rods-at-damaged-nuclear-plant-in-japan.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

4. Pump and pray: Tepco might have to pour water on Fukushima wreckage forever