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Feasibility of Nuclear Energy with Recycling (Pu) as Energy Solution in US

  1. Jul 28, 2008 #1
    Sorry, I meant 35% by 1973, about three years after our production peaked. 2/3 is an accurate figure for the United States now.
    About nuclear power, 10 years ago, when oil wasn't so costly, scare tactics kept us away from nuclear power. I mean we really lack common sense. The United States doesn't even recycle our fuel because the concentrated uranium that's obtained "might" be used for bombs...

    [Edit: moved from - Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=245685 ]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 29, 2008
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  3. Jul 28, 2008 #2

    mheslep

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    Not uranium, it is the Pu produced by the current PUREX process that is the concern.

    From "The Future of Nuclear Power"
    http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/pdf/nuclearpower-summary.pdf
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2008
  4. Jul 28, 2008 #3

    Astronuc

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    I disagree with this statement for a number of reasons. One primary reason is that no one in their right mind would use PG-Pu for a nuclear weapon, certainly the military wouldn't. Most studies, like this one, do not elaborate on risk, specifically how one diverts the SNM. Certainly the people at BNFL and Cogema are not interested in diverting material.

    Enriched U has not been used in nuclear warheads for a long time in the US. Use of WG was superceded by WG-Pu back in the 50's and 60's. I believe the WG-U systems were the first to be decommissioned, and the US DOE has been downblended/diluting Russian WG-U for several years now.
     
  5. Jul 28, 2008 #4

    mheslep

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    The MIT statement is appropriately tailored: "expanded nuclear deployment contemplated in the global growth scenario". Areva et al is not the problem. Blessing a nuclear process for world wide deployment is.
     
  6. Jul 28, 2008 #5

    mheslep

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    Can you elaborate, given this statement in Chapter 1 under NONPROLIFERATION:
    http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/pdf/nuclearpower-ch1-3.pdf
    and later in Chap 4, page 33:
    I don't think you mean all the authors are not of right mind:

    PROFESSOR STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE
    Department of Political Science, MIT
    PROFESSOR JOHN DEUTCH — CO CHAIR
    Department of Chemistry, MIT
    PROFESSOR EMERITUS MICHAEL DRISCOLL
    Department of Nuclear Engineering, MIT
    PROFESSOR PAUL E. GRAY
    Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
    PROFESSOR JOHN P. HOLDREN
    Professor of Environmental Science and Public Policy
    Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University.
    PROFESSOR PAUL L. JOSKOW
    Department of Economics and Sloan School of Management, MIT
    Director, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research
    PROFESSOR RICHARD K. LESTER
    Department of Nuclear Engineering, MIT
    PROFESSOR ERNEST J. MONIZ — CO CHAIR
    Department of Physics, MIT
    Director of Energy Studies, Laboratory for Energy and the Environment
    PROFESSOR NEIL E. TODREAS
    Department of Nuclear Engineering, MIT
    Professor of Mechanical Engineering
    Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT
    ERIC S. BECKJORD
    Executive Director

    Certainly any material has some non zero chance of being illegally diverted, that chance growing the more abundant and widespread the material.

    Edit: Scenario for this report grows from current worldwide 325GWe to a theoretical 1500GWe in ~2051. Accordingly separated Pu grows from the current 6.3MT per year to 167MT of Pu, spread worldwide, in 2051. Tables 4.1, 4.2 in Chapter 4.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2008
  7. Jul 28, 2008 #6

    mheslep

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    Astronuc:
    I speculate that this Note 5 on high burnup designs in Chapter 7 is related to your objection to the possibility of using separated Pu:
    It is not clear to me what ratio of weaponizeable Pu-239 is produced in day one of the current PUREX /MOX cycles.
     
  8. Jul 28, 2008 #7

    mgb_phys

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    It is not clear to me why a country would avoid nuclear power because of a possibility that terrorists could make a fission weapon form reactor waste - and at the same time allow LPG tankers into harbours in the middle of major cities and have high pressure gasoline pipelines running under populated areas.
     
  9. Jul 28, 2008 #8

    Astronuc

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    That's part of the reason. We push fuel to rod average burnups > 50 GWd/tU and the rim region (periphery of the ceramic pellet) will have local burnups of 100-150 GWd/tU.

    The Pu isotopic vector for RG-Pu is very different from WG-Pu. I'm not saying that one couldn't do it. Rather no one who wants a reliable weapon with a high yield and relatively long storage life would use RG-Pu. The radiation from Pu-238, Pu-241 and Am-241 would have a deleterious effect on the electronics and triggering system. But then again, terrorists and dudes like Saddam Hussein are not in their right minds.

    I know one the authors of the MIT report, and I'll have to ask him about the report the next time I see him. I am sure the authors from the Nuclear Engineering department are providing the technical information for a problem that is largely about policy and political matters. They are certainly not advocating using RG-Pu for weapons, only that it is a concern that others might.
     
  10. Jul 28, 2008 #9

    mheslep

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    Because 1) the power of the nuclear weapon is ~one million times greater and 2) LPG / Gas explosions don't produce long lasting after effects from fall-out radiation? One can start rebuilding the moment the fire is out from a hydrocarbon explosion. Any modern city that suffers a single, isolated, nuclear attack is done. All the survivors will simply leave.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2008
  11. Jul 28, 2008 #10

    mgb_phys

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    So because the attack on 9/11 was less energetic than an atom bomb it had no terrorist value?
    And http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halifax_Explosion in Seattle/Newark/San Fransisco wouldn't be a problem?
     
