Carnival of Nuclear Energy 220

1 .James Conca at Forbes – Science Is Not Democratic

Since the 1980s. the distrust of scientists in the United States has become a growing ideology used for political purposes. It is extremely dangerous to our democracy. Obama touched on this very subject recently while speaking to the League of Conservation Voters.

2. Yes Vermont Yankee – The Carbon Regulations: Not What They Seem to Be

The proposed EPA rules for abatement of carbon dioxide are backwards, complex and political. Such complicated regulations do not achieve their official goals, but often succeed in enriching the people who wrote the rules. Angwin bases part of her analysis on the book Extortion by Peter Schweitzer.

3. Atomic Insights: NRC Commissioner Candidates Stephen Burns and Jeffery Baran

The Obama Administration, under the direction of influential Senators, has provided the names of two people to fill vacancies on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Rod Adams discusses their qualifications and positions. He cautiously endorses Burns and warns about Baran’s lack of any relevant education or experience.

4. Gail Marcus reports on the recently announced White House nominations for the NRC on her blog, Nuke Power Talk (http://nukepowertalk.blogspot.com). She gives some background on the two nominees, Stephen Burns, presently head of Legal Affairs at the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, and Jeffrey Baran, presently Democratic Staff Director for Energy and the Environment in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. She also discusses some of the issues that have been raised about both candidates and speculates on the future, given the pending Congressional recess.

5. Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary – Japan’s Press reinforces the Hiroshima Syndrome

Whenever the anniversary of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki (H/N) bombings approaches, the Japanese Press posts numerous articles about them. Since 3/11/11, most Press outlets bring the Fukushima accident into the mix. In the process they reinforce and underscore the Hiroshima Syndrome. This year, a new approach emerges.

6. Nextbigfuture – Alternative Nuclear fusion projects Tri-alpha Energy, General Fusion and Helion Energy featured in Nature.

Tri Alpha is testing a linear reactor that it claims will be smaller, simpler and cheaper — and will lead to commercial fusion power in little more than a decade, far ahead of the 30 to 50 years often quoted for tokamaks.

Over the past decade and a half, mavericks have launched at least half a dozen companies to pursue alternative designs for fusion reactors. Some are reporting encouraging results, not to mention attracting sizeable investments. Tri Alpha itself has raised $150 million from the likes of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and the Russian government’s venture-capital firm, Rusnano.

Tri-alpha Energy has started to let its employees publish results and present at conferences. With its current test machine, a 10-metre device called the C-2, Tri Alpha has shown that the colliding plasmoids merge as expected, and that the fireball can sustain itself for up to 4 milliseconds — impressively long by plasma-physics standards — as long as fuel beams are being injected. Last year, Tri Alpha researcher Houyang Guo announced at a plasma conference in Fort Worth, Texas, that the burn duration had increased to 5 milliseconds. The company is now looking for cash to build a larger machine.

Helion has demonstrated the concept in a D–D reactor with plasmoids that fire once every three minutes, and it is now seeking $15 million in private financing over the next five years to develop a full-scale machine that could use D–T fuel to reach the break-even point, when it generates as much energy as it takes to run. The company hopes that its reactor could eventually reach the hotter conditions needed to fuse deuterium with helium-3, another combination that produces only α-particles and protons, with no neutron by-products.

Kirtley is optimistic about the money. “There is a giant market need for low-cost, safe, clean power,” he says. “So we’re seeing a big push in the private investment community to fund alternative ways to generate it.” And if the fund-raising is successful, says Kirtley, “our plan is to have our pilot power plant come online in six years.

General Fusion has demonstrated the idea with a small-scale device, using pistons driven by explosives, and has raised about $50 million from venture capitalists and the Canadian government. If the company can win another $25 million or so, Laberge says, it will build a beefier implosion system that can compress the plasma to the levels needed for fusion — perhaps within the next two years.

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