1. Idaho Samizdat – Small modular reactor vendors seek investors and customers. First they have to prove they can build one. This report, the 2nd in a series, looks at opportunities to develop prototypes at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River site.
When carrying out uranium enrichment, there are many safety aspects unique to the radiological process which are present in addition to the expected industrial hazards of a factory setting. This includes the radioactive decay emissions of the uranium and its decay products. When uranium atoms undergo radioactive decay, they emit both gamma and alpha particle radiation. In doing so, the uranium atom loses a couple of protons and becomes a different element (thorium). This thorium decay product is also radioactive as are its decay products and so on. Eventually this decay chain results in the creation of a final lead atom with the alpha particles all becoming (very quickly) neutral helium atoms. The gamma radiation given off in this decay process does not tend to be extremely large due to the very long half life of uranium (which is measured in billions of years) and so very little of the uranium undergoes radioactive decay at any given time.
The enrichment process will increase the U235 content in the uranium hexafluoride by up to as much as 5% for commercial nuclear reactors. This means that by weight, 5% of the enriched uranium would be U235 as opposed to the natural case where only 0.7% of any uranium is this isotope.
3. ANS Nuclear Cafe – The 11th Annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day was celebrated Thursday February 23. Dr. Jane LeClair of Excelsior College discusses aspects of her own career in nuclear high technology and the importance of encouraging and mentoring prospective young women of science and technology.
4. Yes Vermont Yankee has a guest post by Vermont State Senator Joe Benning, An Open Letter to Attorney General Sorrell. Benning is a lawyer as well as a legislator. He tells the Vermont AG why Vermont should NOT appeal the recent legal ruling in favor of Vermont Yankee. Benning shows that if the AG appeals, he will lose.
5. Yes Vermont Yankee has a second post that dissects and debunks parts of the biased CNN program about Vermont Yankee. (Debunking the whole program would take a very long post indeed!). CNN had Hatchet Job about Vermont Yankee.
FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI – There appear to be some further intermittent problems with some of the temperature indications at Fukushima Daiichi No. 2 plant; TEPCO seems unworried by these random spurious indications, even though it states that it continues to monitor No. 2 containment for xenon. In a separate area, TEPCO has decided that movement of barges and small vessels inside the breakwater which are anticipated for further recovery work would stir up the contaminated sea bed; therefore, TEPCO will soon begin covering the seabed inside the breakwall with concrete. According to TEPCO’s press releases the equipment for this work is already on hand.
“With the NRC’s announcement of the the first new reactor licenses issued in three decades, anti-nuclear activists have come out of the woodwork with some of the same predictable arguments. Steve Skutnik takes aim at a recent high-profile post, in which one nuclear opponent throws out everything (including the kitchen sink) in a desperate, facts-optional attempt to quash the nascent nuclear revival via fear, uncertainty, and doubt.”
8. Gail Marcus notes the growing concern about the supply issues for the rare earths needed for modern wind turbines. Although the understanding of these issues is just beginning to emerge, they may rival, or even exceed, the concerns that have been raised about the global uranium supply.
China had 86.3 terawatt hours of nuclear power in 2011.
11. ANS Nuclear Cafe – February 19-25 is National Engineers Week 2012. Art Wharton, nuclear engineer, discusses the Oath of the Engineer and the moral calling to advance nuclear science and technology to benefit the world. Nuclear professionals, the facts are on your side, the moral high ground is yours, and the highest standards of ethics and professional conduct will lead you.
Hydrocarbon marketers have had a strong financial motive for supporting any group that seeks to reduce the supply of energy. Even when those groups seem to be fighting against the hydrocarbon industry, they are effectively helping to increase the profit margins for most producers by keeping supplies tight and prices high.
However, In our current economic situation, most energy suppliers would benefit if they added emission free, reliable, abundant nuclear energy to their portfolios. The earth is endowed with fuel resources that will easily last for tens of thousands of years. Promoting that fact will enable a return to an optimistic prosperity where people stop worrying about running out of fuel and stop worrying that their comfortable home or big car will become too expensive to operate.