  12. Jul 28, 2008 #11
    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    I was talking about the United States fuel supply...
    Instead of fear of nuclear proliferation, we could persuade the countries that do use plutonium to use pyrometallurgical methods instead of PUREX. That way, the resulting products won't be of weapons grade quality. Either way though, terrorists don't actually need a working bomb. A "fizzle" from a nuclear bomb would be more than sufficient as a terrorist weapon.
     
  13. Jul 29, 2008 #12

    mheslep

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    Those are strawman as I think you know; that 9/11 has impact is not at issue. You proposed that a nuclear attack is in impact to a chemical explosion. I answered why I believe it is not.
     
  14. Jul 29, 2008 #13
    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    And he's saying "Just because it's not as powerful, means we can ignore it?"
     
  15. Jul 29, 2008 #14

    vanesch

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    Hiroshima is still on the map... But of course people have much more irrational fears than back then. I guess you're right.

    We've been already through this discussion, but I think one should make a big distinction between a *country* trying to make a bomb, and a *terrorist group*. I don't think that a terrorist group can put up its own little Purex process in the basement, together with the pyroprocessing needed to get metallic plutonium. A country can of course.
    So "terrorist danger" (let us remind ourselves that we are talking about a hypothetical danger here, which has never manifested itself in reality: so we might be chasing ghosts) is only with separated, pure, plutonium. This can be avoided by changing the processes, and in fact, even in current reprocessing, the plutonium oxide is remixed with uranium oxide again to form MOX. With MOX, the Purex separation has to be done all over again. So the danger is just between the PUREX output, and the MOX blending.

    Next, imagine that a terrorist group got hold of some plutonium (reactor grade). They now still have to make the implosion device and the initiator. That is not impossible, true, but it is quite a challenge in any case. Finally, reactor grade plutonium requires, for the same yield, more precise implosion and initiation than weapon-grade plutonium, and finally, reactor grade plutonium has a higher power dissipation, which makes it hot if you confine it within an implosion device (which can damage the explosives if not assembled just before delivery).

    But finally, it is not clear whether there's any motivation for a terrorist group to make a nuclear hit. It would remove all sympathy for their cause. It would trigger a terrible reaction. Nations even somewhat sympathetic to their cause would have to distantiate from them out of fear of retaliation. No, I repeat, no nation would ever be so stupid as to get involved in helping terrorists build a nuke as that would easily be seen as then having done the strike themselves and expose them to retaliation.

    So let's have the discussion again after there have been a certain number of nuclear terrorist attacks. We will then know much better what we are talking about. :cool:
     
  16. Jul 29, 2008 #15

    vanesch

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    A terrorist weapon would - at least in the beginning - not have a higher yield than the typical first generation bomb: 15-20 kT and probably less. I guess that after they've gained some experience, they might go to higher yields with more sophisticated designs.
    The potential energy in an LNG tanker is much higher! But of course it wouldn't be as much an explosion, rather than a big fire, which reduces significantly the blast effects.
     
  17. Jul 29, 2008 #16

    vanesch

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    And how do we call that ? Carter-II ? :rofl:

    You have to understand that other nations will not necessarily follow the US desires. That was the case already back then.
     
  18. Jul 29, 2008 #17

    mgb_phys

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    Remember that a terrorist bombers intention isn't the same as the military.
    Small nail bomb in a litter bin on a London shopping street. Result, very few injuries, but a lot of press = no US tourists visit London that year = major financial losses = pressure on goverment to talk to terrorists.
    But from a military point of view inconsequential.
     
  19. Jul 29, 2008 #18

    mheslep

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    Yes that's why I said power, not energy, stemming from the completion of a nuclear detonation in nano or microseconds vs the magnitudes slower shockwave and heat transfer used in chemical detonations. In WWII London and other cities received TNT tonnage greater than Hiroshima's and clearly nothing close to Hiroshima effects occurred.
     
  20. Jul 29, 2008 #19

    mheslep

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    Note I said an isolated modern attack, and I don't believe the millions following blindly following the emperor were more rational than today's folks. Hiroshima is still there IMO because 1) Japanese cities were in ruin everywhere, there wasn't any next town over immune to the war, 2) Millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians (eight IIRC?) had already died the war so the shock from 250k at Hiroshima would be weighed against that, 3) Japanese civilians likely had not even heard of radiation, or certainly had little understanding of it, 4) Hiroshima was an air burst, a modern terror bomb would likely be ground based and thus cause much more fall out.
     
  21. Jul 29, 2008 #20

    vanesch

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    Re: Will lifting oil drilling bans in the U.S. lower the price of oil?

    A ground explosion would be "dirtier", true, but it would also limit the blast to a much smaller area.

    I'm not saying that a nuclear terrrorist attack wouldn't be terrible. But objectively speaking, the world wouldn't stop turning. I don't think it would make more victims than car traffic does per year. And, again, I think we should wait for some of these to happen before we can talk seriously about it. Even if there were some nuclear terrorist attacks (say, one every 3 years), I still think that my own probability of dying in a car accident would be greater than dying from a nuclear terrorist attack. So before I'd tackle nuclear terrorism, I'd have to stop driving my car.
     
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